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latest News on Kurds

1. Obama Blacklists Kurdish Group In Gesture to Tehran
2. Report: Preventing Conflict Over Kurdistan-Henri J. Barkey
3. Tuğluk case risks turning into another Zana scandal
4. IHD: 38 Died in Prison in 2008
5. Full text of PUK General-Secretary Jalal Talabani´s reform project
6. Kurd PM slams troop movement in north
7. Qatar, Iraqi Kurdistan sign cooperation agreement
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1. Obama Blacklists Kurdish Group In Gesture to Tehran

February 9, 2009
Kenneth R. Timmerman
Newsmax.com

The Treasury Department has blacklisted an Iranian Kurdish opposition group based in northern Iraq, a move that was greeted enthusiastically in Iran state-run media as part of a initiative by the Obama administration to forge better U.S.-Iranian relations.
The Party of Free Life of Iranian Kurdistan, known by its Kurdish acronym, PJAK, was created in 2004 and has never engaged in international terrorism or in military activity outside of Iran.
But its guerilla fighters have clashed frequently with Iranian Revolutionary Guards units in Iranian Kurdish towns and villages, making it a primary target of the Iranian regime.
In November, for example, the provincial police commander in Iran’s West Azerbaijan province, Brigadier Hassan Karami, told the state-owned Iran Press TV that his troops had clashed with PJAK units 65 times since March, killing 13 PJAK fighters and wounding 24 others.
Iran has complained frequently about PJAK’s activities, and has launched repeated artillery attacks and even airstrikes against PJAK bases in the Qandil mountains of northern Iraq. But until now, Iran’s efforts to get PJAK branded as a terrorist organization – both in Europe and the United States – have failed.
“With today’s action, we are exposing PJAK’s terrorist ties to the KGK and supporting Turkey’s efforts to protect its citizens from attack,” said the Treasury Department news release announcing the designation.
The Treasury statement claimed that PJAK was “controlled by the terrorist group Kongra-Gel (KGK, aka the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK).”
But the KGK is a pan-Kurdish political Congress, separate from PJAK and from the PKK, which officially dissolved itself in 2000, said Nilufer Kok, a KGK vice-president.
PJAK officials say that, although PJAK takes part in the sessions of the Kongra-Gel, it is controlled by its own party Congress that convenes in northern Iraq, not by the KGK.
The Treasury Department statement claims that the “KGK formally institutionalized PJAK in 2004 and selected five KGK members to serve as PJAK leaders, including Hajji Ahmadi, a KGK affiliate who became PJAK’s General Secretary.”
In interviews with Newsmax in Washington, D.C., and in Europe, Rahman Haji Ahmadi repeatedly has denied any affiliation with the PKK. “We are an Iranian party, fighting the Iranian regime. We have nothing to do with Turkey,” he said.
“But the Iranians know they can’t make trouble for us directly because they have bad relations with the U.S. and Europe. So they go through Turkey. It’s the Iranians who are saying that PJAK and the PKK are the same.”
The Turkish government has been pressuring the United States to put PJAK on the terrorism list for the past eighteen months, and welcomed last week’s move by the Treasury Department.
“PJAK is a terrorist organization, and we see the US putting it on its terror list as a positive development,” Brig. Gen. Metin Gürak, head of the General Staff’s communications department, told reporters in Ankara Thursday.
The Turkish foreign ministry also issued a congratulatory statement praising the U.S. move. “PJAK and PKK are not two separate organizations,” a Turkish official told Newsmax. “They are one and the same. That’s just a fact.” But when pressed, the official could not provide any evidence of cooperation between PJAK and PKK, and acknowledged that the two groups were based in different parts of the Qandil mountain range of northern Iraq.
Independent observers traveling to the region have found no PKK presence at PJAK bases, and no political, military or strategic cooperation between the two groups.

