RAQI KURDISTAN: August-September 2015 Newsletter


17 November 2016
IRAQI KURDISTAN: August-September 2015 Newsletter

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Iraqi Kurdistan

The three months, since our last newsletter, passed quickly for our team. The abundance of activities and engaging projects, delayed the time of our sharing with you – our support and partner community. We would like to invite you to join our first-two-month’s recap of our work.

Intercultural Theater Project at Arbat IDP Camp

“Do you know what we need? We need more of that group theatre work like
CPT did with us last month. We need more of that in Arbat community.”
(Mayor of Arbat, speaking to a humanitarian worker, CPT friend)

On Monday 24 August, the CPT-run Intercultural Theatre Project came to an end with its final activity – a performance for the public at the Arbat IDP camp.

The project brought together twelve young people of three different communities: Kurdish, Ezidi and Arab, along with the CPT team, for eight days full of hard work, as well as much joy and fun. The participants and organizers built friendships and learned about each other and ways to respect and overcome differences through various experiential workshops and activities. On the last day the group presented a forty-five minute-long performance to the public.

CPT would like to thank each one and all of the participants for this deeply inspiring and wonderful time. Deep appreciations to our friend Kak Harem for his energy, time and amazing translating and organizing skills.

Special thanks go to Mr. Rebin – mayor of Arbat, Mr. Tariq – Arbat IDP camp manager for their support for the project, and the Arbat Town Library for providing space for the meetings.

3 August – Commemoration of the Ezidi (Yazidi) genocide

On 3 August, my teammate and I attended the commemoration of the year since the Yezidi genocide in Iraq at the invitation of our friend Sheikh Shamu in Arbat Internally Displaced Persons Camp.

We immediately saw the hand lettered signs attached to the tents in the area where the Yezidis live. Then three little girls, all wearing screen printed T-shirts met us. When Juliane asked if she could take a photo, one lifted a photograph up and held it sideways. The scene was one that little girls should know nothing about, but we knew that they had witnessed things that their little minds will never forget. (…)

The program continued for over two hours. Young men and women came to the microphone to read poems and sing songs. The word, Shingal, came over and over again, and the tears flowed. It was not difficult to see that here was a people still in the centre of the trauma. They all seemed to be back in the middle of the days in Shingal when they were abandoned by the military who told them they had nothing to fear- just hours before ISIS/Da’ash entered the region and began the slaughter. They all seemed to be able to feel the burning sun and waterless days on Sinjar/Shingal Mountain where they fled for their lives. And they all know someone, or many someones, who are still in slavery to the invading army. 

Just after noon, Sheik Shamu’s daughter went up to the microphone to read a poem. She was strong and eloquent as she told her story. Her voice broke as her composure was lost for a minute and the crowd gently clapped when she recovered and continued. After she was done she came to the side of the room where I was sitting. I watched her face as it crumpled and she began to sob, holding her scarf over her mouth. I ignored the activity on the stage as I wondered whether it was appropriate for me to go to stand beside her. Finally I decided that she needed someone so I got up, walked over and put my arm around her shoulders as she cried. She later gave me a hug. (…)

The adults spoke again about the situation for their people. They told of one family in the camp that has lost thirty-six members. They despaired for their daughter who needs to leave the country for treatment of a complex arm injury, but who cannot find any place that will agree to give a medical visa. And they spoke of the next oldest who loves to draw, but who continually pencils monster looking drawings that she identifies as Da’ash.

They told of their longing for a peaceful place to live, to be able to go back to life as it was just over a year ago in Shingal. But they know that this is an almost impossible dream, just as is the one to leave this country for Europe or Canada. 

 It was then that I heard the question “What is our sin? What have we done? I could not say anything, although I knew what my answer would be. No, there is no sin. But I too question God as to why. 

To read the full reflection, please click here…

Dohuk Crowdfunding Workshop

In support of CPT partner’s organization Alind, working with the displaced Ezidi communities in Duhok, our team members conducted a workshop on ‘crowdfunding’. The needs of the displaced people and those supporting them are tremendous. As CPT is not an aid organization, and all our staff are individually raising funds to do the work we do, we shared our own experience. We hope that this can also help others to reach the needed resources to continue their work.

