9 October 2014
IRAQI KURDISTAN: CPTers demand action to
protect Kurdish civilians
On Wednesday 8 October,
representatives from eight countries gathered outside the Monument of Halabja
Martyrs for a silent vigil demandingaction from the international community to protect innocent civilians threatened by ISIS. Many of the representatives were members of a delegation with the international human rights organization Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), who are spending two weeks learning about the situation in Iraqi Kurdistan. Holding signs reading, “We Saw Halabja and Shangal, Now It’s Time for Peace,” and “Kobani,” the demonstrators called attention to history’s repeated international failures to protect the Kurdish people from genocide and displacement.
16 March 1988, Iraqi forces
murdered 5,000 Kurds in the city of Halabja with mustard and nerve gas
purchased from Germany. It was the
largest chemical weapons attack against a civilian population in history. The attack occurred as part of Saddam’s
genocidal Al-Anfal Campaign against the Kurdish people, and the international
community remained silent.
Protestors drew explicit
connections between the massacre in Halabja, the massacre of Ezidi* people on
Mount Shangal (“Sinjar” in Arabic) by ISIS in August of this year, and the
current crisis in Kobani. Vanessa
Powell from Australia said, “Every generation, the Kurdish people face violence
and displacement and people across the world do not stand with them. Our governments need to do more to
ensure that Kobani does not become another Sinjar, or another Halabja.
”The city of Kobani in Syria has
been under siege by ISIS since 16 September, causing hundreds of thousands of
Syrian Kurds to flee into Turkey.
International support for refugees has been minimal, and the Turkish
government has used water cannons on refugees protesting for better treatment.
Members of the CPT delegation spent
the previous week meeting with Ezidi IDPs across Iraqi Kurdistan. They promised to return to their home
countries—Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, the United States, Canada,
Australia, and Iraqi Kurdistan—and raise the voices of those displaced by ISIS
violence. Jonas Jung from Germany
added, “IDP camps in Kurdistan grow every day. Thousands of Ezidi women are still held hostage by ISIS. If the international community does not
take this situation seriously, and take serious steps to undermine ISIS, we
will be guilty of allowing genocide to occur all over again.”
Christian Peacemaker Teams is an
international human rights and peacemaking organization with teams all across
the world. It is dedicated to
building relationships to transform violence and oppression.
*The Ezidi people prefer this name
for themselves to “Yazidi.”