Archive

September 29th, 2014

IRAQI KURDISTAN: Bridging interfaith animosity and the pain of war--International Day of Peace in Kurdistan, Iraq

Three of our team walked into the gathering of about a hundred Kurdish peace and justice activists at the Cultural Café, in Suleimani, Iraqi Kurdistan, to celebrate the International Day of Peace.  Immediately, Nyan Mohammad, a teacher at the Arbat School, waved for us to come to sit at her table.  There, four displaced Ezidis (often called Yazidis) we had met before stood up and warmly greeted us.  Nyan, who is Muslim, made a special trip to the tent camp for displaced persons this afternoon to pick up this group and bring them to this event, which focused on building peace among religious groups

Hosting this event was a Kurdish women’s organization, called the Ashti Group.  The speakers included persons from four religious groups among Iraqi Kurds— An Ezidi, a member of the Kaka’i, (a Kurdish minority religion), a Muslim, and a Christian.  They each urged us not to judge people from other religions, but to live together in tolerance and harmony.  Their message was not theoretical but spoke to a real need of a society racked with ethnic violence.

Far right: Kurdish team colleague Parween Aziz; next to her, Peggy Gish.  Second from left,
 Nyan Mohammad, plus four Ezidi friends

September 26th

MEDITERRANEAN: Writings on the wall

In one of the events that I participated in on the Greek island of Lesvos, I had the chance to see many writings migrants made to hang on the walls of the welcome center in Pipka. A piece of paper on the wall may not be a detailed story but what I saw delivered their pain. Here are some written by migrants from Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Sudan and other war-torn countries:

A handmade poster by a Syrian refugee

September 25th

Prayers for Peacemakers September 25, 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers September 25, 2014

Pray for the refugees and migrants caught up in the Greek court system, where they do not receive even the semblance of a fair hearing.

Epixel* for Sunday, September 21, 2014
Court in Mytilene, Lesvos
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any 
sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy,  
make my joy complete: be of 
the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 
Philippians 1:1-2
*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing with a text from the upcoming Sunday's Revised Common Lectionary readings.

September 24th

IRAQI KURDISTAN REFLECTION: The new military intervention in Iraq—on not repeating what has not worked

 

 
 Yazidi refugees driven from their homes by ISIS

For many Americans, President Obama, with his latest plan to expand U.S. military intervention in Iraq, is finally “doing something.”  And people here in Iraqi Kurdistan are generally hopeful that this will stop the militant fighters calling themselves “the Islamic State,” or for the purposes of this article, ISIS.  I keenly feel the pain of the people here and do not want any more persons brutalized, yet I believe Obama’s plan will not diminish global terrorism; it will only expand and strengthen it.

It is helpful to remember that ISIS’s ability to capture areas of Iraq was possible because of the U.S. had destroyed its society and supported the Shia government that excluded Sunni populations, subjecting them to widespread loss of jobs, attacks, mass arrests, torture and extra-judicial killings.

While our team lived and worked in Baghdad, the U.S. and Iraqi forces bombed and destroyed whole neighborhoods and cities in the name of anti-terrorism, generating more anger toward America.  The U.S. failed to support the progressive, mostly nonviolent, uprisings, around the country, against government abuse and corruption.  Throughout the years of occupation, it was clear to us that U.S. military actions in Iraq were not really directed at protecting the Iraqi people, but for protecting American personnel and U.S. economic and military interests in Iraq and the Middle East.  Then, in early August of this year, U.S. military strikes were, once again, less for protecting religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq than protecting U.S. diplomats and the large oil companies developing oil fields in the Kurdish region.

September 23rd

AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): Israeli military locates and kills suspects in kidnappings and murders of three Israeli youth

 

 
 photo @alaaqawasmi

Early this morning, Tuesday, 23 September 2014, the Israeli military discovered the hiding place of and killed Amer Abu Aisha and Marwan Qawasmeh, the two suspects in the kidnapping and killing of the three Israeli settler youth in June.

The killing took place on the first floor of a wood factory in the Hai El Sharma neighborhood near Hebron University after a firefight.  The building has three floors:  the first is a wood factory; the second contains shops and the third is residential.  Due to the live ammunition, small bombs, and tear gas thrown into the building by the soldiers, a fire started, which burned one of the two suspects almost beyond recognition.  The blasts from the bombs, and the military tractor used to cave in the building also damaged adjoining homes and buildings.

September 22nd

IRAQI KURDISTAN: Support ninety Yazidi families through Wadi and Alind

 

 
 Ali Qasm Aalw

Seven.
That's how many members of Ali Qasm's Aalw's were kidnapped by ISIS when they fled Sinjar/Shangal in early August. Ali, a 39-year-old Yazidi man, has not heard from his mother, grandmother, or father.  His sister managed to keep her phone when she was kidnapped, but the last time he called her ISIS militants answered and yelled at him.

