ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: September 21 – 28, 2023

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Key Takeaways:

  • Court Ends The Term Of Kurdistan’s Provincial Councils; Bafel Talabani Reelected As PUK Leader; Ruling Coalition Affirms Respect For Kuwait’s Sovereignty – On September 24, Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court issued a ruling that ended the term of the provincial councils in the Kurdistan region. The Court said it determined that a 2019 amendment to the provincial councils’ law that extended their term after its expiration in 2018 was unconstitutional. The chairman of Erbil’s provincial council said the councils were unsure how to proceed, adding that their “legal committee will convene later to decide on what to do” to address what he described as a “legal gap.” On September 27, party members attending the PUK’s fifth conference unanimously reelected Bafel Talabani as the PUK’s sole leader. The party will reduce the size of its Leadership Council from 121 to 51 members and establish a new Support Council, which will be under Talabani’s direct supervision, further expanding his powers. On September 27, leaders of the State Administration Alliance issued a statement reaffirming that Iraq “respects the sovereignty and unity of Kuwait’s territory and is committed to upholding all bilateral agreements with other states and United Nations Security Council resolutions, including resolution 833.” Last week, the U.S. and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) jointly urged Baghdad “to expeditiously resolve the domestic legal status of the 2012 Kuwait-Iraq [border] agreement” after Iraq’s top court said the ratification of that treaty was unconstitutional. In other developments, on September 26, the Turkish ambassador to Iraq delivered an invitation from President Erdogan to Nouri al-Maliki to visit Turkey. more…
  • A Fasion Blogger’s Assassination Raises New Concerns About Anti-LGBTQ Violence – On September 25, an unidentified gunman shot and killed an Iraqi fashion blogger known as Nour BM in the al-Dawoudi neighborhood of western Baghdad. Footage from security cameras that reportedly captured the incidents showed an assassin disguised as a food delivery driver. The murder of the 23 year old Nour, who identified as a cross-dresser, raised new concerns among rights activists about deliberate violence against members of the LGBTQ community in Iraq. In other developments, on September 22, an IED explosion in Diyala killed a 12 year old boy and seriously wounded his father. On September 25, an Iraqi army helicopter crashed during a training mission near the Army Aviation College in al-Kut. The crash, which injured two Iraqi officers, happened after the helicopter, a Bell-407, encountered a mechanical failure. On September 26, Iraqi military forces deployed around al-Islah district in Dhi-Qar in response to violent clashes that erupted between two local tribes over the appointment of a new mayor for the district. On September 27, a woman was killed and her daughter and husband were injured when an armed drone struck a vehicle in the Pshdar district of Sulaymaniyah. more…
  • Deadly Wedding Fire Kills Nearly 100, Injures 100 More In Al-Hamdaniyah – On September 27, a deadly fire erupted at an event space in the predominantly Christian town of al-Hamdaniyah, in Ninewa province. The fire, which started while an estimated 900 guests were attending a wedding celebration, quickly consumed the building, which civil defense officials later said was built without permits and using substandard, flammable construction materials. At least 94 people were killed and more than 100 injured in the fire, the Interior Ministry said. Authorities opened an investigation into the tragic fire and arrested 14 suspects, including the event space’s owner and 3 individuals believed to have set off the pyrotechnics that started the blaze. The World Health Organization (WHO) in Iraq is supporting the local hospital and a burns hospital in Mosul with critical supplies as they work to help the injured, including sending two “comprehensive hospital supply kits.” more…
  • Electronic Payments See Significant Growth; KRG Receives First Tranche Of Funds Under New Agreement With Baghdad – On September 26, the Association of Iraqi Private Banks said that electronic payments have seen significant growth this year as a result of a government initiative to encourage the use of point of sale (POS) systems in commercial and government institutions. The number of operating POS systems grew 123% (from 10,718 to 23906) since January, while the number of transactions completed during the same period reached 1.56 million. On September 28, the KRG confirmed that three Iraqi state-owned banks have sent a total of IQD 700 billion to KRG accounts in order to pay the salaries of civil servants in the Kurdistan region. The cash transfers come after the federal government approved a new temporary arrangement on September 17, under which it authorized the state-owned banks to provide the KRG with three monthly loans of IQD 700 billion ($538 million) each starting in September. In other developments, on September 25, Iraq’s Integrity Commission signed a memorandum of understanding with Egypt that allows for the extradition of suspects involved in corruption cases and the recovery of stolen funds. On September 26, the Iraqi government issued instructions requiring all future government contracts that are to be implemented inside Iraq to be paid for using the local currency. more…
Join us for the 11th annual “IN THEIR SHOES 5K” to benefit Iraq’s most vulnerable children. EPIC is joining forces with Iraqi American Young Professionals as “Team EPIC-IAYP” to walk/run in support of the Iraqi Children Foundation, our invaluable partner in creating a better tomorrow for all Iraqis. Last year, we had the largest team. Let’s do it again! Register today!