In mid-2007, Iran and Turkey established a joint operational headquarters in Ourmieh, Turkey, to plan combined military operations against PKK and PJAK bases in northern Iraq. The Iranian and Turkish military began shelling Kurdish camps inside Iraq that spring.
Iran is a self-avowed U.S. enemy, while Turkey is a U.S. ally and founding member of NATO.
In November 2007, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to Washington, seeking a green-light from President George W. Bush to launch a ground invasion against PKK bases in northern Iraq. While the U.S. turned down his request at the time, Turkish troops moved into northern Iraq several months later.
Since that time, the United States and Turkey have exchanged intelligence information on terrorism “on a real time basis,” knowledgeable sources tell Newsmax.
According to an August 29, 2008, report from the Congressional Research Service, the Bush administration “has been wary of Turkey’s warming of relations with Iran.”
When Turkey announced it was planning to finalize a deal to invest in Iran’s South Pars natural gas field during Ahmadinejad’s official visit to Ankara last August, the State Department issued a sharp warning.
Such a deal “would send the wrong message at a time when the Iranian regime has repeatedly failed to comply with its U.N. Security Council and IAEA obligations,” a State Department official said. “This is not a time to do business with Iran. It is a time for the international community, including our ally Turkey, to begin considering additional measures to pressure Iran.”
PJAK leaders told Newsmax during a reporting tour of rebel bases in northern Iraq in October 2007 that their fighters frequently engage Iranian Revolutionary Guards troops inside Iran’s Kurdish region, primarily in response to Rev. Guards attacks on Kurdish civilians or PJAK political workers.
In the July 2005, for example, a Kurdish human rights activist was brutally murdered by regime agents and his body dragged through the streets of the Iranian Kurdish town of Mahabad behind a jeep.
When local Kurds protested massively and the regime cracked down, killing dozens of Kurds and arresting hundreds more, PJAK guerillas attacked Revolutionary Guards troops in 10 different places.
The PJAK counterstrikes were meant as a warning to the regime that such actions “would no longer go unpunished,” a PJAK guerilla said.
[Editor’s Note: Read Ken Timmerman’s eyewitness reporting from a PJAK guerrilla base in northern Iraq – Go Here Now]
PJAK officials tell Newsmax they believe the Treasury Department action was primarily motivated by a desire to win Iranian cooperation in reducing terrorism inside Iraq.
“When the U.S. signed the Status of Forces agreement with the Maliki government, they were hoping to get Iran to reduce its support of Ansar al Islam and other terrorist organizations in Iraq,” said Shamal Bishir, a PJAK representative who spoke to Newsmax on Monday by telephone from Europe. “In exchange, the United States allowed Iran to have greater influence in the Kurdish areas.”
Bishir said the group intended to launch legal action against the Treasury Department to get the designation removed.
Kenneth Katzman, a Middle East analyst at the Congressional Research Service, told Newsmax that the Treasury Designation does not mean the group has been put on the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist organizations.
“The designation under Executive Order 13224 is not as wide-ranging or as politically significant as an FTO designation,” he said. “There are lots of entities designated under 13224 that never wind up on the FTO list.”
Under the Executive Order, the U.S. will freeze the group’s assets and prohibit American citizens from doing business with it, the Treasury Department statement said.
PJAK leader Rahman Haji Ahmadi warned that if Turkey is successful in dislodging PJAK fighters from Iraq’s border with Iran, this could have dire consequences for Iraq’s security.
“Turkey wants to control the Qandil mountains with Iran. When they do, they will open the border and allow al Qaeda and Ansar al Isslam fighters to come in. And this will make Erbil [the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan] like Fallujah used to be,” he told Newsmax.
U.S. military commanders have credited PJAK with protecting Iraq’s border with Iran from terrorist infiltration, but have shied short of any cooperation with the group.
Roughly one-third of PJAK guerilla fighters are women. Haji Ahmadi called this part of his project to reduce the influence of the Islamists ruling Iran.
“When you give a gun to a woman, she doesn’t have to wear hijab. She can sit down with a man on an equal basis. This is a big blow to the Islamists,” he said.
A State Department official noted that while PJAK was not yet on its list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, “we condemn the group’s violent activities.”
Neither the Treasury Department or the White House responded to requests for comme
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2. Report: Preventing Conflict Over Kurdistan-Henri J. Barkey

