More Than Football: Kurdish Women Win Big With Syria Title

Members of the Amuda women’s team take part in a training session in the northeastern Syrian town of Amuda in Hasakeh province on February 7, 2020.
Delil SOULEIMAN / AFP

 

Samar Sheikh’s neighbours used to tell her football was not for girls but the criticism stopped when her team won the very first women’s championship in Syria.

The 20-year-old also finished top scorer at the end of a season that saw teams from all over Syria face-off over weeks before the final that was held in late January in Damascus.

“I’ve been hooked on football since I was little,” says Sheikh during a training session in Amuda, a town in northeastern Syria where part of the autonomous Kurdish administration is headquartered.

“I used to watch my brothers play and I’ve watched a lot of games,” she says, as her teammates, all wearing fluorescent bibs, jog behind the coach on the artificial grass of the covered pitch.

The young Kurdish woman, sweat pearling down her face and her ruffled hair in a ponytail, recounts how she started playing when she was 15 but had to stop “because of the criticism from her family and neighbours.”

She came back to it more determined than ever to overcome social and gender prejudice and it all paid off when it was with cheers that a crowd greeted her and her team off the bus after winning the national trophy.

– Victory parade –

With their medals around their necks, Sheikh and her teammates even went on a celebratory tour of Amuda, joined in dance by residents congratulating them and asking for selfies.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she says. “Seeing all these people in the street to celebrate our victory.”

After a week-long break the team has resumed training for two hours a day.

Dalaf Hussein faced the same challenges as a teenage girl trying to live her passion for football in northeastern Syria.

Plastered on the walls of her room are posters of her favourite players, including one of Portuguese legend and Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo.

“Passersby used to bother us when they saw us play in the street because it was considered a boys’ sport, but we never paid attention,” she says.

Hussein says she also had to deal with her parents’ opposition to her playing football.

“But after our victory in the championship, there was no pushback,” she says, with a chuffed smile.

Syrian society is still largely patriarchal and conservative but women enjoy greater gender equality in areas under Kurdish control.

Hussein says she hopes football will continue to grow in her region.

“Many girls have come to sign up since our victory,” she says.

AFP

Turkey Accuses Kurdish Forces Of Freeing IS Prisoners In Syria

 

Turkey on Monday accused Kurdish forces of deliberately releasing Islamic State prisoners held at a prison in the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad. 

“Turkish forces raided a prison in Tal Abyad earlier today, expecting to take custody of Daesh (Islamic State) terrorists held there. Before they got there, (Kurdish) PKK/YPG terrorists set free the Daesh militants in an attempt to fuel chaos in the area,” a senior government official told reporters.

Iraqi, Kurdish PMs Try To Resolve Bitter Dispute

Iraqi, Kurdish PMs Try To Resolve Bitter Dispute
A handout picture released by the Iraqi prime minister’s office on January 20, 2018, shows Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi (C) meeting with Nechirvan Barzani (2nd from L), prime minister of Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), at his Baghdad office. Handout / IRAQI PRIME MINISTER’S PRESS OFFICE / AFP

 

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi met Kurdish regional government counterpart Nechirvan Barzani for the first time on Saturday since the autonomous northern region’s failed attempt to secede.

Since Kurdish voters returned a resounding “yes” in a referendum on independence last September 25, the federal government in Baghdad has taken retaliatory measures.

These include an air blockade of international flights to the Kurdish region’s two main airports, to remain in effect until the end of February.

Abadi has also sent Iraqi troops to retake areas disputed between Baghdad and Kurdish regional capital Arbil, including oilfields from which the Kurds derived the bulk of their revenue.

After a months-long frosty standoff, the two sides are now talking again and Kurdish officials including a minister have visited Baghdad.

On Saturday Barzani, accompanied by his deputy premier and the chief of staff of the Kurds’ former president Massud Barzani, “discussed the political and security situation and ways of settling disputes” with Abadi, the Iraqi premier’s office said.

Abadi had strongly opposed the Kurdish referendum, insisting on Iraqi unity and government control of airports and border posts in Kurdistan.

Baghdad wants to regain control of the area’s three border posts between Iraq and Iran, as well as Fishkhabur on the borders of Iraq, Syria and Turkey, through which Iraqi oil flows to the Turkish port of Ceyhan.

Later on Saturday, Barzani will visit Iran, which also opposed the independence referendum given its own Kurdish minority.

Israel’s PM Accuses Erdogan Of Helping ‘Terrorists’

(L-R) Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkish Prident Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: AFP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hit back at Turkish Prident Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday after he labelled Israel a “state that kills children,” calling him a leader who bombs Kurdish villagers and supports terrorists.

