Tag Archives: Kurdistan

With Trump Silent, Sanders and Dems Demand Aid for Iranian Earthquake Victims

“The U.S. has routinely offered to help the Iranian people in times of need. This time should be no different.”

Written by Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 11-17-2017.

A devastating 7.3 earthquake struck the Iran/Irag region, killing over 500 and leaving 9,000 injured. Image via Facebook.

As the death toll from the “horrific” earthquake that struck the Iran-Iraq border earlier this week climbs above 500, and as President Donald Trump remains entirely silent on the matter, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and four Democratic senators sent a letter on Thursday to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson demanding that the White House waive certain sanctions on Iran and allow aid to reach those desperately in need.

“After earthquakes in 2003 and 2012, the United States demonstrated its compassion and goodwill by offering assistance to the Iranian people and allowing private relief donations,” the senators wrote. “This time should be no different.”

While the 7.3 magnitude quake affected both Iran and Iraq, Iran bore the brunt of the overall destruction and casualties.

Under the current sanctions regime, Iranian-Americans living in the U.S. are prohibited from delivering funds to their friends and family members. As Al Jazeera reported on Thursday, several attempts by Iranian-Americans to set up fundraisers for Iran in the days following the earthquake have been stymied by U.S. Treasury Department rules.

“The way it is now, it is extremely difficult,” Tara Kangarlou, a New York-based Iranian-American journalist, said of the economic restrictions. “These are the moments that you realize how political tug of war are hurting ordinary Iranians.”

As for official U.S. government assistance, the Trump White House has been relatively quiet; the Treasury Department called the quake “tragic” in a statement to the Associated Press, but did not say whether the administration plans to mount any kind of response. Trump, himself, has not said a word about the quake, which Sanders and his Democratic colleagues noted was “the world’s deadliest of the year.”

In addition to killing hundreds and injuring over 9,000, a report from European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations found that the tremor damaged 12,000 buildings in Iran and Iraq.

Shortly after the earthquake struck, Sanders highlighted the “growing tensions” between the U.S. and Iran—particularly following Trump’s decision to decertify the Iran deal—and argued that providing relief to the Iranian people following such a devastating event “would be an important act of friendship.”

Read the senators’ full letter:

We write today concerning the recent earthquake that struck Iran on November 12. The latest reports indicate over 500 dead and thousands wounded, making this earthquake the world’s deadliest of the year. We urge you temporarily waive any existing restrictions that would impede relief donations in order to speed the delivery of aid.

While the earthquake affected both Iran and Iraq, most of the casualties are on the Iranian side of the border. After earthquakes in 2003 and 2012, the United States demonstrated its compassion and goodwill by offering assistance to the Iranian people and allowing private relief donations. The administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama both temporarily waived sanctions, and the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued general licenses to simplify aid delivery.

Under the Bush administration, an OFAC license authorized U.S. persons to provide cash donations to nongovernmental organizations, U.S. and non-U.S., assisting with relief efforts in Iran. At the time, OFAC also worked with aid organizations to clarify rules on donations of food and medicine and which Iranian entities could receive aid and eased banking constraints to ensure the timely receipt of donations in Iran. While we understand that a general license issued by OFAC in 2013 allows for U.S. nongovernment organization to deliver aid to Iran, we urge you make it easier for U.S. citizens to contribute to nongovernment organizations not based in the United States that are currently providing relief aid to earthquake victims in Iran.

Despite decades of animosity and no formal diplomatic relations, the United States has routinely offered to help the Iranian people in times of need. This time should be no different. We ask that you direct the Department of State to assist in aid efforts and to coordinate such efforts with OFAC and other relevant agencies in order to ensure aid arrives quickly.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to your timely response.

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Iraqi Kurdistan: the fight for a seat at the table of nations

The result of Iraqi Kurdistan’s independence referendum was never in doubt, but the budding state’s future is.

By Charles Glass. Published 10-6-2017 by openDemocracy

Photo: Twitter

Of the 72 percent of registered voters who turned up at the polls, a little more than 93 percent opted to separate their homeland from Iraq. Independence, however, is fraught with the dangers of disputed borders, ferocious opposition from its neighbors and internal dissent.

