5 December 2012
IRAQI KURDISTAN REFLECTION: Those who
hunger for righteousness
If only the members of parliament knew what a wondrous gift awaits them in that tent.
by Bud Courtney
In the late afternoon of Friday, November 23, we
received a call from a friend and partner in the Federation of Civil Societies,
an organization of Sulaimani NGO’s (of which CPT is a member), inviting us to a
gathering in front of the Kurdistan Parliament Sulaimani Offices. A
group of six physically disabled men were on the fourth day of a hunger strike.
Would CPT come and stand with them for a while? Though it was a day off, two of
us quickly agreed to attend.
As we pulled up to the area, we noticed an
ambulance and in time saw two of the men taken to the hospital. They returned
later that night. The men had not been eating or drinking up to this point, were
preparing to begin a liquid-only fast and had to be given intravenous solutions
We sat in the tent with the group for some time.
At one point, my friend from the Federation asked me if I could come back the
following evening with the guitar and sing for the group. I agreed.
When I arrived at the tent that second evening,
there were the six men, calling themselves the Disabled Group, and one of their
friends; no press, no cameras, no fanfare. We sat about the kerosene heater, drank
hot banana milk, listened to an aged New York folk rocker play music and, at
least for myself, felt content.
I walked home buoyed by the experience. This is
why I had come to Kurdistan. I know I can’t change the world. I’ve given up thinking
I can. But I can show up. I can sit with those who stand, as best they can, for
non-violent change, who invite others to join them in their struggle.
These men, seeking better conditions for the 125,000
disabled in the KRG and the disputed areas, vow not to eat until Parliament
agrees to their demands. They will remain camped in front of the
parliament building, building their own community.
They speak very little English, and I speak no
Kurdish. Yet, every night I enter the tent, I am greeted and given a
comfortable seat on the ground and made to feel one of the family. I am always
amazed at the hospitality of the people here in the Middle East, perhaps more
so in this tent, by six friends on a hunger strike.
I promised myself I would try to visit each day,
if possible. Each day so far, I have done so, with others from the team or
another friend, or by myself. We sit and laugh and smile and cry. We look at
each other. We hold hands.
Each day I ask if they are feeling okay. I ask
if anyone from parliament has visited them. They are fine but no one from
parliament has come. I only feel sadness for those who do not come because they
do not realize what a wondrous gift awaits them within that tent.