Live: Today’s news from Kurdistan Region and Iraq, as it happens

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Iraqi social media users voice strong opposition over potential border demarcation with Kuwait

Baghdad is silent as Iraqi social media users have voiced strong disapproval over a potential border demarcation agreement with Kuwait. This agreement could lead to the concession of Umm Qasr, a southern port city. The online backlash, marked by hashtags such as "We Reject Selling Umm Qasr” and “Umm Qasr is Iraqi” has drawn thousands of retweets and comments.

This follows a joint statement issued on Sunday by the foreign ministers of both countries, committing to a definitive agreement on the demarcation of their land and maritime borders. The United Nations initially established these boundaries in 1993, three years after Iraq, under Saddam Hussein's rule, invaded Kuwait.

Many Iraqis, utilizing archival videos and commentary, have stated that Umm Qasr is a part of Iraq, rejecting any proposal of its cession. They continue to reject a UN-proposed border demarcation that followed the second Gulf War.

Political activist Tamara al-Khazraji conveyed to her 20,800 followers via Twitter that surrendering any part of Iraqi land is utterly unacceptable. Another user called for peaceful protests against what they described as "the corrupt and thieves."

Mustafa Jassim pointed out that Iraqi land is not the property of politicians who have the discretion to sell it.

Shamel al-Adami warned his 52,000 followers about the severe consequences this decision could have on future generations.

The governor of Basra has also been accused of demolishing houses in Umm Qasr, allegedly as an initial step towards ceding the region to Kuwait.
PUK leader Bafel Talabani welcomes the UK government's acknowledgement of the genocide committed against the Yazidi community. He described this recognition as a significant and joyful moment that will highlight the atrocities carried out against the Yazidi Kurds and the broader Kurdish community.

Talabani conveyed his deep gratitude to both the British government and its citizens for this historic decision, praising their efforts in maintaining high standards of justice.

The ousted co-leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Lahur Sheikh Jangi, has announced that he has not decided to participate in the upcoming Iraqi provincial council and parliamentary elections yet.

His press office says in a statement that any decision on his part will be publicly declared.

This announcement comes on the heels of earlier reports today that suggested Sheikh Jangi was gearing up to take part in the Kurdistan Parliamentary elections, potentially in alliance with another party.

Sheikh Jangi, who was removed from his leadership position by his cousin and fellow PUK leader, Bafel Talabani, has previously issued warnings about the internal strife within the PUK. He cautioned that such division and his subsequent dismissal could undermine the party's election prospects and diminish its overall standing.

In moments of tension with the PUK, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has shown signs of backing for Jangi.

Journalists, writers form new group to counter encroachments on freedoms

A group of journalists and writers have formed the "Federation of Independent Journalists and Writers" to safeguard freedom of expression, amidst an environment they describe as "increasingly oppressive" with diminishing freedoms.

In a press conference held in Sulaymaniyah, over 20 individuals declared the formation of the federation, describing it as a platform for independent voices aimed at broadening the scope of freedom of expression and opposing oppression, injustice and the silencing of bold voices critical of the authorities.

This move comes in the wake of mounting criticisms against ruling parties, accused of curtailing freedom of speech and assembly. Notably, the recent arrest of Omed Baroshky, a Duhok-based journalist, sparked both international and local outcry. 

Baroshky's detention by security forces was a response to his critique of a new four-year sentence given to fellow journalist Sherwan Sherwani by an Erbil court last month.

Iraq's coffers buoyed by strong oil sales

The Iraqi Ministry of Oil has published its oil export and revenue figures for the past month, reporting an impressive $8.29 billion in revenue generated from the export of just under 107m barrels of crude oil.

On average, the country exported around 3.44m barrels of oil per day, with the oil fetching an average price of $77.69 per barrel.


Sweden plans tighter border controls

Sweden's government has announced plans to intensify border controls amid a deteriorating security situation following a series of protests involving the burning of copies of the Quran. 

The move comes after a string of incidents have escalated tensions between Sweden and Muslim countries.

"Individuals with minimal connections to Sweden should not be able to come here to commit crimes," said Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson at a press conference. He anticipates an official decision to augment border controls will be made by Thursday. 

On Monday, two Iraqi men, Salwan Momika and Salwan Najem, burned the Quran during a protest in front of Sweden's parliament. They had previously orchestrated similar protests outside Stockholm's main mosque and the Iraqi embassy in Stockholm, eliciting widespread outrage and condemnation. 

In response, Iraqi protestors twice stormed the Swedish embassy in Baghdad, even starting fires within the compound during the second incident. 

