Shia militia said they wouldn’t attack Kirkuk before battle

Before the victory of Iraqi forces against Kurdish forces in Kirkuk on Monday, I spoke to the leader of the PMF – a pro-government, largely Shia militia – in the city. He said they had no plans to attack the city, nor any issue with Kurdish independence ambitions. Some Peshmerga and Kurdistan Regional Government officials made similar statements. Of course, the reality just weeks later was quite different. My latest words/pics for The New Arab:

https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/indepth/2017/10/17/shia-militias-and-peshmerga-downplayed-kirkuk-tensions-before-conflict?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=sf

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A Yazidi returnee to Shingal tells his story

ISIS took the Yazidi city of Shingal, Iraq in 2014 and was expelled in 2015, but many of the inhabitants still live in camps in the Kurdistan region. Despite poor living conditions and uncertainty following the Kurdistan independence referendum, some are now coming back. Omran, a student, is one of them. Listen to our conversation on life in Shingal and happenings in Iraq’s Yazidi community:

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Catalan media on Kurdish independence

The Kurdistan independence referendum was covered considerably in Catalan and Spanish media, and there’s a small nationalist group working to foster ties between Catalonia and Kurdistan. While the Kurdistan independence referendum in Iraq went down peacefully, the one in Catalonia, Spain was marked by police repression. My latest:

http://www.rudaw.net/english/world/021020171

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Celebrations following Kurdistan independence referendum

On the day of the Kurdistan independence referendum, I spoke to Haseeb in Erbil, Iraq at a celebration following the voting. He explains why he thinks Iraqi Kurdistan should be independent amidst all the festivities near the citadel:

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MMA comes to Iraq on eve of Kurdistan independence referendum

“This is a new thing in Erbil. It’s not just war here. There are good things too,” said Mohammed Ali, from Basra, at the first ever MMA event in Iraq and the Kurdistan region. The fight took place just days before the Kurdistan independence referendum, and featured fighters from Erbil, elsewhere in Iraq, and Lebanon. My latest for Al-Monitor:

http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/09/iraq-sports-martial-arts-fighting-erbil.html

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Pics: Iraq’s first MMA fight

Days before the Kurdistan independence referendum, the first ever Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fight in Iraq took place in Erbil – the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. My pics for Kurdish media outlet Rudaw:

http://www.rudaw.net/english/culture/15092017

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British YPG/Peshmerga volunteer speaks the truth about life as a foreigner fighting ISIS

Jimmy,  a British Army veteran of the Iraq War, has volunteered as a combat medic with both the YPG in Syria and the Peshmerga in Iraq. He’s one of hundreds of Western volunteers to fight with the Kurdish groups in their battles with ISIS. In this interview, he describes what it’s really like to fight as a foreigner with the Kurds:

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