IRAQI KURDISTAN: Hajji Hussein is free! Thank you for your e-mails


Hussein sits with boy on lap

After seventy-nine days in prison and four court hearings, Hajji Hussein has finally re-united with his family.  On 9 December 2013, the Criminal Court of Appeal acquitted Hajji Hussein of all charges brought up against him by the former Director-General of the Asaish, Hakim Nadir.  The court acknowledged that a report, which the members of the Human Rights Committee of the Kurdistan Parliament compiled following a visit with Hajji Hussein in prison after he was tortured, was sufficient to prove his innocence.  This release marks the second time the court has acquitted Hussein of the same charges and the second time it has liberated him from incarceration.  Together with the first stint he served in prison, he lost over ten months of his life, and much more, for refusing to give false testimony even though his inquisitors beat and threatened him.

Members of CPT’s Iraqi Kurdistan team are deeply moved by the efforts of Kak Umer, Hussein’s brother and lawyer, whose tireless work has truly moved mountains, and rejoice with the family.  The team would like to thank everyone who sent out emails, prayed, shared this story, or performed other actions in support of Hajji Hussein's release.

AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): Israeli immigration denies entry to another Palestine team member


On the night of 5 December 2013, Israeli immigration authorities denied entry to Patrick Thompson at the Allenby Bridge connecting Jordan to Occupied Palestine. Thompson was attempting to return for another stint on the team in Hebron.  He initially told authorities that he was entering as a tourist, to visit Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Tel Aviv, and then points south, before re-entering Jordan. An Israeli official was concerned about his previous stay of four months in Israel.

After detailed questioning over a period of three hours and a search of his computer hard drive, authorities found a logo of CPT and told him they were denying him entry because he had lied to them. Thompson told them that he specifically did not mention his work with CPT or his destination as the West Bank because of the way Israeli authorities had treated many others when they volunteered this information willingly.  Authorities denied entry to Jonathan Brenneman, another CPTer, in September, when he declared his membership in CPT and his plans to travel to Hebron.  Thompson then waited another hour or so before the authorities officially denied him entry. When he boarded a bus to go back across the border into Jordan it was 1:30 a.m., a full six hours after his arrival at Israeli passport control.

Thompson is the fourth CPTer to whom Israel has denied entry this year. In addition to denying entry to Brenneman in September, authorities turned away two reservists in July because of stamps in their passports from their time with the Iraqi Kurdistan team—even though the Kurdish Regional Government has friendly relations with Israel.

IRAQI KURDISTAN URGENT ACTION: Please send e-mails before 9 December to Judicial Council of Kurdistan Region of Iraq for political prisoner Hajjii Husseini


Husseini with CPT visitors at
the prison.

In October, CPT Iraqi Kurdistan put out a release about the case of Hussein Hama Ali Tawfiq (known as Hajji Hussein).  He will be having a hearing a week from today and is very much afraid the authorities will find an excuse (e.g., an investigation into his ill-treatment) to keep him in prison longer.  The Iraqi Kurdistan team is thus asking that the CPT constituency to send e-mails this week to the Presidency of the Judicial Council of Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Attention: Mr. Hozan, hozan@krjc.iq

Below is a sample e-mail

Dear Mr. Hozan

I have learned from several international human rights organizations about the case of the businessman, Mr. Hussein Hama Ali Tawfiq (known as Hajji Hussein), who since September 2013 has been held in Kani Goma prison in Suleimani.

Mr. Hussein claims that after he was imprisoned on 27 March 2012 in an Asaish prison, he had been ill-treated, beaten and under physical violence and threats aimed at his family, was pressured to sign a false accusation against then-Mayor of Sulaimani Mr. Zana Hama Salih and other politicians, which he refused to do.  On 4 April 2012, representatives of the Human Rights Committee of the KRG Parliament visited Mr. Hussein in prison and wrote a report proving that he had been ill-treated

#GIVINGTUESDAY Sometimes Iraqi Kurdistan team partners are taking on ExxonMobil, sometimes they are advocating for one man in prison who refused to tell a lie.  Your donation helps shine a light on their efforts.


Prayers for Peacemakers, November 27, 2013

Prayers for Peacemakers, November 27, 2013

Epixel* for 1 December

the night is far gone,the day is near.
Let us then lay aside
the works of darkness
and put on the armor of light
Rom. 13:12

Give thanks that Christian Peacemaker Teams partners in Iraqi Kurdistan are asking for more trainings in nonviolence and have helped produce a video shining a light on the complicity of their government in selling the lands of Kurdish villagers without their consent to ExxonMobil.

Related stories:

IRAQI KURDISTAN: Participants in nonviolence workshops say, "We want to learn more."

