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23. August 2023 16:04
Rudaw is quoting the Peshmerga ministry's secretary general on a ministerial delegation to Baghdad for talks on forming joint brigades to fight IS in disputed territories.
23. August 2023 15:17
PKK warns of potential confrontation with KDP
Amid Pressure From Ankara as it increases pressure on Baghdad and Erbil to limit PKK activities in the Kurdistan Region, PKK Commander Mustafa Karasu is warning of potential military confrontations with KDP forces.
Mustafa Karasu, a member of the Executive Council of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), where the PKK plays a key role, said that if the KDP maintains its current policy, confrontations could occur. He added that the KDP would bear responsibility for any such outcome.
Although sporadic confrontations between the two sides have been reported in recent years, a full-scale conflict is unlikely. Such a confrontation would be tantamount to a civil war, and there is little appetite for that level of conflict at this time.
The KDP has close ties to Ankara, and recent discussions about the PKK's presence in the Kurdistan Region have ramped up pressure on the KDP. The focus on the PKK issue and oil matters by Turkey's foreign minister during talks with Iraqi officials suggests a quid pro quo: Ankara may expect Iraq to take stronger action against the PKK in exchange for resuming oil exports via its Ceyhan pipeline. The pipeline's shutdown since March has financially strained the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), making it reliant on Baghdad to pay public sector salaries.
The upcoming Kurdistan Region parliamentary elections are also complicating matters. The KDP needs to project strength and competence. It also needs to assuage the concerns of its vital rural constituencies in Duhok province that are increasingly vocal about the Kurdistan Region's inability to maintain security control over swaths of territory that the PKK is able to traverse and operate on, much to the chagrin of many locals.
Journalist Guhdar Zebari is scheduled to face another trial as prospects for release fade
Last week, Zebari was expected to be released from prison but now faces additional charges related to firearm possession. In 2021, Zebari received a six-year sentence on charges that many view as trumped-up. However, President Nechirvan Barzani later halved the sentence through an executive order.
Zebari's case is one of several high-profile trials involving activists and journalists from the KDP stronghold in Duhok province.
International and local condemnation has poured in following the detention of Omed Baroshky, a journalist from Duhok, by security forces. The detainment is said to be in response to his criticism of a fresh four-year sentence handed down to fellow journalist Sherwan Sherwani by an Erbil court on Thursday. The Iraqi Kurdistan branch of Community Peacemaker Teams (CPT), a US-registered NGO committed to nonviolent conflict resolution, stated on Twitter that Baroshky was “kidnapped” by a security force in Duhok due […]
23. August 2023 14:58
No surprise here: The relationship between the KDP and PUK is complicated
The KDP spokesperson offered a vague statement describing the relationship between the KDP and the PUK but failed to provide details.
Mahmoud Mohammed told VOA, "Our relationship with the PUK is both good and bad," but did not elaborate. Here's what he said:
"Our relationship with the PUK is both good and bad. It is good because we need to collaborate and should avoid creating problems for each other through Iraqi government institutions, something the PUK has unfortunately been doing lately. It is bad in the sense that we cannot resolve existing issues through dialogue and instead have to resort to other means to address them."
The Metro Centre, a media advocacy group, condemned the arrest of reporters from each of Esta and Wlat in Erbil. They were detained while covering a protest over water shortages.
The group urged the Kurdistan Region's security forces to investigate the "unjust behavior" that violated human rights principles. It criticized the security forces for not protecting journalists and impeding their work, using a recent incident in Erbil's Bahari Nwe neighborhood as an example.
"The assault on democratic principles and human rights shows that the governmental institutions' belief in freedom of expression and journalism must be taken seriously by the political authorities of the Kurdistan Region," the Metro Centre said in a statement.
It added that progress in democracy in the region is tied to the advancement of journalistic freedoms, including access to information and internet freedom.
23. August 2023 14:13
Iraq's President Abdul Latif Rashid on Wednesday received Fidan in Baghdad.
"In the meeting, the topics discussed included increasing our bilateral trade, counterterrorism efforts, and the efficient utilization of transboundary waters between the two countries," the Turkish Foreign Ministry said on X, formerly Twitter.
Iraqi PM discuss security, water issues with Turkish FM
Fidan meets Iraqi Premier Mohammed al-Sudani in Baghdad, discussing the same topics addressed between the Turkish diplomat and Iraqi FM—namely, water issues and security concerns.
