IRAQI KURDISTAN: May 2016 Newsletter–Neighbors from different worlds


16 June 2016
IRAQI KURDISTAN: May 2016 Newsletter–Neighbors from different worlds


May 2016



Iraqi Kurdistan


We are neighbors from different worlds
-CPT May Delegation-


We are pleased to welcome nine delegates from the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and Mennonite Church from the U.S.A.

It has always been a pleasure for CPTers to unite people and celebrate the diversities. We started our May delegation by visiting a local Muslim leader and activist Mullah Nader and talked about bringing peace and supporting diverse minorities in Kurdistan society.

CPT has met Mullah Nader in several peaceful civil society demonstrations. He told the group that his role is supporting people with the Holy Quran’s teaching about justice and respect. Because he speaks about the injustice, the suffering of the people under corrupt powers, and protests together with other mullahs against wars and violence, he began receiving threats.

He is a diligent mullah at a mosque near CPT’s office. Under the shadow of threats, he continues to walk in the dark alone to the mosque to call the neighbourhood for the early morning prayers. “God is my protection” he said.

After the visit, we moved on to a six day field trip to explore more social justice stories. Our stories covered the oil development, cross-border air attacks on civilians, and internal conflicts in the Iraqi Kurdistan region.


Hospitality, human rights, and corruption driven by the oil industry

by Lois Aroian

A common thread runs through our meetings in Iraqi Kurdistan: hospitality.  As we focus on our peacemaking mission, we are constantly reminded that we are one human family.  We have received such warm welcomes everywhere.   The people we’ve met have shared their homes, their hearts, and their tables.  We’ve drunk their tea, eaten their magnificent repasts, and most importantly, have listened to their stories.

Some of these stories are painful.  We can understand that it’s not easy for people victimized by violence to share.  And yet, they do.  Syrian women in refugee camps join together for fellowship and friendship, despite differences of religion, ethnicity, and language.  Children meet at a drop-in center and learn that whether they are Sunni, Shi’a, Christian, Yazidi, Arab, Kurd or Turcoman, they are one human family.

On 26 May, we met with a member of the Soran Omer, a member of the Kurdistan Regional Government.  He’s in the opposition Islamic Party and chairs the Human Rights Committee.

Human rights are a sensitive issue here in Kurdistan.  When we passed through a checkpoint en route, we told the soldier there we were studying human rights in Kurdistan.  “Human rights,” he exclaimed.  “There are no human rights in Kurdistan!”

Continue reading


Yazidi renewal in Iraqi Kurdistan

I knew the Yazidi women were powerful and I wanted to help bring it out of them.” – Social Worker at Jinda

This post was a collobrative effort between Andrea Hickerson and Timothy Wotring

After our visit to Lalish, the holiest place for the Yazidis, we spent Monday learning about community efforts to support the Yazidis displacement and trauma at the hands of ISIS. Here are some of the leaders we met.

“Goodness brings goodness.”  – Nayf Sabry, Sunrise

Our first stop was Sharya IDP camp outside Dohuk. Sharya hosts 17,000 internally displaced people, most of whom left their homes as ISIS advanced on their homes in Sinjar. Famously, ISIS killed many men and boys and captured and enslaved thousands of women. Others fled to the mountains where they stayed for seven to ten days before coming to Dohuk.

Nayf, twenty, and his friends, were struck by the unfair burden placed on Yazidi children. Growing up in a camp with their parents preoccupied with their own trauma and securing basic needs, there were few opportunities for play.

In response, Nayf and some of his friends temporarily dropped out of high school and started Sunrise, a non-politically affiliated NGO. Members from Sunrise visited every family in the camp and invited their children to attend extra-curricular events including movies, games and a field trip to the mall.

Sunrise functions as a community center in a tent in the middle of camp.

Nayf  and his friends are eager to raise money to provide more infrastructure and entertainment opportunities for the children of the camp.

They want to protect the right to childhood – a right he himself was denied.

