11 October 2014
IRAQI KURDISTAN REFLECTION: What we can do
is currently participating in the CPT delegation to Iraqi Kurdistan.]
|CPT Iraqi Kurdistan Delegation visits Ezidi
shrine at Lalish
Although it is very difficult to pin down the exact numbers of the humanitarian
crisis in Iraqi Kurdistan, an estimated three million people there have been
internally displaced by the Syrian conflict, ISIS (called DAESH/DAASH by the
locals) and earlier by the US invasion of Iraq. We began to get a grasp of its scale as we visited the UNHCR
camps and encountered the refugees and IDPs spread around the edges of many
cities, listening to their often horrific personal stories. I remember a girl, Aasema, physically
demonstrating what had happened to her family. I will never forget how she held up her two tiny fingers,
her “Aunts,” her fearful whisper, “Daesh…” and her re-enacting
how they got captured and carried away.
I also won’t forget the hospitality offered by Edris, who survived the
massacre of his village, and his expressing the most profound gratitude for
everyone who had helped him.
Numbers provide an idea of the extent of the tragedy, and the personal
encounters helped us to understand the experience the individuals suffering. But that is not what I came here for. The question whether we’re actually
helpful occurred to me repeatedly Some days the answer would be a definite yes,
other days it doesn’t really seem so. As a human rights organization that advocates for peace, we
were not able to free the Ezidis, nor did we provide any food, blankets, or
medical care. We have the
privilege to leave the country any time, and there are many at home who are
waiting and praying for us daily, whereas all the spiritual support should be
going to the men, women, and children who have no family left to pray for them.
So, what are we providing? The
Christian Peacemaker Team in Iraqi Kurdistan and their local partners are
continually providing information about refugees who have not yet received care
to the media, the parliament, the United Nations and several Non-Governmental
Organizations (NGOs). CPT also
helps Kurdish NGOS with their fundraising, linking several communities together
to support each other. And sometimes, it’s just a nice distraction to
have some weird-looking foreigners at camp who entertain the kids and drink tea
with the elderly, if only for an hour.
But I found these contributions unsatisfying, given the extreme
circumstance and urgent needs.
Do I still believe in what we are doing?
Yes, maybe even more than before. Solidarity has its own power and most importantly, our job
here is to listen. As one young
woman said, “Some of us are not talking anymore and some of us have to
talk all the time. I have to share
my story, and I am grateful for anyone who is listening because I know that it
is not a nice story.”
One day—inshallah—the crisis will be over and there will be plenty to do for
anyone who is willing to raise his or her voice in the name of peace and reconciliation.