23 August 2016
IRAQI KURDISTAN: What peace looks like here
by Peggy Gish
[Note: This release has been adapted for CPTnet, the
original is available on the CPT-Iraqi
Kurdistan team’s blog.]
Weza village located near the Iranian border in Iraqi Kurdistan. Photo by: Peggy Gish.
“Is this the village of Weza?” I asked my teammate, not
believing what I was seeing. This did not look like the same village our team
visited in June 2010. Weza, nestled in the mountains of northeastern Iraqi
Kurdistan and close to the Iranian border, looked bigger. Fields were
larger and greener and the houses in better repair. Residents, we spoke
to said that even though they know in the back of their mind that danger could
return to their village, they feel more relaxed. Tourists are once again coming
into the area for vacations, to enjoy the beautiful views and the milder summer
Six years ago, in June 2010, we sat in this same village,
with the uncle of fourteen-year-old Basoz, as he told us about his niece’s
tragic death three weeks earlier. A rocket had exploded near Basoz while
she was preparing tea for the rest of the family who were working in their
fields. Her twenty-year-old cousin, with her at the time, was not
physically injured, but was severely traumatized. The uncle, describing
the situation there, told us, “Over the last ten days, more than 200 rockets
have exploded around our village. People here are terrified, and many
We had been visiting the Sedakan and Choman districts to
learn what the affects of more recent cross-border attacks from either Turkey
or Iran has been along the northeastern border between Iraq and Iran. In the
past two days we had met farmers who had family members injured, livestock
killed, crops or orchards damaged, or who fled their land out of fear. The success of Kurdish forces against ISIS
had increased a Kurdish presence in areas of Iraq and Syria, which had been a
contributing factor to the resumption of Turkish bombing. One of the factors contributing to the ebb
and flow of cross-border attacks by Iran on Kurdish Iraqi villages has been the
movement of members of an Iranian Kurdish independence party in these areas and
the degree to which Iran sees them as a threat.
When we found ourselves not far from Weza and Kani Spi, two
villages we had spent time in years ago when they were experiencing attacks, wedecided to also visit there.
|Residents of Kani Spi and CPTers Photo by: Julie Brown.
Changes we could see now in Kani Spi included the building
of a new house and the expansion and flourishing of their fields and orchards.
As in Weza, however, the most important change was one we couldn’t
photograph. It had to do with the cessation of the shelling and the absence of
daily fear of attack. It was something we could feel as well as see—the
relaxed brows, lighter conversations, the ability to plan ahead for the future,
and the quicker laughter that seemed to ripple through the mountain passes
above and around the village.
“You see the difference in our life now?” a long-time friend
from Kani Spi, asked us. “Before, you saw what fear of violence looks like for
a village. Now what you see—this is what peace looks and feels like
We left with the longing that the deeper justice and power
issues contributing to the strife between rebel fighters and the neighboring
governments be faced and resolved non-militarily, so that the graceful farming
families living in the border villages, now experiencing attacks could also
soon know and flourish under the daily realities of peace.