IRAQI KURDISTAN: “Go now and drive as fast as you can”–CPTers visit Kurdish village caught in Turkish bombing

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CPTnet
9 May 2016
IRAQI KURDISTAN: “Go now and drive as fast as you can”–CPTers visit
Kurdish village caught in Turkish bombing

by Chihchun Yuan
and Lukasz Firla

The Qandil Mountains hide a valley in the Pishdar District
famous for its fertile land, green pastures, breath-taking beauty, and terrible
problem— Turkish bombing. A long-term friend and partner of CPT Mukhtar Khidr*
invited Christian Peacemaker Teams for lunch on 15 April and a meeting with
other village leaders at his house. The team has not come here since the peace
process between the Turkish state and the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) began
in 2013. Much has changed since the war broke out again in July of 2015. 

Ten leaders of the valley villages gathered to discuss
problems of safety and lack of public services. Because of the Turkish military
actions and issues of regional party politics, the basic infrastructure lies
either broken or non-existent. The villagers have repeatedly asked the
Kurdistan Regional Government representatives to bring in power lines and to
build a school and a clinic. The only public building in the village of some
120 people is a mosque. Mukhtar Khidr asked CPT to accompany him to a next
meeting with the authorities and to raise their need for electricity and his
desire for bringing more life to his village and the valley. 

He told the team, “You are like a bridge between us and
the outside world. Your presence helps us feel stronger.” 

One of the participants told the team that some positive
conclusions came out of the meeting. We felt encouraged to see the proud
villagers not losing hopes about keeping roots in their ancestors’ land, but we
also felt deeply saddened by this systematic violence against innocent people. 

Around three o’clock, we all heard an explosion.   Mukhtar Khidr told the team, “You have been
here for too long. Go now, and drive as fast as you can!” 

After we left the valley driving as fast as the mountain
rocky dirt road allowed us to, we heard another explosion coming from the
direction wejust left.  Filled with
anxiety we phoned our friend Khidr and heard him respond, “The Turkish
rocket hit rather far from here.” We left without thoughts and hesitation
because we were just guests on this land. But what about the rest of the people
who have been rooted deeply into the soil for many generations— can they cut
their roots and pack their lives in minutes? 

The villagers, alongside hundreds of other farming and
shepherd communities inhabiting these mountain regions for centuries, have been
caught in the middle of a three-decades-old war between the Turkish government
and the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party). The PKK wage their political and armed
struggle for recognition of Kurdish people’s rights in Turkey from bases in the
mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan. The Turkish military in turn bombs not only the
PKK bases and hideouts but also civilian villagers’ houses and fields. Christian
Peacemaker Teams has walked with the villagers for seven years and supported
their non-violent struggle to revive and sustain their lives. 

*name changed

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