Archive - Feb 2011

February 27th

IRAQ LETTER: "Today was not a good day in Suleimaniya."

26 February 2011

Dear all,

Today was not a good day in Suleimaniya.  The team joined the White Group this afternoon after returning from Halubja.  Today was the day for engineers, doctors, and other professionals to raise their voices for change.  

The demonstration was going along fine when suddenly an explosion occurred from behind the stage.  Black smoke filled the air.  For a moment, everyone seemed to be stunned and frozen.  Then the crowd panicked and started running in different directions.  Someone announced that the explosion was just an electrical explosion from a generator.  The White Group raised their hands in an attempt to calm everyone down and gestured to the soldiers standing behind the White Group that everything was okay.  Within five minutes, hundreds from the crowd broke through the White Group line and ran directly up to the soldiers screaming at them and blaming them for what happened.  Shortly after, demonstrators told the White Group that a percussion bomb went off behind the stage.  Accusations that the sound bomb was set the night before by people who want to destroy the demonstrations and Suleimaniya began to circulate.

IRAQ LETTER: “The White Group formed human chains three lines deep…”

Filled with approximately 15,000 people, Freedom Square in Suleimaniya, Iraqi Kurdistan was a shining example of a nonviolent revolution.  At 10:00 a.m., the square was already starting to fill.  Before the noon prayer began, there were about 10,000 people listening to the opening speeches.  More came when the noon prayer began which took place in the square.  People came with plastic cloth, cardboard, and prayer rugs.  The Mullah offered a special prayer to all the people who have been participating in these days of protest recognizing that these are the voices of the ordinary people and not the parties.

February 24th

IRAQ: White Group says to U.S., “The situation in Suleimaniyah is deteriorating.”


Suleimaniyah 24th of February 2011

To: The State Department of the United States of America, American Embassy and Consulates in Iraq

From: The White Group (Geroupee Spi), Suleimaniyah

Dear Ladies and Sirs,
As representatives of the newly founded “White Group” we urgently address you.  Since last Thursday, the 17th of February, the situation in Suleimaniyah city and Governorate is severely deteriorating.  After demonstrators protested against the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in a peaceful demonstration, some rallied towards the main branch of the Kurdistan Democratic Party.  Militias of this party answered stone throwing with live ammunition, killing four, and injuring more than 150 people, in addition to detaining unknown number of demonstrators.

CHICAGO REFLECTION: A delegation leader ponders racism and White Privilege in Kurdish Iraq

As Christian Peacemaker Teams has introduced Undoing Racism into all aspects of our organization over the past few years, I, as delegations coordinator, have been integrating the topic into orientation materials for delegates.  “Racism is often a root cause or at least a significant factor in war, and unless we have a clue about that, our work will be superficial, or worse, deeply damaging,” one document reads.  Specifically, the materials cite racism of White, European, and European-descended people against people of color as a cause of war.  Undoing racism means that those of us who are White have to first see and then take responsibility for that privilege.

Thus, when I led a delegation to the Kurdish north of Iraq last fall, I tried hard to encourage delegates to ask questions about racism, and its corollary, White privilege, when interpreting what we were learning about the situation in northern Iraq.

February 23rd

IRAQ: Protests continue; riot averted

The seventh day of anti-government protests in Suleimaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan ended peacefully, today.  The "White Group," a non-violent group of citizens sympathetic to reform including actors, writers and lawyers, again deployed itself between the protesters and the security forces.  Towards the end of the protest, the group, together with other protesters, managed to avert a riot.  A small group of protesters sought to assault the soldiers and march on the KDP office, where security guards had opened fire on protesters last Thursday, killing at least two, and wounding dozens.  The White Group organized several human chains to prevent a confrontation with the military, and talked to the violent group to de-escalate the situation.  CPTers stood with the White Group today. 

Prayers for Peacemakers, Feb. 23, 2011


Pray for the people of Suleimaniyah in northern Iraq. Three people were killed and dozens injured in demonstrations this week. Pray for nonviolent citizens called the White Group who intervene physically seeking to de-escalate the violence.

Doug Pritchard

Christian Peacemaker Teams

Toronto, Canada

SOUTH HEBRON HILLS: Israeli military demolishes village of Amniyr

Amniyr, South Hebron Hills, West Bank  At 5:00 a.m. yesterday morning, the Israeli army, accompanied by members of the Israeli District Coordinating Office, arrived at the village of Amniyr and demolished five tent-houses, two cisterns and the village's olive trees.  The demolitions effectively destroyed the entire village and left its three families homeless.  All that remained unharmed after the military left was a cave and a small taboun oven.
According to villagers, the military had been coming frequently for the past several months and delivering demolition orders and maps claiming that the village was on Israeli state land, and that their homes would be demolished unless everyone left.

IRAQ LETTER: “Armed with a calming demeanor, plastic flowers, white vests, and white cloth, approximately eighty White Group members formed a semicircle around the square.”

The plan for CPT today was to document events and stand with the White Group.  This group, consisting of about fifteen local NGOs and young people from the University formed yesterday to act as a buffer between the security forces and the demonstrators.  Many of the injuries from the past few days resulted from rock throwing and beatings between these two groups during clashes.  Armed with a calming demeanor, plastic flowers, white vests, and white cloth, approximately eighty White Group members formed a semicircle around the square.  Behind them were well over 1000 armed security forces.  In front of them were the 5000 demonstrators.  There were at least three instances where tensions were defused when some people from the square tried to barge into the line of security forces.  The White Group quickly stepped between them and security and calmed what could have been a violent exchange.  However, one of the most remarkable methods of preventing violence happened when the White Group handed out bunches of plastic flowers to the security forces.  Some held the flowers in their hands.  Others put the flowers in the barrel of their rifles.  The faces of the security forces had softened and many were smiling and making eye contact with the people.  In front of them, stood the White Group, firmly rooted in their space and each holding a flower as well.  Today's demonstration ended without any violent incidents.  The White Group remained in the square for six hours until all the demonstrators and security left.  The group will return tomorrow.

February 22nd

IRAQ UPDATE: 16-31 January 2011


Apparently inspired by the events in Egypt, the Kurdish opposition party Goran announced demonstrations.  The governing parties responded fiercely and many expected violence. government deployed tanks around a large hotel.  In an apparent effort to counter discontent, the government announced it would provide twenty-one hours of electricity daily starting February.  For undisclosed reasons, Goran called off the demonstration. 
The Egyptian revolution also appears to have affected central Iraq: Iraqi prime minister Maliki, accused by many of dictatorial ambitions, announced he would not run for a third term and halved his salary.

CPT INTERNATIONAL: CPTnet and the CPT web site now more accessible in Spanish (Español adelante)

Spread the word!  CPTnet is completely available in Spanish.  RedECAP offers frequent updates, reports, reflections, prayer requests, and action alerts in Spanish from all of CPT's projects.  Contact sophiac[at]cpt[dot]org to start receiving redECAP releases or go to