Kurdistan

IRAQI KURDISTAN: To drink tea without fear--Iranian bombing in Sidakin

 

Photo by: Julie Brown.

In the middle of Ramadan this year, farmers in Iraqi Kurdistan experienced bombing by Iran. In the last three years there were not any bombingsalong the border with Iran. It was also the first time the area of Barbazin in Sidakan sub-district was bombed so heavily.

The team decided to visit the area and to learn what had happened.  After driving for several hours on the highway and unpaved roads we had the privilege to meet Rashad. While I parked the car near his house, I could see him outside making a fire for his tea. Rashad stood up to look at these strangers coming to his tents. As I greeted him, he very warmly greeted me in return and firmly shook my hand. Through his eyes and smile I could see that he was excited to know more about who we were.

I noticed he had difficulty walking and I was not sure if he was disabled or if he had lost his leg because of a landmine.  The reality of life in a border village is that there is always one or more disabled villager who has lost a part of  his or her body because of mines.  

IRAQI Kurdistan: No place to hide

"When the bombing starts, where do you hide?" I asked Sultan.

 "There is no place.  Behind rocks, wherever we can. We all just run in every direction. Everyone has to find their own place.  Even the children."

 The last shelling started on 23 June at 10:00 a.m. and did not stop until after noon.  The farmer said over 160 bombs fell on the small area in those two hours.  After it was over, many animals had been killed and three children were injured.

In the Choman District of Iraqi Kurdistan high in the mountains near the Iranian border lies the Allana Gully CPT visited after hearing reports of a recent cross border shelling from Iran. The drive through the mountains to this remote area was slow. The road is an unpaved rocky path carved into the side of steep mountain ledges. In many places it is so narrow that the wheels of our vehicle came dangerously close to sliding off the edge.

 "When the bombings start, some families try to flee in their vehicles.  You have seen the road; it is very dangerous." Sultan pointed to the rugged path; it's the only road that leads down.

Sultan showing his daughter's injury. Photo by: Julie Brown

Sultan was one of the first people we met.  As soon as Sultan heard we had come to talk about the shelling from Iran, he summoned his daughter, a young girl with long blond hair.  He reached down and gingerly took her arm and lifted it up for us to see.  He explained that she had been hit by shrapnel.  Metal had entered her palm and lodged in her wrist.  She had to have surgery to remove the shrapnel, which a wound that went all the way through.  As I took pictures of her injuries I could see the trauma on her face.   

IRAQI KURDISTAN: War looms at their borders, but life goes on

A construction worker in Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan. Photo by: Peggy Gish

Even in the 110 F. heat, Kamal* works daily as part of a construction crew, building a several-story-high building in our residential neighborhood of the city of Suleimani.  He stopped a moment, in the hot sun, to pose for my photo, not minding the short break from his work.

Every day, early morning until late in the evening, Shorsh* and a crew of three other men slap out dough into large thin discs, bake them, and lay them out on an open table.  Eight large rounds of bread cost a little less than a U.S. dollar. People, of all ages, mill around his shop, buying fresh bread for their families.

 A few doors away, a clothing shop opens only in the evenings, when there is some relief from the intense heat and more people amble along the street to shop. A few will also stop at the ice cream shop next door. Others will visit a grocery shop where Rebaz,* his wife, or any of their three older children, greet me and other customers with a smile and help us find what we need. 

CPT INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ SOLIDARITY: Dear Settlers

 

Rezhiar Fakhir

It has not been very long since I visited the land of the Indigenous peoples. I acknowledge that it took me a very long time to write this. That was for two reasons. First, I come from a place where we have suffered from different conflicts, not just over decades but over centuries. I thought it would not be a good idea for me to write a judgment of Canadian society when we are deeply impacted by war in our own region. Second, North American history is very complicated for me even though some have told me it is very simple: the settlers came and destroyed the life of the Indigenous peoples – the story is as simple as that. Even after my first visit to Grassy Narrows, an indigenous reserve, I was not courageous enough to write this reflection. But I made a pledge to my indigenous friends that I would write about their struggle even though I am not Canadian.

My journey in Canada began when I arrived in Nelson in British Colombia to finish my course at Selkirk College in mid April. From the moment of my arrival I felt the generosity of the people of Nelson. They were very kind and welcoming. Nelson portrayed a perfect Canada in my mind. However, I began to hear from my very good friends, classmates and instructors about some problems and difficulties that Canadians faced. I met many people in Nelson who told me stories about the Indigenous peoples’ struggle. They gave me an overview of the history and the challenges of indigenous peoples in North America. One late afternoon, I even saw one of my classmates arguing with the police from Nelson about the history of colonization. Or my instructor who expressed concern about the extinction of some indigenous communities in Nelson.

IRAQI KURDISTAN: June 2016 Newsletter--Border Bombings

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Iraqi Kurdistan

 
Border Bombings
The Kelasheen, the high mountain pastures used in the summer for grazing and farming by the villagers of Zhilya. Photo: Caldwell Manners

Sidakan, Caught on the Border

Latif Hars and Caldwell Manners

Sidakan, a sub-district along the borders of Turkey and Iran, has recently come under heavy Turkish bombing. Villagers now have to navigate precariously between invisible lines of armed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK)- controlled areas, which tend to be at higher risk, and high pasture grazing land, the Kelasheen, where their families camp all summer with their animals.  On the eastern border, Iran has begun shelling the area, displacing and injuring people.

