IRAQ: Former CPT hostage Harmeet Singh Sooden returns to Iraq


Harmeet Singh Sooden has joined the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) delegation traveling through Iraqi Kurdistan 7-23 November 2009.  This delegation marks the first time he has returned to Iraq since he was freed from captivity four years ago.  

While participating in a 2005 CPT delegation he, along with fellow delegate Norman Kember and CPTers Jim Loney and Tom Fox were kidnapped in Baghdad by the Swords of Righteousness Brigade.  Tom Fox was murdered on 9 March 2006.  British forces freed Sooden, Kember and Loney two weeks later on 23 March 2006.

As a member of the delegation, Mr. Sooden is meeting with representatives of NGOs, human rights groups, displaced persons, government officials, and others to focus public attention on the challenges facing people in Iraq, particularly those living in the Kurdish north.  The delegation is also participating in CPT’s ongoing project of documenting the human rights situation in Kurdistan.  “My role is simply to report the genuine views of the people in Iraq,” says Sooden, who hopes these reports will encourage the public to influence their governments’ policies.

The Kurds of northern Iraq faced discrimination, terror, and death under the regime of Saddam Hussein and further devastation by the U.S./U.K.-initiated UN sanctions in the 1990s.  After the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, thousands of displaced persons from southern and central Iraq fled to the KRG-administered area in the north.  More recently, northern border villages have sustained attacks by Turkey-a U.S. ally-and Iran, which have displaced thousands more.  

“The Kurds are asking for help to stop foreign countries from interfering in their affairs,” he says, “and the people of occupied Iraq are telling us that the coalition forces must withdraw: their presence is increasing the level of violence.  That is quite apart from the fact that the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq is the ‘supreme international crime’, encompassing all the evil that follows, in the words of the Nuremberg Tribunal.”

In June 2008, Israeli authorities assaulted, detained and deported Mr. Sooden when he attempted to enter the Occupied Palestinian Territories to do human rights work with the International Solidarity Movement.

Mr. Sooden, who is traveling on his Canadian passport, says he has looked forward to working with CPT again.  CPT is a small but integral part of the non-violent movement in Iraq.  Its mission is to reduce violence and promote the resolution of conflict through non-violent means.  It has had a presence in Iraq since October 2002, first in Baghdad, then, since November 2006, in the Kurdish north.

In the unlikely event he is kidnapped, he asks that neither ransom nor armed intervention be used to secure his release.  The CPT project in Kurdistan is operating in a security environment that is better, at present, than that of its projects in Colombia and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Interested people may read Mr. Sooden’s observations during the delegation at  He is available for interviews as soon he returns from Iraq.


Peace Movement Aotearoa (New Zealand): +64-04-382-8129 or

CPT Canada Office: +1-416-423-5525 or

Read More Stories

Coast Guard boats docked at the port of Samos

Scandalous case of criminalization of refugees: Trial against #Samos2 set for 18 May

In an unprecedented move, Greek authorities have charged a refugee with the drowning of his 6-year-old son during a shipwreck. On 18 May 2022, he will be on trial in Samos together with his co-passenger, who is facing life imprisonment for steering the boat. Seventy organizations across Europe call for the charges against the #Samos2 to be dropped.

The human rights groups Aegean Migrant Solidarity, borderline-europe e.V. and the European Democratic Lawyers will monitor the trial. Twitter: @BorderlineEurop; #Samos2

three people sit in a court room bent over their chairs, with their backs to the camera.

#Paros3 were sentenced to a total of 439 years for steering the boat

On 05 May, the trial against the Paros3, Kheiraldin, Abdallah and Mohamad, took place on the Greek island of Syros. Both the prosecution and the judges acknowledged that the three defendants were not the smugglers and had not acted for profit, nor were they to blame for the 18 lost lives. Despite this, the three fathers were nevertheless convicted of “facilitating unauthorized entry,” resulting in a sentence of 187 years for the “captain” and 126 years for each of the two “assistants.”

Skip to content