Turkish warplanes intensify bombardments, farmers flee their village homes
As Turkey spirals into more intense internal violence, not shying away from bombarding even â€śits ownâ€ť Turkish/Kurdish towns with artillery shells, its attacks against Kurds in Iraq also intensify. On the night of 21 November, Turkish warplanes bombed mountain slopes overlooking the Shawre valley. Shawreâ€™s fertile soil sustains more than 30 villages and a larger town, as well as contains many treasures including sites dating to times far preceding Islam. The beautiful village of Gullan, that many CPT members, delegates and supporters know so well, lies in the upper parts of the valley, and dangerously near the bombarded sites. CPT visited the area on 26 November and met with three families who heard and saw the rockets hit meadows just over their village and fled their homes in fear of being hit in another attack. CPTers attempted to document one of the bombed places but were strongly advised by the armed forces not to go there as the warplanes could return at any moment. In the last two decades, Shawre has been considered as an area safe and free of Turkish airstrikes. During an overnight stay in Gullan, CPTers could hear the murmuring sounds of jet fighters flying around and towards the more distant Qandil mountains.
One of the displaced shepherds, who worked also as an assistant at a local school, told CPT: â€śA few days ago, Turkey shot down a Russian airplane for a supposed violation of their borders. Turkey shows how much they care about borders, by bombing us, more than 100km (60 miles) far away from their territory.â€ť
Pray for the Kurdish villagers in the Qandil Mountains who
are facing death and displacement because of bombing by the Turkish military.
*Epixel for Fourth Sunday in Advent, December 20, 2015
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. Luke 1:51-53
*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing with a text from the upcoming Sunday's Revised Common Lectionary readings.
The three months, since our last newsletter, passed quickly for our team. The abundance of activities and engaging projects, delayed the time of our sharing with you - our support and partner community. We would like to invite you to join our first-two-month's recap of our work.
Give thanks for the ten new Peacemakers who have successfully completed the 2015 Christian Peacemaker Teams training. Pray that the Creator will work within them to give them the strength and courage they will need to do the difficult and rewarding work of peacebuilding with our partners in Colombia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Palestine and Indigenous communities.
In the early morning hours of 1 August 2015 Turkish warplanes fired rockets into Zergaly village, destroying houses, killing an elderly woman, and injuring her husband and three relatives.
After people from the surrounding area and other villages came to help the wounded, the warplanes returnedâ€”dropping bombs and firing more rockets on to the rescuersâ€”killing seven and injuring eight more.
Throughout the 1990s, and between 2007 and 2012, Turkish warplanes and military forces regularly bombarded the mountain regions of Iraqi Kurdistan. Aided by the USA, the Turkish so-called â€śwar on terrorâ€ť against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), gravely impacted the lives of thousands of subsistence farmers and shepherds, and their communities.
The airstrikes and artillery bombardments killed and wounded many Kurdish civilians, destroyed and emptied villages, and burned or poisoned much agricultural land and livestock.
The peace process between the PKK and the Turkish government, which began on 21 March 2013, raised long awaited hopes among the Kurdish people, despite being overshadowed by doubts rooted in their historic experience.
Recently, hopes for peace were shattered when the Turkish governmentâ€”under the pretext of joining the war against Daâ€™esh (ISIS)â€”restarted attacks on the border regions of Iraqi Kurdistan in July of 2015. Turkey again targeted the PKKâ€”the main force fighting against Daâ€™esh in the region, as well as the civilians.
Christian Peacemaker Teams Iraqi-Kurdistan filmed the testimony of the survivors and family members of the Zergaly bombing. Turkey continues to bomb the villages of Iraqi Kurdistan.
Christian Peacemaker Teams-Iraqi Kurdistan will continue to tell the story of the villagers facing these bombings that the world is largely ignoring. Please share this video widely!
The government workers (teachers, medical workers etc) have been
demonstrating since 3 October. They have not received salaries in 3 months. They have received their salaries very sporadically for two years.
Last Monday my country, Canada, had an election. Most of the people I know, with some exceptions, welcomed this event. We were tired of a leader who had created a Canada that we did not recognize anymore, one that removed protection from our rivers and lakes, who ignored indigenous peoples, made the process of immigrating to this country more onerous and oppressive etc. etc. We were hopeful that a new prime minister and cabinet would be better, even if they were not perfect.
In Canada, a prime minister can run and be re-elected as many times as the people say yes. Steven Harper could have continued to be the leader until he died if the voters had chosen him to continue. However, the voters had had enough and turned out in numbers that had not been seen in twenty-two years. We heard of some polling stations that ran out of ballots because so many people came to express their dissatisfaction and desire for change.
Two days after the election. I was reading articles coming from Iraqi Kurdistan where I spend the other half of my life working with Christian Peacemaker Teams. In this region, Massoud Barzani is the president. Iraqi Kurdistan has the rule that a president can stay in power for only two terms or eight years. He was first elected as president in 2005. He was re-elected in 2009 with nearly 70% of the vote. Then in August 2013 the Kurdish parliament extended the term for another two years, bringing the end date to August 2015.
Pray that civil war will not break out in Iraqi Kurdistan. The government has not paid civil servantsâ€™ salaries for three months. Demonstrations across the region have left five dead, and dozens injured, and dozens detained by the secret police. The ruling KDP party has forced the Gorran (Change) party to leave the government and the capital. The majority of those who demand changes to the current situation do not condone violence. They call for the changes to come through non-violent means. Pray that those voices and actions prevail.
I have been home three weeks and am now able to re-enter Winnipeg society. I no longer have to cocoon in my house, unable to face the huge grocery stores and my friends who ask me how I am. Already I can go hours without even thinking of the people I sat with in Iraqi Kurdistan. I am forgetting the heat and the sweat and the burning hot wind. I am forgetting the tears and pain of mothers sitting on the sidewalk begging with their eyes, families in unfinished houses asking for a refrigerator so their water can be cool enough to drink and people living in flappy tents that fall down in the blustery winds. I am forgetting the father looking at his 21-year-old son who is thinking of paying money to a smuggler to try to get to a life worth living. I am forgetting the words, "What else can he do?"
But there are still hours when I remember. When I read news of seventy people dying in a smuggler's truck because no one would open the doors. When I hear from my colleagues working on the island of Lesvos of ordinary people risking the life and breath of their children to get onto inflated boats trying to find a society who will embrace them and say welcome.
In early August, my teammate and I attended the commemoration of the year since the Yezidi genocide in Iraq at the invitation of our friend Sheik Shamu in Arbat Internally Displaced Persons Camp.
We immediately saw the hand lettered signs attached to the tents in the area where the Yezidis live. Then three little girls, all wearing screen printed T-shirts met us. When Juliane asked if she could take a photo, one lifted a photograph up and held it sideways. The scene was one that little girls should know nothing about, but we knew that they had witnessed things that their little minds will never forget.
The event was held in the huge brick building that serves as a school during the year. Today it held all sorts of ages of the Yezidi community, as well as visitors from NGOs and politicians. Sheik Shamu, a leader of the Yezidi community, noticed us very quickly and assured that we had seats alongside the mayor and other dignitaries. We received the bottles of water offered to everyone gratefully. There was no chance of a breeze entering the building and sweat was pouring in the 45 C heat.