IRAQ UPDATE: 14-22 April 2008

12 May 2008
IRAQ UPDATE: 14-22 April 2008

Monday, 14 April
The team agreed to resume delegations to Iraq in early August, feeling that the security situation in the Kurdish North is sufficiently stable and the team has sufficient contacts to make a delegation possible and fruitful.

Tuesday, 15 April
Team members resumed discussions with independent Kurdish Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and learned about a newly created Iraqi federation of non-violence (NV) groups that hold a monthly general meeting. Kurdish NGOs are roughly divided into party-affiliated and independent groups. Party-affiliated groups are the beneficiaries of the Kurdish Regional Government’s (KRG) largesse and so have funds to carry out trainings but rarely confront the KRG with social inequities. Independent groups have a tougher time raising funds, whether from donor countries, the United Nations (UN), or the KRG, and so with their limited resources cannot bring people from outside the local area to trainings. They also have very limited or no funds to accomplish campaigns to change policy. The team decided to conduct a one-day brainstorming session on no cost/low cost activities with independent leaders from Suleimaniya, Erbil, Kirkuk and Mosul.

Thursday, 17 April

A local NGO representative, who works with Iraqi youth, approached the team regarding his project on peace and communication (letters, drawings, self-made videos) between Iraqi children and American children. He needs a U.S. partner to distribute materials produced by Iraqi children in the U.S. and perhaps produce materials to send back to Iraqi children. He asked of he could list CPT as a partner on his grant proposal. The team explained that CPT does not fund such projects, but would forward the proposal to North America for discussion and, depending on the reply, formulate a statement for defining CPT Iraq’s participation.

Sunday, 20 April
CPTers Elizabeth Pyles and Chihchun Yuan traveled to Halabja to visit a local women’s center and community radio station for women and youth.

Naar-Obed spoke with the KRG liaison to the U.N. and learned that Turkey is still shelling along the Turkish/Iraqi border but villagers remain there. Villagers are affected economically and psychologically by the ongoing shelling but the recent bombings have not injured anyone. Iranian attacks against PEJAK (sister organization to PKK, an Iranian Kurdish resistance group) have displaced villagers and destroyed land and livestock. The representative supported CPT visiting villagers to do follow up stories and develop relationships so that, in the event accompaniment becomes necessary in the future, some trust will already be established.

Monday, 21 April

Anita David, Yuan and Pyles met with a representative of Kurdistan Human Rights Watch (KHRW) who introduced Yuan and Pyles to KHRW’s work. The representative told the team that Kurdish media have reported a claim that Turkey used chemical bombs during the 2008 bombings, resulting in mass deaths of livestock.

Tuesday, 22 April
Pyles, Yuan, and Naar-Obed visited Kurdish women Peshmerga (soldiers), learning of their history and current role in the military of the KRG, which includes protection of women’s groups. Upon leaving the meeting, the female General said to the CPTers, all of whom are women, “We are women first, Peshmerga second.”