Tag Archives: secret police

Human Rights Abuses in Rojava and the Anti-ISIS War

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 3 March 2018

Guerrillas from the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS), the name the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) uses in Sinjar, Iraq, together with operatives from the People’s Defence Forces (HPG), the armed units of the PKK inside Turkey, holding a picture of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. (image source)

The American-led Coalition’s partner against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria, the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), presents itself, ideologically and in terms of the governance structure it controls, in universalistic liberal and democratic terms, emphasizing ecological and feminist themes. The reality is that the SDF is under the politico-military control of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a designated terrorist organization that has run a four-decade-long insurgency against Turkey. The PKK has brought some measure of stability to the areas it controls, but it continues to struggle for legitimacy and without locally-legitimate government IS and other jihadi-Salafists will find political room to operate. The PKK’s continued monopolization of power and abusive governance practices undermine the chances for the “Rojava” system to evolve into a long-term solution to the jihadist terrorists that have used Syrian territory to threaten the region and the wider world. Continue reading

Fresh Wave of Repression in the Syrian Kurdish Areas

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 15 September 2017

Kurdish opposition figures arrested by the PYD/PKK on 14 September 2017, NORTHERN SYRIA OBSERVER

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an internationally-designated terrorist entity, currently controls about a fifth of Syria’s territory in the northeast, an area it calls “Rojava”. The PKK works, as I explained in a recent report for The Henry Jackson Society, under the banner of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Democratic Union Party (PYD) while on Syrian territory, and has sought—with Western complicity—to obscure its activities even further by attaching some subordinate Arab units to its forces and calling this supposed-umbrella organization the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The SDF is the principle partner of the seventy-three-member coalition, led by the United States, that seeks to destroy the Islamic State (IS). On 14 September, the PYD/PKK launched a fresh crackdown on the Kurdish opposition, which has been viciously persecuted by the PKK back to 2011 and assaulted with an especial vigour since the spring of this year. The Kurds arrested by the PKK yesterday, and whose demonstration was attacked and dispersed by the PKK this afternoon, were voicing their support for the independence referendum to be held on 25 September by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq. Continue reading

America Sanctions the Islamic State’s Intelligence Chief

Originally published at The Henry Jackson Society

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 3 September 2017

The U.S. State Department on 17 August sanctioned two Islamic State (IS) operatives, Ahmad al-Khald (or Ahmad Alkhald), who was involved in the November 2015 terrorist atrocities in France and the March 2016 bombings in Belgium, and Iyad Hamid Mahl al-Jumayli (Abu Yahya al-Iraqi), IS’s internal security chief. Continue reading

A Politically Fraught Humanitarian Crisis in Eastern Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 29 August 2017

SDF/PKK fighter at a temporary refugee camp in the village of Ayn Issa, 10 Nov. 2016 / AFP PHOTO / DELIL SOULEIMAN

The local reporters at Raqqa 24 published a video yesterday containing interviews with some of the estimated 70,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) who have been trapped at the camps run by the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the vehicle by through which the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) operates to neutralize the political and legal obstacles to receiving Western assistance as it displaces the Islamic State (IS) across large tracts of land in eastern Syria. This has become yet another flashpoint, political and ethnic, as the SDF/PKK advances on the IS “capital” in Raqqa city. Continue reading

International Taboo on Chemical Weapons Frays As U.S. Steps Back

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 13, 2017

Yesterday, the United States Treasury Department imposed sanctions on eighteen senior officials in the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The sanctions come in response to reports in August and October 2016 by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the United Nations investigative body, which found that found “the Syrian government, specifically the Syrian Arab Air Force, was responsible for three chlorine gas attacks in Talmenes on April 21, 2014, and in Qmenas and Sarmin on March 16, 2015.” This is three years after the Assad regime was spared punitive military strikes for its use of chemical weapons under a Russian-orchestrated “deal” that ostensibly disarmed Assad of such weapons. Continue reading

Film Review: Bethlehem (2013)

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on November 20, 2016


Bethlehem is one of the most compelling films I’ve seen in a long time. There are so few good spy films available that this is a welcome surprise. Unlike Burn After Reading, a genius film, the intention here is not to show things from the agency side, to demonstrate how wildly out of control things can get when you only have half-or-less of the facts. It is also not Charlie Wilson’s War, which shows the feats that intelligence agencies can accomplish when well-directed. Bethlehem is most like Breach, which showed the immense damage an individual spy can do. But instead of showing the effects the act of spying had, with the human characters secondary, Bethlehem tracks specifically the complex relationship that develops between handler and asset. Continue reading

Russia’s Secret Police

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on August 1, 20151

Charles Ruud’s and Sergei Stepanov’s Fontanka 16: The Tsar’s Secret Police traces the evolution of political policing in Russia, focusing on the Okhranka, the final incarnation of the secret police before the Russian Revolution in 1917, and along the way puts paid to a whole array of myths about the pre-Bolshevik Russian government, especially as regards the Jewish Question.

The growth of the Russian political police occurred in four major stages. The first phase lasted from the founding of the Russian State by Ivan the Terrible (1533-84) after the expulsion of the Tatars to the opening of the “Third Section” in 1826 as a reaction to the Decembrist revolt the previous year—the first time the Imperial State security services were housed at Fontanka 16 in St. Petersburg—which intended to (and succeeded in, as 1848 would demonstrate) extirpate the liberal spirit that challenged the autocracy. The third phase saw the Third Section become the Department of Police at the onset of a crackdown after the assassination of Alexander II in 1881, who had enacted broad liberal reforms on censorship and serfdom. The elite secret police force grew out of the palace guard, becoming known as the Okhranka (though this is more usually rendered in English as Okhrana). The final phase began in 1906, after the 1905 revolution, when the Okhranka worked to stop a liberal-radical coalition building. Continue reading