Iran
executions

UN officials concerned by Iran executions

At the 50th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif expressed concern over the increase in human rights violations occurring in Islamic Republic of Iran. Speaking on behalf of the Secretary-General, Al-Nashif especially noted the continued execution of individuals for minor offenses, such as drug-related charges. While 260 individuals were executed in 2020, at least 310 were executed in 2021, including at least 14 women. At least 105 people have been executed this year, many belonging to minority groups. Additionally, at least two children were executed over past year, with over 81 child offenders still on death row. (Photo: ICHRI)

Greater Middle East
MLSA

Turkey arrests 16 Kurdish journalists

Turkish officials formally arrested and jailed 16 Kurdish journalists after detaining 21 journalists for eight days without charges. Five of the original 21 were released. According to Turkey’s Media & Law Studies Association (MLSA), the 21 journalists were originally detained on suspicion of “terrorism.” The MLSA’s Mehmet Ali Birand dismissed the validity of the charges, saying: “Most of these colleagues were working in media organs such as DİHA [news agency] and Özgür Gündem [newspaper]… None of these journalists participated in terrorist activities. None of these journalists carried a gun, pulled a trigger, or killed anyone.” Turkish officials claimed the arrests were part of an investigation into the “press committee” of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). (Image: MLSA)

Iraq
Rojava

Podcast: Rojava and Ezidikhan in the Great Game

In Episode 127 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes that the Kurdish-controlled Syrian city of Kobani, which became a global icon of resistance to ISIS in 2014, is now under threat of Turkish aggression. The Syrian Kurds were betrayed in 2019, when their autonomous zone of Rojava was greatly reduced by Turkey’s first thrust into their territory. Erdogan is now threatening to extinguish it altogether, and incorporate all of Rojava into his “security zone.” There is growing speculation that the US could “green light” this aggression in exchange for Turkey dropping its objections to Sweden and Finland joining NATO. Meanwhile, the Yazidis of northern Iraq, who were subjected to genocide at the hands of ISIS in 2014, now face extermination of their hard-won autonomous zone of Ezidikhan at the hands of Baghdad’s military—acting under pressure from Turkey. Great Power meddling in Syrian and Iraqi Kurdistan alike is pitting the peoples of the region against each other, portending a disastrous Arab-Kurdish ethnic war. How can activists in the West help break this trajectory? Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Rojava Solidarity NYC)

Syria
Syria oil map

Erdogan preparing new Syria incursion?

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is ramping up threats to invade more areas of northern Syria, saying that he plans to “clean up [the Kurdish towns of] Tal Rifat and Manbij of terrorists,” and establish a greater “security zone” in Syrian territory along Turkey’s border. Much of this region is controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which Turkey considers to be a “terrorist organization” because of its ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)—a Turkey-based Kurdish separatist organization. It’s not clear if Erdoğan will go ahead with a new incursion now, but some wonder if the US, which has backed the SDF, may be willing to turn a blind eye to such an offensive if Turkey backs off its objections to Sweden and Finland joining NATO. (Map: Energy Consulting Group)

Syria
Kobane

Syria: Turkish drones target Kobani

Two drone strikes targeted the Kurdish city of Kobani in northern Syria, after weeks of intermittent shelling of villages in the surrounding countryside. The attacks are apparently being launched from the area of Jarabulus immediately to the west, which is held by Turkish occupation forces and allied militias. According to the Rojava Information Center (RIC), some 35 drone attacks on the Kobani area have already “killed at least 13 people & injured 34 in 2022 alone.” Kobani became iconic in 2014, when the city’s Kurdish defenders waged a heroic resistance against ISIS. But since the Turkish invasion of the Kurdish autonomous zone, known as Rojava, in late 2019, the city has been a precarious enclave of remnant Kurdish control, in an uneasy alliance with Assad regime forces. (Photo: Kurdistan24)

Iraq
ybs

Iraq: thousands displaced in new battle for Sinjar

Clashes between the Iraqi military and a local Yazidi militia have forced more than 3,000 people to flee the northern town of Sinjar. Fighting erupted when the military launched an operation to clear the area of the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS), a militia with ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Many of those displaced are Yazidis who survived the 2014 Islamic State genocide against the ethnicity. They are now distributed in camps across Iraq’s Kurdish region. In 2020, Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) signed a pact to restore their joint control to the autonomous Yazidi enclave, known as Ezidikhan. The deal has not been implemented until now, despite growing pressure from Turkey, which has carried out intermittent air-strikes on the Sinjar area. (Photo: A poster commemorating a slain YBS fighter on a bombed-out building in Sinjar. Credit: TNH)

