26 June 2017
IRAQI KURDISTAN: Take ownership of
May 2017, we as delegates of the CPT Iraqi Kurdistan spring delegation visited
Basta, one of the 63 villages that dot the high mountain area of the Pishdar
region of Iraqi Kurdistan. Kak Bapir, the village leader, and his family
welcomed us warmly. “The people of CPT are no longer guests here,” Kak Bapir
said. “So take ownership of your home.”
1980s the regime of Saddam Hussein displaced thousands of civilians inhabiting
the mountains and lowlands of the Pishdar region. After the fall of the Ba’ath
regime in 2003 the people were glad to return to and rebuild their homes and
villages. However, in 2007 a new period of misery started, when both the
Turkish and the Iranian governments began to bomb the region. In 2012 Iranian
cross-border artillery bombardments ceased but Turkish air strikes continue
until this day. The latest attack took place on 6 April 2017.
the last ten years Turkish and Iranian bombs and rockets killed twenty people
and destroyed more than one hundred village houses. The farmers and shepherds
had to repeatedly abandon and flee their homes. The people of the region suffer
from the loss of animals, destruction of homes, businesses and agriculture and
a delayed electrical project. Because of the bombings there is a lack of
teachers, since they are afraid to come to the villages to teach the children.
All of this has resulted in a lot of mental health problems in the region.
Photo: Kak Bapir and CPT delagation.
Basta has always represented peace. During the war between the Patriotic Union of
Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the father of Kak Bapir
negotiated with leaders of both parties and encouraged them, after around
seventy sessions, to sign a peace agreement. The Turkish government claims that
their bombings target the PKK, whose fighters have also maintained presence in
the area for over two decades, in their own camps and mountain hideouts.
However, the bombings are making life unbearable for the civilians who
otherwise could produce enough of certain vegetables, cheese, meat and honey,
not only to sustain their own communities but also for the whole region. The
area is well-known for its mountain agriculture, beekeeping and livestock.
May, our delegation accompanied Kak Bapir to a meeting at the Consulate General
of the United States of America in Erbil. Kak Bapir asked the consular officers
to put pressure on the government of Turkey to stop bombing Pishdar region of
Iraqi Kurdistan. We as delegates wrote a letter to the Consul, in which we
amplified the communities voice in this important struggle. Although the
political officer expressed his understanding, he kept on repeating that Turkey
is targeting the PKK, a group that is considered a terrorist organization by
the USA. Kak Bapir invited the Consular staff to visit Basta but the officer
told him that because of security reasons there would be no chance to take this
ownership of your home.” Somehow these words of Kak Bapir keep ringing in my
ears. His hospitality and peaceful presence are a sharp contrast to the
violence and injustice that are taking place in the region he lives in. We, the
CPT delegation, hope that the small steps that are being taken in raising
awareness and putting pressure will one day make Kak Bapir and the other
inhabitants of the Pishdar district able to finally live in peace in their