Here is an excerpt from Sudani's media office:
On Security Concerns
"Sudani shared insights into Iraq's battle with terrorism, affirming that security and stability are a priority for the Iraqi government. The Prime Minister made it clear that Iraq would not tolerate any group using its territory to attack neighboring nations, emphasizing a steadfast stance on this principle. He expressed a desire for greater collaboration within joint security committees with Turkey and promoted dialogue over unilateral action."
"Sudani stressed the need for Iraq and Turkey to coordinate on various regional issues to foster common positions that benefit both peoples. He acknowledged Turkey's recent initiative to increase water releases to the Tigris River and urged similar action for the Euphrates River, especially as Iraq prepares for significant religious visits and gatherings. A consensus on this matter would serve both nations' interests and preserve mutual rights, leading to an agreement to form a permanent committee to handle the water issue."
Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MIT) reported it has "neutralized" a PKK fighter in a cross-border operation in the Kurdistan Region.
The state-owned Anadolu Agency said the operation occurred in the northeastern district of Sulaymaniyah. It targeted Bekir Kina, also known by the codename Bawer Botan, who was described as "a trained assassin."
According to anonymous sources restricted from speaking to the media, Kina was "trained by the terrorist organization to assassinate Turkish police and intelligence officials."
The agency also reported that Kina had been actively participating in PKK activities in both Iraq and Iran.
Turkish authorities use the term "neutralized" to indicate that the individuals in question were either surrendered, killed, or captured.
23. August 2023 13:06
Journalist Winthrop Rodgers on the Erbil arrests and ongoing water crisis
Dyar Hussien, a reporter with the PUK-affiliated Esta News Network, was arrested Wednesday while covering a protest over water shortages in Erbil.
Authorities also confiscated his equipment, according to the report.
In recent years, Erbil has faced increasing water shortages. This year, the issue has become significantly more severe, prompting protests by local residents.
While Erbil residents are generally hesitant to protest due to the KDP's security forces' reputation for harsh crackdowns on dissent, the critical issue of water shortages seems to outweigh those concerns.
Opposition political parties, (and the PUK) have used the ongoing water crisis to highlight the weaknesses of the KRG. This comes as the KRG has been promoting its successes over the past four years via snazzy PR campaigns.
With parliamentary elections ostensibly six months away, these issues are likely to shake voter confidence in the regional government.
Here's the joint press release by the Iraqi and Turkish officials responsible for energy policy
Alparslan Bayraktar, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources met with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Affairs and Minister of Oil Hayan Abdul-Ghani in Ankara on 22 August 2023.
The Ministers discussed a broad range of bilateral and regional issues, including the Iraq-Turkiye crude oil pipeline.
The Ministers emphasized the importance of the Iraq-Turkiye crude oil pipeline for the two countries and stated the importance of resuming crude oil flows through the Iraq-Turkiye crude oil pipeline system as soon as possible following the completion of the necessary inspection activities that had to be carried out after the earthquakes on 6 February 2023. The Ministers also agreed to cooperate on the reconstruction of the Iraq-Turkiye pipeline system in the Iraqi territory.
They also exchanged views on the ways in which Turkiye and Iraq can deepen energy cooperation in the areas of oil & gas, gas & power interconnections, renewable energy and energy efficiency.
The two Ministers, who are the co-chairman of the Turkiye-Iraq Joint Economic Commission, decided to hold the 19th meeting of the Commission at the earliest convenient date in Baghdad.
Here's how Turkish state broadcaster TRT covered the Fidan-Hussein presser
"Minister Fidan spoke alongside Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein during the joint press conference held after their meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Baghdad. Stating that they discussed a wide range of issues with his Iraqi counterpart, Fidan emphasized that the fight against terrorism was foremost among them.
Fidan highlighted that they could not remain indifferent to the challenges the PKK terrorist organization poses to Iraq's sovereignty. He said, 'We must not allow the PKK, which is our common enemy with Iraq, to jeopardize our bilateral relations.'
Pointing out that the PKK has occupied numerous Iraqi villages and regions such as Sinjar, Mahmur, Kandil, and Süleymaniye, Fidan noted that the terrorist organization aims to unite these regions through a 'terror corridor,' disregarding the borders between Syria and Iraq.
