Delegates praise Kurdish nonviolence in Turkey,
nonviolent initiatives from an Iraqi Mullah and interviewing a Kurdish social
worker in Turkey facing eighteen years in prison were
among activities of a five-nation Christian Peacemaker Teams delegation visiting
Kurdish areas of Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan 5-17 October 2012.
From Diyarbakir, Turkey, to Iraqi Kurdistan’s mountain villages and
City of Sulaimani, the delegates met with people who have
experienced discrimination and oppression just for being Kurdish. Villagers who
have endured bombing and shelling by neighbouring countries afforded them
hospitality. Families told of sons killed allegedly by security forces during the 2011 Kurdish Spring Uprisings in Sulaimani. Activists shared about being threatened
for speaking out against violence and injustice.
The mayor of rural
Sidakan guided the delegation through a permanent Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp
being built in preparation for future Turkish and Iranian bombing and shelling.
Speaking of 2012, when the area was quieter than in previous years, he said it
would be ideal if the camps are never used for displaced people. He thought
that a tourist camp or teachers’ housing would be a much better use.
| Delegates from Netherlands,
at press conference in Sulaimani’s Cultural Café
from Netherlands, United States, Iraqi Kurdistan (Iraq), Sweden and Canada, held
two press conferences in Kurdistan, on 10 October in Sidakan, reporting on the
cross-border attacks, and on 15 October in Sulaimani. Their statement at the
closing press conference, attended by family members of people killed during
the 2011 demonstrations, concluded, “As we leave we will take with us the
resilience of villagers who rebuild their houses again and again after being
bombed, the bravery of religious leaders trying to bring about peace through
nonviolence, and stories of the amazing hospitality Kurdish people have shown
us.” They ended the conference by singing, “Dona Nobis Pacem” (“Grant us Peace”).
Christian Peacemaker Teams delegation, 5-17 October 2012
Sulaimani, Iraq, 15 October 2012
Christian Peacemaker Teams is a human rights organization building partnerships
to transform violence and oppression. We have come from the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, Iraq, and Kurdistan to learn about the situation of the
Kurdish people living in Iraq and Turkey as well as CPT’s work here in the region,
a topic rarely covered in our home countries.
Our journey began
in Diyarbakir, Turkey. There we learned about harassment and
repression of Kurds living in Turkey.
We met with members of an organization who work with war-displaced Kurdish
children and a social worker with the Diyarbakir municipality facing eighteen years in
prison for working for her fellow Kurds in Turkey.
Kurdistan, we saw several Turkish bases with tanks pointed at civilian houses.
We learned of Turkish and Iranian cross border attacks on civilian populations.
Village families showed us where Iranian shells had hit their houses. We saw
Iranian military bases on the mountains overlooking Iraqi Kurdistan. We also saw
impacts of violence on individuals, communities, culture, agriculture, and
livelihood. We met with the mayor of Sidakan and the media where we had a press
conference about the IDP camps and situation of the villages. We met with a
principal and teachers in the village of Sunnah near the border of Iran and learned of the perseverance to keep
the school going despite of shellings and multiple displacements. We saw the
fear, but also the bravery of the children and villagers.
We learned about
the presence of minority groups while visiting Hawler. Here in Sulaimani we
learned about last year’s Kurdish Spring demonstrations, and in a visit with a
local Mulah we learned of local nonviolent initiatives along with the stories
of violence. We met with women’s rights activists and heard the stories and saw
the tears of three families of people killed during the demonstrations.
We all knew that
violence and conflict takes place around the world, including in our own
countries, but we did not know the specific situation here in Kurdistan. We now plan to take this information
back to our home countries to share with our own communities the stories we
have heard and the realities we have seen because we do not hear about them in
our local media.
we leave we will to take with us the resilience of villagers who rebuild their
houses again and again after being bombed, the bravery of religious leaders trying
to bring about peace through nonviolence, and stories of the amazing
hospitality Kurdish people have shown us. We have been extremely blessed by our
time here and want to take these stories of hope and peace back home.