Prayers for Peacemakers 26 January 2022

Villagers in Kurdistan’s Nahla valley not only suffer from Turkish bombardments but are now subject to checkpoint controls, stigmatized by local government as collaborating with guerrilla presence in the region.
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Three people stand together in conversation. CPT visited Youssif in Nahla valley to discuss the militarized checkpoints
Youssif, leader of Kashkawa village in Nahla valley, speaks with CPT in December 2021 regarding checkpoint harassment.

Pray for the perseverance of Assyrian Christian and Kurdish Muslim villagers of Nahla valley that have been cut off from the outside world by militarized checkpoints set up on roads leading to the valley. People of the valley face harassment and refusal when trying to bring food and materials to sustain their lives. Their future is under threat.

Frequent Turkish airstrikes in the Nahla valley have caused great suffering to the villagers and their farming economy, tahini production and small businesses. Added to this, the local government in Nahla valley has set up five militarized checkpoints on three roads leading to the valley, claiming that villagers are supporting the PKK guerrilla presence in the region.  Since the checkpoints installments in late 2020, each time the villagers try to bring food, baking flour, gas for generators, and materials for daily life in the valley, they have to ask for permission. They are often forced to withstand imposed bureaucratic procedures, denials, and harassment from government officials and security forces.

A leader of one of the Assyrian villages told CPT Iraqi Kurdistan, “The situation is very bad. Even during the Baathist regime, we were not under this much pressure. For example, a few months ago, one of my neighbours needed feed for her animals. She was told to fill in many papers and was asked questions about her business and her family that is living abroad. After fifteen days, they asked her to do the same process again!”

One person described the harassment he and his family face through questions he receives from the security officers on the road to his village, “Why do you have a beard? Why are you not shaving? Why are you wearing these clothes? Why is your wife sitting in front?”

As a result of the restrictions, seven grocery stores serving the people of Nahla have been closed. The villagers are very worried about how long they can withstand this situation before needing to abandon their homes. If they were to leave one day, their lands would be taken by a tribe from a nearby area that has been trying to take the Nahla people’s land for many years.

Nahla valley is a home to predominantly Assyrian Christians who live in eight villages and also Kurdish Muslims living in one village. CPT-Iraqi Kurdistan has accompanied people of Nahla valley since 2016.

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