IRAQ UPDATE: 21-29 October 2008

11 November 2008
IRAQ UPDATE: 21-29 October 2008

Tuesday, 21 October
Chihchun Yuan, Anne Montgomery, Craig Kite, and Bob Holmes returned to Suleimaniya, ending a two month absence of the team.  A member of the Muslim Peacemaker Teams (MPT) in Najef asked if the team could help find accommodations for thirty soccer players from Najef coming to Kurdistan for a bridge-building tournament between Arab and Kurdish Iraqis.

Sunday, 26 October
The team met a representative from the Women’s Alliance for Democratic Iraq and Voices for Older People.  She said she would give the team a contact for an organization, Salaam, which was doing peace work.  Then the team met with Sigrid Gruener of Relief International, and Thomas Hill, of Columbia University, about the work they have been doing with conflict resolution training.

Wednesday, 29 October
Kite and Yuan attended a protest by medical students and physicians demanding

1) that the Ministry of Health not implement the new “doctor’s contract,” which will send doctors straight to work in villages without the current requirement of two years’ practice at a teaching hospital, and that will enable the Ministry of Health to terminate the practice of doctors deemed unqualified;

2) that private medical schools be closed or their students held to the same academic standards for admittance as students of public universities.  Two student representatives entered the governorate to speak with public officials.  Then the march continued back to the university where the participants declared that the strike, which had already lasted one week, would continue and no one would attend lectures until the Ministry of Health met their demands.

Friday 31 October
The team went to Zharawa IDP camp, with two Kurdish friends.  The team members sat with people, mostly women and listened to their voices.  They repeatedly asked the CPTers,  “ Please raise our voices.”

Some women said that they appreciate the tents provided by NGOs, but that those tents are useless in the rainy season and winter.  The weather is getting colder and they are looking for other ways to survive.  They tried to buy land in Zharawa and move the camp to the town.  The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had said it would build temporary houses if the IDPs get permission from the local authorities, but they have refused to give them this permission.

The land for one family, 200 meters square, costs 150,000 ID (about 125 dollars).  The IDPs told CPT that even poor families could afford this price.