22 August 2011
IRAQ: CPTers hold public witness outside Iranian consulate
in Hawler/Erbil against Iranian shelling
For the last five years, CPT has accompanied persons who
have annually for the past five years been displaced from their village homes
on the Iran/Iraq border. Formerly
a rich agricultural region, now it has become a battleground where Iranian
military forces use artillery, tank shells, rockets, and helicopter strafing to
repel PJAK (The Party of Free Life in Kurdistan) armed forces seeking to
protect Kurdish culture inside Iran.
Whenever we have visited these displaced people, they tell
us that many groups of persons come to hear their story and promise to report
the consequences of the Iranian shelling to others back in their homeland. And then, the displaced persons tell us,
their visitors go away and nothing ever changes.
The team has searched diligently for ways to address this
problem. Last year we had
opportunity to speak with the Iranian Consulate in Hawler/Erbil. When we informed the consular
representative that we had information about persons and animals inside Iraqi
Kurdistan who had been killed and injured and property that had been damaged
and destroyed, the representative told us that the information we had gathered
was intended by its source to discredit the legitimate activities of the
Iranian government in this area.
After this experience, two CPT members spent eight days
living and participating in the village life to experience the rockets attacks
and shelling. However, villagers
and the KRG security forces became nervous about our safety and prevented us
from returning to the village.
We then proposed to conduct an action outside the doorway of
the Iranian Consulate. We honored
the advice from a group of local partner organizations who told us we should
sponsor the action independently. We
used the unambiguous statement, ‘Iranian shelling destroys village life,’ printed
in Persian, Kurdish, Arabic, and English on a banner. We composed a ‘Statement to the Iranian Consulate and to the
World’ and translated it into Persian for the Consulate and in Kurdish for
members of the press. We agreed to
display visual symbols of the attacks’ consequences: pictures of tent camps, a child-size manikin covered in a
white sheet, dried, undeveloped vegetable plants, and some rocket and shell
fragments in front of this collection.
Eight media outlets shared our statement with their
constituency. After we set up our
display outside the doorway of the Iranian Consulate we read the statement
first in English then in Kurdish.
We asked that we be able to see the Iranian Consulate and deliver our
statement. A representative came
to us and accepted the statement on behalf of the Consulate. Afterward, we spoke with press persons
for about an hour then gathered our things and departed from the site.
We do not know what will happen because of our presence at
the Iranian Consulate in the KRG capitol city. All we know is that we tried to communicate the distress of
the displaced farmers and their families to persons in position to have an
influence on the activities along the mountainous border of Iraq and Iran. A few days following our action one of
our team members was walking on a street in the historical market district of Suleimaniya
and a stranger stopped the CPTer and said, “Thank you for what you did for
us. We are really grateful.”