14 August 2012
On team: Lukasz Firla, Carrie Peters, Patrick Thompson, David
Hovde and Garland Roberts
CPT partner Mohamed Saleh spent many days at the office, teaching
Kurdish to Peters, Thompson, and Hovde, and working with the team to plan
trips, meet with potential partners and translate documents. Saleh would also
occasionally start cleaning out the team’s refrigerator, or sweep off the
courtyard, at which point the team would protest that he didn’t have to do such
things, and decide it was probably time to clean the house.
Thompson, Peters, and Saleh traveled to a Syrian refugee camp
outside of Duhok. The CPTers were joined by Jim Fine, from Mennonite Central
Committee in Erbil, and by Majed Dawi, from Public Aid
Organization, and the team’s contact with the camp. It was a sobering trip. At
the time, Dawi estimated there were about a thousand people in the camp (numbers
have since swollen to over 4,000), living in UNHCR tents. Residents told of receiving
repeated summons to report to various security branches of Bashar al-Assad’s
regime. When the summons finally came from the “Palestine Branch,” the families
decided to escape. They described how the Palestine Branch was notorious in Syria – if you went to them, the men and women
in the tent said, you never came back.
The team also spoke with refugees on the “singles” side of the
camp – for young men who arrived without their families. Many of these young
men told the team that they were defectors from Bashar al-Assad’s army. They
had been told, “Kill or be killed,” and, “Kill your brother or we will kill
you.” But some of the men wondered if life in the camps was so much better.
Thompson asked about the refugees’ access to doctors. “Yes,” another man said
with a laugh. “There is a doctor. If you go to him with a bellyache, he will
give you pills for your head.”
Firla was invited to speak at a conference at the American University of Iraq – Sulaimania, as a part of a day-long event
highlighting different areas of Kurdish culture. Firla, representing CPT, spoke
about the cross-border
attacks that have so affected the villages in Iraqi Kurdistan along the
Iranian and Turkish borders. Thanks to that presentation, the team made many new
The team responded to continuing threats to the lives and families
of persons who before had publicly called for governmental reform. After a
visit from another distraught individual the team composed an article
identifying the dangerous
and disturbing experiences faced by participants in Kurdish Spring 2011 protests.
The article appeared on the website of independent newspaper Awene.
visited Bilal, a prisoner confined because of a 20-year sentence following his
conviction in the killing of a soldier during a spring 2011 demonstration in
Halabja. The family and Bilal conceded their Ramadan fasting routine to enjoy a
picnic dinner in the prison yard, receiving CPT members into their company.
|Weavers of life in Sunnah village|
Team members, accompanied by two journalists, traveled
to Zarawa and Sunnah villages. The journalists recorded damages to the economic,
physical, emotional and community life in the border region from cross-border
attacks by Iran and Turkey.
The team participated in a series of gatherings intended to bring
awareness to injustices resulting from Iranian governmental policies: an
imprisoned individual conducting an extended hunger strike and Iranian citizens
residing in Sulaimani who are in danger of being returned to Iran because of their past association with
the editor of the newspaper Israel-Kurd. The Asaish (police) have
directed them to leave the country. Some of the targeted persons have gone to
the Qandil mountains and others are planning a pilgrimage to Syria to aid in the struggles of Kurdish
refugees there. The team offered temporary sanctuary for them if that option
would be beneficial. The team also visited with the Iranian Consulate again to
nurture relationship and to discuss concerns associated with CPT’s work in the
Iraqi Kurdistan opposes violence by Turkey and Iran against the Kurdish people,
UN sanctions that collectively punish Iranians and Kurds in Iran, and the calls
for military action against Iran.