IRAQI KURDISTAN: May 2015 Update


1 June 2015
IRAQI KURDISTAN: May 2015 Update

MAY 2015

Iraqi Kurdistan

Visit to Gullan

On May 5-6 we visited our friend Kak Latif in his home village of Gullan.  CPT has partnered with Kak Latif and other activists who are speaking out against Exxon Mobil oil exploration in the region.  On a walk through the mountains that surround his home, we were reminded of the sacredness of land and our delicate connection to it.  We are extremely grateful to Kak Latif and his family for their hospitality and their struggle to preserve the land that gives all of us life.

Peace Through the Eyes of Syrian Children

On Tuesday, 26 May, three CPT members of the Iraqi Kurdistan team, Alicja, Hannah and Rosemarie, took the Children’s Art and Peace Project to the students of Kobani School in Sulaimani.

The children were refugees from Syria. Their cheerful faces did not betray any suffering that they had endured. Several were wearing school uniforms that they may have worn when they were students in Syria. They eagerly participated in the program, in many ways demonstrating the resilience of children. 

Eager to demonstrate that working together is enriching, we told them that we came from different countries, with the same dream. One of us is from Poland, another from Canada and the third from USA.  We are a peace team, involved in working for peace in spite of our own government’s decisions regarding solutions to the violence. People around the world are joining hands, seeking peace, dreaming of what a world of peace would look like. Then, eager to have them share their dreams, we asked them, “What does peace look like?”

Amazing responses included:
Peace looks like me sitting with my family.
Peace looks like being able to talk on the telephone to relatives who live in nearby towns. 
Peace looks like safety, no police knocks.
Peace looks like kind words.
Peace looks like a circle, people holding hands.
Peace looks like bringing flowers after an argument.
Peace looks like riding a bicycle free and unafraid.

In the conversation that followed, when describing working together with her group, one young participant quoted a Syrian proverb, reflecting that, “Instead of putting eyelashes on, we poke ourselves in the eye.” Another Syrian proverb that helped us understand how difficult it is to work together was quoted by another participant, “Instead of building a bridge, it was so difficult to express ourselves, we made soup.”

Our translator told us that the participants were using familiar Syrian proverbs to describe the difficulties of working together. Sometimes our intentions are good and beautiful (eyelashes) but the result can be hurtful (poking ourselves) or our effort to create something beautiful and useful (a bridge) can result in a mess (soup). What comfort we can often find in our own cultural expressions. How can 
understanding these help unite us?

Our closing circle included a Syrian gentleman and four women: one Canadian, one Polish, one from USA and one Iraqi, holding hands for peace as we reflected on the question, “Are we poking ourselves in the eye, making soup or making peace?”

CPT European Convergence

 CPTer Kathy Moorhead Thiessen and five former Iraqi Kurdistan team members attended the annual CPT European Convergence in London, UK. On Friday, 15 May all the  participants joined other international religious peace activists in a vigil  at the UK Home Office. They gathered to draw attention to the deaths of 1,800 migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean Sea this year  and the culpability of the UK government in these deaths. CPT Europe will hold three months of delegations to the summer project in Greece to accompany refugees who have crossed from Turkey to Greece.

Video of Halabja genocide in Canada’s Museum for Human Rights

The newly opened Canadian  Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg chose a video filmed by CPT intern Brad Langendoen  to tell the story of the 1988 Halabja  genocide. This entry in their permanent exhibition shows  Aras Abid of Halabja telling the story of his family during the 1988 chemical bombing.  Kak Aras is the only member of his family that survived that massacre when 5,000 persons were killed in one day.

CPTers Interviewed on Canadian Radio

On Monday, 25 May, Harmeet Sooden and Kathy Moorhead Thiessen were interviewed from Sulaimani via skype  on CBC radio, a major news broadcaster in Canada.They were able to speak about the situation in Iraqi Kurdistan and the work that CPT is doing here. Then on 29 May they spoke to “The Nighthawk” on CJOB radio in Manitoba. The CBC wrote an article about the interview which can be found at this link: 

Arbat IDP Camp Interviews

The team conducted five more interviews this month with the residents of Arbat IDP Camp as part of CPT’s investigation into communal tensions between the diverse ethno-religious groups in the camp. On 27 May, the team completed a 11-page report which summarises CPT’s findings and provides recommendations on how to ameloriate the tensions. The team will present the report to the UN and other organisations affiliated with the camp, with the aim of persuading them to address this issue before it escalates further.

Bazian Psychosocial Program

We have now completed six weeks of the eight week psychosocial program and it has been a joy to work with this passionate group of young adults.  They are creative and full of spirit, drawing on each of their unique experiences across Syria and Iraq to problem-solve and communicate effectively.  The group consists of Iraqi Arabs from Anbar province, Yazidis from Sinjar mountain, and Syrian Kurdish and Syrian Arab refugees. Last week they shared with each other about their dreams of becoming designers and architects, musicians and engineers.  This week we explored our unique methods of communication, discovering how we can often miscommunicate and misunderstand and finding solutions to better communicate in our diversity.  

                 AUGUST 28 – SEPTEMBER 10


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