As a longtime “friend of the Kurds” who made his first illegal attempt to enter Iraqi Kurdistan from Iran in 1974 with ABC News’ Peter Jennings but succeeded many times thereafter, I want to see them free and secure. More than that, my wish is to see them avoid the destruction and displacement of the kind that Saddam Hussein inflicted on them in 1975, 1988 and 1991, when the United States abandoned them to their fate. Their leaders would be well advised to proceed with caution. The Iraqi Kurds’ antagonistic leaders are Massoud Barzani in Arbil and Hero Ibrahim Ahmad, a formidable woman who acts as a kind of regent while her husband, former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, languishes in a semi-coma. The Barzanis and Talabanis, though rivals, guided their people through the dark years of genocide by the Iraqi government and brought them to the semi-independent status they enjoy today. For that, they deserve our respect. They probably do not deserve my advice, but I’ll offer it anyway. Continue reading

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Southern Kurdistan’s Referendum: Self-Destiny doesn’t need Permission

Every flower that sprouts in the mountains had to first break through a rock.

By. Dr. Thoreau Redcrow. Published 9-22-2017 by the Region

Rallies and celebrations take place throughout Kurdistan as the referendum vote approaches Monday’s date.. Photo: Al Arabiya/Twitter

 

In a few days on September 25th the autonomous Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) of Southern Kurdistan / Bashur (i.e. northern “Iraq”) is set to hold a non-binding aspirational referendum on their region’s independence. For many of the 6+ million Kurds of Bashur it is undoubtedly a day they have dreamt of or longed for; perhaps even a chance which seemed all but a fantasy through the billowing smoke of chemical bombs in Hełebce, or Saddam’s mass graves of the 1980’s.

Moreover, although this referendum is only related to one of the four regions of Greater Kurdistan—leaving those 20+ million Kurds of southeastern Turkey (Northern Kurdistan), 12 million Kurds of northwestern Iran (Eastern Kurdistan), and 2-3 million Kurds of northern Syria (Western Kurdistan) awaiting their own eventual ‘independence day’—I have still anecdotally witnessed a surge in Kurdish patriotism and excitement throughout wider Kurdistan and the diaspora at the possibility that the first of the four dominoes may finally fall. Continue reading

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Trump invites foreign terrorist to White House

Trump has investments and business dealings in Turkey, where his son enjoys hunting with rich businessmen. How Trump deals with Turkey in relation to ISIS could be in direct conflict with these business interests. Which one will Trump prioritize?

By Carol Benedict for Occupy World Writes

On Monday night, news broke that the Trump Administration revealed information to the Russian officials during their visit to the White House last week. This could not come at a worse time – right on the heels of the Comey firing and on the eve before another foreign power visits the White House.

On Tuesday. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visits US President Donald Trump at the White House. While many Americans who rely only on US news don’t see this as alarming, the international community, unafraid of hard hitting headlines, realizes that Turkey and Erdogan have been cooperating with ISIS in Syria since at least 2014 and the attack on the Kurdish city of Kobane.

The US has taken the stand that we do not negotiate with terrorists. Yet, Erdogan is invited to Washington to attempt to persuade our President to turn on the only reliable fighting force on earth capable of defeating ISIS on the ground. Last week it was announced that the US will arm the Syrian YPG/YPJ forces in the battle to take Raqqa, the ISIS stronghold and capitol in Syria.

Trump will place the security of the US at risk if he backs down from his commitment to arm the Kurds. He will reveal that he himself in indirectly working with ISIS by cooperating with Turkey’s government to assist in the defeat of the Syrian Kurds, which is Erdogan’s objective in Syria.

If you or someone you know are in or near the Washington DC tomorrow, you can add your voice to a protest taking place at Lafayette Square. Details below.

Protest Against The Erdogan Dictatorship.

Join supporters of human rights, religious liberty, and regional peace at a rally outside the White House (in Lafayette Park) during President Trump’s May 16th meeting with Turkish President Erdogan.

The protest will take place from noon to 2 pm.

Protesters will call on President Trump to challenge Erdogan on a broad range of issues, including:

— Erdogan’s post-coup consolidation of authoritarian power;
— Erdogan’s mass arrests of the HDP leadership;
— Erdogan’s vast purge of his political opposition;
— Erdogan’s arrest of record numbers of journalists;
— Erdogan’s restrictions on religious freedom and worship
— Erdogan’s Wikipedia ban and social media crackdown;
— Erdogan’s aggression against Kurds in Syria and Iraq;
— Erdogan’s anti-American rhetoric and actions;
— Erdogan’s continued military occupation of Cyprus;
— Erdogan’s obstruction of justice for genocide of Armenians, Assyrians/Chaldeans/Syriacs and Greeks
— Erdogan’s illegal economic blockade of Armenia

There’s also a Facebook event page.

About the Author:
Carol Benedict is an indépendant researcher and human rights activist. She is also an independent Journalist and a professional member of the US Press Association.