Last week, Sweden directed 15 government agencies, including the armed forces, law enforcement, and the tax office, to bolster anti-terrorism efforts. 

Justice Minister Gunnar Strommer clarified that the enhanced border checks would apply to "inner border controls," targeting individuals traveling into Sweden from other Schengen nations. "These controls allow us to identify incoming travelers who could pose a threat to our security," Strommer said. 

Sweden has temporarily reinstated border controls as of May 2023 due to worsening security, a decision made in accordance with EU legislation.

New legislation that came into effect Tuesday expands police powers within Sweden to perform controls, including vehicle and body searches. Strommer explained that the goal is "to enhance police work and prevent threats to domestic security." 

Earlier this week, the Jeddah-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation voiced "disappointment" with Sweden and Denmark for not taking more decisive action after multiple Quran burnings. 

While Sweden's government has condemned the desecrations, it also emphasizes the nation's constitutional protection of freedom of speech and assembly. 

However, Kristersson acknowledged Tuesday that the government is assessing potential changes to Sweden's legal system. The intent would be "to broaden the process for granting permits for public gatherings, allowing for a wider security perspective," Kristersson said. 

Denmark also recently stated it would explore legal options to prevent protests involving the burning of holy texts under specific circumstances.


Metro Centre praises UK's recognition of Yazidi genocide

The Metro Centre, a media rights advocacy group, has praised the UK government's official acknowledgment of the 2014 genocide of the Yazidi people by ISIS. According to the Metro Centre, the recognition is a testament to the UK's commitment to justice and the protection of global communities and minorities.

The acknowledgement of this genocide by the UK offers hope to the Yazidi Kurds, the Metro Centre notes, providing assurance that the atrocities they experienced have not been forgotten. It brings solace to survivors and families still mourning the loss of their loved ones.

The Metro Centre says the UK's move sends a strong message to the world about the importance of holding perpetrators accountable for their actions. It also serves as a deterrent to future crimes and promotes a society in which the principles of humanity, peace, and coexistence can thrive.

The Centre expressed gratitude to those who contributed to the decision and to those who have worked to bring attention to the plight of the Yazidi Kurds in their fight for a world free of persecution and violence.

Iraq's economic recovery at risk amid oil sectors constraints, expansionary budget – World Bank

The recovery of Iraq's economy is being threatened by new crude oil production limits and an excessively expansionary budget, a report by the World Bank warns.

While Iraq saw a GDP growth acceleration to 7.0% in 2022, constraints in the oil sector have caused a drop to 2.6% year-on-year in Q1 2023. Meanwhile, inflation has ticked up due to the depreciation of the Iraqi dinar, despite the Central Bank of Iraq's efforts to revalue the currency.

The report criticizes the new budget for 2023-2025, ratified in June 2023, for its lack of structural reforms and heavy skew towards recurrent spending. With expenditures set to increase by 59%, and the budget assuming an oil price of US$70/bbl, fiscal pressures could escalate, particularly given the recent dip in global oil prices to US$71/bbl and the extension of production quotas.

Additionally, the breakeven oil price needed to cover all expenditures stands at a much higher US$112/bbl. This could result in a rapid depletion of the recent oil windfall and put the country's economy at risk. 

The report stresses the urgent need for financial sector reforms and modernization of the banking sector to stimulate the private sector and spur job creation. It also points to Iraq's structural challenges and vulnerabilities, such as oil dependency, widespread corruption, and low labor force participation, as significant threats to economic growth.

Sulaymaniyah doctors, public sector employees strike over salary delay

Several hundred junior doctors and civil servants in the provinces of Sulaymaniyah and Halabja have staged walkouts due to delays in salary payments.

NRT Kurdish reports that approximately 600 doctors from these provinces gathered in Sulaymaniyah, appealing to the KRG to pay June and July salaries.

The striking doctors have warned that while emergency hospital services remain active, these will be halted if their salaries are not paid within the next 72 hours.

In solidarity with the doctors, employees from various public departments have also boycotted work. This includes workers from the Bakrajo directorates of municipalities, agriculture, and water, the Sarchinar directorate of water, and the Sulaymaniyah electricity office. Certain departments within the Raperin Autonomous Administration have also joined the strike due to the same salary delay issues.

New Generation Movement (NGM) ends Imtidad partnership via Twitter

The New Generation Movement (NGM) has ended its partnership with the Imtidad Movement, which learned of the development through Twitter.

