On team during March were Bob Holmes, Michele Naar, Zack Selekman, and Chihchun Yuan.
The primary concerns for the team during March were distributing the report detailing the impact on Iraqi civilians of cross-border shelling and bombing by Turkey and Iran; advocating for the creation of a collective village for Zharawa IDPs in the mountain region closer to their home villages, and documenting the harassment of Peshmerga and Border Patrol soldiers who voted for the Gorran (Change) party during the recent Iraqi elections.
In early March, the team released a fifty-four-page report, Where there is a promise, there is tragedy: cross-border bombings and shellings of villages in the Kurdish region of Iraq by the nations of Turkey and Iran, that details the destruction of northern Iraqi village life by Turkish and Iranian attacks over the past two years. Team members had it printed in both English and Kurdish.
The team delivered the Kurdish report to four mayors and two partners in the northeastern region who expressed gratitude and recognition of the hard work that went into it. A partner in Rania said he would write a review of the report for the press. The team delivered copies in Kurdish to the Makhmour Camp, which is home for over 12,000 Kurdish refugees from Turkey. They suggested the team deliver the report to the Kurdish political parties in Turkey.
In Hawler (Erbil), the team delivered English copies to officials of the U.S. State Department and of UNAMI (United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq) both of whom promised to circulate the report and forward it, respectively, to the U.S. Embassy and UNAMI Headquarters in Baghdad.
The muktars (leaders) of nine villages—the people of which are currently displaced by shelling and bombing by the militaries of Turkey and Iran—have written a proposal to the KRG (Kurdish Regional Governorate) for a new collective village near their farms but far enough away for safety. They asked CPT to advocate with the authorities for this project. The team has met with regional mayors and is helping to arrange a meeting of the muktars with the Prime Minister of the KRG.
Officials of the U.S. RRT (Regional Reconstruction Team) have indicated the possibility of aid for the new collective village and the UNAMI officials, who work with refugees, also showed interest in following up on the possibility. A trusted friend, knowledgeable of Iraqi government workings, alerted the team to the possibility of assistance from the Iraqi Central Government. The regional mayor is willing to assist with the proposal to the RRT. Habitat for Humanity has also expressed interest in the project.
Harassment within the Peshmerga (Click here for more information on the Peshmerga)
The team interviewed eleven Peshmerga soldiers, who are threatened by the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) party because they have openly supported the Gorran (Change) party. Two of their comrades were arrested previously and are awaiting a military court hearing. One soldier told CPT, “Masked men from black cars with tinted windows entered my family’s yard and banged on the door. Terrified, my family called the police, who, figuring out it was the Counter-Terrorism Group, said they could do nothing.” Fearing arrest if they go home, the eleven are taking refuge in the Gorran building. The team made a video of the Peshmerga men telling their story.
The team met with the protection officer at ICRC (Red Cross) concerning the two Peshmerga men currently in jail. They said they would work with the families of the jailed men. The team also contacted Amnesty International and asked that the team gather more information. So the team met with the head election official for Gorran and the organization’s lawyer who described the problems caused by the PUK for the Gorran party before and during the election and the legal situation of the two Peshmerga men already arrested.
Meeting with UNAMI officials, the team discussed the situation of the Peshmerga facing harassment because of voting for the Gorran party. The U.N. Human Rights Officer said he was looking into it and the Head of the Regional Office said she would follow up with the KRG Minister of the Interior.
The team attended a protest by former political prisoners. The central government budgeted compensation for political prisoners in 2006, but the KRG has not signed the law to distribute the money to the prisoners. They demand the parliament address this issue. Hero Talabani, wife of the Iraqi President, visited their demonstration and promised the money.