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The latest news on KURDS

1. PM Nechirvan Barzani’s statement on talks with Baghdad
2. PJAK: clarification of AFP article “Kurdish rebels in Iraq threaten to attack Iran”

3. PJAK and Iranian Revolutionary Guards Clash in Kermanshah and Mariwan

4. DTP deputies to support their chairman in court

5. Turkish Military Court Tries DTP Chairman

6. Turkey’s Problematic Middle East Role – Northern Iraq is fragile, so Turkey should be careful

7. Iran-Court closes Kurdish weekly for selling copies across border in Iraqi Kurdistan

8. EU Parliament urges Turkey to respect Iraq”s territorial integrity

9. Turkey under fire over laws banning insults to ‘Turkishness’

10. CHP might be shut down over dubious money transfer

11. Iran: Arrests, Jailings Of Political And Rights Activists Continue

12. Kurdish killings widely condemned

13. Iraq neighbors meeting in Kuwait

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1. PM Nechirvan Barzani’s statement on talks with Baghdad

19 Apr. 2008


Baghdad, Iraq (KRG.org) – Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani issued the following statement on his recent meetings with Iraqi federal government officials in Baghdad.

He said, “Our meetings in Baghdad were marked by a positive feeling of cooperation and progress. The overall purpose of this most recent round of bilateral meetings between the KRG and the Federal Government in Baghdad was to discuss the mechanism of relations between our two bodies as partners in the governance of Iraq, the advancement of our political process and other various issues regarding the future of Iraq.”

During the meetings a wide range of topics were discussed. Amongst these were:

1. The national hydrocarbon law.

2. The status of the Peshmerga, the constitutionally mandated guard force of the Kurdistan Region.


3. Article 140 of the Constitution, regarding the status of the disputed territories.

Regarding the hydrocarbon (oil and gas) law, both sides agreed on the following principles: all ongoing negotiations will be within the framework of the constitution; the KRG and Baghdad have agreed they will start with the previously negotiated, February 2007 draft hydrocarbon as the basis of the new draft law to be submitted to parliament. Once agreement has been reached, the laws concerning oil and gas, revenue sharing, the Iraqi National Oil Company, and the restructuring of the Oil Ministry will be submitted as one package.

Concerning the Peshmerga, it has been decided that a commission from the Federal Government in Baghdad will visit the Kurdistan Region in the near future to discuss practical steps going forward.

On the issue of Article 140, which concerns the disputed areas in Iraq, work is continuing within the framework established by the United Nations. As a first step towards resolution of this issue, the UN is expected to present its proposal to the relevant authorities in the Federal Government and the KRG in the near future.

The series of talks served to advance cooperation and coordination between the two governing bodies, ensure the success of the federal system in Iraq, and the implementation of constitutional commitments to ensure the country’s legal process.

Besides the evident goodwill between both parties, the talks demonstrated good progress towards resolving the issues under discussion. Both sides are clearly committed to the success of the federal system in Iraq. These talks succeeded in furthering the achievement of national reconciliation in Iraq in order to enhance the lives of all Iraqis.
While circumstances in Iraq are such that this process is not a quick one and the issues under discussion are complicated and will take time to solve, the talks made significant progress and underscore the commitment of both the KRG and the Federal Government to finding and implementing long term and mutually agreeable solutions.

The success of these most recent talks strengthens the federal system in Iraq and will ensure a prosperous future for the Kurdistan Region and all Iraq.
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2. PJAK: clarification of AFP article “Kurdish rebels in Iraq threaten to attack Iran”

Free Life Party of Kurdistan (PJAK)

April 21, 2008

Press release

PJAK commander Ronahi Ahmed in a press release stated that the AFP article by Mr. Shwan Mohammed “Kurdish rebels in Iraq threaten to attack Iran” does not represent PJAK policies and her statement. She said that PJAK policy is to defend the Kurdish and Iranian peoples against the oppression and attacks of the oppressive Iranian Islamic Republic and struggle to establish a Democratic Confederation of Iran.

