IRAQ UPDATE: 1-15 July 2011


2 August 2011
IRAQ UPDATE: 1-15 July 2011

On team during this period were David Hovde, Garland Robertson, Zachary
Selekman, and Chihchun Yuan.

Iranian Kurdish Refugees
The team conducted several interviews with Iranian Kurdish refugees living in
the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.  The interviews included visits to homes and
various refugee camps set up by Iranian Kurdish political parties.  One
woman whom the team interviewed talked about the difficulty of having her
husband arrested by Iranian authorities many times.  The trauma from the
repression affected her health and the health of her two sons, who both were
born while the husband was in prison.  The Iranian Government jailed
another man for eight months for being involved in a protest— his family is now
facing eviction because he has left the country.

The Kurdish Spring Continues
On 15 July, what was going to be a demonstration to protest the lack of reforms
since the protests earlier this year, turned out to be a show of force from the
Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).  The city center, Azadi (Freedom)
Square, was full of people, though soldiers preempted the anticipated
demonstration.  One man attempted to rally the crowd and was swiftly
tackled and subdued by government forces.  More soldiers, Asaish (security
police), riot police, and other forces arrived from all entrances to the
square.  All of the government forces carried heavy plastic clubs, and
most had guns as well.  Stationed at the square were trucks with large
guns mounted atop.  The Asaish cordoned off one alley—that opens to Azadi
Square and leads to various shops—with a curtain, behind which they
interrogated and beat people.  Asaish and police arrested and picked
people out of the crowd seemingly at random.  The government forces also
apprehended anyone taking photos.  Overhearing a young man asking  if there were any organizers from
previous demonstrations there that day, Asaish soldiers took him behind the
curtain and beat him.  Security forces also detained Robertson after he
attempted to film some of the soldiers’ activities.  The police let him go
when they learned that he was an international from CPT. 

Another form of resistance has begun, in the form of peaceful gatherings in the
new Culture Cafe.  More than a place to enjoy tea or coffee, the Culture
Cafe has almost daily held presentations by political activists with a forum
for community response following.  Poetry readings also occur every
week.  However, around the same day as the intended demonstration, the
Asaish paid the Cafe a visit.  They threatened the organizers of the
Culture Cafe, saying that if the political forums continued, they would smash
in their doors and make arrests.  Despite there being Asaish outposts
within a few blocks of the Culture Cafe, its organizers are persevering.  If
the KRG shuts the café down, one organizer said, then they will open in a
different place under a different name. 

Border Project
The team has requested meetings with the Ministry of the Interior and the
Department of the Asaish in hopes of regaining access to the Kani Spi
village.  Meanwhile, Iran has been shelling the nearby Qandil Mountain
area.  The Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq will probably not take
any steps toward preventing Iranian artillery fire.


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