For more background on most of the institutions, key actors, political parties, and locations mentioned in our takeaways or in the stories that follow, see the ISHM Reference Guide.


Court Ends The Term Of Kurdistan’s Provincial Councils; Bafel Talabani Reelected As PUK Leader; Ruling Coalition Affirms Respect For Kuwait’s Sovereignty

On September 24, Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court issued a ruling that ends the term of the provincial councils in the provinces of the Kurdistan region of Iraq. In a statement, the Court said it had determined that a 2019 amendment to law number 3 of 2009 concerning the provinces of the Kurdistan region was unconstitutional. The 2019 amendment in question was put in place to extend the term of the provincial councils, whose terms had expired in June of 2018, as political disagreements between the main parties derailed plans to hold new elections. The last provincial election in the region was held in April of 2014. In response to the ruling, the chairman of Erbil’s provincial council said the councils were unsure how to proceed, adding that their  “legal committee will convene later to decide on what to do” to address what he described as a “legal gap.” 

On September 24, Iraqi President Abdul-Latif Rashid revealed that the presidency has been working to prepare drafts for several important legislations, including some that have been long-delayed. Speaking to a delegation of the Arab and Iraqi Lawyer Unions, Rashid said the drafts include the Federal Council Law, the High Council for Water, and the Federal Supreme Court Law. Other drafts being prepared by the presidency include amendments to Saddam-era agricultural zoning law and an anti-drug law.  

On September 26, the Turkish ambassador to Iraq, Ali Riza Guney, delivered an invitation from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the head of the State of Law coalition, former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, to visit Turkey. Guney and Maliki met at Maliki’s office on Tuesday to discuss bilateral relations, especially as they relate to water sharing, Turkish investments in Iraq, and participation in Iraq’s Development Road project, a statement by Maliki’s office said.  The statement added that Guney underscored Ankara’s interest in “resolving outstanding issues between the two countries,” without adding further details. 

On September 27, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) reelected Bafel Talabani as its sole leader. Talabani, who was one of the PUK’s two co-presidents until the removal of the other co-president, Lahur Sheikh Jenki, in July 2022, was reelected unanimously by the 600 members attending the party’s fifth general conference in Sulaymaniyah. The conference is expected to see the party reduce the size of its Leadership Council from 121 to 51 members. The party’s politburo will also be reduced to 10 members. Additionally, the party will establish a new Support Council, which will be under the direct supervision of Talabani, giving the PUK president increased control and power over the party.   

On September 27, documents that appear to show correspondences between the Justice and Accountability Commissions and the High Electoral Commission (IHEC) of Iraq indicate that the former had instructed the latter to disqualify 125 candidates running for office in the upcoming provincial elections. Notably, news reports suggested that the list of candidates disqualified for former ties with the Baath Party includes 20 candidates from Ninewa province, including the current governor, Najm Abdullah al-Jubouri. 

On September 27, leaders of the State Administration Alliance issued a statement reaffirming that Iraq “respects the sovereignty and unity of Kuwait’s territory and is committed to upholding all bilateral agreements with other states and United Nations Security Council resolutions, including resolution 833.” During the meeting, hosted by Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani, the leaders of the State Administration Alliance also agreed to “support the government in its efforts to continue negotiations to resolve outstanding issues between Iraq and our brothers in Kuwait and preserve the legitimate rights of both countries” a statement by Sudani’s office added. Last week, the U.S. and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) issued a joint statement calling for “the complete demarcation of the Kuwait-Iraq maritime boundary” and urged Baghdad “to expeditiously resolve the domestic legal status of the 2012 Kuwait-Iraq agreement.” The message came after Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court said the ratification of the treaty concerning maritime borders was unconstitutional and required a law passed by a two thirds majority in parliament.

