IRAQI KURDISTAN: Iraqi Kurdistan trainees undertake public witness on behalf of Plowshares activists


31 March 2014
Iraqi Kurdistan trainees undertake public witness on behalf of Plowshares

From 9-11 March, participants in Christian Peacemaker Team’s
Iraqi Kurdistan training planned and participated in a demonstration on behalf
of Megan Rice, Michael
R. Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed
, three American peacemakers  imprisoned because of their nonviolent
action at the Y-12 Oakridge Tennessee Highly-Enriched Uranium Manufacturing

On 28 July 2012 Rice, Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed, unimpeded
by security, crossed four fences and walked for two hours in the area before
the guards found them.  They
splashed human blood on the walls and spray painted peace messages.  While waiting for the facility security,
they picnicked, and when the guards arrived, they offered to share bread with
them.  For this action, which
exposed to the world the threat of the nuclear weapons, the peacemakers
received sentences of five (Walli and Boertje-Obed) and three (Rice) years in

To mirror the Plowshares’ action, the trainees agreed, “Let’s
make a picnic.  If it is possible
to make a picnic at a nuclear facility, it should be also possible to do one on
the sidewalk outside the US consulate in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.”
 After preparations going far into
the night, and four-hour early morning drive, the group of eight (trainees,
trainers and a support person) arrived with a picnic carpet, apples, leaflets,
photos of the prisoners, cookies tagged with internet links, and banners
stating: “Being a peacemaker is NOT a crime” and “Thank them, don’t punish them.”

Three of the CPTers sat down on the rug surrounded by cut
tape symbolizing the cut fences of the nuclear facility.  The others handed out cookies and flyers
to people passing by and to nearby café customers, many of whom asked for more
information.  One other took photos
and another served as the media and security forces liaison.  The NRT TV station filmed the event and
interviewed CPTers.  CPT attempted
to deliver a request for the release of the three American peacemakers to the U.S.
Consul General, Joseph Pennington.  The heavily armed Kurdish security forces stopped CPTers
before reaching the reception.  The
U.S. staff behind the thick glass wall asked the Kurdish commander over the
radio to escort CPT out of the consulate gate.  The commander repeatedly assured CPT that someone from the
consulate would come out to receive the letter.  No one did.

Even though the group was not allowed to deliver the letter, the trainees
expressed their joy over the outcome of the action: “We saw how people of
Erbil were interested in the action. 
They came to us asking: ‘Who are these peacemakers?’  Now the story of Michael, Megan and Greg
is known also in Iraqi Kurdistan.”

 The  Hawler/Erbil
action on 11 March, 2014 was just one component of an intense and exhausting month
of  Christian Peacemaker Team’s
training that included role plays, studies in the history of nonviolent
actions, spiritual reflections, hearing each other’s life stories, and learning
about the hard work of undoing oppressions such as racism and sexism.  Public witness has always been an
important part of CPT history, and it has been an important part of the work of
the Iraqi Kurdistan team and its partners, as the Kurdish Regional Government
has imposed increasingly authoritarian measures on freedom of expression.


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