Carnegie Endowment for International Piece – By Henri J. Barkey – Full Text (PDF)

http://carnegieendowment.org/files/preventing_conflict_kurdistan.pdf

For the United States, the Kurdish issue touches on many vital concerns—the future unity and stability of Iraq and the ability of U.S.combat forces to disengage responsibly; its relations with Turkey, a key North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally and aspirant for European Union (EU) membership; and more generally, the stability of an oil-rich region during a period of considerable uncertainty over energy security.This report argues that Washington must pay close attention to the many intertwined dimensions of the Kurdish question and, in particular, to the very real potential for conflict and outside intervention. Washington must develop a comprehensive approach that recognizes and, where possible,
leverages those linkages to help usher in a stable and prosperous future.This report does not suggest that the many facets of the Kurdish issue can only be solved simultaneously, but rather that Washington has to be sensitive to how potential progress—and setbacks—in one area can affect movement elsewhere. Of primary importance should be settling
Kirkuk’s future and consolidating the legitimacy of Iraq’s federal structure. Closely related is the development of a working relationship between Ankara and the Kurdistan Regional Government.
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3. Tuğluk case risks turning into another Zana scandal

09 February 2009,
ERCAN YAVUZ ANKARA

A prison sentence handed down to pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) deputy Aysel Tuğluk is strongly reminiscent of an earlier incident that had turned Leyla Zana of the Democracy Party (DEP), a DTP predecessor which was shut down by the State Security Court (DGM), into an international object of attention and a symbol of martyrdom in the name of freedom of expression. The Tuğluk case is likely to embarrass Turkey, an EU candidate country, in the international arena.
Tuğluk was sentenced last week to 18 months in jail over a speech she gave on May 16, 2006 at a party congress. Tuğluk now runs the risk of losing her parliamentary immunity despite the Constitution and laws guaranteeing her that immunity. If this happens, Turkey might relive its earlier experience with Zana, who in 1991 came to prominence for taking part of her oath of office in Parliament in Kurdish, a language not recognized as official in Turkey. She was convicted in 1994 by the DGM of links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. In 2004 she was released after an appeals court overturned her conviction and that of three other former Kurdish lawmakers.
Speaking as a co-chairperson of the DTP on May 16, 2006 at her party’s Batman Provincial Congress, Tuğluk had said: “The prime minister tells us to denounce the PKK as a terrorist organization. Only then, he says, he will talk with us. This problem won’t go away if we declare the PKK terrorists. Those people you consider terrorists are heroes for some. If we call [PKK leader] Abdullah Öcalan a terrorist, we won’t be able to face our people. The Kurdish people have chosen waging a democratic struggle. But if you don’t give a people the right to even develop their own language as they want, that policy of yours will create fertile ground for violence.”
The Diyarbakır 4th Higher Criminal Court started legal action against Tuğluk over her words at the Batman congress in 2006, but the trial process was frozen since Tuğluk is a parliamentary deputy protected by parliamentary immunity. However, the Supreme Court of Appeals, going against all established legal precedents, overruled the suspension of the case and Tuğluk’s trial resumed. Tuğluk was sentenced to one year and six months in jail under Turkey’s anti-terrorism laws. The court did not reduce Tuğluk’s sentence, arguing that there was insufficient evidence that a future repeat of the offense would be avoided. Tuğluk’s situation will now be taken up by the Parliament Speaker’s Office. The stance of Parliament Speaker Köksal Toptan will be of utmost importance in this process.