Clarification:
1. PJAK is based mainly inside Eastern Kurdistan and Iran, not in Iraq. It depends on the support of the Kurdish and Iranian people. It is a democratic national movement for the Kurds in Iran. Its aim’s are to unite the Kurdish and Iranian opposition, to change the oppressive Islamic regime in Iran and to establish a free democratic con-federal system for the Kurds and the Iranian peoples. “Changing of the regime to a democratic system in which all citizens; Iranians, Kurds, Azaries, Baluchs, Turkomans and Arabs and all other ethnic groups within the framework of the democratic system, can govern themselves.”

2. PJAK is in self defense and does not launch any military cross border attacks from Iraq. All of the operations inside Iran are in self defense and to protect our people from the Iranian security and revolutionary Guards forces continues atrocities and forced assimilation.

3. PJAK is not a rebels organization. PJAK is a political massive national democratic movement of the Kurds in Iran. PJAK strategy is to use all form of struggle; political, social, economic, nonviolence civil disobedience, human rights, NGOS and to carry arms in self defense etc,. “PJAK is always continuing the work and struggle needed to achieve an increase in the level of intelligence, a democratic organization of people as well as practice of the democratic values, to achieve a radical type of democracy and to be able to launch a system of democratic confederacy in eastern Kurdistan.”

4. PJAK is a self sufficient and independent organization. It depends on the Kurds and Iranian people support, contrary to the Iranian dictatorial regime misinformation campaign that PJAK getting help from the USA and the west. We again declare to the public opinion that PJAK did not receive any help from any country including the USA. We depend on the support of our people and on our organization.

It is time to put stop to the atrocities and human rights violations of the Iranian Islamic oppressive regime.

We call upon the international community to help the Kurds and the peoples of Iran in their struggle for democracy, freedom and peace.

Information Center of PJAK
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3. PJAK and Iranian Revolutionary Guards Clash in Kermanshah and Mariwan

April 19, 2008

According to Rojhelat News, few days ago Kurdish freedom fighters PJAK guerrilla attacked Iranian military base in Kremanshah province. During the fighting 8 revolutionary Guards were killed and several others were injured. Military spokesman of PJAK high lighted that these attack are in response to the Iranian uninterrupted bombardments on PJAK bases In Qandil.Furthermore, the spokesman of PJAK identified two of the Revolutionary Guards killed as Lieutenant Safavi and Lieutenant Mahdavi.

Also PJAK guerrillas involved in fighting in Mariwan Last week, which, caused heavy damages to Iranian Revolutionary Guard facilities. Six (6) of the Guards were killed in that fighting which took place near Dezli, Hawraman.


The recent Military activities by PJAK are based on self-defense and were an answer to the Iranians regimes military ambitions and atrocities against the Kurds and Iranian people.

Information Center of PJAK

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4. DTP deputies to support their chairman in court

22.04.2008
Today’s Zaman Ankara

Deputies of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) gathered in a military court in Ankara yesterday to show their support for DTP leader Nurettin Demirtaş, who is facing trial on charges of “forging documents to evade military conscription.”
DTP deputies Selahattin Demirtaş, who also happens to be the brother of the DTP leader, Ayla Akat Ata, Emine Ayna, Gülten Kışanak, Fatma Kurtulan, Sevahir Bayındır, Aysel Tuğluk, Sebahat Tuncel, Pervin Buldan and Ahmet Türk were in the courtroom. Another DTP deputy, Sırrı Sakık, was barred from joining to watch the trial so as to not exceed the maximum allowed number of observers.
The air force’s prosecutor’s office filed a lawsuit in March this year against 98 people, including Demirtaş, for forging documents to avoid compulsory military service.
The office is demanding 10 years in prison for 73 of the suspects, including Demirtaş, for submitting fake health reports to avoid military service. Demirtaş was put in prison in late December of last year on the charges after testing proved he did not have any health problems that would prevent him from serving in the military.
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5. Turkish Military Court Tries DTP Chairman