IRAQI KURDISTAN: CPT releases video about Exxon Mobil’s confiscation of Kurdish villagers’ land

IRAQI KURDISTAN: CPT releases video about Exxon Mobil’s confiscation of Kurdish villagers’ land

Since August 2013, Christian Peacemaker Teams-Iraqi Kurdistan (CPT IK) has accompanied several Kurdish villages gravely impacted by the oil explorations and operations of the U.S.-based corporation Exxon Mobil and its sub-contractors.  For the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Exxon Mobil's presence represents a prize—won in the face of the Iraqi Central Government's anger—which offers hope for Kurdish political and economic independence.

Since May 2013, Exxon Mobil, cordially supported by the KRG and its special armed forces, has been building its first soon to-be-operational oil rig in Iraqi Kurdistan on the land that two village communities, Hajji Ahmed and Sartka, owned and worked on for generations. The oilrig construction wiped out seventy dunums (nearly forty-four acres/eighteen hectares) of five-decades'-old vineyards and wheat fields.  Checkpoints and watch towers operated by armed guards cut the villagers off from their remaining land—around 230 dunums of vineyards, grain fields and fruit orchards. After the villagers lost one year's harvest, the company began to allow them access their fields. However to do so, the villagers must pass through humiliating security checks and searches and remain under constant surveillance while on their property. One of the village leaders overlooking the gardens and orchards surrounding the oilrig that took much of his own land proclaimed sadly: "This is an occupation. For me to go to my own fields, is like going to Baghdad or Turkey."

Despite its status as one of the richest corporations in the world, which pays an estimated U.S.$100,000 per day to construct and run a single oil rig, Exxon Mobil offered via the KRG to pay the villagers for the confiscated and occupied land no more than a $100 per dunum as a yearly rent. To this standard rate (for land used by the oil companies), the KRG is supposed to add the value of the agricultural produce the villagers could have sold. Setting aside the emotional value a farmer places on producing food from his/her own land, the villagers evaluate the economic price of a cultivated dunum to be over US$15,000. They have received nothing yet.

 CPT IK, as a way to support the villagers in the two regions, and to amplify their voices made a twelve minute film. 


What can you do to support the villagers' struggle?

Please, watch the film and share it along the news of the struggle with your local communities and friends. Please contact the KRG and Exxon Mobil's representatives and demand compensations for the village lands of Hajji Ahmed and Sartka, open access to the fields, and an end to the oil explorations in the Shawre valley.

More than 1100 people have now viewed this video that CPT Iraq and their Kurdish partners have put together.  When CPT Colombia began accompanying the community of Las Pavas, one of the strategies they undertook was notifying The Body Shop that it was purchasing palm oil from a corporation that had driven Las Pavas families from their land.  When the Body Shop took the word of the palm oil company over that of Las Pavas, CPT began holding witnesses outside Body Shop retail outlets in Europe and North America.  Eventually, The Body Shop stopped purchasing palm oil from Daabon Organics.  CPT Iraqi Kurdistan is just at the beginning of a strategizing process with partners on the ground regarding how they want to confront ExxonMobil and their government about the confiscation of their lands.  ExxonMobil has an awful lot of money, but it also has a huge righteousness deficit. Your gift is an acknowledgment that a little money toward a righteous cause can go a long way.


IRAQI KURDISTAN: Participants in nonviolence workshops say, "We want to learn more."

In the spring and summer months of 2013, CPT’s Iraqi Kurdistan (IK) team conducted twelve workshops about the fundamental ideas and practices of nonviolence for students and people in other sectors of Iraqi Kurdish society.  In cooperation with the Suleimani Directorate of Education, the team was able to present this interactive workshop in five high schools to over 180 female and male students and teachers.

Later on, the team ran the workshop in places that included the Culture CafĂ© and CafĂ© 11 in Suleimani, Amez Center for Women in Halabja, the town of Qaladze and village of Daraban.  At the end of each workshop, the team asked the participants to share their thoughts and suggestions on evaluation forms. 

CPT IK felt deeply encouraged by the participants' feedback and responses.  The team compiled the results into a report in order to share the diverse and earnest thoughts of the participants with the Kurdish Regional Government’s education sector, as well as civil society organizations.  The team hopes the government will also find the report encouraging and will respond to the requests of the participants by developing and providing for further workshops and trainings focused on non-violence

The ten page report, which includes graphs and candid photos of workshop participants is available here.

#GIVINGTUESDAY What if CPT had the resources to provide trainings for all the civil society groups in Kurdistan who wanted them: students, teachers, women's groups, etc ?  What if participants in these sessions began training others and multiplying the effects of nonviolence across Kurdistan?  Your donation could help our partners in Iraqi Kurdistan do more effective nonviolent organizing against the repression they face.  It would be a vote of confidence in their struggles, a way of saying, "What you are doing to publicize cross border bombings from Turkey and Iran, violence against women, the confiscation of land by multinational corporations—it matters to us."