Sidakan is the largest sub-district in Iraq and the autonomous region of Kurdistan in Iraq (Kurdistan Regional Government - KRG). This rugged mountainous region shares a border with Turkey on the north and Iran on the east.

CPT began it’s work in the area a few years ago when Turkey and Iran were bombing and shelling the highlands, prior to the failed peace talks of 2015, between Turkey and the (PKK).

Turkey began bombing the area in the mid-nineties when the PKK moved their operations from the cities of southeast Turkey to the eastern mountains of the KRG, including Sidakan. The villagers who farm and graze their animals in these mountainous pastures continue to be victims of the cross border attacks as reported by the team in their 2012 report, “Disrupted lives” and most recently in neighbouring Zergaly.

Read the full article here
Long time CPT partner, Kak Bapir from the village of Baste, shows the team footage of grazing and agricultural land prone to aerial Turkish strikes. On June 27th warplanes stuck 200 meters from his home shattering the glass of village homes and burning surrounding grazing land. Photo: Caldwell Manners

IRAQI KURDISTAN: May 2016 Newsletter--Neighbors from different worlds

Newsletter

May 2016
 
 

 

Iraqi Kurdistan

 
We are neighbors from different worlds
-CPT May Delegation-
 
We are pleased to welcome nine delegates from the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and Mennonite Church from the U.S.A.

It has always been a pleasure for CPTers to unite people and celebrate the diversities. We started our May delegation by visiting a local Muslim leader and activist Mullah Nader and talked about bringing peace and supporting diverse minorities in Kurdistan society.

CPT has met Mullah Nader in several peaceful civil society demonstrations. He told the group that his role is supporting people with the Holy Quran's teaching about justice and respect. Because he speaks about the injustice, the suffering of the people under corrupt powers, and protests together with other mullahs against wars and violence, he began receiving threats.

IRAQI KURDISTAN: Finding community and empowerment after ISIS

The afternoon brought a visit to Baynjan Women's Center—a safe haven for women of many ages, and many different cultural backgrounds:refugees from Syria and elsewhere, women who have been internally displaced, Kurds, Arabs, and Yazidi/Ezidis, gather together each day in a place that has become "the gate to happiness"; a comfortable and safe space radically different from the chaos that drove them so far from their homes. Again and again, as the women talked, they expressed gratitude for a space where they could "be themselves," "be comfortable," "be safe," "experience family, after I was separated from my own." The women put together a drama that they have shared in refugee and IDP (internally displaced people) camps and that they shared on International Women's Day. The drama showed a young women's struggle to achieve her goals in the midst of an arranged marriage. The woman comes into her own power as the drama continues. The theater expresses the depth of issues that women face on a daily basis in a way that goes far beyond just words. The women find community together, challenge systems, work for human rights and demonstrate peacemaking every day.

Wouldn't you love to meet people like the ones working at STEP and Baynjan Women's Center?  Check out our delegation schedule!

IRAQI KURDISTAN: “The oil companies may be the end of us”


“We survived the Ottomans; then we survived the British; then we survived Saddam Hussein. After all that we’re still here, but the oil companies may be the end of us.”

This quote was from a villager that Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraqi Kurdistan has worked with for several years now, but anyone from several communities we have visited in the past week could have said it.  In a small community outside of Erbil/Hawler called Haji Ahmed, we met with a villager who showed us land that used to be full of vineyards and a running stream. Now, the streambed is dry, the land is mostly dust, and the people aren’t sure what will happen to them.

Prayers for Peacemakers June 1, 2016 Iraqi Kurdistan

Prayers for Peacemakers June 1, 2016

Pray for the legislators in Iraqi Kurdistan who want to change their political culture into one that that values transparency and human rights, and who want the oil revenue from the region to benefit everyone in the country.

*Epixel for Peacemakers June 5, 2016  
Presbyterian Peace Fellowship Delegation and CPT Iraqi Kurdistan team with Kurdish Regional Government Representative, Soran Omer (3rd from left)
Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help.
When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish.
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God,
who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free;
 the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. 
Psalm 146: 3-9
 
*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing  with a text  from the upcoming  Sunday's Revised Common Lectionary readings.

IRAQI KURDISTAN: Hospitality, human rights, and corruption driven by the oil industry.


A common thread runs through our meetings in Iraqi Kurdistan: hospitality.  As we focus on our peacemaking mission, we are constantly reminded that we are one human family.  We have received such warm welcomes everywhere.   The people we've met have shared their homes, their hearts, and their tables.  We've drunk their tea, eaten their magnificent repasts, and most importantly, have listened to their stories.

Some of these stories are painful.  We can understand that it's not easy for people victimized by violence to share.  And yet, they do.  Syrian women in refugee camps join together for fellowship and friendship, despite differences of religion, ethnicity, and language.  Children meet at a drop-in center and learn that whether they are Sunni, Shi'a, Christian, Yazidi, Arab, Kurd or Turcoman, they are one human family.

On 26 May, we met with Soran Omer, a member of the Kurdistan Regional Government. He's in the opposition Islamic Party and chairs the Human Rights Committee.