IRAQI KURDISTAN: January 2016 Newsletter


14 February 2016
Iraqi Kurdistan: Newsletter – January 2016

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Alternatives to
Violence Project
changed our lives.

Iraqi Kurdistan engaged
in joint project
together with STEP
(Seeking to Equip
People) organisation,
which works to support
vulnerable children and
youth, many of which
have been displaced by
war in Syria and Iraq.
Together with eight
staff members of STEP
and two other NGO`s
workers, we took part in
the basic and advanced
Alternatives to Violent
Projects (AVP) training,
which lasted 6 days.
Three of the team
members participated as
trainees and two others
as trainers. The
workshop is designed to
help people learn skills
to be able to build
better relationships,
partnerships and improve
them. The training was
very interesting and
helpful. We made some
new friends from
different cultures and
backgrounds as well as
gained a better
understanding of
diverse activities
brought all of us
together and gave us a
wider perspective of how
we can work together to
transform violence and
oppression in our
everyday lives.

on 22th of January,
after 3 additional days
of a very hard and
exciting work, we
accomplished an AVP
training for the
all of us are ready to
facilitate AVP
workshops, share the
ideas of non-violence
methods and spread peace
around us.

CPT Peacemaker
Training in
just started. On
28th of January
10 wonderful
people from
Iraqi Kurdistan,
Syria, Colombia
and Poland met
to have a first
session of the
training. During
the first
evening we
discussed the
principles of
CPT in general
and the training
itself. Even the
lack of
could not dampen
our spirits as
we kicked off
the first night.
After a
wonderful meal
we spent the
evening sharing
our hopes for
the next several

The second day was
full of emotions,
sharing, team
activities. We had
our first skype
call with Sarah
Thompson, CPT
Director, during
which she
described CPT as a
blooming but still
growing flower. It
was a very
spiritual and
soothing part of
our intensive day.

We feel very
excited about what
the next 24 days
of the training

My tent is beautiful… a Sunni Arab IDP’s story

Ahmed* watched his
brother disappear in the
smoke. “The bomb hit and I
couldn’t even see him to
save him. I haven’t seen
him since. Then we had to
quickly run away.” As the
Iraqi militias faced the
ISIS invaders, Ahmed fled
with his wife, three small
children, and eight
members of his extended
family. He left his farm
with its fertile fields,
vineyards and orchards to
live in a tent camp just
outside Sulaimani, Iraqi
Kurdistan. He says, “We
have not slept one night
in a house since we left
Salahadeen eighteen months
ago. It is so cold here. I
had never seen snow

The world media
report about ISIS and the
Syrian refugees that fled
to nearby countries. They
have also told of Ezidis
(Yazidis) and Christians
of Iraq who left
everything behind to live
as internally displaced
persons (IDP) in another
region of Iraq. However,
the media have largely
neglected the story of the
Sunni Iraqi Arabs of the
province of Salahadeen.

Allied forces hit
this region hard during
the latest Iraq War. Then
in the summer of 2014,
ISIS invaded these
impoverished communities.
Because they are Sunni
Muslim, ISIS overlooked
them, as long as they
obeyed the religious laws
decreed by the militants.
However, in central Iraq
the Shia militia have the
goal of pushing ISIS out
of the region. They
reclaimed the land,
leaving the families
living there in a
precarious position. The
militia viewed them as
collaborators or even as
part of ISIS. They were
forced to flee for their
lives using underground
routes to reach the IDP
camps of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Ahmed knows that
there is nothing to return
to in his former home. “I
used to be a farmer,” he
says sadly. Soon after
their escape, his neighbor
sent photos of the house
burning and of the militia
chopping down all of his
fruit trees. The text on
the phone read, “You’re
all ISIS and Saddamis, We
will do the same to you
that Saddam did to us for
30 years.” This message
references Saddam
Hussein’s cruel treatment
of the Shia people.

The IDP camp in
Sulaimani is not perfect.
Ahmed still has anxiety
that he might be falsely
accused of being an ISIS
member and that Kurdish
security forces will
imprison him or send him
back to the danger. Their
new home in the camp is
small and the neighbours
are very close and noisy.
When the temperature is
cold in winter they cannot
use kerosene heaters in
the night for fear of
fire. Then in the summer
the unbearable heat beats
down on the treeless camp.
However, the canvas with
the large UNHCR letters
painted on the side
represents security to
Ahmed and his family. “We
had a house with brick
walls and a roof but there
was violence and pain. We
ran away in fear for our
lives. Now I see our tent
is a place of beauty. We
are safe.”

