- This past week, government officials in Rabat area, a central district in Sardasht County, this past week threatened and interrogated protesters who spoke out against extrajudicial killings (among other issues). Undercover agents at the events removed signage addressing the killings and called in specific individuals after taking note of them at the protest.
- The Irani government’s paramilitary wing, the Iran Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) has arrested an activist in the city of Tabriz who was recently released from prison. The activist has been taken to an undisclosed location and information is thus far unavailable on his status. The activist had been held in Tabriz prison where he was part of a hunger strike until his release. Tabriz prison is known for its overcrowding, often lacking enough beds for each prisoner.
- On July 8th, the Independence Referendum committee met to discuss the details of and outline the specific steps necessary to orchestrate the upcoming referendum on the Kurdistan region of Iraq’s independence set for September 25th. The next day, July 9th, in Brussels, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of Iraq President Massoud Barzani led a delegation to meet with European officials to discuss the Independence Referendum. Other delegation members included Kirkuk Governor Najmaldin Karim and the former Iraq Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. After the Brussels visit, the delegation is scheduled to visit the United Kingdom and the United States and meet government officials there. Meanwhile, the political parties in Kurdistan are close to reaching an agreement to reactivate the Parliament and uniting for the upcoming referendum.
- Rudaw and local Yazidi relief volunteers reported air strikes on villages in the Shingal region from Turkish warplanes on July 7th. Currently, no casualties have been reported. According to Ashti Kocher, head of security, Asayesh, for West Dilja (a region that includes Shingal, Snune, and Rabiha), the Turkish bombings were meant to target Kurdish forces in the region affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the People’s Protection Units (YPG). Shingal retains a substantial population of Yazidis, a minority religious group whom ISIS targeted for extermination and enslavement during the jihadist organization’s rise in 2014.
- As the liberation campaign “Wrath of Euphrates” continues, the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) liberated more neighborhoods inside ISIS’s de facto capital of Raqqa. Last week the SDF liberated the historical Harun al-Rashid Castle in the Old Al-Raqqa neighborhood and al-Mazarie Square in the Al-Barid neighborhood. The SDF now stands less than a mile from the city center of Raqqa. Additionally, the SDF announced the death of 27 ISIS terrorists and the seizure of numerous weapons, including AK47s, RPGs, various machine guns, tank bombs, and communications equipment. On July 5th, 2017, 250 fighters completed their basic training at Hasakah training camp and then joined the SDF in the Raqqa liberation campaign. Some of these new ranks also joined the military council of Manbij, an area liberated by the SDF in August 2016.
- The SDF is publicly refuting claims that 40 of its members were mistakenly killed during a U.S.-led coalition airstrike. These disputed allegations were mainly being reported by pro-Turkish government media outlets. The SDF’s public statement read: “All news and rumors about SDF positions being mistakenly shelled by the American aircraft in the southern neighborhoods of Al-Raqqa city are mere lies. This groundless news has been schemed up by the Turkish special war department to lift the spirits of ISIS gangs and negatively influence the Wrath of Euphrates campaign in an attempt to postpone the city’s liberation as long as possible.”
- During an interview with the Kurdish Hawar News Agency, the SDF commander Rojda Shiya announced the formation of an all-female Arab battalion. Ms. Shiya explained that the recruits would include female Arab fighters from different cities and regions all across Syria.
- Clashes continue in the outskirts of Afrin district between the Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) and Turkish-backed Islamic extremists groups. According to a recently released balance sheet from the YPG, Turkish-backed groups have attacked two districts with mortars. YPG also reported Turkish UAVs flying over the area. Additionally, the YPG stated that a large farming area in Afrin was damaged during the attacks on the villages.
- The jailed Co-chair of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) Selahaddin Demirtash refused to show up in handcuffs to his court hearing on July 7th in Ankara. Demirtash’s lawyers withdrew from the hearing after the police refused to take him into court without handcuffs on. As punishment, the court delayed Demirtash’s third hearing till November 24th, 2017 — meaning the HDP leader will be imprisoned for more than a year without a trial. The Turkish government arrested Demirtash alongside a dozen other HDP lawmakers on November 4th, 2016. Demirtash sent a message through his lawyers about the postponement of his hearing after his refusal to be brought into court in handcuffs. The statement read: “I said yesterday that it should be understood that if I weren’t brought to the hearing, the only problem would be that I refused to be handcuffed during transport in the shuttle. I am still a member of the parliament on active duty, with immunity. I represent the will of the people. I find the handcuffing practice in a shuttle ride that will take hours illegal and immoral.”
- HDP lawmaker Deputy Co-Chair Aysel Tugluk recently appeared before Ankara’s High Criminal Court. Tugluk was arrested on December 28th, 2016 (along with a number of other HDP lawmakers) under the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization.” The Turkish court scheduled Tugluk’s next hearing for September 2017.
- Turkey’s government recently arrested four Kurdish students from Balikesir, Turkey. The four youths were all students at Balikesir University and also members of the two major pro-Kurdish political parties in the area: the HDP and the Democratic Regions Party (DBP).
- According to Reuters, German troops have started withdrawing from Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base. German lawmakers voted last month in favor of withdrawing Germany’s troops from the Turkish base after failed negotiations with Turkey’s government. U.S.-led coalition forces also utilize the air base in their campaign to counter the growth and presence of ISIS in the region. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently took time during the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany to discuss the brewing tensions between their two countries. However, neither side released any statements on the details of their meeting.