21/4/2008
The New Anatolian



A Turkish court started on Monday the trial of the chairman of a pro-Kurdish political party for “cheating in order to pave his way out of compulsory military service.”
A military court in Ankara held the first hearing against Nurettin Demirtas, chairman of the Democratic Society Party (DTP).
The prosecutor asks up to ten years of prison charges for Demirtas and 71 other people under the Military Penal Code.
During his first testimony at the military court, he denied all the charges against him adding that he did need to defend himself as he did nothing wrong.
Turkish police detained Demirtas who was returning from a trip to Europe at Ankara’s Esenboga Airport on December 17th, 2007. Demirtas underwent medical check-up and then sent to the military court for his arrest. The prosecutor reportedly said that Demirtas avoided conscription by forging a health report saying he had serious respiratory problems. But Demirtas has repeatedly denied allegations and links to the PKK terror organization adding that his medical report is genuine.
He was accused of arranging a fake certificate of disability for discharge in order to be exempt from military service.
Turkish men are required to serve in the army for up to 15 months after the age of 20 unless they have health problems that prevent them from fulfilling military duty.
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6. Turkey’s Problematic Middle East Role – Northern Iraq is fragile, so Turkey should be careful



Steven A. Cook, Douglas Dillon Fellow



April 17, 2008

bitterlemons-international.org

CFR



With all the attention in Iraq over the last five years focused on the fate of al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the conflict between Sunni and Shi’ite, the role of Iran, the security of Anbar province, the “surge” and, most recently, the further deterioration of Basra, the situation in northern Iraq has only received sporadic attention. The conventional view has been that the predominantly Kurdish north has been the one relatively stable part of Iraq since the beginning of “Operation Iraqi Freedom” and thus was a good story. Unlike other parts of the country, the invasion left the north relatively unscathed and what became known as the Kurdish Regional Government enjoyed a 12-year head start in building government institutions. In the immediate post-Saddam period, the KRG was able to deliver services and, importantly, security to the area.



Yet, northern Iraq is a flashpoint that has the potential to trip Iraq into another round of civil war. It is also the one area of the country that, if engulfed in violence, could result in the intervention of some of Iraq’s neighbors. The issues bound up in the Kurdish region, from the status of Kirkuk and the related issues of Kurdish nationalism to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) struggle with Turkey and the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan’s (PJAK) confrontation with Iran to the long-awaited oil law are fraught with risk for Turkey, Iraq, the Kurds of both countries and the United States.



The often contradictory policies of Turks, Kurds and Iraqis reflect the fragility of northern Iraq and how the region could unravel. For example, despite Turkish complaints to the contrary, there is no real evidence that the Iraqi Kurdish leadership has provided material support to the PKK. The policy was essentially to turn a blind eye to PKK activities in the hope that the issue would not interfere with the broad goals of Iraq’s Kurdish population—independence or something close to it. While the downside of heeding Turkish demands that the PKK be brought to heel was abundantly clear—Kurds have a rich history of fighting each other—the KRG’s inaction ultimately led to Turkey’s recent military incursions, which, if they continue, have the potential to undermine the stability of the north.



Similarly, Ankara’s northern Iraq policies reflect a certain amount of cognitive dissonance. While the Turks never believed that Baghdad had any control over developments in the north, they were consistent in their refusal to deal directly with representatives of the KRG. This was a primary reason why the Turkish-Iraqi-American dialogue that was launched in July 2006 as well as General (ret.) Joe Ralston’s mission, which was supposed to coordinate the anti-PKK activities of all three countries, failed. Although Turkey has worked with the Iraqi Kurdish leadership, its resistance to engage in dialogue combined with cross-border operations has fueled Iraqi Kurdish support for the PKK and given additional impetus to Kurdish nationalism—developments detrimental to Turkey’s interests.



The regional implications of both the changes that the United States has wrought through its invasion as well as the complex relations among Turks, Kurds and the Iraqi central government are clear. Not since the Ottoman Empire have the Turks played as prominent and potentially problematic a role in the Middle East. Given the November 2007 shift in US policy green lighting Turkish pursuit of the PKK into Iraq, the risks for Turkey of continuing cross-border incursions are manageable, but serious enough to warrant extreme caution. There is some sympathy for the plight of Kurds in the Arab world, but only so far as it does not undermine Iraqi unity.



Alternatively, if Turkish military operations result in similar large-scale Iranian actions against PJAK and the fighting (on either border) draws in Iraq’s Arab population, the Turks will lose their newfound status and prestige in the Middle East—a region that Turkey’s current leaders deem strategically and commercially important. For its part, Washington would not look favorably on any Turkish actions in the north that would precipitate further Iranian meddling in Iraq.