Action for peace in front of Turkish Consulate in Hawler

On 1 August Turkish jet fighters bombed Zargely village, killing 8 people and injuring 12 more. In condemnation of this atrocity and the growing violence, CPT-IK published a statement.  To not only reach the online community, but also take a stand in the public, the team stood in front of the Turkish consulate in Hawler (Erbil) to peacefully cry out against the attacks. 
The Asaish protecting the consulate prevented CPT from flying balloons saying “Turkey, stop bombing”, under the pretext of  their being a ‘security threat.’ The officers took CPTers’ camera and called for their superior to come, who later, after a series of explanations, returned the camera. The Asaish told the team to: “go and play in the park”.

Filming testimonies of the villagers of Haji Ahmed and Zargely

CPT IK partners with villagers whose land and way of life were taken away and ruined by the ExxonMobil’s operations, as well as the survivors and victims of the Turkish cross-border air bombardments. With the goal to amplify voices of our village partners and to advocate for their rights and safety, CPT team filmed their testimonies to create two new videos: one about the bombing of Zargely, and an update to a previous film about the villagers’ struggle against ExxonMobil, Voice of the People.

A journalist working for a Czech major media enterprise has accompanied the team on this trip to raise the issues that Kurdish villagers face in the Czech republic.  

INTERNATIONAL DELEGATION / 31 August – 9 September

Twice per year, our team organizes and hosts international delegations. The participants, who came from the U.S.A, U.K, Germany and Rojava/Syria, learned much about the history, political and human rights issues of Iraqi Kurdistan and the work of CPT. The delegates met many of the team’s partners, as well as a group of Kurdistan Parliament Members in order to gain a better understanding of the current political crisis. The delegates and CPT members also presented their concerns, especially about the U.S. cooperation with Turkey, which is bombing Kurdish civilians, and the current political/presidential crisis, to the human rights/political officers of the U.S. Consulate in Hawler.

Delegate from the UK reflects on his experience…

We’re halfway into our delegation, and I write my Friday night journal entry surrounded by incredible scenery, at the end of a long day travelling to the Qandil Mountains at the borders along northern Iraq and Iran. Our group is staying at the family home of Latif, CPT member, in the village of Gullan. We’re now relaxed after our hosts prepared a wonderful dinner, enjoying each other’s company and our added company of lush greenery, mountain ranges, and the shining multitude of stars now hanging above. The porch is brimming with the contented chattering of different conversations in Kurdish and English, deep conversations, laughter, and the melodic chirping of crickets.

“Beauty” feels a somewhat deficient term to describe the peace of this place and the landscapes we behold, yet that is the word which keeps recurring both in my own thoughts and in the discussions that unfold with my fellow travellers.

Even still, such incredible beauty as this finds ugliness as an unwanted and terrible companion. The Turkish government frequently launches bombing campaigns in this region, and in the past Iran has carried out similar operations. Turkey’s official explanation for these campaigns is that they are an attempt  to neutralise the perceived threat of Kurdish militia.

By and large, however, the victims are the villagers themselves, as these attacks happen on the border regions indiscriminately. On the way to Qandil stands the memorial to a family killed in one of these attacks. The Kurds call the victims “martyrs,” as they believe they lost their lives through a determination to remain in their land and to preserve their cultural identity. Because these bombing campaigns have taken the lives of civilians and additionally displaced whole village communities, many Kurds perceive such attacks as yet another chapter in the heartbreaking history of attempted genocide and ethnic cleansing upon their people.
As we make our way into the mountainous areas, we stop at the village of Zargali, which has now been completely abandoned. Some residents of the neighbouring villagers accompany us as we examine the its ruins, including partially built houses from which families were forced to flee. The sight of these levelled buildings and abandoned homes, and the thick silence hanging in the air, are positively eerie.

Although exact numbers are hard to determine, our companions tell us that approximately 100 people once lived in this now desolate area, scattered among other villages and towns in the Kurdistan region. The most recent attack, on August 1st this year, levelled one mosque and six homes, and claimed the lives of eight people. Although some villagers are slowly beginning to return in to tend their crops, this is likely to be a long process of reconstruction and resettlement.

Upon joining us, one of our companions said simply “This is life here.”

To read the rest of the reflection please click here…

“I want to perform in front of people again”

CPT team together with the delegates met Faisal, one of the Ezidi participants of the Intercultural Theatre Project. His family, along other Ezidi and Arab families, has been recently moved from Arbat to a new IDP camp, Ashti. As we talked about his experience during the Theatre workshop, he told CPT: “Before the project, I could not even imagine to stand in front of the public. Now, after I was able to perform a play, I would like to do more of it.” 

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