Turkey launched its assault on the Kurdish autonomous zone in northern Syria, with air-strikes and artillery pounding areas along the Syrian-Turkish border. Hundreds of civilians have fled the bombardment, headed south into areas still held by Kurdish forces. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is cloaking this aggression in the guise of a “safe zone” for refugees, a humanitarian operation. In reality, Erdogan is exploiting the refugees as demographic cannon fodder, using them to populate areas Kurds are now to be displaced from, creating a new class of refugees, pitting Arabs against Kurds, and establishing the conditions for potentially generations of Arab-Kurdish ethnic war in northern Syria. (Map: Genocide Watch)
Authorities in Ezidikhan, the self-declared Yazidi autonomous homeland in northern Iraq, appointed an Investigative Team on Genocide, primarily looking at massacres and enslavement that targeted the Yazidi people when ISIS was in control of their territory. But the team will also examine possible crimes and complicity by the Iraqi national government, its allied paramilitary forces, Kurdish Peshmerga, and foreign powers such as Turkey. The body is cooperating with the UN investigative team also working in the area, with an eye toward eventual establishment of an International Tribunal on Genocide for Yezidi and Neighboring Peoples. Yazidi leaders in the international diaspora are meanwhile expressing concern that the announced US withdrawal from Syria could lead to an ISIS resurgence—potentially threatening Yazidis both sides of the border. (Photo via Ezidikhan Public Information Bureau)
Authorities in Ezidikhan, the self-declared Yazidi autonomous homeland in northern Iraq, issued a statement protesting a Turkish air-raid on their territory. The attack was apparently a targeted assassination of Yazidi leader Zeki ?engali, who is a representative of the Union of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK), the international body in the political orbit of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Four members of the Yazidi territorial militia, the Sinjar Protection Units (YBS), were also killed in the attack, and a home destroyed. The raid actually took place as Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was on an official trip to Turkey, sparking outrage from some Iraqi officials. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)
The Provisional Government of Ezidikhan—the self-declared autonomous homeland of the Yazidi people in northern Iraq, centered around the town of Sinjar—issued a statement flatly rejecting a political deal cut between Baghdad and Kurdish authorities in Irbil to hand control over the enclave to the Kurdistan Regional Government. Said Ezidikhan Prime Minister Waheed Mandoo Hammo: "The Yezidi people reject the Iraq government’s attempt to install the Kurdish Regional Government as the military and political authority over the nation of Ezidikhan without our consent. The Ezidikhan Provisional Government is the sole, legitimate government representing the peoples of Ezidikhan. No decisions regarding the political, economic or strategic actions [of] the nation of Ezidikhan can legitimately be made without our free, prior and informed consent." (Map: Ezidikhan.net)
The imminent fall of rebel-held Ghouta to Russian-backed Assad regime forces approaches just after the fall of Kurdish-held Afrin to Turkish-backed rebel forces. As Arab and Kurd are pitted against each other, the Great Powers carve up Syria. But both sides are preparing to advance on Idlib next. Even as Trump talks of getting the US out of Syria, potential builds for a superpower confrontation. (Photo of Aleppo ruins from UNHCR)
Turkish air-strikes killed four civilians camping in a rural area of northern Iraq's Qandil Mountains as part of a gathering celebrating the traditional Kurdish spring festival, Nowruz. The raid was ostensibly aimed at PKK positions, but local residents said the young men killed in the strikes were all civilians.? Ankara openly threatened this week to mount an offensive against northern Iraq's Sinjar region if the Baghdad government doesn't act against the PKK stronghold there. This is an implicit reference to the Yazidi minority of the Sinjar area, who have formed a militia that is aligned with the PKK. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)
Waheed Mandoo Hammo, prime minister of Ezidikhan, the self-declared autonomous homeland of the Yazidi people in northern Iraq, issued a statement expressing his nation's appreciation and gratitude in a letter to Armenia's Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan after the Armenian National Assembly approved a resolution recognizing the Yazidi Genocide of 2014. Armenia is the first UN member state to formally recognize as genocide the mass killings and enslavement of Yazidis by "Islamic State" forces after their seizure of the Sinjar area in August 2014. Hammo's statement recalled the sheltering of Armenian refugees by the Yazidis during the Armenian Genocide of 1915 to 1917. (Photo: Istanbul march commemorating second anniversary of Yazidi Genocide, August 2016, via VOA)
Leaders of Ezidikhan, the newly declared Yazidi autonomous zone in northern Iraq, are protesting that a UN Security Council resolution calling for an investigation into possible genocide by ISIS doesn't go far enough. Yazidi authorities are calling for the scope of the investigation to be widened to include non-ISIS actors also complicit in the genocide—presumably including the Turkish state.
In an historic step for the beleaguered Yazidi people of northwestern Iraq, the Supreme Spiritual Council of the Yezidi Nation has proclaimed the establishment of the "Provisional Government of the Autonomous Nation of Ezidikhan." The provisional government arrives just three years after the Yazidi people faced a genocidal assault that brought them to the edge of extinction, following the seizure of their territory by ISIS.
Trump's disparate reactions to the similar attacks in Charlottesville and Barcelona provide a study not only in double standards, but (worse) the president's actual embrace of racist terror. While saying there were "good people" on the side that was flying the Nazi flag and committed an act of terror in Virginia, he used the attack in Spain as an opportunity to unabashedly call for war crimes against Muslims.
Following Turkish air-strikes on their forces in northern Syria, Kurdish leaders in the region issued a call for a "no-fly zone"—heightening the contradictions for Washington.
The Pentagon is dispatching some 2,500 combat troops to back up forces fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, as the US-led anti-ISIS coalition continues to fracture.