Iraqi Kurds protest foreign aggression —and internal repression

A group of schoolchildren marked the lead-up to International Children’s Day in Erbil June 9 with a protest against Iranian shelling of Iraqi Kurdistan. The children gathered outside the city’s Iranian consulate to chant “No, no to war. Yes, yes to peace” and “Stop the shelling of Iraqi Kurdistan.” They then handed in a letter to the consular officials, reading: “We as the children of Kurdistan want the immediate cessation of the Iranian artillery shelling of Kurdish villages of South Kurdistan. The artillery shelling kills people, scars children, displaces villagers. That is why we urge the Iranian regime to stop the bombardment of South Kurdistan border areas. In solidarity with the children, affected by this bombardment of Iranian artillery shelling, we, the Children of Erbil will not be going to celebrate the ‘Children’s International Day’.” (Kurdish Media, June 9)

Last month also saw protests outside the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) parliament in Erbil over the murder and torture of young journalist, Sardasht Osman, who had been highly critical of the KRG’s ruling parties. Osman was kidnapped in Erbil on May 4; two days later his body was found with two bullets in the head near the headquarters in Mosul of the PUK, one of the two parties in the KRG’s ruling coalition.

Osman, a correspondent for several websites and electronic newspapers, was an opponent of corruption and nepotism in the KRG, and had recently penned a satirical article in which he wondered whether he could rise from his poor circumstances by marrying the daughter of the Kurdish regional president, Massoud Barzani.

Amnesty International has urged the KRG authorities to investigate the case. Osman’s colleagues are keeping up the pressure with an independent media campaign they have dubbed “We Will Not Be Silenced”—but some of them have also received death threats since they launched the campaign. “It is a struggle between two fronts,” said Asos Hardi, editor of Awene, an independent Kurdish newspaper. “One front believes in democracy and open society, and the other wants to keep the family, party and totalitarian mentality.” (Workers Liberty, May 19; NYT, May 18)

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  1. Iranian aggression against Iraqi Kurdistan…
    …finally makes the New York Times, June 16:

    Iran Tests Iraqi Resolve at the Border
    ALI RASH, Iraq — This remote village high in the rugged mountains along the border with Iran has been deserted, its people having fled Iranian air and artillery bombardments with everything they could carry and whatever livestock that could be coaxed down the steep mountain trails.

    Now the hundreds of Kurds who left Ali Rash and other mountain villages are living in sweltering refugee camp tents. They are at the center of questions about whether Iraq is willing or able to defend its borders with Iran — which has repeatedly breached the frontier in recent months.

    The attacks on Ali Rash and at least a dozen other Kurdish villages have continued for more than a month and have included a foray by Iranian tanks one mile into Iraqi territory. But they have elicited only a tepid protest from Iraq’s government, including the release of a statement pleading with neighboring countries to honor its borders.

    The Iranian government has said its bombing campaigns are necessary to weaken Kurdish guerrillas that strike in Iran and take refuge in Iraq. The only confirmed casualty has been a 14-year-old girl.