90.
That's how many families live in four unfinished houses near Duhok, in Iraqi Kurdistan, 467 people in total.  Ali's family lives in one of these houses with eighteen other families, which has no doors or windows and will need huge improvements to house the families for the winter.  These families are out of reach of aid from the Iraqi government and other international aid agencies, and many are missing family members. 

Three human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the German-Kurdish organization Wadi, the international organization Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), and the Duhok-based Alind Organization, are building relationships with these families to provide various kinds of support throughout the coming months.  

850,000.
That's how many Iraqis have been displaced by ISIS in the last eight months, which has overwhelmed local and international aid agencies. CPT is not a humanitarian aid organization, but will accompany Wadi and Alind in their work, build relationships with these families, and share their stories and needs throughout the process.  With your help, Wadi and Alind will acquire adequate shelter, food, clothing, education, and psychological support for these Yazidi families. 

By working with these ninety families, Wadi and Alind can make sure that your donations are always being put to use in the most effective way possible.  Wadi and Alind are based in Kurdistan, so your donations will reach these families very quickly.  Already with the first donations, Wadi purchased mattresses and delivered them to the families.  

Donate now and share widely on your social networks.

September 19th

MEDITERRANEAN: Mytilene Mayor reneges on promise to support Pipka welcome center for refugees; orders closure

 

 
 Meeting with Mayor Galenos

On 16 September, Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) Mediterranean’s partner, the civil society initiative, The Village of All Together, met with Spyros Galenos, the mayor of Mytilene, on the Island of Lesvos, Greece.  They wanted to enlist the support of the mayor and to address the repeated failures of the police, coastguard, and other authorities at the Moria Reception Center to register and release migrants efficiently and to provide for their basic needs.

In the week before, the police had not processed many people, but continued to bring migrants to Pikpa without providing sleeping materials, clothes, or medical care for them.  On Monday night, around 600 people were staying in Pikpa—a place intended for 80-100.  Many slept on the grass with no protection whatsoever.

CPT Mediterranean accompanied the members of Village of All Together to the meeting in the mayor’s office.

September 18th

MEDITERRANEAN: How First Reception Centres treat migrants arriving in Greece

in:

 I spent a lot of time over several weeks talking with different groups of migrants who had spent at least a couple of nights at Moria, the first reception center located in Mytilene, Lesbos.  The conditions they described were not what I was expected from a first reception center, which is supposed to be a shelter for human beings running from wars, conflicts and persecutions.

“There is no shower.  They are broken and we could not use any of them,” one of the migrants said before leaving for Athens.

 “The toilets are not working and we had to bring bucket water to flush manually after using them,” Masoumeh an Afghan woman said.  She had spent two nights in Moria with her family before traveling to Athens.

 “The sewage is coming into the hallways and sometimes even into the rooms.  The beds were very dirty and so smelly,” Ali, an Afghan man who was in Moria for two nights with his family, said.

Moria First Reception Centre

September 17th

Prayers for Peacemakers, September 17, 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers, September 17, 2014

Pray for the people of Iraq as the U.S. and its allies enlist the same military solutions for the violence currently afflicting the people of Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan that gave rise to the violence in the first place. 

Epixel* for Sunday, September 21, 2014
                                    Refugees at the Erbil/Hawler Checkpoint, Iraqi Kurdistan
And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a 
hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and 
also many animals?" Jonah 4:11
*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing with a text from the upcoming Sunday's Revised Common 
Lectionary readings.

September 15th

IRAQI KURDISTAN: Life goes on under a shadow

 

 
 Neighbors line up at bakery to buy bread

In the hot afternoon sun, two children dart into the small grocery store near our house and come out smiling with popsicles.  A woman responds to my greeting of “choni bashi?” as she fills up a bag of plums.  As the sun starts to drop closer to the horizon, clusters of boys are out on our street playing football (soccer).  Even though Kurdish and international forces are fighting the Islamic State (IS) two and a half hours away, life, in Iraqi Kurdistan, goes on.

A shadow, however, looms over the people in the Kurdish region of Iraq.  They feel it when they hear that the Kurdish Peshmerga forces have taken back towns on the edge of Mosul from the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS and DAASH) fighters.  But they also remember early August, when the Peshmerga had been protecting the city of Shangal (Sinjar) and the surrounding areas, but then withdrew from the area—claiming they had run out of ammunition.  The withdrawal allowed IS soldiers to come in and terrorize the Yazidi people.

Even though IS had been collaborating over the past years with some Sunni populations in Iraq, in their opposition to the oppressive actions of the al-Maliki government, it was the IS takeover of Mosul in June that made the world take notice.  Yet, it seemed that IS was moving toward Baghdad afterwards and not the northern Kurdish region, so the Kurds drew a deep breath.  Then, on 3 August, the front got a little closer when IS captured the Mosul Dam and the city of Sinjar.  Peshmerga forces responded with attempts to retake some captured towns on the edge of the Kurdish region.  But it came as a surprise, when, on 6 August, IS seized four strategic towns on a key highway and advanced to positions just minutes from Erbil, the capitol of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).