“I am not used to receiving lectures about morality from a leader who bombs Kurdish villagers in his native Turkey, who jails journalists, who helps Iran get around international sanctions, and who helps terrorists, including in Gaza, kill innocent people,” Netanyahu said at a press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron.

“That is not the man who is going to lecture us.”

READ ALSO: Erdogan Calls Israel ‘Terrorist State’ And ‘Killer Of Children’ 

AFP

Macron Invites Iraq PM To Paris Over Kurdish Vote

EU Door Stays Open To UK Until Brexit Concluded - Macron
Photo: politico.eu.com

French President, Emmanuel Macron, has invited Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, to visit Paris on Thursday, saying the aim is to calm tensions after the deeply divisive Kurdish independence referendum.

In a statement, the presidency said France wanted to “help Iraq to stop tensions from setting in” following the vote on Monday, which saw Iraqi Kurdistan overwhelmingly support secession.

In a phone call on Wednesday, “Macron stressed the importance of preserving the unity and integrity of Iraq while recognising the rights of the Kurdish people. Any escalation must be avoided,” the presidency said in the statement late Friday.

“Faced with the priority of fighting Daesh and the stabilisation of Iraq, Iraqis must remain united,” it added, referring to the Islamic State group.

The office of Abadi, however, on Saturday denied that Macron’s invitation had any link to the crisis with Iraqi Kurdistan.

“There is no relation between the invitation and the crisis caused by the unconstitutional referendum,” it said.

“The visit aims to reinforce bilateral relations and to focus on the fight against terrorism in the region in which Iraq has achieved enormous victories,” it added.

Read Also: 92% Voted For Independence In Iraqi Kurd Referendum

Iraqi forces ousted IS from the northern Nineveh province on August 31, and is now fighting to retake the jihadist group’s last footholds in the country.

Abadi’s office stressed the invitation was first made when French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Defence Minister Florence Parly visited Baghdad on August 26.

It said Macron had made no mention of “the need to recognise the rights of the Kurds or stopping an escalation by Baghdad”.

“On the contrary, there was a condemnation of the insistence of the Kurdish leadership to hold this referendum and expose the region to instability”.

While Monday’s independence vote was non-binding, it has nonetheless sent tensions in the country and the region soaring.

In response to the poll, the Iraqi government has cut Kurdistan’s direct air links with the outside world, partially isolating the northern region.

Turkey and Iran, which both have their own Kurdish minorities, have denounced the referendum, while the United States described it as “unilateral” and lacking legitimacy.

AFP

Iraq Kurd Leader Delays Independence Vote Announcement

Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani delivers a speech during a rally to urge people to vote in the upcoming independence referendum in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, on September 22, 2017. Barzani insisted that the controversial September 25 independence referendum for his autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq will go ahead, even as last-minute negotiations aimed to change his mind.
SAFIN HAMED / AFP

Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani on Saturday delayed a scheduled news conference on a controversial independence referendum he has called for next week as international pressure mounts for a postponement.

There has been uncertainty about whether the vote will go ahead on Monday as Iraq’s key allies the United States and Iran, as well as powerful neighbour Turkey, have stepped up their opposition.

“The news conference will take place on Sunday and the time and venue will be announced later,” Barzani’s office said without elaborating.

On Friday, the Iraqi Kurdish leader had insisted that the vote would be held as planned, despite a warning from the UN Security Council that it was “potentially destabilising”.

“The referendum is no longer in my hands, nor is it in those of the (political) parties — it is in your hands,” Barzani told a large crowd at a football stadium in Arbil, capital of the autonomous Kurdish region.

But behind the scenes negotiations are still taking place aimed at persuading Barzani to postpone any referendum, according to officials close to the discussions.

Iran and Turkey both have sizeable Kurdish populations of their own and fear the vote will stoke separatist aspirations at home.

The federal government in Baghdad is also opposed to the referendum, which it has called unconstitutional.

On Thursday, the UN Security Council urged “dialogue and compromise” to address differences between the Iraqi government and the regional authorities.

It also said the vote could weaken the military campaign against the Islamic State jihadist group, “in which Kurdish forces have played a critical role”.

Baghdad this week launched offensives to oust IS from the last two pockets it controls in Iraq.

AFP

Turkish Air Strikes Kill 25 In Syria

Turkish, Turkey, SyriaThe Turkish military has killed not less than 25 persons in air strikes near the border city of Jarablus in Syria.