Kurds are also undeniably a new player in regional politics whether as part of a unified Iraq or an independent state. This new status could have far-reaching effects beyond the immediate concentration of Kurds in Turkey, Syria and Iran. The very fact that a Kurd serves as the president of a major Arab country as well as its foreign minister, deputy prime minister and other important posts shatters myths and long held beliefs about the Arab world. The Iraqi Kurdish precedent, whether it is independence or the accumulation of political power within a unified Iraq, will encourage other sizable minority groups in the region to seek ways to alter their own status. As is the case with Iraq’s Kurds, these types of changes will not likely be met with acquiescence
This article appears in full on CFR.org by permission of its original publisher. It was originally available here
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7. Iran-Court closes Kurdish weekly for selling copies across border in Iraqi Kurdistan


MONTREAL, April 18 /CNW Telbec/ – Reporters Without Borders condemns the 11 April decision of a criminal court in Sanandaj, in Iran’s northwestern Kurdish region, to close the Kurdish-language daily Rouji Ha Lat for good on the grounds that it had received money from abroad. The court took the position that it broke the law by selling copies across the border in the Kurdish part of Iraq.
“It seems that any pretext will do in order to silence independent news media,” the press freedom organisation said. “The Iranian judicial system undermines its own credibility each time it hands down such absurd and iniquitous decisions. A total of 18 newspapers have been suspended since the start of the year in Iran, each time for obviously political reasons.”
The Sanandaj court ruled that, by selling copies in Iraqi Kurdistan, Rouji Ha Lat had acquired an “illegal” foreign source of income since, in Iran, the national news media are not allowed to receive foreign financial assistance.
Three of the newspaper’s journalists who had been charged with “activity against national security” – Farhad Aminpour, Reza Alipour and Saman Solimani – were fined 300,000 toumen (300 euros). They were detained for a month in 2006 before being freed on bail.
Meanwhile on 16 April, a Tehran court ordered the suspension of the newspaper Rah Ayandeh in response to a complaint brought by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Orientation’s press department. The newspaper’s next issue, its ninth, was to have been about Labour Day and the struggle of labour unions in Iran.
Finally, Reporters Without Borders hopes that the weekly Ashtai and the daily Rouzegar will soon be on sale again following court decisions in the past few days lifting the bans that had been placed on them.
On 3 April, the high court of justice overturned the decision of a Sanandaj court on 3 December to order the definitive closure of Ashtai, which had been suspended since August 2005. And on 5 April, a Tehran court rehabilitated Rouzegar, which was suspended by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Orientation on 20 October 2006 for violating its restricted licence by
covering political matters.



For further information: Katherine Borlongan, Secretary general,
Reporters Without Borders Canada, (514) 521-4111, rsfcanada@rsf.org
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8. EU Parliament urges Turkey to respect Iraq”s territorial integrity



BRUSSELS, April 21 (KUNA) — The European Parliament (EP) will call on Turkey not to engage in any disproportionate military operations violating Iraq’s territory and urge Ankara to respect Iraq’s territorial integrity.
The call is made in a new report on Turkey to be debated by the EP’s Committee on Foreign Affairs during its session in Strasbourg Monday evening.
The report urges the government of Iraq and the Kurdish regional government of Iraq not to allow Iraqi territory to be used as base for terrorist acts against Turkey and welcomes the communication taking place between the governments of Turkey and Iraq.
It welcomes the commitment of Prime Minister Erdogan that 2008 is going to be the year of reforms and strongly condemns the decision of the Constitutional Court to accept the petition of the chief prosecutor calling for a ban on the governing AK Party and for a ruling banning the prime minister and the president from engaging in politics.
It points out that a ban on the ruling party, which won 47 percent of the vote, would destabilize Turkey and would plunge it into political chaos.
The EP’s plenary session will debate the report on Turkey in May.(end) nk.wsa KUNA

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9. Turkey under fire over laws banning insults to ‘Turkishness’



CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA,
Associated Press
Mon Apr 21, 2008



ISTANBUL, Turkey – “Happy is he who says: ‘I am a Turk.'”