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Love in a time of fear: an interview with Dashni Morad

‘The Shakira of Kurdistan’ discusses feminism, Kurdish unity, and healing the scars of war.

By Benjamin Ramm. Published 3-30-2017 by openDemocracy

Dashni Morad. (Credit: John Wright, February 2016)

As the battle for Mosul nears its conclusion, the fate of civilian survivors remains uncertain. The Kurdish singer and humanitarian Dashni Morad, whose youth was defined by conflict in the region, aims to highlight the psychological scars of living under a brutal regime. In 2014, Morad raised funds for refugee camps outside Mosul, where she witnessed the impact of three years of war on displaced children. Tutored only in fear, the children are aggressive even in play: “it made me so upset to see that a kid can be taken from its inner child”, she says. “It is the worst thing you can do to a human being – to take away that magical world”. Continue reading

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29 Years After Genocide, Kurds Still Suffer

Occupy World Writes commemorates the anniversary of the Halabja genocide

Written by Carol Benedict

Black Friday.

“Halabja, standing against oppression.
Joy and happiness permeated the air in Halabja.
Smiles never faded from the lips of the ever oppressed people of this town.
The Iraqi fighter planes carried out the chemical bombing of Halabja,
and some hours later the news came that Khormal, too, had suffered chemical bombing.
The sound of laughter died down.
Children sought the shelter of their mothers’ arms.
March 16, was the beginning of the great crime of history.
On Thursday March 17, 1988, and on Friday March 18, there took place one of
the most shameful and fearful inhumane crimes of history in Halabja. The town of
Halabja was bombed with chemical and cluster bombs more than twenty times
by Iraqi fighter planes.
In every street and alley women and children rolled over one another.
The sound of crying and groans rose from every house in the town.
Many families who were sleeping happily in their beds in their liberated town,
were subjected before sunrise to chemical bombing,
and poisonous gases did not even allow them to rise from their beds.
Such was the situation on the bloody Friday of Halabja.”
from Kurdistan Democratic Party – Iraq

Exhumed Shoes of Child Victim of Anfal Genocide - 3rd International Conference on Mass Graves in Iraq - Erbil - Iraq. Photo by Adam Jones, Ph.D. (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Exhumed Shoes of Child Victim of Anfal Genocide – 3rd International Conference on Mass Graves in Iraq – Erbil – Iraq. Photo by Adam Jones, Ph.D. (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

March 16, 1988:  A chemical weapon attack on the civilian population of Halabja killed an estimated 5,000 persons immediately and injured another 7,000 – 10,000. In the aftermath of the attack, thousands more died of complications, disease and birth defects.  The attack was and remains today the largest chemical weapons attack against a civilian population in human history.

According to an account in KurdishPain.com, written by Huner Anwer, “The gas attack took place over a period of approximately five hours.  The attack was preceded by the dropping of conventional weapons and by the dropping of paper in order to determine the direction of the wind.  The dropping of the conventional weapons led the citizens of Halabja to retreat to basements and shelters for protection which made the gas more effective as it settled into low lying areas.”

Photo by Zaxo (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Halabja before the attack. Photo by Zaxo (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

“Survivors spoke most often of the gas smelling like sweet apples, but others said it was more like garlic and still some others like the gas used in a kitchen stove. This suggests multiple chemicals were used, including mustard gas, the nerve agents sarin, tabun and VX. Some victims died almost immediately, others were laughing as they died; still others experienced intense burning, blistering and vomiting,” Anwer writes.

Topographical map of Kurdistan - Iraq. Halabja is on the far right, in the mountainous region. Note location in area to trap the chemicals used. Public Domain via Wikimedia.

Topographical map of Kurdistan – Iraq. Halabja is on the far right, in the mountainous region. Note location in area to trap the chemicals used. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The poison gas attack on Halabja was just part of what has become known as the Anfal Campaign. It began unofficially in 1986 and continued until 1989: officially it was conducted between February 23 and September 6, 1988. It was led by a cousin of Saddam Hussein, Ali Hassan al-Majid, who became known as “Chemical Ali” as a result of the atrocities. The Campaign consisted of:

  • the mass executions and the mass disappearance of tens of thousands of persons;
  • the widespread use of chemical weapons;
  • the destruction of over 4,500 Kurdish and at least 31 Assyrian villages;
  • the death of over 182,000 persons;
  • the displacement of over a million of the country’s estimated 3.5 million Kurdish population.

“(There is legal and convincing proof that) the Kurdish population meets the requirement under the Genocide Conventions as an ethnic group. The court has no other conclusion than that these attacks were committed with the intent to destroy the Kurdish population of Iraq,”  declared The Hague in a court ruling from December of 2005.