Iran
KRG

Iran claims missile strikes on Iraqi Kurdistan

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) claimed responsibility for ballistic missile attacks on northern Iraq’s Kurdish regional capital of Erbil, saying that the strikes targeted an Israeli “strategic center” in the city. Iranian state media reported that the missiles were aimed at “Mossad bases” in Erbil. The IRGC had days earlier vowed to seek revenge against Israel, saying the Zionist state will “pay the price” for killing two of its guards in recent Israeli air-strikes on targets in the Syrian capital Damascus. Erbil’s governor Omed Khoshnaw denied any Israeli military or intelligence presence in the city, calling the accusation “baseless.” The estimated 12 rocket strikes took no casualties, but caused damage to civilian properties and triggered panic among the populace in neighborhoods of Erbil. (Map: UNHCR via ReliefWeb)

Syria
Manbij

Syria: Rojava authorities crack down on media

Two media outlets were ordered closed and two journalists arrested by the autonomous administration in Kurdish-controlled northeast Syria. Kurdish broadcaster and news site Rudaw—based in Erbil, Iraq—was suspended from working in the enclave, known as Rojava, by order of the Autonomous Administration of North & East Syria. In a statement on its website, Rudaw Media Network called the order “a crime against freedom of the press in Western Kurdistan.” Rudaw is affiliated with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the ruling party of Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government, which also operates as an internal oppositionin Syria’s Rojava region. (Photo: Sgt. Nicole Paese/US Army via Kurdistan24)

Planet Watch
extinction rebellion

Podcast: anarchism and the climate crisis

With the inauspicious opening of the Glasgow climate conference, activists around the world are increasingly looking to local action as an alternative to the moribund United Nations process on addressing what has been called a “Code Red for humanity.” In Episode 95 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores the ideas of Social Ecology and radical municipalism, developed by the late Vermont anarchist thinker Murray Bookchin, and how they provide a theoretical framework for localities struggling to lead from below on the climate question. Examples discussed include the Zapatistas in Chiapas, the Rojava Kurds in Syria, and the community gardens and ongoing struggles for reclaimed urban space on New York’s Lower East Side. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: East River Park Action)

Planet Watch
anarchy

Podcast: for pragmatic anarchism

In Episode 93 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg responds to the request from Patreon subscriber and legendary folksinger Dave Lippman to discuss the contemporary significance of anarchism. Weinberg cites recent examples of an “anarcho-pragmatism” that aspires to libertarian socialism but also works toward concrete victories in the here-and-now: the Zapatistas in Mexico, piqueteros in Argentina, the Rojava Kurds and other liberatory elements of the Syrian Revolution, and Occupy Wall Street in New York. Since last year’s Black Lives Matter uprising, anarchist ideas have started to enter mainstream discourse—such as calls for “decarceration” and to abolish the police. Weinberg also makes note of pointed criticisms of some contemporary anarchist thought from the Marxist-Humanists. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image: Nicolas Raymond via Flickr)

Syria
Idlib displaced

Syria unsafe for refugees to return: UN report

The latest report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic stated that Syria is “not fit for safe and dignified returns of refugees.” The report found that between July 2020 and June 2021, armed conflict increased in the country. The report documented 243 civilian deaths, but estimated that the total number of fatalities is actually far greater. The report also stressed the humanitarian crisis and ongoing human rights abuses in the country. Conditions were also found to be precarious for the 6.7 million displaced persons within the country. The report estimated that 40,000 children are being detained in camps for suspected ISIS collaborators in the Kurdish-controlled east of the country. Paulo Pinheiro, chair of the Commission of Inquiry, said that these conditions indicate that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is being “completely forgotten.” (Photo: UNHCR)

Greater Middle East
drone

Turkish drones decisive in regional wars

The Turkish military is unveiling a new upgraded “unmanned combat aerial vehicle,” the Bayraktar Akıncı, developed by private drone manufacturer Baykar Defense, which is owned by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law Selçuk Bayraktar. The Akıncı is a more advanced version of Turkey’s iconic Bayraktar TB2, able to fly higher and carry more missiles. The TB2 has been used by Ankara against Kurdish guerillas in northern Iraq, and against Syrian regime forces. Turkey has also provided the TB2 to various foreign militaries; it is held to have been decisive in Azerbaijan’s victory over Armenian forces in last year’s Nagorno-Karabakh war, as well as the Libyan government’s victory over the warlord Khalifa Haftar. Ukraine, having already tested an initial dispatchment of the drone, is now ordering 24 more for use in its war against Russian-backed separatists. (Photo: Wikipedia)