5 October 2011
IRAQ UPDATE: 1 August-15 September 2011
on the Iraq team during this period were Marcus Armstrong, Lukasz Firla, David
Hovde, Rosemarie Milazzo, Garland Robertson, Stefan Warner, and Chihchun Yuan.
In August, Karwan
Kamal, the attorney shot the spring protests, and his fiancé visited the house
to further discuss the condition of his foot after the shooting.
He also shared about further
harassment he and his family have received. A young man from the NGO Preemptive Love Coalition also visited
the team. The Coalition works with
the local medical community to help young children who were born with heart
In August, the
team also traveled to Rania where the Turkish military killed seven civilians in
an aerial attack. The team was invited to attend part of the funeral for the
family (See 15 September release, IRAQ REFLECTION: “Violence attracts violence.”).
The team also interviewed partners from Rania about the attack.
Visits to Iranian Kurdish refugee camps
In early August,
the team visited the Zakhmatkeshan Iranian refugee camp and interviewed
multiple people, mostly Kurdish Iranians. Hovde also met with the priest of the local Chaldean Catholic
church in the area to learn about the situation of Christians now in
Suleimaniya and some of the history of their experience in Iraq.
When the team visited a camp in the Pshdar district on 9 September; twenty
families were staying in tents at a river shelter place. The authorities
promised to build a new camp in a much safer place for the displaced
farmers. The people did not know if this promise would be empty, like
many other government promises in previous years.
A Mr. Bapir shared his memory of the day he encountered Iranian soldiers
outside his house: “ We were staying in the highlands in the summer. It is inside of Iraq, far from Iranian
border. On 15-16 July, around 9:00
a.m., I saw many Iranian soldiers. (…) The fighting between PJAK and Iranian
soldiers led to the total death of 240 people from both sides(…) We left there
quickly without any belongings. Iranian soldiers broke into our house and stole
our things. (…) Running away from the battlefield, we did not drink any water
from 9:00 a.m. until midnight. ”
Actions and demonstrations
In August, the
team attended a special Parliament meeting in regards to the current plight of
villagers who are affected by Iranian shelling, and they spent most of the
month organizing and carrying out public actions in response to Iranian
shelling and Turkish bombings. Local
partners expressed excitement about the actions because there has been little
international pressure about the shelling and people fear that the KRG would repress
Kurdish citizens who took part in and/or organized these actions.
The first action
took place in front of the Iranian consulate in Hawler (Erbil) on 11 August
2011. The team read and handed a
statement to the representative of the consulate. Later, someone in Suleimaniya
recognized Robertson on the street, after having seen media coverage of the event
on TV and thanked him for the action. Local partners expressed interest in the team continuing the
actions so the team planned another action in Hawler, this time in front of the
KRG Parliament building on 18 August. The team
invited people from the Internally Displaced Persons camp to come and join the
action. One displaced person
participated and was able to speak with the media and three members of
The team then
organized a demonstration in front of the U.S. Consulate. While planning the action, news came of
the family who had died in Rania, so the team decided to stop by the Turkish
consulate in Hawler to deliver a statement and speak with the Consul. The team, joined by three Kurdish men,
set up across the street from the U.S. consulate for the action. After demonstrating for an hour, the
group went across the street to speak with the Consul, who would not speak with
anyone from the group. Robertson
and the team’s adviser spoke with the press in front of the Consulate until
security demanded that the group leave.
On 5 September, the team observed a demonstration against Iranian and Turkish
cross-border attacks on Kurdish villages, which was organized by a group of
artists, musicians, actors, and activists in Suleimaniyah. The group called for
an international attention by starting a Bloody Strike—in which participants
repeatedly shed their own blood. On 22 September, the team accompanied the
representatives of the group to a meeting with the head of the Hawler office of
UNAMI (the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq).
On 7 September, team joined a demonstration organized by independent
journalists and civil groups in Hawler.
The demonstrators marched to the United Nations building, raising their
voices to the international community, and asking it to help stop Turkish and
Iranian military activities. Other photos of the demonstration are available here.
On 14 September, team organized a “car action” based provoked by the previous day’s Iranian shelling that injured
two people and displaced two villages. The team decorated a friend’s car with
banners and posters in Kurdish language that challenged people to take action
and placed a mannequin dressed in white and stained with blood on the roof
along with two Kurdish flags and pictures of the victims of the violence. The team’s friend drove his car slowly
around the city and bazaar. Other photos
of the car action are available here.