Turkey’s motto is on display in schools, hospitals and military barracks. Schoolchildren recite it like the Pledge of Allegiance. It covers hillsides in southeast Turkey, where the military is fighting Kurdish separatists.
This relentlessly patriotic message, coined by Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, is backed up by law: a ban on insulting “Turkishness.” But it has become a serious drag on Turkey’s efforts to get its democracy into shape for joining the European Union. The EU says it’s a restriction on free speech that disqualifies Turkey for membership.
On Friday, Parliament’s justice panel began debating a government proposal to soften Article 301 of Turkey’s penal code, which has been used to prosecute Nobel literature laureate Orhan Pamuk and other intellectuals.
Parliament is expected to approve the amendment as early as this month. But critics say it’s a half-measure by a government caught between liberal opponents of the law and nationalists who see it as a cave-in to European interference.
Cengiz Aktar, an EU expert at Bahcesehir University in Istanbul, doubts it will work, because at least 20 other articles in Turkey’s penal code have “the same mentality of killing freedom of speech.”
But many Turks believe even a token softening of the law rewards EU pressure, and even threatens Turkish security.
Faruk Bal, deputy chairman of the opposition Nationalist Action Party, says it will allow Kurdish rebels to insult the Turkish state with impunity. His party has launched a TV ad campaign against changing Article 301. It includes the refrain: “Wake up Turkey! It is time for unity.”
The change would cut the maximum sentence for denigrating Turkish identity or institutions from three years in prison to two, suspended for first-time offenders. The justice minister would have to approve prosecutions, and Article 301 would refer to the crime of denigrating the “Turkish nation,” rather than the vague term “Turkishness.”
“The government’s proposal merely tinkers with the wording of the law, while maintaining its most problematic features,” New York-based Human Rights Watch said.
Ataturk designed his nationalist motto, “Ne mutlu Turkum diyene,” as he sought to build a strong, secular Turkey from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, which united territories in Europe, Africa and the Middle East under the banner of Islam. He largely succeeded, amid war, slaughter and pressure from Western powers.
Nearly a century later, many Turks believe their nationhood faces the same threats, chiefly from the Kurdish separatists, but also from governments and pressure groups that claim the mass killings of Armenians by Turks in the early 20th century were “genocide.”
It was the genocide claim that landed Pamuk as well as fellow novelist Elif Safak in court, and later motivated the assassination in 2007 of Hrant Dink, a Turkish Armenian.
The Turkish Justice Ministry says 1,533 people faced prosecution under Article 301 in 2006. Some cases, including Pamuk’s, are dismissed. Many end in acquittals. Those convicted included Dink, the murdered journalist, and lawyer Eren Keskin, prosecuted for insulting the armed forces.
Often, it’s not the government but nationalist individuals who start the prosecutions, as well as the Turkish military, according to Emma Sinclair-Webb of Human Rights Watch.
Supporters of Article 301 say some European countries, including Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, have similar laws. But these are hardly ever acted upon.
Another section of the penal code makes it a crime to insult state institutions or even officials. Last year a punk rock group was prosecuted for a song attacking Turkey’s equivalent of the high school SAT. It was acquitted.
Even Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan isn’t immune. His Islamic-oriented party faces a prosecutor’s efforts to ban it for allegedly violating the secular principles crafted by Ataturk.
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Associated Press Writer Selcan Hacaoglu contributed to this report.
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10. CHP might be shut down over dubious money transfer



