IRAQ: The Great Wall peace community


14 March 2011
IRAQ: The Great Wall peace community

by Allan Slater

A long white ribbon has been stretched from lamppost to lamppost
blocking off streets leading to the city centre here in Suleimaniya.   All along the ribbon stand people in white
sashes facing into the square where thousands have gathered to speak publicly
to their Kurdish Regional Government.   The ribbon and the people along it make up what one might
call “the great white wall of peace,” white being the colour that symbolizes
peace in this culture.  The wall has created a space of calm between the
protestors and the military further back on the streets.P1020347

These people of the wall started to form their own community
as they spent days together.  They established property values along the
wall with much discussion.  The
highest valued properties were at the lampposts against which one could
lean.  The lowest ones were in the middle of the street where most people
tried to sneak past.   The
smokers all shared their cigarettes and lights.  We shared impromptu
lessons in Kurdish and English as we strove to communicate with each
other.   Chairs appeared so
people could have a break from standing on hard pavement.   Parents brought their children to hand
out sweets to the people along the wall.   Participants consistently shared tea, juice, water and snacks
with each other.  Often the food
vendors who were providing these treats would not take any money.  On one cold wet day, one man left the
protest but handed us his umbrella before he ran off. 

During one particularly memorable bus ride home after a cold,
rainy day we sat next to two young women who had been part of the
protest.  When they saw our bedraggled sashes identifying us as part of
the white wall, they immediately offered us tissues to clean our smeared
glasses.  After a few words of conversation, they gave us fresh
strawberries and a squirt of perfume on our necks.  We arrived home that
evening with cold bodies but warm feelings for the community of the white wall.P1020440


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