Sources cited in this section include: Shafaq, Rudaw, INA, Iraqi President’s office, ISHM archive, PUKMedia, social media, NRT, al-Sumaria, Iraqi PM’s office.


A Fasion Blogger’s Assassination Raises New Concerns About Anti-LGBTQ Violence

On September 21, the Security Media Cell reported that pro-government tribal mobilization fighters killed five ISIS militants and destroyed their vehicle during operations in an unspecified location in the desert of the western province of Anbar. 

On September 22, the Kirkuk police said that two masked gunmen on motorcycles broke into the residence of a Kirkuk policeman and killed him. The police said the victim worked at al-Riyadh police station in the province, adding that the attack occurred in the Wahid Huziran neighborhood of Kirkuk. On the following day, three unidentified gunmen on motorcycles attacked a police patrol with small firearms in central Basra in southern Iraq. The attack seriously wounded one policeman. In the capital, Baghdad, unidentified individuals attacked the residence of an Interior Ministry employee with a hand grenade. There were no reports of casualties in the attack, which occurred in al-Kamaliyah, in eastern Baghdad.

On September 22, security sources in Diyala said that an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated on a farm in the Abu Sayda subdistrict, northeast of Baquba. The IED explosion killed a 12 year old boy and seriously wounded his father. 

On September 25, Iraqi security sources said that an army helicopter crashed during a training mission near the Army Aviation College in al-Kut in Wasit province. The crash happened after the helicopter, a Bell-407, encountered a mechanical failure, the sources added. Two Iraqi  officers were injured in the incident. 

On September 25, security sources in Baghdad said that an unidentified gunman shot and killed an Iraqi fashion blogger known as Nour BM in the al-Dawoudi neighborhood of western Baghdad. Footage from security cameras that reportedly captured the incidents showed an assailant disguised as a food delivery driver. The assassination of the 23 year old Nour, who identified as a cross-dresser, raised new concerns among rights activists about deliberate violence against members of the LGBTQ community in Iraq.  

On September 26, security sources in Dhi-Qar province said that Iraqi military forces arrived at al-Islah district in the eastern part of the province and blocked roads to and from the area after violent clashes erupted between two local tribes. Dozens of heavily armed men from the al-Omar and al-Rumeidh tribes dug in positions just outside the district center as an old dispute that had led to clashes in recent months flared up again, the sources said. The conflict is reportedly exacerbated by a political standoff involving the governor of Dhi-Qar who allegedly blocked the appointment of a member of one of the tribes as district mayor.

On September 27, local sources in the Pshdar district of Sulaymaniyah province said that a civilian woman was killed and her daughter and husband were injured when an armed drone struck a vehicle in the village of Kreskan near the Qandil Mountains. 

Sources cited in this section include: Mawazin, Rudaw, Shafaq, al-Hurra.


Deadly Wedding Fire Kills Nearly 100, Injures 100 More In Al-Hamdaniyah

On September 27, a deadly fire erupted at an event space in the predominantly Christian town of al-Hamdaniyah, in Ninewa province. The fire, which started while an estimated 900 guests were attending a wedding celebration, quickly consumed the building, which civil defense officials later said was built without permits and using substandard, flammable construction materials. At least 94 people were killed and more than 100 injured in the fire, the Interior Ministry said. In response to the tragic incident, the government declared 3 days of mourning and dispatched the Ministers of Health and Interior to al-Hamdaniyah to oversee the rescue efforts. Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani went to al-Hamdaniyah on Thursday to offer his condolences and visit the injured. He issued instructions to inspect public spaces for safety measures and fire precautions, a statement by his office said. Authorities opened an investigation to determine the causes of the fire, promising to share the results within 72 hours. The Interior Ministry said it arrested 14 suspects, including the event space’s owner and several staff members, and 3 individuals believed to have set off the pyrotechnics that footage from the incident indicates have caused the fire. The World Health Organization (WHO) in Iraq is supporting the local hospital and a burns hospital in Mosul with critical supplies as they work to help the injured, including sending two “comprehensive hospital supply kits.”