“If we don’t help each other, who would come?,” he said.

I knew the Yazidi women were powerful and I wanted to help bring it out of them.” – Social Worker at Jinda

In the afternoon we visited with Jinda, a women’s right organization in Dohuk, IK.

Two years ago, Daesh (ISIS) devastated the Yazidi people’s homes in Iraq and Syria and tragically sexually abused and imprisoned girls and women. Thousands fled their homes and became IDPs in Iraq-Kurdistan, outside of Duhok. For the women who escaped the imprisonment of sexual abuse, some had to walk for days without food or water until they reached the camp. The women arrived to the IDP camp with PTSD among other forms of psycho and physical trauma. Mobile groups from Wadi would go to the camp, visit with these women, and ask what they would need.  Out of their needs Wadi created the organiztion Jinda, which means “new life” and they offer a two week opportunity for therapy, a chance to learn life skills, and a resting place outside of the camp.

Women and girls from ages 6-45 have come to the beautiful Jinda space. We were told that for the first few days, many of the girls and women were distant and sorrowful, but by the end of the two weeks they had opened up to one another. Even after the two weeks, Jinda continues to keep in contact with those whom come seeing how else they might be of help. Some of the trainees became trainers or helpers in the camps. 

Jinda was such an inspiration. They saw the need in their community and addressed it head on. They  also have helped to fight Islamophobia because when the girls and women were coming to Jinda, they kept saying that Muslims did this to them. Jinda staff, who are made up of Muslims, Christians, Turkmans, etc. had the opportunity to tell them that this was not Islam at all. Still after these two years, Jinda continues to host women and girls for two weeks. May God bless them for it and may we bring an end to gender based violence and sexual abuse.

Learn more about the work of JINDA and WADI in Duhok

Connect with SUNRISE organization, like their Facebook page
and support their inspiring work.




رەنگ ودەنگە جیاوازەکانی مرۆڤایەتی شەویک لەگولان گفتگۆیان کرد   

Different Colors and Voices of Humanity – One Night Talk in Gullan

  یەکیک لە شیوازەکانی کارکردنی  ریکخراوی نیودەلەتی  (سی پی تی  )دروسکردنی وەفدو چونیانە بۆ ناوچەکانی کارکردنی تیمەکانی،   دوایین وەفد لە مانگی ٥ ی ٢٠١٦ کە هاتن بۆباشوری کوردستان سەردانی چەندین ناوچەیان کرد لە هەولیرو دهۆک و سلیمانی وهەلەبجە وەکو (آمنە سورەکە -مینۆمینتی هەلەبجە گوندو خیزانە  بۆمبارانکراوەکانیقەندیل لە لایەن فرۆکەکانی تورکیاوە  وە دانیشتوانی ناوچەی نەوت و گاز کە کیشیەیان هەیە لەگەل کۆمپانیاکانی  نەوت وگاز ) وەفدەکە شەویک لە گوندی گولانی دۆلی شاور مانەوە من و هاوری سلیمان گولانی  باسی چۆنیەتی ریگری کردن لە کۆمپانیای اکسۆن مۆبیلمان  بۆ کردن کە لە لایەن خەلکی ناوچەکە بۆ پاراستنی سروشت و زینگەو ناوچە اسەواری وگەشتو گوزاریەکان و کشتوکالی ناوچەکە کرا  کە بە شیوازیکی مەدەنی و ناتوندو تیزی انجام درا وە بە سەرکەوتنی خەلک کۆتایی هات کە دواتر بو بە هەوینی خەباتیکی مەدەنی بۆ زۆربەی ناوچەکانی کوردستان وەفدەکە بە سەر سامیەوە گوتیان زۆر ناوچەی تری دونیا هەمان کیشەیان هەیە دەکری سود لەو خەباتە مەدەنیە وەربگیری بۆ ریگری لە پیشیلکاریەکان و  بەدەست هینانی مافەکان لە دەستی   دەسەلات وکۆمپانیاکان دواتر بەریز هاوری سلیمان گولانی باسی کورتەیەک لە میزوی میزۆپۆتامیا (کوردستان) و دەولەتی
سۆمەرو مادو چەند شۆرشیکی کوردی  وە ناوچەکە بەگشتی بۆ کردن  کە تیایدا سەرهەلدانی نەتەوەو ایینو کلتورە جیاوازەکانی لە خۆ گرتبو کە لەناو میزوو وجوگرافیای کوردستان جیگەیان گرتوە….         