Srwa Abdulwahid, leader of the NGM factions in Baghdad, hinted at irreconcilable "problems" in a tweet posted Tuesday. Abdulwahid's comments suggest that the difficulties were beyond the ability of Imtidad Movement leader Alaa al-Rikabi to manage, though she did not provide further details.
The head of the Imtidad faction, Haidar Al-Salamai, expressed surprise at learning about the partnership's end through a tweet. "The termination of the Alliance for the People with a tweet, without the knowledge of the Imtidad movement, is evidence that it is a superficial alliance and not an genuine one," he stated.

The Alliance for the People, which at times boasted nearly 30 MPs, was formed in 2021. Its goal was to increase the influence of independent and opposition MPs in the Iraqi parliament. The alliance consisted of the 2019 Tishreen Movement offshoot Imtidad, which contributed nine MPs, the Kurdish NGM, also with nine MPs, and several independent MPs.
June salaries: All eyes are on today's cabinet meeting in Baghdad which has already started.


PUK MPs in Baghdad meet Iraqi PM

The PM's media office issued a statement, saying that he discussed "the general situation in the country and the government's plans to improve the economic situation and services for citizens, in conjunction with the efforts of the House of Representatives to support the government in implementing the priorities established within the government programs."

They also discussed "preparations for the parliamentary elections in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, and the importance of creating the necessary environment to ensure the success of the elections and achieve wide participation."

Salaries, not yet
PUK Media, the official party mouthpiece, alleges that the MPs have "demanded that the Kurdistan Region's share of the budget, or an advance for salary distribution in the Kurdistan Region, be sent.

"Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani responded by saying that funding will be sent to the region for salaries very soon."

The PUK aims to take credit for the inevitable transfer of money intended for the KRI's salaries and pensions.

It's August but public sector workers are still awaiting June salary payments

The KRG finance minister is attempting to reassure the public that the money will arrive, but he cannot specify when. Awat Sheikh Janab told Rudaw TV that Erbil is waiting for Baghdad to send the Kurdistan Region's share of the budget. Janab reiterated earlier remarks that Erbil has done all it can to implement the clauses of the Iraqi budget law, and is now waiting for the funding.

He expressed hope that "the technical issues" will be resolved today by the Iraqi Oil and Finance Ministries, enabling the funds to be sent.

Kurdistan 24 reports that the Iraqi Council of Ministers will "most probably" decide today to send money to KRG employees, citing a KDP MP in Baghdad. 

Shwan Kalari MP asserts, "Today is the weekly meeting of the Iraqi Council of Ministers and, according to the promises made by Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani, there is absolute certainty that a decision will be made."

"There were some problems with the oil issue. The Kurdistan Region is ready to hand over the 400,000 barrels of oil per day as agreed upon. However, the Iraqi government and SOMO have issues of their own. The first time they requested 60,000 barrels per day, their request was met. Now, they are asking for 120,000 barrels. Once again, the KRG has stated its readiness. The problem does not lie with the KRG, but with Baghdad. Regrettably, they have also exploited the internal situation in the Kurdistan Region in Baghdad."
To date, the Yazidi Genocide has been debated and formally acknowledged in 13 parliaments, including those of Canada (2016), the Netherlands (2021), Australia (2019), and most recently, the Republic of Ireland (2021). It has also been officially acknowledged by the United Nations Security Council (2017).

August: Yazidi Genocide Commemoration

Here is a short background on the genocide that took place in August 2014.

The IS group conducted brutal atrocities against religious and ethnic minorities in Northern Iraq. These communities, especially the Yazidis, were targeted because they were viewed as "infidels." This led to a horrifying cycle of systematic violence and persecution.

An estimated 5,000 Yazidis were brutally killed, and around 6,800 were abducted—most of whom were women and children. In addition to mass killings and abductions, thousands were forced to convert to the extremist ideology.

The genocide also involved the destruction of Yazidi religious and cultural sites, homes, and farmland, resulting in a massive displacement of approximately 400,000 Yazidis from the Sinjar district alone.

Yazidi women and girls held in captivity faced unimaginable horrors, including sexual and gender-based violence. Upon returning to their areas of origin, these survivors have had to grapple with severe psychological and physical trauma, anxiety, fear of isolation, and repeated episodes of violence. Chronic medical conditions and psychological issues are prevalent among survivors, with limited support systems in place to aid their recovery.

Even seven years post-genocide, substantial problems persist. There is an alarming lack of justice and accountability, only slight economic recovery in affected areas, and no comprehensive reparations program. The process of returning to their homes remains challenging and largely unfeasible for many survivors.