21.04.2008
Today’s Zaman İstanbul



The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) may face a closure case at the Constitutional Court over money transfer it made to the neo-nationalist TV network Kanal Türk, news reports said on Sunday.
Currently, Turkey’s Democratic Society Party (DTP) and ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) are facing closure cases in the Constitutional Court over allegations of separatism and anti-secularism, respectively. The CHP is now facing the same fate after the Finance Ministry filed a case against the party with regards to a YTL 3 million transfer the party made from its funds to Kanal Türk.
No invoices were issued for the money transfer. Although Mustafa Özyürek, deputy leader of the CHP, in a press conference over the issue late last year claimed that this money was paid for future ads and commercials, the owner of the network, Tuncay Özkan, in a statement said his television network was “at the CHP’s service.”
Legal experts note that the YTL 3 million makes the CHP a secret partner of the broadcaster — a violation of a number of articles of the Law on Political Parties, including one that regulates the conditions of political party expenditure.
The charges against the CHP were brought to the attention of the İstanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office and the Constitutional Court in May of last year. The case makes the CHP the third party facing the threat of closure by the Constitutional Court, responsible for checking the accounts of political parties. In the past parties have been closed over financial irregularities.
AK Party closure case
Last month, the Constitutional Court decided unanimously to hear an appeal from a senior prosecutor to close Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AK Party on charges that it had become a “focal point for anti-secular activities.”
The prosecutor has also sought a five-year ban from politics for 71 politicians, including Erdoğan and former AK Party member President Abdullah Gül. The European Union, which Turkey aspires to join, has harshly criticized the case and even warned that accession talks with Turkey could come to a halt if the AK Party is closed down.
The government is expected to decide soon on how to proceed with plans to change the Constitution in order to stave off the threat of closure; options available to it include either pushing for a comprehensive overhaul of the Constitution — a legacy of the 1980 military coup — or presenting a smaller package of reforms that would include amendments to make party closures more difficult, along with some other urgent political reforms.
Last year Supreme Court of Appeals Chief Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalçınkaya filed charges against the DTP for being “against the indivisible integrity of the state and the nation” and called for the party’s “permanent closure.” An appeal has also been made for the imprisonment of 221 DTP supporters, including eight deputies, for five years.
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11. Iran: Arrests, Jailings Of Political And Rights Activists Continue



By Farangis Najibullah
Monday, April 14, 2008
RF EUROPE



The Iranian authorities this month have added several more names to the list of political activists, human rights campaigners, and journalists who have been imprisoned for voicing dissent.
The leader of the unregistered Democratic Party of Iran, Abbas Khorsandi, is among the latest targets of the Iranian security services. Khorsandi was sentenced last week to eight years in prison after being found guilty of threatening Iranian state security by setting up “an illegal political group.”



A 50-year-old economics professor in the northern town of Firuzkuh, Khorsandi was arrested about seven months ago and has spent more than two months in solitary confinement in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.



Khorsandi’s wife, Forozandeh Seylespur, tells RFE/RL that her husband has become a prisoner of conscience because of his stated opposition to the Iranian government.



“He got this sentence only for holding opposing views,” Seylespour says. “He hasn’t done anything to justify getting such a sentence. He was only involved in writing. He has acted — in a totally peaceful manner — as a writer and human rights activist. He has voiced his views only through the pen and in speeches.”



The news of Khorsandi’s lengthy prison sentence followed reports about the arrest of another peaceful campaigner, Khadija Moghaddam.



The women’s rights activist and member of the One Million Signatures Campaign was arrested by security officers, who Moghaddam said “forcibly entered her home” and treated her in a “despicable manner.”



Moghaddam has reportedly been charged with spreading propaganda against the state, disrupting public opinion, and acting against national security.



The court has set a bail of some $110,000 for her release.



The One Million Signatures Campaign was launched in 2006 as a nonpolitical movement that calls on parliament to change what it calls “discriminatory laws in Iran,” including laws on inheritance, divorce, and child custody, which the campaign says treat women unfairly.



In an interview with RFE/RL earlier this year, Moghaddam said it is time to abolish such laws, which were set up many centuries ago.



“What I say now is the opinion of all Iranian women,” Moghaddam said. “We live in a century when women take an active part in political, economic, social, and cultural affairs alongsid men. We work, we study, and we should not be considered as half of a man. Sixty-four percent of [Iranian] university students are women. They cannot accept a 1,400-year-old rule that considers a woman as half of a man.”



Some 600 Iranian activists have signed an open letter condemning Moghaddam’s arrest and calling for her release. “Moghaddam has been active for years in creating jobs for women and forming women’s cooperatives,” the letter says. “Who would believe that she has harmed national security or caused public offense?”



Arrests ‘Routine’



Rights activists say that the arrests of peaceful campaigners, independent journalists, and anyone who is critical of the government have become routine under President Mahmud Ahmadinejad’s government. International organizations including Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have harshly criticized Tehran for cracking down on all voices of dissent in the country.



RSF has called Iran “the biggest prison in the Middle East” for journalists and authors whose views differ from the government’s. According to the media rights group, dozens of Iranian journalists and rights campaigners have been imprisoned and accused of undermining national security for “simply being outspoken.”



On April 5, 30-year-old Elham Yaqubi was arrested and accused of threatening national security for taking part in a peaceful demonstration.



