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VP: Iraqi army to march on Kurdish capital

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Vice-President Nouri Maliki said Tuesday afternoon that Iraqi forces will march on the capital of the Kurdistan Region, Erbil, and raise the Iraqi flag. 


Oct. 16: Iraqi army takes control of Kirkuk, oil fields


Maliki’s statement comes after a successful midnight offensive launched on Sunday night by the Iraqi military on the Kurdish Peshmerga to retake the strategic city of Kirkuk and its surrounding region.

The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) could officially interpret this as an act of war, with some Kurdish politicians calling it a “new war”.

Two large oilfields critical to the Kurdish economy were captured outside Kirkuk as Kurdish forces departed the area, with reports saying Iraqi forces are preparing to annex further oil facilities in Khanaqin area.

The Iraqi oil ministry made clear that all oil facilities in the Kirkuk province surrounding the city was under government control by Tuesday.

The incursion into the major city comes three weeks after the autonomous Kurdistan Region held an independence referendum resulting in an overwhelming mandate to separate from Baghdad, which Iraq condemns.

Kurdistan Region Map 2017

Map of the Kurdistan Region under the KRG from IRN.

Kirkuk, claimed by both Kurds and Baghdad, has a majority Kurdish population and was allowed to vote on Sept. 25.

Thousands of civilians returned to their homes in Kirkuk on Monday evening and Tuesday after fleeing from the city when Iraqi forces entered.

The Peshmerga have retreated from positions near the Iran-Iraq border, as Iraqi forces advance. There hasn’t been much conflict beyond skirmishes and artillery fire in and around Kirkuk up to this point.

Just weeks earlier, Kurdish and Iraqi forces were working in a U.S.-backed coalition with Shia militias to push Daesh out of the country’s northwest.

Kurds held Kirkuk since 2014 when Daesh (IS) swept through the northern regions during their “lightening offensive” when they captured large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria.

The Kurdish military wing, known as the Peshmerga, were credited with defending key positions outside Kirkuk as Iraqi soldiers largely retreated during the militant advance.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had denounced the vote as unconstitutional, but the Kurdistan Regional Government insisted on its legitimacy.

The United States has called for calm in the region, with President Donald Trump saying Washington would not “be taking sides.”

The governments of Turkey and Syria are both strongly against Kurdish independence due to their own large Kurdish minorities that could also attempt independence.

In Syria, the U.S.-backed Kurdish-led SDF has gained control over large swathes of territory after pushing back Daesh in wave after wave of attacks that also saw them capture so-called Islamic State’s capital of Raqqa on Tuesday.


More details to follow. Please refresh for the latest. Image 1 of Iraqi forces moving into Kirkuk on Oct. 16, 2017 from Stringer/Reuters. ■

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Canada

Anti-abortion group loses club status at University of Ottawa

A petition had over 500 signatures.

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STORY VIA THE FULCRUM

(CUP) — An anti-abortion group on campus has lost its club status after months of heated controversy and debate, blocking them from accessing resources and funding through the University of Ottawa Students’ Union, or UOSU.

University of Ottawa Students for Life UOSFL first received preliminary club status back in October 2019 from Campus Vibez uOttawa, the body that coordinates clubs under the UOSU. The school’s former student government, the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO), had previously stripped UOSFL of its club status in 2017.  

Anger and backlash from students quickly followed and the status of the club was called into question a few weeks later when a petition with 500 signatures was sent to the undergraduate student union calling for its removal. 

In a series of meetings in October and November 2019, the UOSU adopted a pro-choice stance on abortion and then amended its club code to block any group that advocates against access to legal abortion from union funding. A General Assembly was held in early December where students could vote on the club status of UOSFL, but the meeting failed to reach quorum and became a town hall discussion instead. 

The decision on the club status of UOSFL was then moved to a meeting of the UOSU’s student life committee, where representatives from UOSFL and pro-choice supporters who launched the petition against the club were invited to attend and voice their arguments. The meeting was held on Dec. 20, with the committee eventually voting to remove the club status of UOSFL, which was announced earlier this month. 

UOSFL has the option of challenging the committee’s decision at the union’s upcoming board meeting this Sunday. Under the current ruling, the group can still remain active on campus but does not have access to funds, promotion, or room rentals through the UOSU.

