IRAQI KURDISTAN: Shepherds, Sheep and Soldiers

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CPTnet
25 February 2013
IRAQI KURDISTAN: Shepherds, Sheep and
Soldiers

CPT Iraqi Kurdistan met with two
shepherds who had spent nearly three weeks in Iranian detention last fall. The shepherds
said they were grazing their flocks in Iraqi Kurdistan territory when they were
kidnapped by Iranian border guards.

Nariman and Tahar, brothers in their
early twenties, said they were grazing about a thousand sheep near Kelê-Shîn,
in the mountainous region of Sidakan, about three kilometers from the Iranian
border, where their family grazes sheep every summer. On the morning of 1
September, Nariman took some sheep to higher ground, though still, both
brothers insisted, within Iraqi Kurdish territory. Three Iranian soldiers
walked down the mountainside and asked Nariman what he was doing there. He said
this was his family’s grazing land, and he had a right to be there. When Tahar joined
his brother, the soldiers, seeing his gun, demanded to know why he was armed. The
brothers said they needed the gun to protect their flock from predators. According
to their testimony, the soldiers asked for Tahar’s gun, and he complied. The
soldiers then blindfolded the brothers and marched them up the mountain to their
base, where they reported being beaten and denied food.

When their mother learned what
happened, she walked toward the base to appeal for her sons’ release. Soldiers fired
shots over her head, but she kept walking. Inside, according to the brothers, they
blindfolded her, tied her hands behind her back, held her for eight hours and then
released her.

 
  Nariman

The brothers said they were held for
two days at this border base and then were moved to a political intelligence
prison further inside Iran, where they were separated and interrogated for two
weeks. They said they were asked if they were members of PJAK/PKK, why they
were armed, and what they were doing so close to the border. They feared they
might never be released, or might even be killed, but tried to appear strong
and unafraid.

Meanwhile, they were unable to
communicate with anyone outside. Using a network of relatives and friends in
Iran, their father finally located them and paid an Iranian lawyer six million
Iraqi dinars ($5000 USD), according to the brothers, to visit them in prison. The
lawyer was able to have the brothers moved to a general prison, where food and conditions
were better. Two days later they were released and returned home. They learned
that during their captivity, thirty of their sheep had gone missing, a loss
they estimated at 7.5 million Iraqi dinars (about $6250). The traumatic
experience was compounded by its economic costs.

The team told Nariman and Tahar that
they planned to visit the Iranian Vice Consul in Sulaimani, to tell him about
their case. Nariman had a message for the team to pass along: “We just
want to be able to graze our flocks without being shot at or scared by
soldiers, without worrying that we will be killed.”

Vice Consul Hamid Bodaghi pinned blame
for the detention on a few rogue border officers — and on the brothers
themselves. “They are shepherds,” he exclaimed, hands spread. Could
they not even prevent their sheep from getting too close to the border? Bodaghi
also suggested — before the team had mentioned the missing sheep — that
perhaps one or two border officers may have taken one or two animals, but who
could know for certain? If the brothers wanted compensation, they should take
up their case with the Iraqi consul in Kermanshah, Iran, not with Bodaghi, in
Sulaimani.

Nariman and Tahar assured the team
that they would return to the same grazing areas this coming April, despite their
experience this past autumn.

CPT Iraqi
Kurdistan opposes the violence by Turkey and Iran against the Kurdish people;
the UN sanctions that collectively punish Iranians and Kurds in Iran; and the
calls for military action against Iran.

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