IRAQI KURDISTAN: Hunger strike against executions of Kurdish prisoners in Iran begins

 On 4 November, a group of three women and seven men— Kurds from Iran— asked to speak to an Iranian consulate representative in Suleimani to demand an end to executions of Kurdish political prisoners in Iran.  The group consisted of relatives of the prisoners, some of whom the regime had recently executed, the others sentenced to hang soon.

Several members of the group have themselves spent years in prison under horrible conditions because of their political activism.  The group walked to the Iranian consulate with banners and photos of the prisoners, living and executed, but were stopped by the security forces—police and Asaish.  They sat down in the middle of the road facing the police officers with riot shields, and asked that the authorities allow them to speak to a representative of the consulate.  No one responded to their call, so they decided to wait.

The security forces enclosed the whole area and allegedly prevented an unknown number of people, including some journalists, from reaching the ten Iranian Kurds.  The Asaish questioned CPTers when they arrived but allowed them into the area based on the documentation they produced identifying them as members of an international human rights organization.  At that time, two TV stations interviewed people and a couple of reporters took pictures, but later all had left, and CPT remained present as the only independent observers of the situation.

As the cold night fell over Suleimani, discussions arose about how to proceed.  Two people of the group left to return with water and food.  They tried to bring in blankets as well, but the security forces prevented them from doing so.  They also prevented CPT from recording or even witnessing a discussion at the checkpoint.  The Kurdish Iranian group decided to end the action by conducting a press conference filmed on personal cameras and lit by the headlights of a car. 

IRAQI KURDISTAN: WADI shifts attitudes toward Female Genital Mutilation


 Falah Muradkhan addresses the media

On 30 October 2013, CPT’s partner organization, WADI Iraq office, organized a press conference—which media representatives from six major Kurdish satellite channels and several newspapers attended —about the decline in Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Kurdistan.  The WADI project coordinator, Falah Muradkhan said his organization had called the press conference because of the huge international attention stirred up on the topic caused by the recent BBC World and BBC Arabic's airing of two documentaries and the reporting of the Guardian newspaper.

WADI used this occasion to present new data about the FGM situation in Kurdistan and WADI's current activities.  Two years ago, the Kurdistan Regional Government banned FGM as part of a wide-ranging law to improve women's rights, after years of grassroots campaigning run by activist and civil society organizations, including WADI.  In a region where honor killings still happen, journalists write about Kurdistan as a "rare success story."

The documentaries about FGM tell the amazing story of WADI traveling to a remote village and accidentally learning about girls being cut.  WADI began a strenuous grass roots campaign, doing further investigation, enlisting the help of the mullah and other leaders of the village.  The mayor of the village was proud to help in the campaign.  He and his wife had daughters they wanted to protect from this practice.  The mayor went on to say, "We believe that your body is yours and cutting it is an act of violence."

Many Kurds believe that "khatana" or Female Genital Mutilation is part of Islamic practice.  However, numerous mullahs oppose FGM.  One of them, Mullah Omar Chngyani, an Islamic scholar, has written extensively about the subject.  He says "This practice is not in Islam, it's a traditional practice, not a religious one—it's a form of oppression for women.”  Chngyani says, "
 if you read and understand deeply you'll know that Islam could never tell us to hurt anyone."

Iraqi Kurdistan: The case of one political prisoner

In May 2013, Amnesty International (AI) contacted CPT and asked whether the team in Suleimani would be willing to meet with a lawyer involved in a case covered by AI. Lawyer Kak Umer told CPT that the former General Director of the ASAISH (Iraqi Kurdistan intelligence and security forces) Haqim Qader arrested Kak’s brother, Hussein Hama Ali Tawfiq (known as Hajji Hussein), and allegedly ill-treated him in prison demanding Hajji Hussein sign confessions against others. Hajji refused and repeatedly suffered beatings and threats.* After his release, he left Kurdistan for Germany to receive treatment for his injuries.

While Hajji Hussein was in Germany, CPT met with others involved in the case, including another international organization. CPT learned the case is connected to a larger case. CPT met with another person allegedly mistreated, and with Mrs. Sakar, wife of a former Suleimani mayor, who died in prison in unclear circumstances.

Prayers for Peacemakers, September 18, 2013

 Epixel* for 15 September 2013

 For the hurt of my poor
people I am hurt, I mourn, and
dismay has taken hold of me.
Jeremiah 8:21


Prayers for Peacemakers, September 18, 2013

Pray for the people of Iraqi Kurdistan who are currently facing violent attacks as part of the parliamentary election campaign.  Pray also that the U.N. election monitors will observe the voting process carefully and transparently to ensure that the elections are not corrupted.