By Latif Hars

The delegation has been visiting many places in South Kurdistan. They learned the history of people’s suffering. One night they arrived to my village Gullan. Mr. Hawre Suleman, a historian, and I sat with the delegates to share the ancient history of this region and people’s resistance to Exxon Mobil.

My village is rich with beautiful nature, agricultural products, and archaeological riches. We told the delegates how the people from different social backgrounds have the same vision that we would not give our beautiful land to Exxon.

The delegation from the USA has walked on the path of people’s suffering. Amna Suraka (Red prison) and Halabja are the witness of crimes against humanity in the former Baathist Regime. Nowadays, people are still struggling for survival from Turkish bombing and oil companies.


The Oil Companies May Be the End of Us

“We survived the Ottomans; then we survived the British; then we survived Saddam Hussein. After all that we’re still here, but the oil companies may be the end of us.”

This quote was from a villager that the CPT team in Iraqi Kurdistan has worked with for several years now, but it could be from any one of several communities we have visited in the past week. In a small community outside of Erbil called Haji Ahmed, we met with someone who showed us land that used to be full of vineyards and a running stream. Now, the streambed is dry, the land is mostly dust, and the people aren’t sure what will happen to them.

In 2013, Exxon Mobil came and said they were going to start drilling on the land. Security forces from the Kurdish Regional Government served as protection for Exxon Mobil, and the people of Haji Ahmed had no choice in whether or not to allow their land to be used in this way. The government has the legal right to take the land and use it (in this case give it to the oil company for their use). The government is supposed to compensate the owners using the money from the contract with the oil company–about $1000 (depending on the produce) per year for every donum (¾ acre) that is used. We have yet to hear of a case where the government pays the full compensation to a person or community.

* To read the whole article written by Emily Brewer on Presbyterian Peace Fellowship.


1. For more stories by the delegation: Presbyterian Peace Fellowship 
2. Consider 
joining our next delegation to Iraqi Kurdistan on 10-23 September 2016, or a delegation to one of the other CPT projects.


Photo caption: CPTer listens to the story of an Arab man who was not allowed to pass the Erbil security checkpoint (CPT IK archive, 2014)  

Racism based on my name
Reflection by Mohammed Salah Mahdi

Two of my Kurdish friends were deported from a Russian airport because of their names and assumed religion.

But I have experienced racism also in my region. 

Last Thursday, together with my team mate and my youngest son, I drove the CPT car on our way to Hawler (also known as Erbil, in Arabic), the capital of Kurdistan Region of Iraq, to renew our NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) registration for CPT. After waiting for about fifteen minutes in lines of cars to pass the security checkpoint at the entrance of the city, an Asaish (security officer) asked for our IDs.  When he looked at mine, he asked me if I was Kurdish.  In a moment, I was thinking, “Do I have to swear that I am a Kurd?”  So, I said, “Yes, but why?”  He answered that my name looks like an Arab name. 

He thought it was weird that a Kurd has a fully Muslim name.  So he started to check the car and asked me to open the trunk and also to open the petrol tank cap. It was not usual at all.  Then he went to show my ID to his boss, who in turn came to ask me if I am originally from Sulaimani. He also asked if the car was registered in my name. Then he pointed to my teammate, asking who was he and where was he from. When he replied that he was Czech and that it was a CPT car, the security officer let us pass and enter Hawler—perhaps because Czech government is a good military ally for the Peshmerga and I was driving an international organization’s vehicle.

Read the rest of the reflection


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