*Name changed for


the loss of Kurds
drowned on their way to

On Thursday, 22 of
January, 65 people died in
the Aegean Sea. At least
28 of them were from Iraqi
Kurdistan and 5 from

On the last
Saturday of January, the
whole group of the CPT
Iraqi Kurdistan training
attended a vigil for these
people. The event,
organised by CPT partners,
was to bring awareness to
the situation of so many
people losing their lives
in the sea on the journey
to a freer and safer life.
It was a time to express
grief for the loss of
lives of people from this
region and this city.

team is getting
bigger and more

January was very
special for Iraqi
Kurdistan team. We
started a new year
full of energy, new
ideas and excitement
for the upcoming
trainings and work.
Two new members joined
our team to support
four other long- term
members. So, this year
we have with us:
Mohammed, Lukasz,
Kathy, Alicja, Julie
and Rezhiar.

Rezhiar Fakhir
comes from the Kurdish
mountains and
currently works as an
intern with CPT. He is
very determined to
bring change to
Kurdish society on a
cultural, social,
political and
traditional level. He
realized that
education is the best
way to bring change to
Kurdistan and that he
had the duty to
educate himself
further to achieve
real change for his
society. Growing up in
a war-torn
environment, he has
been writing about
conflicts and issues
related to the
political, cultural
and social situation
in Kurdistan. In his
articles, he insists
on the human dimension
of conflicts to
highlight that people
at war have more in
common than they think
and should concentrate
on that instead of
their differences. He
shares some personal
insights too. Since he
has not travelled
abroad a lot, his
favourite place to be
is his kitchen where
he finds refuge and
can set his creativity

Julie Brown
joined CPT in November
and became part of our
team in January. For
the past several
years she has been
working on social
justice issues
surrounding poverty,
U.S. militarization,
and War. Julie is
also part of a
Catholic Worker
community that runs a
day shelter and soup
kitchen when she’s at
home in Des Moines,
Iowa, USA. In her
free time she enjoys
making things with her
hands and creating

Mohammed Salah
Mahdi, is a Kurdish
Muslim. He met CPT in
2006. At the beginning
he worked as a team
driver for about 2
years, then he became
a translator, adviser
and sponsor until
2014. When Mohammed
finished the CPT
training, he joined
the team in Iraqi
Kurdistan. Currently,
he is the only person
who can sponsor the
foreigners for their
residency in Iraqi
Kurdistan. He loves
CPT. Mohammed enjoys
cooking and driving.

Alicja, an
activist from Poland,
has been an intern on
the Iraqi Kurdistan
CPT team since
September 2014.
Previously, she
ethnolinguistics and
worked as a volunteer
in a Polish ngo,
delivering workshops
on peace and
antidiscrimination as
well as working in the
refugee camp in
Poland. She cannot
live without sport.
Last summer she came
from Poland to
Kurdistan by her bike
(from Turkey to
Sulaimani by bus).
Alicja loves
travelling and
learning languages.

Lukasz Firla
fell in love with
Kurdistan, its
wonderful and diverse
people, passionate
history and beautiful
nature in 2009 when he
came here for the
first time with a CPT
delegation. In winter
of 2010 he joined the
team as an intern. A
year later he trained
with CPT, joined the
organization, and
since March 2011, he
has been living in
Iraqi Kurdistan and
working full-time with
CPT. Together with his
wife and son they call
Kurdistan their home.

Moorhead Thiessen has
worked part-time with
our team since March
2011. During the
summers when she is in
Canada she enjoys
gardening and growing
healthy food. She also
loves to make
colourful patchwork
blankets. Kathy has
had a wonderful 5 1/2
years working with the
fantastic people of
Iraqi Kurdistan but
in April she will join
the CPT Indigenous
Peoples Solidarity
team that works in

Our dear team
member, Kathy, celebrated
her birthday just few days
ago. We were lucky to be
with her during this
special day. Alicja and
Julie went to the Bazaar
to buy a special gift but
the mission turned sour as
we came back with a very
strange garland of tassels
with a piece of carpet at
the top. There was a
miscommunication while we
were at the shop and
trying to figure out what
would be the best choice
for our creative, gifted
Kathy. When we came back
home and showed the gift
to the rest of the team
they were not sure whether
to laugh or cry. Kathy was
laughing a whole lot, too.
We finished this
extraordinary day having a
delicious feast at the
traditional family run
Kurdish restaurant.
Connect with us to learn more about our work, and
ways how to
get involved
and partner
with us…

our team needs a
new washing
machine,that would
allow us to wash
our clothes
without wasting
too much water,
electricity and
our time.

new functional
washing machine
costs $350 in Iraqi
If you decide to
help us, please,
click on this link
and make sure you
mention that you
would like to donate
for our new washing

need your support.

Thank you very

Mission: Christian
Peacemaker Teams: Building
partnerships to transform
violence and oppression.

Vision: A
world of communities
together embrace the
diversity of the human
family and live justly and
peaceably with all

Values: Christian
Peacemaker Teams is
committed to work and
relationships that: Honor
and reflect the presence
of faith and
spirituality; Strengthen
initiatives; Transform
structures of domination
and oppression; Embody
creative non-violence and
liberating love.


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