IRAQI KURDISTAN NEWSLETTER: December 2016- Demonstrations in Iraqi Kurdistan and more!

CPT Iraqi Kurdistan Newsletter - December 2016

Iraqi Kurdistan

 
New Year 
2016 has not been the easiest year for many people around the world, as many of them still are in war zones and struggling for peace and justice. Many people have lost their lives and many more are struggling with their governments and corrupt systems. We hold all of these people in our thoughts and we pray that 2017 brings joy and peace to all lives, communities and societies. Happy new year. Let's welcome 2017 and work together to bring about changes. We wish you all happy times and peace.

CPT- Iraqi Kurdistan. 
 
Demonstrations in Iraqi Kurdistan
Teachers reunited after security forces tried to separate them to end the peaceful demonstration.
 Photo by:Rezhiar Fakhir 
Teachers and civil society activists continue to protest to bring about change into Iraqi Kurdistan Region. 
As 2017 begins, teachers continue to organize protests in the city of Sulaimani demanding transparency in the region's income, rule of law and freedom. However, in December 2016, many teachers, human rights activists and civil rights activists were arrested, beaten and jailed by the local security forces. Despite the security force's harsh treatments, teachers still stress through their words and actions the importance for the protests to continue to remain peaceful.

''We cannot reach a common ground if we use violence, we cannot respond to violence with violence. Even if they jail us, beat us, threaten us, and kill us we will not raise our hands toward them,'' one of the main organizers told the security forces in a speech after his release from detention. Throughout the campaign, government officials in Iraqi Kurdistan have not responded to the teachers' demands. Many of them have even outright refused to negotiate with the teachers regarding their demands.

The government workers from the cities of Erbil and Duhok have expressed their desire to protest peacefully to push the government to reform its institutions and respect human rights. In response, the government in Erbil and Duhok has stated clearly to the people that they would not allow them to protest. They also have forced people to go to back to work even though their salaries have not been paid in full for many months. 
 
The teachers said that CPT's presence is important and has helped in many ways. CPT has been observing the protests for over a year and accompanying organizers for the past several months. CPT will continue to partner with these local activists in their struggle towards peace and justice. 
Teachers marching towards the Directory of Education. Photo by: Kasia Protz
Teachers sending messages to the government. Photo by: Kasia Protz

Amidst death threats, Gulala Sdiq's voice still echoes change

Gulala Sdiq standing next to her burnt vehicle. Photo by: Kasia Protz
Gulala Sdiq is a teacher, civil society activist, and one of the main organizers of the current protests in the city of Sulaimani. She is one of thousands of teachers that have been on strike in the streets of Sulaimani demanding their full wages and an end to government corruption. As a result of the ongoing strike, the schools remain closed in the city of Sulaimani and surrounding areas. Gulala Sdiq requested Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) to accompany her and her family after receiving threats from security forces over the past few weeks. CPT is an international human rights organization seeking to transform violence and oppression. After hearing her story an agreement was made to accompany Gulala Sdiq for the upcoming days in her home. 

Read the full report here.
Awat Hassan continues to spread his peaceful message and CPT accompanies him on his journey. 
Awat Hassan giving a speech to the teachers in the city of Qaladze. Photo by: Kasia Protz
Awat Hassan, one of the protest organizers in Sulaimani city, requested CPT to accompany him and the protesters during an action in the city of Qaladze. Awat and many other protesters have been arrested, beaten, received death threats, and had their property damaged in the past. Awat has been traveling to other smaller cities and towns to meet civil society activists, teachers and workers. He also spreads the message that all the protests in Iraqi Kurdistan should continue to remain peaceful.   
Teachers gathered in front of the Directorate of Education in the city of Qaladze. Photo by: Kasia Protz
We will update you more about the government workers struggle in the upcoming news letter. Also, to learn more about the protests and the current situation in Iraqi Kurdistan, please visit our website.
 
CPT in collaboration with grassroots initiatives and local NGOs
CPT met with WOLA Organization
Shokhan Hama Rasheed from Women's Legal Assistance (WOLA) organisation met our delegation in September 2016 to talk about their work and women's situation in Iraqi Kurdistan. 
It is important for Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) to strengthen its relationship with local NGOs and grassroots initiatives. Therefore, we met with one of our old partners Shokhan Hama Rasheed from Women's Legal Assistance Organization (WOLA) organization, to talk about our future. We also tried to find new ways to collaborate and work together in these difficult times that Iraqi Kurdistan is going through. Shokhan is also the head of a federation that includes 26 local NGOs and CPT in the city of Sulaimani. The federation will soon hold a meeting to have a much broader discussion about the same topic. 

