CPTnet

CPTnet is the news service of CPT, providing daily news updates, reports, reflections, prayer requests and action alerts.

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).

GREECE: Refugees' lives should not depend on miracles

in:

On 29 August 2014, I was sitting in the office  and busy with some daily task like email.  Usually in the early afternoon there is not too much to dooutside.  Nevertheless, incidents can happen at any time and part of the reason we are here on Lesvos is to be prepared to respond whenever we receive a call.  I got a phone call that a migrants’ boat had been turned over the night before, and one of the migrants was missing.

Migrants’ boats leave from the Turkish side of the Aegean Sea to the Greek islands almost every night after midnight.  The smugglers use small flimsy plastic boats for this kind of trip.  If there is a lot of wind and the weather is not friendly, incidents are more likely to happen and migrants drown or float on the water for hours until they get rescued.

“It was around 1:00 a.m. that we got on board and left the Turkish side; I do not remember exactly when the boat went upside-down but it was not a long time after we left, maybe half an hour,” one of the survivors, an Afghan man, told me as tears rolled down his face.  Sometimes migrants relive the tragic scenes that happen during their journey to Europe for many years.

IRAQI KURDISTAN REFLECTION: 9/11 in Arbat refugee camp


This morning, outside a playground full of brightly colored swings and slides in a camp for internally-displaced people in Arbat, Iraqi Kurdistan, I saw a tree.  Actually, four trees.  Four tiny trees, not much taller than me, planted by local NGO workers who were concerned about the children not having any shade in the summer heat, which can top 44C.  I don’t know much about plants in Kurdistan, but I can guess that trees growing in rocky, parched clay in a high semi-desert do no grow very fast—it will be years before the trees can provide good shade. 

These children—Yazidi and Arab Muslim—have only been playing here for a month.  Their families live in different parts of the camp, sectioned off by ethnicity and religion.  The camp itself used to house Syrian refugees until a new camp was built for them.  Iraq is near the top of the list for most IDPs and refugees, with over a million people fleeing violence in Syria, Iran, Turkey, Palestine and over two million more fleeing ISIS or remaining displaced after the U.S. occupation—all fruits of the tree planted by the U.S. War on Terror. 

Today is September 11, a fact I did not remember until my teammate mentioned it this morning.  I doubt any of these children know the significance of this day to people (like myself) from the U.S.  But they know the terror of September 11, 2001, a terror re-enacted by a traumatized United States in Afghanistan and Iraq, in Yemen, in Pakistan, 

Prayers for Peacemakers, September 10, 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers, September 10, 2014

Pray for Colombian Conscientious Objector Jhonatan Vargas, a member of the Foursquare Church of Barrancabermeja.  This week he was transferred into military custody and will stand trial for going AWOL.  The Christian Peacemaker Team in Barrancabermeja has visited him in prison and reports he is scared but fine.  The Colombian peace and human rights organization Justapaz writes, “As details become clearer we will develop a judicial and advocacy strategy on behalf of Jhonatan and will ask you join us in taking action.  For now, we ask you to pray for Jhonatan.  May God grant him grace, and may the judges he will face grant him his freedom and release him from military service.”

Epixel* for September 14, 2014
Jhonatan Vargas
For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us
 who are being saved it is the power of God. I Corinthians 1:18 

*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing with a text from the upcoming Sunday's Revised Common Lectionary readings.

IRAQI KURDISTAN REFLECTION: Playing football with Yazidi kids


[Note: The following has been adapted for CPTnet.  The original, with additional photos, is available on Bergen’s blog.] 

 
 Bergen and friends he met at the Arbat school.

Since I’ve been in Suleimani, Iraqi Kurdistan, working with Christian Peacemaker Teams, we have accompanied workers delivering aid to some of the nearly a million internally-displaced people fleeing the violence of ISIS (or the Islamic State, or Daash, whatever the largest and most highly-funded jihadist organization in the world wants to call itself).

Last week, we visited the small town of Arbat, where the Unite Nations has built two refugee camps, one for Syrian refugees and one for internally-displaced people, mostly Yazidis. However, when we visited, most of the Yazidis and other minorities fleeing ISIS’s ethnic cleansing were living in a crowded school while the camp was cleaned.

When we entered the school, dozens of people crowded around us. They needed medical care, they needed help finding relatives kidnapped by ISIS, they needed new IDs (some had torn up their IDs in the fear that if ISIS soldiers caught them and found out they were Yazidi, they would kill them). Long-time CPTer Peggy Gish and our translator talked with many people, trying not to promise to do things we couldn’t do.

I didn’t feel very useful listening, but I didn’t get much of a chance because several younger guys took me by the arm and asked me, in their limited English, to take their picture.We chatted, and additional young people lined up to have their picture taken. One asked for my email so he could ask for pictures to be sent.  As older people continued to crowd around the others, I played football  (the universal language) with a bunch of the younger guys.