Iraq

IRAQI KURDISTAN: Finding community and empowerment after ISIS

The afternoon brought a visit to Baynjan Women's Center—a safe haven for women of many ages, and many different cultural backgrounds:refugees from Syria and elsewhere, women who have been internally displaced, Kurds, Arabs, and Yazidi/Ezidis, gather together each day in a place that has become "the gate to happiness"; a comfortable and safe space radically different from the chaos that drove them so far from their homes. Again and again, as the women talked, they expressed gratitude for a space where they could "be themselves," "be comfortable," "be safe," "experience family, after I was separated from my own." The women put together a drama that they have shared in refugee and IDP (internally displaced people) camps and that they shared on International Women's Day. The drama showed a young women's struggle to achieve her goals in the midst of an arranged marriage. The woman comes into her own power as the drama continues. The theater expresses the depth of issues that women face on a daily basis in a way that goes far beyond just words. The women find community together, challenge systems, work for human rights and demonstrate peacemaking every day.

Wouldn't you love to meet people like the ones working at STEP and Baynjan Women's Center?  Check out our delegation schedule!

IRAQI KURDISTAN: “The oil companies may be the end of us”


“We survived the Ottomans; then we survived the British; then we survived Saddam Hussein. After all that we’re still here, but the oil companies may be the end of us.”

This quote was from a villager that Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraqi Kurdistan has worked with for several years now, but anyone from several communities we have visited in the past week could have said it.  In a small community outside of Erbil/Hawler called Haji Ahmed, we met with a villager who showed us land that used to be full of vineyards and a running stream. Now, the streambed is dry, the land is mostly dust, and the people aren’t sure what will happen to them.

Prayers for Peacemakers June 1, 2016 Iraqi Kurdistan

Prayers for Peacemakers June 1, 2016

Pray for the legislators in Iraqi Kurdistan who want to change their political culture into one that that values transparency and human rights, and who want the oil revenue from the region to benefit everyone in the country.

*Epixel for Peacemakers June 5, 2016  
Presbyterian Peace Fellowship Delegation and CPT Iraqi Kurdistan team with Kurdish Regional Government Representative, Soran Omer (3rd from left)
Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help.
When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish.
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God,
who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free;
 the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. 
Psalm 146: 3-9
 
*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: Hospitality, human rights, and corruption driven by the oil industry.


A common thread runs through our meetings in Iraqi Kurdistan: hospitality.  As we focus on our peacemaking mission, we are constantly reminded that we are one human family.  We have received such warm welcomes everywhere.   The people we've met have shared their homes, their hearts, and their tables.  We've drunk their tea, eaten their magnificent repasts, and most importantly, have listened to their stories.

Some of these stories are painful.  We can understand that it's not easy for people victimized by violence to share.  And yet, they do.  Syrian women in refugee camps join together for fellowship and friendship, despite differences of religion, ethnicity, and language.  Children meet at a drop-in center and learn that whether they are Sunni, Shi'a, Christian, Yazidi, Arab, Kurd or Turcoman, they are one human family.

On 26 May, we met with Soran Omer, a member of the Kurdistan Regional Government. He's in the opposition Islamic Party and chairs the Human Rights Committee. 

IRAQI KURDISTAN: Yazidi renewal in Iraqi Kurdistan

After our visit to Lalish, the Yazidis’ holiest place, we spent Monday learning about community efforts to support the Yazidis after their displacement and trauma at the hands of ISIS. 

“Goodness brings goodness.”  - Nayf Sabry, Sunrise

Our first stop was Sharya Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp outside Dohuk. Sharya hosts 17,000 internally displaced people, most of whom left their homes as ISIS advanced on their homes in Sinjar.  ISIS notoriously killed thousands of Yazidi men and boys and captured and enslaved thousands of women. Others fled to the mountains where they stayed for seven to ten days before coming to Dohuk. 