Sources cited in this section include: AP, Rudaw, INA, Reliefweb, Iraqi PM’s office, al-Hurra.


Electronic Payments See Significant Growth; KRG Receives First Tranche Of Funds Under New Agreement With Baghdad

On September 23, Iraq’s Deputy Oil Minister for Extraction, Basim Mohammed Khudheir, said the Ministry was preparing to award a contract for the development of the Akkaz gas field in Anbar province to a Ukrainian company within days. The official, who did not name the company in question, added that Iraq aims to produce 400 million cubic feet per day of gas (cf/d) from the field. It is unclear whether this new contract is part of previously announced field development deals. In May, Iraq’s Oil Minister had announced an agreement with Saudi Aramco for the development of Akkaz. The field, which has seen limited development relying on domestic efforts, commenced small scale production in March at a rate of 60 million cf/d of natural gas from four wells.

On September 25, the head of Iraq’s Integrity Commission, Judge Haider Hanoun, said that Iraq and Egypt signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for cooperation in combating corruption. Speaking after meetings with Egyptian officials in Cairo, Hanoun said the MoU allows for the extradition of suspects involved in corruption cases and deals with the recovery of stolen funds. The agreement also includes cooperation in sharing expertise and developing anti-corruption strategies. 

On September 26, the Iraqi government issued instructions stating that all future government contracts that are to be implemented inside Iraq will be paid for using the Iraqi dinar. A statement by Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani’s office said an exception will be given to contracts that require issuing letters of credit by foreign banks, adding that the exemption would be for the amount of the necessary letter of credit only. Earlier this week, the governor of Iraq’s Central Bank, Ali al-Allaq, said that Iraq aims to have all domestic commercial transactions be conducted solely using the Iraqi dinar, instead of the U.S. dollar, starting next year.

On September 26, the Association of Iraqi Private Banks said that electronic payments have seen significant growth this year as a result of a government initiative led by the Central Bank of Iraq to encourage the use of electronic point of sale (POS) systems in commercial and government institutions. According to the head of the association, Ali Tariq, the number of POS systems operating in Iraq grew 123% (from 10,718 to 23906) since January, when the government launched the program that requires all government agencies, private businesses, and any other places that collect fees to open bank accounts and have POS systems available for their customers. Of these POS terminals, 19,696 have been installed at private stores and institutions, while the remaining 4,210 are in use at government offices. The number of transactions conducted through these POS terminals since the policy went into effect reached 1.56 million, of which 1.15 million were in the private sector, and 0.4 million were in government institutions, Tariq said, adding that 337 government institutions have signed up with electronic payment service companies and deployed POS systems. 

On September 27, Iraq’s Planning Ministry reported that inflation levels during the month of August 2023 increased by 0.5% from the previous month. The Ministry also noted that inflation levels in August were up by 3.7% compared with the same month in 2022. The Ministry’s calculations are based on tracking the prices of 333 goods and services that comprise 88% of the average total monthly spending for individuals. 

On September 28, the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) confirmed that three of Iraq’s state-owned banks have sent a total of IQD 700 billion to the KRG accounts in order to pay the salaries of civil servants in the region. According to the KRG statement, the Trade Bank of Iraq (TBI) had sent IQD 200 billion, while the Rafidain and Rasheed banks had sent IQD 250 billion each. The cash transfers come after the federal government approved a new temporary arrangement under which it authorized the state-owned Rafidain, Rasheed, and TBI to provide three monthly loans of IQD 700 billion ($538 million) each starting in September. The decision came after a visit on September 14 by KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani during which he had talks with Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani and several other political leaders aimed at resolving the budget dispute between Erbil and Baghdad. 

Sources cited in this section include: INA, ISHM archive, Ultra Iraq, Rudaw, Kurdistan24.


Derived from firsthand accounts and Iraq-based Arabic and Kurdish news sources, the Iraq Security and Humanitarian Monitor is a free publication of the Enabling Peace in Iraq Center.


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