Bakhtiar Awmar points to grave where his father, mother and sister are buried - victims of the 1988 Chemical Attack - Halabja, Kurdistan - Iraq. Photo By Adam Jones, Ph.D. (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Bakhtiar Awmar points to grave where his father, mother and sister are buried – victims of the 1988 Chemical Attack – Halabja, Kurdistan – Iraq. Photo By Adam Jones, Ph.D. (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

We have talked about this issue in a previous story, Honor and Dignity. The struggles of the Iraqi Kurdish population, like that of all Kurds living in the region, continues to this day. Finding a solution rather than a continued assault on what has become recognized as the largest ethnic group on Planet Earth with no borders, no home, no country and no rights becomes the DUTY of the world. Current estimates place the Kurdish population at 30 – 35 million people.

Since this tragedy, the world has continued to witness the use of chemical weapons to exterminate populations. March 14, 2014 marks the 3rd anniversary of the Syrian crisis, also involving the use of chemical weapons against Kurdish and other populations. These attacks are carried out by government forces. The Ghouta chemical attack occurred on August 21, 2013, during the Syrian civil war, when several opposition-controlled or disputed areas of the Ghouta suburbs around Damascus were struck by rockets containing sarin. Hundreds were killed in the attack, which took place over a short span of time in the early morning. Estimates of the death toll are upwards of 1,729 fatalities.

We wanted to construct a list of genocides since 1988 to demonstrate that no resolution has come. When researching the genocides across the globe that have occurred since this event, we were overwhelmed with the list. Rather than diminish any of these tragedies, we found this summary, which also includes genocides from 1945 forward. World Genocide Since 1945 {PDF}

Genocide is the worst dimension of despicable behavior the human race can sink to. It has no justification in ethics, morals, religions, war, terror or policies. Occupy World Writes joins all those who call for an end to this crime against humanity, and we support a resolution marking this day as International Day Against the Use of Chemical Weapons, so that the world never forgets the injustices that have been administered on innocent victims and brings honor to the victims of Halabja.

Exhumed Clothing of Victims of Anfal Genocide - 3rd International Conference on Mass Graves in Iraq - Erbil - Iraq. Photo by Adam Jones, Ph.D. (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Exhumed Clothing of Victims of Anfal Genocide – 3rd International Conference on Mass Graves in Iraq – Erbil – Iraq. Photo by Adam Jones, Ph.D. (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

We call on the international community to recognize the need for an immediate solution to “the Kurdish Problem.” This would help alleviate pressures in Syria, called Rojava by the Kurdish people, or Western Kurdistan,  Northern Kurdistan, the Kurdish area in Turkey; Southern Kurdistan, the Kurdish area in Iraq; and Eastern Kurdistan, the Kurdish area in Iran. We implore the world to find a means to an end of genocide the world over immediately, and those responsible must be brought to justice.

For a completely separate perspective on Iraqi children suffering to this day from the Bush Administration’s policy of “Mission Accomplished,” read Weapons of Mass Destruction.

A video about Halabja from the Rudaw Facebook page :

About the Author:
Carol Benedict is an indépendant researcher and human rights activist. She is also an independent Journalist and a professional member of the US Press Association.

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Silence from world press as purges in Turkey continue ongoing genocide

Written by Carol Benedict.

Today, a press release was issued which has gone largely ignored by western media. No one wants to talk “bad” about a NATO ally and “friend” to the US.

Turkey has taken the position that all who oppose President Erdogan are enemies to nationalism in that country, and with a referendum vote coming in April that would grant Erdogan unprecedented and complete power, a long-fought for goal of his. By naming all opposition as “terrorists” he believes the international community will allow him to act with impunity.

Meanwhile, reports of Kurdish civilians, including women and children, are surfacing that indicate a barbaric turn in the Turkish regime’s treatment of its minority population. Since last July, a failed coup became the catalyst for the surge in attacks on HDP members, intellectuals, media and ethnicity.

To date, purges across Turkey have targeted specific individuals based on that person’s heritage of being Kurdish or individuals who oppose Erdogan’s ideology. “Turkey Purge” is a website that tracks these human rights abuses. At press time, this is the status, which does NOT include deaths the regime will not acknowledge. All their victims, they claim, are terrorists.

Does NOT include deaths perpetrated by the Turkish government.

Without international intervention, this violence and genocide will be allowed to escalate and thousands, if not millions, will perish in the course of its fulfillment.