Legal experts say that under normal circumstances, no trial process should have taken place before Tuğluk’s shield of immunity was removed by a parliamentary decision according to Article 83 of the Constitution. The decision is to be submitted shortly to the Parliament Speaker’s Office, which also goes against previously established legal tradition. Normally, a case regarding the removal of parliamentary immunity is first sent by the Justice Ministry to the Prime Ministry and then to the Parliament Speaker’s Office, which, traditionally, would send such a case to the Joint Constitutional and Justice Commission. This commission, however, has since 2003 always left such immunity removal cases to the end of the parliamentary term.
Typically, the sentence of a parliamentary deputy can only be carried out once the person’s term in Parliament is over. The immunity of a deputy can only be lifted by a majority vote in Parliament. However, in Tuğluk’s case, none of these requirements were met.
‘A forced decision’
The ruling is a “forced” one, according Constitutional Law Professor Ergun Özbudun. “The Constitution says that if there is a conviction, it should be left until after the person’s term as deputy ends. Also, there is Article 84 of the Constitution. There is going to be some controversy about what will happen in Tuğluk’s case at this point.”
He said the court ruling was referring to Article 14 of the Constitution, which suspends normal immunity rules in certain cases, and added: “Article 14 has a very wide scope. You can pretty much include everything on it if you push hard enough. I think what she has done cannot be included under 14.” He said the Constitution itself was causing part of the problem.
He also noted that the parliament speaker will have to pursue legal action once the case reaches him.
DTP members speak with Toptan
The DTP petitioned the Parliament Speaker’s Office, highlighting that deputies cannot be tried without Parliament’s approval. In the statement, written by DTP Şırnak deputy Hasip Kaplan, it noted: “It is legally impossible to try a deputy that has parliamentary immunity. This has given way to a case we had not even seen during the time of the Sept. 12, 1980 coup.”
Speaking to Today’s Zaman on her sentence, Tuğluk said: “We won’t be silenced by such sentences, nor can the Kurdish question be solved like this. Did the problem end despite the thousands of sentences handed out so far? Maybe we are expressing things that people are not very pleased to hear to solve the problem. But the DTP is in Parliament to solve the problem through peaceful and democratic means.”
“I am saying that there is no good in calling the PKK terrorists. To the country, such realities should be made into part of the solution. I take this decision as targeting my party and freedom of expression. If it is going to solve the problem, I would be happy to be sentenced to 50 years. But these convictions won’t end the Kurdish question. We have to accept different ideas within the limits of democracy. I renounce this ruling as such,” she said.
What’s next?
Tuğluk will appeal the ruling at the Supreme Court of Appeals. If the high court approves the Diyarbakır court’s ruling, Tuğluk will have to go to jail, making this the first time in history that a deputy will have been sent to prison without her immunity being removed. However, Tuğluk’s lawyers insist that she can be jailed only after her term in Parliament is over.

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4. IHD: 38 Died in Prison in 2008


ANKARA – BIANET – TURKEY –
6 February 2009
Turkey’s Human Rights Association (IHD)

There have been 3 thousand 519 applications regarding rights violation allegations in prisons, said Turkey’s Human Rights Association (IHD) in its annual report published today.

According to information gathered from applicants and media monitoring, a toltal of 38 people died in prison because of misconduct. More than 10 suicide claims are included in this sum. One in 10 applications to the association is concerning torture allegations. 1 602 inmates told of violations arising from disciplinary measures, 462 people complained of violations of concerning their health, 363 inmates applied against arbitrary obstructions such as ban on books and 323 were on restraints imposed on talking and writing in Kurdish.

Members of the IHD staged a press meeting before the Parliament building and announced their findings.
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5. Full text of PUK General-Secretary Jalal Talabani´s reform project

February 06, 2009
Translated by Dr Kamal Mirawdeli

The following is the translation of the Kurdish text of Talabani’s ‘reform project’ as reported and published on PUK official media website Pukmedia on 27 Dec 2008.