Emphasizing Turkey's readiness to cooperate with Iraq in combating terrorism, Minister Fidan stated, 'We support our Iraqi brothers at every level in their struggle against the PKK, which has become a pawn of imperial powers. We also expect Iraq to officially recognize the PKK as a terrorist organization, as a testament to our friendship and brotherhood. Regardless of the name—be it PKK or IS—we are ready to collaborate with Iraq against any terrorist organization that threatens Iraq’s territorial integrity and political unity, undermines the stability and welfare of our Iraqi brothers, and commits crimes against humanity.'"
Dışişleri Bakanı Hakan Fidan, Irak'tan dostluk ve kardeşlik gereği PKK'yı resmen terör örgütü olarak tanımasını beklediklerini söyledi.
23. August 2023 12:30
Full translated readout by the Iraqi foreign ministry on Fidan meeting
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Fuad Hussein welcomed the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey, Mr. Hakan Fidan, today, Tuesday, August 22, 2023. The two parties engaged in discussions focusing on bilateral relations and avenues for their enhancement for the mutual benefit of both countries. Regional and international issues of shared interest were also on the agenda.
In the subsequent press conference, Minister Hussein noted that this marked Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan's inaugural visit to Baghdad. He highlighted the importance of the practical discussions held, which touched on subjects like water rights and the effects of climate change on both nations. The Turkish minister proposed the formation of a permanent joint committee to tackle water-related challenges, acknowledging that drought poses a threat to Iraq's economy and agriculture.
The dialogue also covered the Turkish military presence in Iraq. Hussein emphasized that the Iraqi constitution prohibits the use of Iraqi soil as a launchpad for attacks on neighboring countries. The meeting also explored ways to streamline entry visa procedures for Iraqis to Turkey, where approximately 700,000 Iraqis currently reside, and discussed expediting agreements on memorandums of understanding.
Hussein conveyed the intent to convene a joint economic and trade committee meeting, with a focus on implementing previously agreed-upon actions.
For his part, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan confirmed plans to establish a permanent joint committee on water issues and expressed support for the Development Road project envisioned by Prime Minister Muhammad Shia al-Sudani. Fidan underscored the project's potential to boost prosperity in Iraq and the region and advocated for regional backing.
Fidan also indicated that the meeting encompassed discussions on counter-terrorism efforts, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), and measures to remove investment barriers in both nations. He emphasized Turkey's readiness to support Iraq in combating terrorism.
Highlighting the current trade volume between Iraq and Turkey, which stands at $25 billion, Fidan stressed the room for growth in accordance with the real potential. He also noted that the Turkish government is closely monitoring Iraq's water shortage issues and is approaching them from a humanitarian standpoint. An agreement was reached during the talks to form the aforementioned permanent joint committee on water.
23. August 2023 12:23
After Hicks Jr.'s long goodbye, here comes the welcoming party
Mark Stroh is the US’s new consul general in Erbil.
Turkish foreign minister to do the full Barzani today
The visit of Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan to Erbil has been described as 'important' by KRG spokesperson. Last night, KRG spox Peshawa Hawramani told Kurdistan 24 that Fidan's visit to the Kurdistan Region is significant, as Erbil aims to strengthen its relations with its powerful neighbor.
Fidan is expected to complete the full Barzani (involving meetings with the KDP president Masoud Barzani, his KRG PM son Masrour Barzani, and his KRI president nephew Nechirvan Barzani) on Wednesday, according to local reports.
23. August 2023 12:16
Ankara wants Baghdad to recognize PKK as terror group
The much-anticipated visit to Iraq by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has not yet occurred. However, following Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan's visits to Baghdad and Erbil, Turkey's objectives have become clearer.
Here's what the two neighboring countries' foreign ministers discussed during their press conference on Tuesday, following Fidan's two-day visit to Iraq:
The PKK issue: Fidan urged the Iraqi government to officially recognize the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) as a terrorist organization. During a joint news conference in Baghdad with his Iraqi counterpart, Fuad Hussein, Fidan expressed Turkey's support for Iraq's fight against the PKK. He called for this recognition as a 'requirement of friendship and brotherhood.' Fidan stated that the group aims to create a 'terror corridor' linking Syria and Iraq, which threatens Iraq's territorial integrity and political unity.
Water and dams: Both the Tigris and Euphrates rivers originate in Turkey before flowing into Iraq. Iraq has reported a concerning drop in water levels and blames Turkish dams for the reduction. At the press conference, Fidan said, 'Ankara approaches the issue from a purely humanitarian perspective. We prioritize the establishment of an uninterrupted dialogue mechanism based on scientific cooperation concerning water flow.' Hussein mentioned that Fidan had proposed creating a 'permanent committee' to address the water issues.