Furthermore, the plight of Yazidi women and girls is far from resolved. Thousands are still held captive, and those who manage to return often meet limited support due to a lack of reparations programs or essential government services. To make matters worse, over 60 percent of the Yazidi and other ethnic and religious minority populations continue to live as internally displaced persons in camps, with little hope of returning to their home areas. This bleak situation underscores the urgent need for comprehensive international intervention and support to ensure justice, recovery, and a safe future for the Yazidis."
Yazda is a global organization that strives to bring justice, sustenance, healing and rejuvenation to Yazidis who have suffered under or are affected by, the genocidal campaign against their people by the so-called Islamic State (IS) as well as the IS campaign against other vulnerable ethno-religious minorities.

Statement in full

The UK has today formally acknowledged that acts of genocide were committed against the Yazidi people by Daesh in 2014.
The Minister of State for the Middle East Lord Ahmad made the announcement ahead of events marking the nine-year anniversary of atrocities committed by Daesh against the Yazidi people.

Minister of State for the Middle East, Lord Ahmad, said:

The Yazidi population suffered immensely at the hands of Daesh nine years ago and the repercussions are still felt to this day. Justice and accountability are key for those whose lives have been devastated.

Today we have made the historic acknowledgement that acts of genocide were committed against the Yazidi people. This determination only strengthens our commitment to ensuring that they receive the compensation owed to them and are able to access meaningful justice.

The UK will continue to play a leading role in eradicating Daesh, including through rebuilding communities affected by its terrorism and leading global efforts against its poisonous propaganda.
The UK’s position has always been that determinations of genocide should be made by competent courts, rather than by governments or non-judicial bodies. This determination has been made following the judgment of the German Federal Court of Justice earlier this year, where it found a former Daesh fighter guilty of acts of genocide and crimes against humanity committed in Iraq.

The UK officially acknowledges five instances where genocide has occurred: the Holocaust, Rwanda, Srebrenica and acts of genocide in Cambodia and against the Yazidi people.
During his visit to Iraq earlier this year, including to the Kurdistan region, Lord Ahmad also welcomed progress with the passage of the Yazidi Survivors Law, which will provide reparations to survivors. He underlined the UK’s commitment to helping Iraq fully implement the law and ensure that survivors receive full support and access to justice.

A commemoration event – which is being held in Baghdad – has been organised by Yazidi civil society organisations and will welcome international stakeholders. The UK’s Ambassador to Iraq, Steve Hitchen, will attend and confirm the UK’s announcement.

Just in: British government acknowledges 'acts of genocide' by IS against Yazidis

The British government has officially acknowledged that the Islamic State group committed "acts of genocide" against the Yazidi people in 2014, according to a statement from the foreign ministry.

"The UK has today formally acknowledged that acts of genocide were committed against the Yazidi people by Daesh in 2014," the statement said, using the Arab acronym for the Islamic State.

The announcement comes ahead of events marking the ninth anniversary of the atrocities committed by Daesh against the Yazidi people. The UK's decision follows a ruling by the German Federal Court of Justice, which found a former IS fighter guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity
BREAKING: The British government officially acknowledges that the Islamic State group committed "acts of genocide" against the Yazidi people in 2014, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Petoil, a Turkish oil company operating in the Chia Surkh oil field since 2003, is facing financial peril, Rudaw reports.
The Kurdistan Regional Government's failure to pay Petoil's financial dues has led it, the company says, to reduce its workforce significantly, from 35 to just six.

The company also raises concerns about a potential halt in production. This move will likely affect local livelihoods and could cut the field's daily oil production of between 1,500 and 2,000 barrels.

A Kurdish lawyer, Azad Abdulhamid Doski, has brought a complaint against the Iraqi presidency and parliament over the amendment to the Federal Court law.

Doski claims that the 2021 amendment is based on the 2005 law, which he argues was repealed under the new constitution. The Iraqi Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing for this issue on November 15th, with both the presidency and the speaker of the Iraqi parliament asked to attend.


    Islamic State militants strike police position in Saladin province

    On Monday night, IS militants struck an observation post of Iraq’s emergency police in the Saladin governorate.

    The encounter has left at least two officers from the Salahadin Operation Command injured.


      Morning briefing

      Hello and good morning, folks. As we begin the day, let's get you up to speed on the main stories:

      • ISIS has launched an attack on Iraq’s emergency police in the Saladin governorate. The late-night offensive targeted an observation post, leaving at least two members of the Salahadin Operation Command injured.

      • The Iraqi presidency and parliament face legal challenges over the amendment to the Federal Court law.

      • Petoil, a Turkish company operating in the Chia Surkh oil field, is significantly reducing its workforce and may cease production due to unpaid financial dues by the Kurdistan Regional Government. This move is expected to significantly affect local families and the field's domestic oil production.