On the same day, Parvin Ardalan, an award-winning rights activist, was charged with spreading propaganda against the state, a month after she was banned from traveling to Sweden to collect her Olof Palme Award.



Ardalan has been summoned to court at least three times this year. She received a summons two days after the Olof Palme Foundation announced that she had won the prestigious award for human rights activists.



Related Stories About Iran:
Award-Winning Rights Activist Charged With Spreading Propaganda ‘Skepticism In Order’ On Claims Of Nuclear Progress Russia, China Unlikely To Welcome Tehran Into SCO Magazines Shut Down Over ‘Immoral’ Coverage Of Hollywood Celebs Parsing The Parliamentary Elections Conservatives Claim Victory, But President Faces New Challenges

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12. Kurdish killings widely condemned



IWPR
16/04/2008



Syrian human rights and civil society organizations have condemned the killing of three Kurdish men by security forces in the northeastern area of Qamishli.
The three men died and at least five were injured when police open fire as hundreds of Kurds were celebrating their traditional new year or Nawrooz on March 20.
Several Syrian human rights organisations condemned the killings and demanded an investigation. The opposition Damascus Declaration and the National Salvation Front called the killings a “grotesque crime”.
“The Syrian authorities are accountable for what happened, and for what will happen in the future,” the Syrian Human Rights Committee said in a statement.
Witnesses said security forces used water hoses and then tear gas to disperse Kurdish celebrators dancing around a fire near Dawar al-Hilalaya in the western part of Qamishli, a Kurdish area of the country. The Syrian Human Rights Monitor reported that Kurdish youths were arguing with security forces.
Later, according to eyewitnesses, shots were fired at the crowd from two vehicles, a white Mitsubishi and a Jeep belonging to the security forces. Mohammad Yahya Khalil, 35, and Mohammad Zaki Ramadhan, 25, were killed at the scene. Faruq Mohammad Mahmood, 18, died later from his wounds at the Frman hospital in Qamishli.
At least five people were injured, and several people were arrested.
“I was really hurt when I heard my son had been injured,” Ibrahim al-Yousif, a Kurdish activist and father of one of the wounded. He told IWPR that the hospital where his son was being treated was surrounded by security forces. His son Karam is now recovering at home.
Yousif described the incident as “entirely reprehensible”, and asked human rights groups to “investigate this event and bring those responsible to trial”.
The New York-based group Human Rights Watch called on the Syrian government to allow an independent investigation into the incident.
The government has not responded to this demand, or indeed to any of the criticism coming from Syrian and international human rights groups. The US State Department condemned the killings on March 28.
Kurdish political groups in Syria also expressed concern, with one calling the incident part of a systematic plan pursued by the Syrian government, directed “against the very existence of the Kurdish people”.
Mashal al-Yamu, spokesman for the Lebanon-based Future Kurdish Current in Syria, said, “The repressive regime is undergoing political and economic crises locally, regionally, and internationally. It is not surprising that the regime targets Kurdish people, because they are active.”
Many Syrian Kurds remember March 20, 1986, when security forces opened fire during Nawrooz celebrations and killed a man.
Nawrooz is not recognised as an official holiday in Syria. Following the 1986 incident, the Syrian government declared that March 20 would henceforth be Mothers’ Day.
In 2004, 30 Kurds were killed in riots and demonstrations following a football game in Qamishli.
IWPR sources say Kurds fear the authorities may target their community again.
(Syria News Briefing, a weekly news analysis service, draws on information and opinion from a network of IWPR-trained Syrian journalists based in the country, whose identities cannot be revealed for security reasons.)
IWPR’S SYRIA NEWS BRIEFING, No. 4, April 1, 2008: Published under partnership agreement with IWPR. Normal copyrights applied. Visit the IWPR website at:The Institute for War & Peace Reporting
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13. Iraq neighbors meeting in Kuwait

Monday, April 21, 2008
BAGHDAD – Reuters


Iraq neighbors meeting in Kuwait
A ministerial meeting between Iraq, its neighbors and permanent members of the U.N. Security Council will be held in Kuwait Tuesday. The meeting will be a follow-up from gatherings in Turkey and Egypt last year. Senior representatives from Arab countries, Turkey and Western powers such as France and Britain will attend the meeting, which will focus on boosting Iraq’s security.