Nayf, 20, and his friends, were struck by the unfair burden placed on Yazidi children. Growing up in a camp with their parents preoccupied by their own trauma and securing basic needs, the children had opportunities for play. 

In response, Nayf and some of his friends temporarily dropped out of high school and started Sunrise, a non-politically affiliated NGO. Members from Sunrise visited every family in the camp and invited their children to attend extra-curricular events including movies, games and a field trip to the mall.

Sunrise functions as a community center in a tent in the middle of camp.  Nayf and his friends are eager to raise money to provide more infrastructure and entertainment opportunities for the children of the camp. 

They want to protect the right to childhood – a right he himself was denied. 

“If we don’t help each other, who would come?” he said.

IRAQI KURDISTAN REFLECTION: Racism based on my name

 

At the Hawler Checkpoint October 2014

Two of my Kurdish friends were deported from a Russian airport because of their names and assumed religion.

But I have experienced racism also in my region. 

Last Thursday, together with my team mate and my youngest son, I drove the CPT car on our way to Hawler (also known as Erbil, in Arabic), the capital of Kurdistan Region of Iraq, to renew our NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) registration for CPT. After waiting for about fifteen minutes in lines of cars to pass the security checkpoint at the entrance of the city, an Asaish (security officer) asked for our IDs.  When he looked at mine, he asked me if I was Kurdish.  In a moment, I was thinking, “Do I have to swear that I am a Kurd?”  So, I said, “Yes, but why?”  He answered that my name looks like an Arab name. 

IRAQI KURDISTAN: April 2016 Newsletter--Trainings, Visits to villages affected by Turkish bombings and IDP camps

Graduates of 2016 CPT Training in Iraqi Kurdistan

A special 250 Hours Changing Lives

 

Congratulations to the graduates!

From the end of January to the beginning of April, nine trainees from Colombia, Poland, Syria and Iraqi-Kurdistan, completed and  graduated from an intensive training in peace and active nonviolence. This was the second training led by the CPT-IK team in Sulaimani,  giving a chance to those people who want to work as a peacemakers—serving people in crisis and conflict settings around the world.

IRAQI KURDISTAN: "Go now and drive as fast as you can"--CPTers visit Kurdish village caught in Turkish bombing

The Qandil Mountains hide a valley in the Pishdar District famous for its fertile land, green pastures, breath-taking beauty, and terrible problem— Turkish bombing. A long-term friend and partner of CPT Mukhtar Khidr* invited Christian Peacemaker Teams for lunch on 15 April and a meeting with other village leaders at his house. The team has not come here since the peace process between the Turkish state and the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) began in 2013. Much has changed since the war broke out again in July of 2015. 

IRAQI KURDISTAN: Origami at Arbat IDP Camp


Children far from home in a desolate environment.  Caring volunteers who want to make their lives a little brighter and more colorful.

On 26 April, CPTers Marcus Armstrong, Chihchun Yuan and some of the youth of Arbat camp spent one and half hours doing Origami in an activity organized by the workers of STEP.

Some young people, mostly boys, had hands that had done hard labour, and initially the delicacy needed for Origami was a challenge. They learned quickly and soon everyone had made a beautiful crane and had written his name on it. Each was a unique work!

Prayers for Peacemakers April 21, 2016 Iraqi Kurdistan

Prayers for Peacemakers April 21, 2016    Iraqi Kurdistan

Pray for the villagers in the Dohuk governorate of Iraqi Kurdistan made homeless by Turkish cross border bombing raids in the past few weeks.  Pray for Christian Peacemaker Teams – Iraqi Kurdistan’s efforts to reach out to these villagers as they return to the area and reconnect with old friends.

*Epixel for Peacemakers April 24, 2016  Fourth Sunday of Easter
Kurdish villagers  in Zharawa camp displaced by Turkish bombing in 2012
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "See, the home of God is among
 mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and
God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death
will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things
 have passed away." Revelation 213-4
*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing  with a text  from the upcoming
 Sunday's 
Revised Common Lectionary readings.