21 November 2011
IRAQ UPDATE: 15
September-31 October 2011
CPTers on the team during this period were Marcus Armstrong, Lukasz Firla, Ramyar
Hassani, Rosemarie Milazzo, Kathy Moorhead Thiessen, Garland Robertson, Stefan
Warner, and Chihchun Yuan.
Visiting villages on
Iraq and Turkey border to update the situation
(This summer, heavy Turkish bombing in Iraq started on 17th of August)
Yuan, Warner, Firla and Mohammed Salah visited friends on the border of Iraq
and Turkey at the beginning of September.
The team had not visited this area for over one year due to the long
During the last two days of Eid, the feasts at the end of Ramadan, the team
decided to visit two villages, Grebye, a Kurdish village and Merkagia, an
Assyrian Christian village. Both
villages have one or more Turkish military outposts nearby where tanks and
weapons are pointed at the villages all the time, which frightens the
villagers. At Grebye, people told
team members that the Turkish base inside the village periodically extends its
At Merkagia, the team was welcomed warmly by the old friends, Mr. N. and Mr. G. They told the team that this summer, as
in past years, Turkish fighter jets have bombed or engaged in low-level
flights, which frighten the farmers in the area. On 21 August, a day of religious
celebration, Turkish jets bombed fields in the vicinity, with a substance
similar to napalm. Mr. G. shared
his thoughts about Marxism, Communism, and Christianity. He also told the story of his seven
years’ imprisonment in the 1970s during Saddam Hussein’s regime. He joined a hunger strike in solidarity
with his comrades and other detainees while in jail for political activism.
The CPTers suggested that they return to the village to help harvest
apples when the season comes. The CPTers
left with gifts of two boxes of peaches and apples from the village orchards.
Culture Festival in Ranya: Meeting ethnic groups of Northern Iraq
The team was invited by the Ranya center to attend the 2011 cultural festival
in Ranya. Participants were performers
from several ethnic groups in the northern Iraq, including Turkmen, Yazidi,
Assyrian Christian, Kurdish, Lur, and Hawraman. The Arab group was not able to attend the festival because
of safety concerns. Thousands of
people attended two nights of performances on an outdoor stage. Performers also participated in a dialog
forum. The team had a short conversation
with members of the Yazidi minority and learned about the social class,
religious beliefs, poverty, and violence in the Yazidi area.
A short video of the performance by Assyrian Christians from Mosul (Nineva) is
The team continued working on a survey to understand the Kurdish people’s
feelings and opinions about the military operations within Kurdistan Regional
Government (KRG) territory. The
team, in coalition with its partners, spread hundreds of surveys to all types
of people in Suleimaniyah, Ranya, and Erbil. Armstrong, Robertson, Hassani, and M. Salah worked hard to
collect and input the data of the survey. Armstrong prepared the final report. The team will publish and distribute
the report in November.
The team hosted a delegation from the United States, which travelled to some of
the accessible villages that Iran and Turkey have bombed. The delegation also visited Internally
Displaced People (IDP) camps and heard the stories of villagers who had fled
their homes. In Suleimaniyah, they
visited the Red Security Prison, bazaar, Cultural Café and Nature Iraq.
Visiting IDP camps
The villagers have had to leave the IDP camps due to the lack of services and
facilities to protect them during the cold season. Armstrong and Hassani visited one of the larger camps the day
authorities forcibly emptied it. The IDPs told them, “There is no guarantee for our life, and
we have a lot of fears about Turkey and Iran bombing.” Other villagers told them they did not
want to return to their homes because their crops had been destroyed.
Armstrong, Thiessen, and Hassani led two workshops on Forgiveness and Team
Building in Ranya in coalition with the Ranya Youth Center. Each workshop lasted one day and
included more than fifteen participants.
Robertson visited the Cultural Cafe in Suleimaniya on a daily basis. Activists who were involved in the
protests earlier this year (February to April) created this venue to provide
opportunity for cultural activities as well as philosophical discussions and
education. The meeting space keeps
the movement going in a small way. Local authorities have threatened to close the cafe because
it unites activists in their resistance to corruption.