The oiliphant in in the room: Oil has been a contentious issue among authorities in Baghdad, the Kurdistan Region, and Turkey. In late March, an international tribunal ruled that Baghdad has the right to oversee all Iraqi oil exports, leading Turkey to block Kurdish oil exports. The latest update is that the two countries are nearing a resolution on the matter. However, it seems that this won't happen until Ankara gets some, if not all, of what it wants in return, including eased financial burdens and resolution of the PKK issue.
Yet another non-update has been issued by Baghdad and Ankara regarding the resumption of oil exports from the Kurdistan Region. This follows months of shutdown that have severely impacted Erbil's financial standing.
According to a report from the Kurdistan 24 website, Iraqi Oil Minister Hayyan Abdul-Ghani and Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Alparslan Bayraktar have emphasized the urgency of resuming oil exports. This comes after they inspected and repaired a section of the Iraq-Turkey oil pipeline, which was damaged due to earthquakes on Feb. 6.
The ministers agreed to collaborate on reconstructing the Iraqi-Turkish pipeline system within Iraqi territory.
Ankara has cited this reason for the delay, despite indications that other factors may be at play. These could include Turkey's demands for a reduction in the imposed fine and a withdrawl of an ongoing lawsuit for later exports. Additionally, pressure on Baghdad and Erbil to further curb the activities of PKK fighters may also be contributing factors.
The report stated that further discussions between the ministers explored ways to deepen energy cooperation between Turkey and Iraq in various sectors. These include oil and gas, electricity, renewable energy, and energy efficiency, as mentioned in a joint declaration.
Both Abdul-Ghani and Bayraktar, who co-chair the Turkish-Iraqi Joint Economic Commission, have also decided to convene the 19th meeting of the commission in Baghdad as soon as possible."
In case you haven't noticed, we are now The Citadel. We've changed our name as part of our rebranding plan. Here's why:
We operate independently, both editorially and managerially, from the Kurdish service of NRT TV and its website. With a fresh perspective and a different focus, we wanted our name and design to reflect this reality.
While we rely financially on Nalia Radio Television (with the provision of a very modest operating budget), we have secured guarantees against any interference. Our aim is to bring news from the Kurdistan Region and Iraq to English-speaking readers, providing a local alternative to English media that is dominated by political parties.
Despite financial limitations, The Citadel is confident that it can offer much-needed insights and analysis through our daily live blog and in-depth, first-hand reporting.
23. August 2023 11:26
Iraq faces calls to withdraw proposed anti-LGBT law, citing human rights violations
Human Rights Watch is urging the Iraqi government to immediately withdraw a proposed anti-LGBT bill that would criminalize same-sex conduct and transgender expression. Introduced by independent Member of Parliament Raad Al-Maliki on Aug. 15, the bill seeks to amend Iraq’s existing 'Law on Combatting Prostitution,' and if passed, would impose the death penalty or life imprisonment for same-sex relations.
Rasha Younes, senior LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, said, "Iraqi lawmakers are sending an appalling message to LGBT people that their speech is criminal and their lives are expendable."
The bill also proposes a minimum seven-year prison sentence and a fine for "promoting homosexuality" and up to three years in prison for "imitating women." Maliki stated the bill aims to "preserve the entity of the Iraqi society from deviation and calls for paraphilia that have invaded the world.”
Though same-sex conduct is not explicitly outlawed in Iraq, authorities have used vague "morality" laws to prosecute LGBT people. The introduction of the bill follows a series of anti-LGBT rhetoric and actions from Iraqi officials, including a May court order in the Kurdistan region that shut down a human rights organization over its LGBT activities.
Human Rights Watch says the proposed law violates Iraq’s Constitution and international human rights laws, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Iraq ratified in 1971.
"The Iraqi government should immediately abandon the proposed anti-LGBT law and end the cycle of violence and impunity against LGBT people,” Younes said.
As lawmakers create ever more hostile environments Iraqi LGBTQ communities, read about efforts to introduce the death penalty.
23. August 2023 10:43
Hello! After a fallow period, the live blog is back. You may have noticed the website has a new name and fresh logo. We'll discuss that and more throughout the day as we also bring you the latest news from Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.