We are publishing below the full text of the project of comrade Mam [honorific] Jalal Talabani , the secretary-general of PUK, entitled: “The steps of reform an d renewal” which embraces a number of issues on the basis of avoiding interfering in each other´s work and responsibilities, the establishment of the rule of law, and elimination of nepotism and favouritism. The project also talks about the independence of courts, universities and institutes. The following is the full text of the project:

Organizing relationship between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the political parties especially PUK on the basis of avoiding interfering in each other´s work and responsibilities, the establishment of the rule of law, and elimination of nepotism and favouritism:

KRG is the fruit of the toil, struggle and sacrifices of peshmarga, the revolutionary parties, the masses of the people of Kurdistan and the blood of the immortal martyrs.

It is obvious that there is a special relationship between the KRG and the revolutionary parties on the basis of the principles of modern government including the rule of law, and on the basis of serving the masses of people and meeting their demands. But there are also differences between them as two different institutions due to the differences in their duties and tasks. A political party, any party, however big it might be, works only for a part of the people while the government works for all the people of Kurdistan. While the government performs its tasks according to the law, Constitution and the decisions of parliament, the political party conducts its affairs according to its own ideology, programme and internal rules. Another difference is that the government has the responsibility for managing public service institutions such as education, health, water and electricity and has the responsibility to allocate the necessary budget for the services and developing all aspects of people´s lives, and has the responsibility to set up industries, develop agriculture, trade, the market and construction projects. But the political party´s tasks is to raise the awareness of and organize people so that they would actively participate in electing their representatives for parliament and in protecting the government of the region which is the government of our people and enabling it to be successful in performing and developing its tasks.

In order to enable the government to run its own affairs, establish the rule of law and enable it to ensure that the citizens are equal in relation to law and in all aspects of life and ensure justice and equality and enable it to perform its responsibilities and tasks in the best way: , the political parties:

1. The political parties and their cadres and organizations should not interfere directly in the affairs of the government

2. The difference between the government and the political party must be clear and plain. This means that the political parties participate in the government through parliament and their representatives in the ministries and not through the interference of their members and cadres and organisations in the affairs and institutions of the government.

Therefore the comrades in the PUK must implement the following instructions and decisions very carefully:

1. The party structure, cadres and organisations of PUK are not allowed in any way to directly interfere in the affairs and institutions of our government from the ministries down to the governorate, district and sub-district administrations and various institutions of the government.

2. If they have an affair with or demand from a government body they should apply through legal procedures and the independence of government institutions or from the lowest organisation up to the organisation bureau and the political bureau who in their turn refer the demands to the government through the deputy prime minister and the ministers so that they would be dealt with through normal and legal procedures.

3. It is absolutely forbidden for the organisations of PUK in the cities and district and sub-district towns to bully and threat government officials in order to impose their demands upon them.

4. Organisations of PUK must by no means interfere in contracts, government projects and trade and market affairs.

5. They must not in any way use favouritism and nepotism for interfering in government offices.

6. It is the duty of the PUK members in the government from deputy ministers, to general directors, governors and district administrators and the heads of education, health and other institutions to prevent any sort of party interference in the affairs of their institutions and offices and if they are bullied and threatened they should not give in and immediately notify the [PUK] general secretary and his two deputies the three of whom will be responsible for implementing these decisions and if they fail they, together with the interfering cadres, will be liable to party and legal punishment.

7. Party organisations and cadres must not make themselves the substitute for government officials and impose their will and demands upon them.

8. The appointment of all government officials in all government offices must be based on competence and ability and not on the basis of party vetting.

Comrades of PUK

You will be the eyes and ears of PUK in relation to the institutions and offices of our government not interferers and imposers. You are the protectors of law and the rule of law, not tramplers upon law and powers of government institutions. You must be the vanguards in the modernization of the government, its institutions and different aspects of life. You must respect government institutions not trample upon them. That is why you must be a model of loyal law-abiding human beings and consider all people your family and brothers instead of nepotism and favouritism.

Secretary-General of PUK Mam Jalal [Talabani]

18-12-2008

On the universities and institutions:

1. The independence of universities and institutes must be respected. This fact must be considered as an important principle and a main condition for the development of the universities and institutes. We need to follow the example of the advanced countries in ensuring university life and university independence and freedoms.