''Women's Legal Assistance Organization (WOLA Org.) is none political and independent local NGO, which is linked to a region-wide campaign against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), to Women Centers in Suleymaniah and the surrounding areas, to a court watch program of the local civil rights organization DHRD, and to the local bar association. The WOLA shall provide legal sources for a broad network of women’s groups who fight gender-discrimination and lobby for a comprehensive equality of treatment and rights.'' (text taken from WOLA website)

Learn more about WOLA here
Education is the best way to respond to genocide. 
Graduates and teachers from Amez Women Folk High School in Halabja. Photo by: Rezhiar Fakhir
Amez Women Folk High School in the city of Halabja invited Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) for their graduation party in December. Amez Women Folk High School, founded by Amez organization, is a special school to support women on their journey of education. Many women graduate from the school every year. The education that they receive during their time at Amez Folk High School helps them to start new careers. CPT has facilitated several peace workshops at their school in the past. The students were satisfied and very thrilled with their education at the school and several told CPTers ''This is the best way to respond to the genocide that was done by Sadam Hussain's regime.''

In 1988, during the closing days of the Iraq/Iran war, Sadam Hussain launched a massive chemical weapons attack on the city of Halabja.  During this attack over 5000 Kurdish citizens died and another 7,000 to 10,000 were left injured. This attack is still fresh in their minds as they work to rebuild the city.


Learn more about Amez organization
Director of Amez organization and founder of Amez Women Folk High School explaining their work to CPTers and delegates from September 2016. Photo by: Tim
Students celebrating their graduation. Photo by: Rezhiar Fakhir
 
Reflections 
Awat and Gulala speaking to the teachers in the city of Sulaimani. Photo by: Kasia Protz

coercion is not a viable alternative

By: Latif Hars
 

When you go and observe teachers demonstrations you always hear demonstrators expressing their love and respect for their country,  however you also hear their desperation and heartbrokenness about what is happening here. They said “Our history, culture and humanity had been reduced to oil and gas processes, a small group is running the country with support of some super pack countries and companies, they changed Kurdistan to a small circle of violence and broken dreams. We don't trust human rights organizations and states any more because we didn't see them do anything for us, we believe they work for themselves.” 

Read the full reflection here

Was it greed or did they know what they were doing?

By: Rezhiar Fakhir
The green part represents Kurdistan Regional Territory. (Iraqi Kurdistan).  

Nothing could make you feel worse than an army coming to your home to arrest your family members or trying to confiscate or damage your property. Well I remember that happening in front of my eyes during the civil war between the two main political parties in Iraqi Kurdistan. I was told that the parties were motivated by greed and that they would serve the population only after they had served themselves.

Read the full reflection here

 
Recommended Reading

Is Iraqi Kurdistan heading toward civil war?

Destroyed vehicles are seen at the site of bomb on the offices of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan in Koy Sanjak, east of Erbil Iraq, Dec 21, 2016. (Photo by REUTERS/Azad Lashkari)

The campaign against the Islamic State (IS) in Mosul has diverted attention from simmering problems inside the Kurdistan Region of Iraq that will affect post-conflict stabilization. Within the last several months alone, there has been another assassination of a Kurdish journalist, an "honor" killing of a university student, death threats against a female Kurdish parliamentarian, bombing of an Iranian Kurdish party office that killed seven people and a string of foiled terrorist attacks in Sulaimaniyah province. These incidents have occurred alongside ongoing demonstrations by civil servants for unpaid salaries, a nonfunctioning Kurdish parliament, swelling numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons, an expanded Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and Turkish airstrikes on PKK bases in northern Iraq. They have not only reversed most gains the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has realized since 2011, but also leave the Kurdistan Region increasingly vulnerable to financial collapse and internal conflict.


Read AL Monitor's full article in English here.
Read AL Monitor's full article in Arabic here.
Read AL Monitor's full article in Persian here.
Read AL Monitor's full article in Turkish here.

A damaged apartment building after an explosion in November in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir. Creditllyas Akengin/Agence France-Presse - Getty Images.

An Aleppo-like Landscape in a Kurdish Redoubt of Turkey

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey — It was the end of the day in an underground tavern with no name. Beneath a domed Ottoman ceiling, with the lights down low and the music muted, patrons could just hear a distant rumbling through the basalt block walls, five centuries old.

Read The New York Times full report here.

 
Saying Goodbye
Kasia Protz 
Kasia is known for her warm and heart felt interaction with others. While interning on our team Kasia took initiatives such as organizing, photography, writing reports, accompanying our partners who are affected by bombing and oil companies. She also attended demonstrations and accompanied civil society activists who were at risk. Kasia was an intern with CPT for two months in Iraqi Kurdistan. She is currently in the training in Colombia to become a CPTer. We wish her the best of luck and her happy presence will be missed by the team. 
Rebaz Khurshid 
Rebaz Khurshid from Iraqi Kurdistan is know for his humor and passion for peace and justice. During his two month internship, he took initiative on things such as writing reports, editing videos, and helping our partners who have been affected by oil companies during their court hearings. He also attended the teachers' demonstrations in the city of Sulaimani. Rebaz congratulations for becoming a CPTer! His energetic and happy presence will be missed by the team.. 
 
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