As Turkey continues to target Kurdish-held areas in Syria, its military confirmed that those killed on Sunday were the militants in the areas.

BBC reports that a monitoring group claims at least 35 civilians and four militants are killed by a wave of Turkish strikes in the same area.

It is not yet clear whether the two reports relate to the same incident.

The strikes are sequel to the the kick off of Turkey’s military operation to target the purported Islamic State (IS) militants and Kurdish militia in Syria.

Turkey Launches Attacks On IS, Kurds in Syria

Turkey, Attacks On IS, Kurds, Syria Turkey has begun attacking Islamic state (IS) targets, in Northern Syria amid reports that Syrian rebels are also set to launch an offensive against the group.

Artillery positioned inside Turkey, fired on ISIS as well as Kurdish militia targets in the towns of Jarablus and Manbij.

The attack follows from the blast which occurred on Saturday at a Kurdish wedding in the Northern area of Gaziantep, killing at least 50 people and leaving many injured.

Some 1,500 Turkish-backed Syrian rebels, are thought to be in the Turkish town of Gaziantep waiting to attack.

Analysts say the imminent offensive may have spurred the suicide bombing believed to have been carried out by Isis.

However, Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim says, the identity of the bomber, initially thought to be a child, has not yet been established.

Kurds accuse Turkey of using the US-led coalition against IS as a cover to attack the PKK in both Turkey and Iraq, and now against the YPG in northern Syria.

The Kurds also say Turkey’s bombardment of their positions is helping IS to attack Kurdish-held frontline areas in Syria and Iraq.

 

Car Bomb Kills Three, Wounds 170 In Eastern Turkey- Governor’s Office

car bombThree police officers were killed and 170 people wounded by a car bomb at a police station in Turkey’s eastern city of Elazig on Thursday, the local governor’s office said, hours after a similar attack killed three people elsewhere in the region.

Footage on the CNN Turk channel showed offices inside the police station in ruins and filled with smoke after the bomb exploded just outside the complex at 9:20 a.m. (0620 GMT), when officers had already begun arriving for work.

No one immediately claimed responsibility, but Defence Minister Fikri Isik told the state-run Anadolu Agency that the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, was behind the attack.

“We have seen once more … that the PKK is a bloody organization and does not hesitate to kill the people it says it is fighting for,” he said. “The PKK acts according to the demands of global powers, not … the people in the region.”

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim canceled his day’s schedule and was heading to Elazig with Isik and General Hulusi Akar, head of the armed forces, sources at Yildirim’s office said.

The provincial governor’s office said 14 of the wounded were in serious condition.

The PKK has carried out dozens of attacks on police and military posts since 2015 in the largely Kurdish southeast in its fight for greater autonomy for Turkey’s 15 million Kurds.

But Elazig, a conservative province that votes in large numbers for the ruling AK Party, had been spared violence until now.

Video footage showed a plume of black smoke rising above the city after the blast, which uprooted trees and gouged a large crater outside the police complex, located on a busy thoroughfare in the city of 420,000 people.

In Van province, further east, two police officers and one civilian were killed and 73 people were wounded late on Wednesday when a car bomb exploded near a police station, the local governor’s office said in a statement.

Clashes Spread To New Areas Of Southeast Turkey After Bombing

turkeyFour people were killed in clashes between security forces and Kurdish militants on Tuesday, security sources said, as fighting widened in southeast Turkey following a suicide bombing that killed 37 people in the capital Ankara.

Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fighters blocked roads and halted vehicles in the Kaynartepe neighborhood of the city of Kurdistan Workers Party and clashed with security forces sporadically through the night as a police helicopter flew overhead, witnesses said.

No one has claimed responsibility for Sunday’s car bomb that tore through a crowded transport hub in Ankara, but security officials have said it involved two militants, one of them female, from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Violence has surged in mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey since a 2-1/2 year PKK ceasefire collapsed in July. The militants have focused their strikes on security forces in southeastern towns, some of which have been under curfew.

One police officer and three militants were killed in the fighting in the Baglar district of the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, the security sources said.

A curfew was imposed in Baglar’s Kaynartepe neighborhood from 3 a.m. (0100 GMT) after moves by militants to set up barricades, dig ditches and plant explosives, authorities said.

The curfew was later widened to encompass more city streets as clashes continued in the morning. Gunfire and explosions rang out across the city and police in armored vehicles parked on street corners called for people to stay inside.

Conflict in Diyarbakir, the southeast’s largest city, has until now has been focused in the Sur district, parts of which have been devastated by the fighting.