2. Party organisations must not interfere in the affairs of the universities and institutes or to impose conditions and demands upon them or to interfere in the appointment of the lecturers and heads of the departments or to impose conditions for the exams and the activities of the universities and institutes,

3. It is better and acceptable if the offices of party organisations are based outside the buildings of the universities and institutes.

4. Party organisations´ activities in the universities must be limited to publicizing their ideas and explaining their policies in line with party activities outside the universities and institutes and in a democratic way by ensuring freedom of expression and avoiding enforcing party affiliation and membership among students and teachers.

5. The heads and officials of the universities and institutes must be appointed on the basis of competence, ability and skills and not on the basis of party affiliation.

Secretary-General of PUK Mam Jalal [Talabani]

18-12-2008

On the courts

We need to follow the example of the advanced countries by establishing the sovereignty (rule) of law, independence of the courts and making all people equal in front of the law, therefore:
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6. Kurd PM slams troop movement in north

AP
February 08, 2009

Arbil: The prime minister of Iraq’s Kurdish region accused the Arab-dominated national government on Saturday of trying to use troops to seize control of the disputed city of Kirkuk, escalating tensions between Iraqi Kurds and the Arab leadership in Baghdad.
US officials consider the growing Arab-Kurdish rift as one of the major threats to Iraq’s stability as President Barack Obama’s administration maps plans to withdraw US troops from Iraq.
Kurdish officials, close American allies who have jealously guarded their self-governing territory in the north since the US helped set it up in 1991, have in recent months stepped up their criticism of Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, accusing him of trying to re-establish a strong centralised state similar to Saddam Hussain’s regime.
Tempers flared again about two weeks ago when troops of the Iraqi army’s 12th Division moved from their base north of Kirkuk to towns around the city close to where Kurdish fighters loyal to the Kurdish regional government were deployed, according to senior Kurdish official Jabbar Yawar.
Kirkuk is under the political control of the central government. The Kurds have long demanded Kirkuk be incorporated into their self-governing region. Yawar said the Kurds appealed to the US military to stop the movements of the largely Arab troop contingent. Although they were halted, Kurdish officials remain suspicious about Al Maliki’s intentions.
“We in the [Kurdish government] consider this to be a provocative act,” Kurdish regional Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said.
Barzani said the troop movements were “not to provide security to these areas” but rather to control the city “in a military way – something that cannot and will not be accepted” by the Kurdish authorities
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7. Qatar, Iraqi Kurdistan sign cooperation agreement

2/9/2009
The PENINSULA/ By Mohamed Salem

DOHA: Qatar yesterday inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), covering cooperation in areas like infrastructure, agricultural investment and development and tourism and aviation.
Imad Ahmad, Minister for Housing and Reconstruction in the KRG and H E Dr Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah, Minister of State for International Cooperation, signed the MoU. Talking to reporters after the agreement signing, Imad Ahmad said: “The deal, which is within the framework of brotherly relations between Qatar and Iraq, mentioned the possibility of opening a Qatari consulate in the Kurdistan region in Iraq”.
He added that the memorandum also covers opening a Qatari consulate in the region with the approval of the Iraqi foreign ministry as well as the opening of an office for the Kurdistan region in Qatar. The MoU was signed as part of the visit by the President of the Iraqi Kurdistan region, Masoud Barzani.
The Minister underlined the importance of developing and enhancing economic and political relations between Qatar and Iraq, including the Kurdistan region, noting that all agreements between the Kurdistan region and other countries are signed with the knowledge of the Iraqi Foreign Ministry. “So far, the government of Kurdistan region has signed similar agreement with South Korea. There is another one with France but not signed yet,” he added.
Asked about the size of Kurdistan community in Qatar, he said its number is few here. “Both Kurds and Kurdistan people have sizeable number in some Arab countries,” he said.