Bridget Dueck, administrator of the Defenders of Our Campus pro-choice group, and Garfilia Milousis, co-president of UOSFL, attended the student life committee meeting. Both said they have experienced harassment and threats in the midst of the debate over UOSFL’s status. 

Dueck said a delayed decision from the UOSU has caused her unneeded stress and anxiety. She said she expects there will be an appeal by the UOSFL and encouraged students to attend the appeal meeting to voice their concerns. 

“I’ve played a more active role and spoke out more, but it’s really a group,” said Dueck. “This whole movement is kind of an organism of its own. It’s not just one person that’s spearheading the movement anymore. It’s more of a group of students that are all working together.”

Dueck said that along with the resources official UOSU clubs receive, it’s also about the title that comes with it. 

“It is a monumental privilege that not every group is going to be eligible for,” said Dueck. ”That title carries a lot of weight to the students and, to me, because they are recognized, they carry around the community, they represent the community.” 

Milousis said the UOSU’s process has been much more transparent than the previous decision from the school’s former undergraduate student union, the SFUO, but said that flaws still exist in the new system. 

Both Milousis and Dueck agreed that the final meeting held on Dec. 20 and the General Assembly on Dec. 7 were unfair to students who were studying for finals and headed home for the holidays. Milousis called it a learning experience for the UOSU, and the union says it will no longer allow meetings to happen in the middle of exam season. 

Other student unions across the country have also taken pro-choice stances and blocked anti-abortion clubs from their funding or resources, but Milousis argued that while principals and examples of other cases may be referred to, they should not be used to influence a decision as the circumstances and details may vary. 

“What I would say is different from those cases and the situation at the U of O is recently the Ontario government has put forward a free speech policy that’s supposed to regulate universities and require them to uphold free speech on campus,” said Milousis. 

While Milousis commends the student union for listening to both sides of the arguments, she said she believes there was bias in the decision from the start, since the UOSU took a pro-choice stance on abortion at an October 2019 board meeting. 

Milousis said she thinks the decision on her club’s status was made even before the General Assembly in December took place. 

“By nature of the UOSU taking the pro-choice stance, they’ve already positioned themselves as closer to (the pro-choice) side,” she said. “So not only do I have to address the concerns, but I somehow have to win them over.” 

Milousis and Dueck said members of their groups have not engaged in harassment online, but both reported received threats from anonymous and third-party sources. 

“I’ve had a number of death threats,” said Milousis.

“I have experienced harassment from fake profiles online,” said Dueck, “I had a message from a profile that felt very threatening, saying that I was going to burn in hell. I don’t want that on campus.” 

The UOSU’s next board meeting is scheduled for Sunday at 12 p.m. in the Tabaret Hall Senate Chamber, where UOSFL has the option of appealing the student life committee’s decision. ■

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Families impacted by Flight PS752 to receive $25K

The prime minister made the announcement on Friday morning.

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Victims of the plane crash pictured at a Humber College vigil on Jan. 16, 2020.

Canadian families of those that died on Ukrainian International Airlines Flight PS752 earlier this month will receive $25,000 in financial compensation from the federal government, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday.

Ottawa will supply the funds for the loved ones 57 Canadians left behind when the Boeing passenger jet crashed outside Tehran on Jan. 8 “to assist with their immediate needs, such as funeral arrangements and travel.”

Ahead of the announcement, Trudeau had met with the country’s Incident Response Group over how to respond to the crash and regarding an ongoing international investigation into the incident, caused by an Iran-launched surface-to-air missile.

Humber College held two community gatherings on Thursday over the victims. Many of those killed among the 167 were involved in Canadian academia, including several post-secondary students from Ontario. No Humber students or faculty were onboard, according to the college. ■

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Canada

Sussex royals to split time between UK, Canada

Prince Harry and Meghan were in crisis talks with the Queen.

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File photo from SussexRoyal.com

Following crisis talks in Sandringham on Monday, Queen Elizabeth said she gave her blessing for Prince Harry and his wife Meghan to embark on a more independent future, announcing that the Sussex royals will split their time between Canada and the United Kingdom.

“Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working Members of the Royal Family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family,” the queen said.

The Sussex couple made a shock announcement last Wednesday that they would be stepping back from royal duties and spend more time in North America. Harry and Meghan spent six weeks in Vancouver at the end of 2019. ■

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