23 July 2010
IRAQ REFLECTION: Kurdish Families Share Their Grief, Their Lives
by Peggy Gish
What does one say to the mother and father of a 14-year-old girl who was killed a month ago in shelling along the border? We faced this question on July 6, when members of our team sat with these parents in their home in Rania, Iraq, to express our sadness for their loss. We spoke briefly about our work monitoring the cross-border attacks, assisting families who are the victims, and visiting Weza, the village where their daughter, Basoz, was killed by Iranian shelling. Soon her family brought out pictures, and we felt drawn together in our humanity as they talked sadly but lovingly about her.
They said that Basoz and her sister were making tea for the other family members who were planting when the shelling started. “Thank God that our other daughter went off to call the others in for tea, before the rocket exploded, killing Basoz,” the father said.
Two days after our visit, we attended a public ceremony honoring Basoz, sponsored by a local civic organization. Once more, in the midst of their grief, they welcomed us into their lives.
The program included the showing of a local TV reporter’s documentary film about the cross-border attacks, displaced villagers, and Basoz’s death, as well as a short video CPTer Chihchun Yuan made about the affects of attacks on villagers. One of the leaders of the Zharawa IDP tent camp spoke briefly about displacement from their villages. Our team’s short statement called for a peaceful settlement of the border conflicts. (The team also created a slide show of Basoz.)
That evening, we sat on an open cement slab next to a family’s tent at the Zharawa tent camp, where our hosts served us rice, bread, vegetables, and yogurt drink. The meal seemed luxurious in these surroundings. After supper, others from the camp gathered around, and we spent the evening hearing about their families, looking at family pictures, and having fun with the children. That night, we slept on mats on the floor of another family’s thatched-roof-on-poles shelter next to their tent.
In the morning, two girls in our host family sat weaving a beaded wristband on a homemade loom. When washing at the spigot by the tent, we saw tiny watermelon seedlings carefully planted and tended.
Surrounded by weather-worn tents and graveled dirt of the tent camp, we were again privileged to be welcomed into the lives of these gracious, hard-working people. They have been the backbone of Kurdish Iraq’s agricultural economy, but are now seen as dispensable as the conflicting parties continue their battles. To some, they are just numbers of displaced people, but to us, they are mothers with babies giggling on their laps, old men and women whose eyes sparkle when they reminisce about the beauty of their lives in their mountain villages, and children who hope for something better for their future.