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, which is Turkish for "raider," is a more advanced version of Turkey's iconic Bayraktar TB2, able to fly higher and stay in the air longer as well as carry more missiles. The TB2, developed in collaboration with another Turkish defense contractor, Roketsan, has been used by Ankara against Kurdish PKK guerillas in northern Iraq, and against Syrian regime forces in Idlib provice. Turkey is said to have 75 of the TB2 drones in its own fleet.
Kurdish rebels launched a mortar attack on a Turkish military position in northern Iraq, killing one soldier Aug. 13. The troops were stationed at the outpost as part of Ankara's "Operation Claw-Lightning" to hunt down fighters of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Turkey's Defense Ministry said its forces immediately retaliated for the attack, and three PKK fighters were "neutralized" (killed). (Al Jazeera) The following day, thousands of Kurds marched in Dusseldorf, Germany, to protest ongoing Turkish military operations in Turkey's eastern Kurdish region, in northern Iraq, and in Syria's Rojava region. The demonstration was timed for the 37th anniversary of the start of the PKK's armed struggle against the Turkish state. Organizers reported that local police banned slogans calling for the release of imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. (Rudaw)
The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Treasury Department on July 28 imposed sanctions on eight prisons run by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's intelligence unit, for human rights abuses against political prisoners and other detainees. Additionally, OFAC added five senior security officials of al-Assad's regime who control the detention facilities to the Treasury’s Specially Designated Nationals & Blocked Persons List. According to OFAC, the regime has imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Syrians during the war, of whom at least 14,000 have been tortured to death, with a further 130,000 missing and believed to be under arbitrary detention. OFAC also placed sanctions on Syrian armed rebel group Ahrar al-Sharqiya and two of its leaders for abuses against civilians.
The UN Security Council on July 9 unanimously voted to extend the sole humanitarian aid crossing into Syria—one day before it was set to close—following a deal between the US and Russia. The White House said presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin finally discussed the matter in a phone call. The vote on the Bab al-Hawa (Gate of the Winds) crossing came after weeks of intense negotiations between Washington, which wants to expand the number of aid corridors into Syria, and Moscow, which had threatened to block continuation of the aid program altogether in the name of protecting Syrian sovereignty.
On June 27, Turkish riot police used tear-gas and rubber bullets to disrupt Istanbul's annual pride parade after the the governor's office refused to grant a permit for the event. The police arrested dozens of marchers, as well as journalists who were covering the event. The police attack comes amid a period of mounting hostilities against the nation's LGBTIQ+ community. The pride parade has been held annually since 2003, despite being officially banned since 2014. Videos shared on social media show hundreds of people gathered on Istiklal Avenue, a popular tourist destination, chanting "Rainbow is not a crime, discrimination is."
Doctors and healthcare workers held a demonstration outside a hospital in the Syrian city of Idlib June 1, to protest the election of the Bashar Assad regime to the executive board of the World Health Organization (WHO). Syria was elected to the board for a three-year term by the 22 countries of WHO's Eastern Mediterranean region—the latest coup for normalization of the Assad regime. "How can we trust WHO [when] one of its executive board members is the murderer who is killing my colleagues, my friends?" said Dr. Salem Abdan, head of health services for opposition-administered Idlib, in a WhatsApp message. Read a banner at the protest: "We reject the idea that our killer and he who destroyed our hospitals be represented on the executive board." Idlib province is part of a remaining rebel-held pocket in the northwest of the country, where Assad regime warplanes have for years been bombing hospitals and clinics.
As before, thoroughly controlled elections were held in Syria on May 26, with completely predictable results. Regime officials have declared Bashar al-Assad the winner with 95.1% of the vote. This is even higher than the 88.7% claimed by Assad in 2014, Syria's first presidential ballot since his father Hafez died in 2000 (who had held even more thoroughly controlled elections only rarely after taking power in a 1970 coup d'etat). Assad ran against two nominal challengers, with another 49 candidates disqualified. State TV and official news agency SANA promoted Assad relentlessly; his posters were displayed on walls and billboards throughout regime-controlled territory.
Five are reported dead after Kurdish militiamen on May 18 opened fire on local residents protesting against a hike in fuel prices imposed by the Kurdish-led autonomous administration in northern Syria. Protests were reported in several towns in al-Hasakah province, including Qamishli, al-Haddaja, al-Rashidiya and al-Haddadiya, although reports were unclear on which towns saw militiamen open fire. At least one death was in the town of Shadadi, where armed protesters stormed a Kurdish militia base.