[Note: This update was sent for translation before recent
breaking events. For more recent
updates on the upheavals in Northern Iraq see IRAQ
LETTER: “The face of stability, security, and democracy is quickly eroding”
LETTER: “ It’s hard to believe that Suli has turned into this”.]
On team during this period were Bud Courtney, Marius van Hoogstraten, Michele
Naar-Obed, Hilary Scarsella, and Chihchun Yuan.
Iran executions campaign
In response to the dramatic spike in executions of activists in Iran, a group
of Iranian Kurds living in Suleimaniya organized a peaceful demonstration of
several thousand people. Even though those executed include a number of
Kurds, the Kurdish Regional Government maintains relatively good relations with
Iran. See IRAQ: Two thousand demonstrate against Iranian government’s execution of Kurdish and other activists.
Zharawa displaced community
The families at the Zharawa camp that had found temporary accommodation
elsewhere now appear to have a chance of permanent housing at the campsite.
A letter from the Governor to the mayors and municipalities gave
permission for the building the two houses, but no one seems to know who
exactly can move things forward. Meanwhile, the walls for the two houses
under construction had gone up.
Suleimaniya Youth Center
The team continued to participate in the conversation hour at the Suleimaniya
youth center with Courtney taking a leading role singing and talking to the
students. The hour gives the Kurdish and Arab students opportunities to
meaningful conversations about social justice, prejudice and the limited
options they have in life. The team noticed a tension between some of the
Kurdish and some of the Arab students, with several expressing impatience at
the English-Kurdish-Arabic translation. Many students were sad to see Courtney, Scarsella, and Yuan
go and their farewells went well into the next hour’s computer class.
The electric heating in the office room had to be repaired, and even after the
repair happened, it only worked when the national grid provided electricity—
about half the time. The team has kerosene stove, but the fumes make it
necessary to open a window, which causes a serious draft. The team has
not complained, however, given the lack of resources friends and partners have
for protection from the chilly Kurdish winter.
Apparently inspired by the events in Egypt, the Kurdish opposition party Goran
announced demonstrations. The governing parties responded fiercely and
many expected violence. government deployed tanks around a large hotel.
In an apparent effort to counter discontent, the government announced it
would provide twenty-one hours of electricity daily starting February.
For undisclosed reasons, Goran called off the demonstration.
The Egyptian revolution also appears to have affected central Iraq: Iraqi prime
minister Maliki, accused by many of dictatorial ambitions, announced he would
not run for a third term and halved his salary.
On Friday, 28 January, Naar-Obed returned from meeting some friends in
Suleimaniya, saying, “I butchered a goat today!” One of the friends had brought a goat
from his village and after he slaughtered it, they cut the animal up together. The team now has a substantial amount of
meat in their freezer. Naar-Obed
described her feelings about the event as “mixed.”
A sweets shop opened next door to
the team’s apartment, and team members committed themselves to supporting a
small local business.