At the end of WWII, the entire world took a pledge to not allow genocide to continue. The world closed it mouth during the Armenian genocide, with the United Staes still refusing to this day to officially acknowledge it as a genocide at the behest of Turkey.

Each of us needs to act as citizens of humanity and demand these actions be stopped. Write, call and insist that your government acknowledge and condemn these actions and require access to these regions of southeast Turkey by humanitarian organizations.

Following is the press release, in its entirety:

As Turkey’s constitutional referendum is approaching, we are, once again, witnessing an intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey. For more than a week, there has been no communication with the people of Xerabê Bava (Koruköy), a village in Mardin-Nusaybin. The village is under round-the-clock military curfew and there have been claims that villagers are being tortured and executed. Visitors, including journalists, MPs and human rights observers were denied entry to the village.

We are concerned that what is going on in Xerabê Bava might be a harbinger of approaching larger scale state violence against the Kurdish population and other minority populations in Turkey. Since the violence exercised on Kurdish population has become a strategy for the government in order to consolidate a nationalistic support for the referendum, it is crucial to raise an urgent reaction to this violence at its very beginning. We, therefore, urge international human rights organizations, journalists, and peace coalitions to pay attention to Xerabê Bava and take the necessary steps to investigate the allegations of rights violations in the village.

Academics for Peace- Germany
Academics for Peace- UK
Academics for Peace- France
Academics for Peace- Switzerland

About the Author:
Carol Benedict is an indépendant researcher and human rights activist. She is also an independent Journalist and a professional member of the US Press Association.

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HDP arrests: on the road to dictatorship in Turkey

In the absence of concerted international pressure on Turkey to rein in Erdogan’s authoritarianism, the only plausible outcome is further violence.

By Francis O’Connor. Published 11-8-2016 by ROAR Magazine

"Meeting with the CHP delegation, HDP’s imprisoned Co-Chair Demirtaş has said that he didn’t go abroad despite knowing that he would be arrested, and imprisoned Mardin Co-Mayor Türk said “I am prepared for everything as long as peace is achieved in these lands” Photo: Rojava24/7/Facebook

“Meeting with the CHP delegation, HDP’s imprisoned Co-Chair Demirtaş has said that he didn’t go abroad despite knowing that he would be arrested, and imprisoned Mardin Co-Mayor Türk said “I am prepared for everything as long as peace is achieved in these lands” Photo: Rojava24/7/Facebook

The political situation in Turkey continues to deteriorate in the wake of the attempted coup d’état in July 2016, allegedly organized by the Gülen Movement, a former ally of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). It has in fact led to a slow incremental counter-coup where Erdogan and his cronies have progressively jailed, marginalized and silenced opponents of all hues — but especially the Kurdish movement.

The botched coup has conceded the Erdogan regime the pretext to arrest 80,000 suspects, 40,000 of whom remain in custody, while forcing the shutdown of more than 150 publications, the firing of more than 100,000 civil servants and the re-staffing of the army’s upper echelons with Erdogan loyalists. It has also furnished Erdogan with the opportunity to eradicate his principal political opponent, the pro-Kurdish, leftist People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which had been hindering his assumption of complete parliamentary control. Erdogan’s campaign culminated in the arrest of twelve HDP MPs, including its co-chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yüksekdag last Friday. Continue reading

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The curious case of a Turkish judiciary in a state of emergency

There is strong evidence to conclude that Turkey has gone beyond what is necessary or proportionate.

By Emre Turkut. Published 11-16-2016 by openDemocracy

Cizre. Photo: Has Avrat/Twitter

Cizre. Photo: Has Avrat/Twitter

Yet again, another state of emergency is eating away at the already fragile foundations of a country’s rule of law. Not surprisingly, that country is Turkey.

Since the bloody and violent attempted military coup on 15 July 2016, Turkish state authorities have taken unprecedented measures, purportedly to restore normalcy in the country. In many ways, however, those measures could almost be characterized as a counter-coup, a purge bordering on crimes against humanity. Continue reading

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Turkey Looks to Join Russia-China Alliance, Snubbing the US and Europe

By Darius Shahtahmasebi. Published 11-22-2016 by The Anti-Media

Photo: Emre Uslu/Twitter

Photo: Emre Uslu/Twitter

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan recently said Turkey does not need to join the European Union “at all costs.” Instead, he is looking to become part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is a Eurasian political, economic, and military bloc originally founded in Shanghai by China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

Although Turkey is a member of NATO, 11 years of negotiations aimed at the country’s entrance into the E.U. have almost fallen flat. A proposal for Turkey to take a certain number of refugees from Europe with hopes this would lead to E.U. membership failed earlier this year. Continue reading

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