IRAQ: CPTers hear voices for peace at Makhmoor Refugee Camp


4 May 2009
IRAQ: CPTers hear voices for peace at Makhmoor Refugee Camp

by Michele Naar-Obed

At the end of a flat and dusty road, the CPT Iraq team and delegation arrived at the Makhmoor Refugee Camp.  Since 1998, this camp has housed 2,600 Kurdish families from Turkey.  The total population is over 11,000 and an average of thirty babies are born in the camp each month.  All are relatives of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) members killed by the Turkish military

The day began with a briefing from the camp manager of statistical and logistical information.  Then the team met with the mayor of the camp and various camp representatives.  They are an organized group of people who place a high value on education.  "If we don't organize, we can't live freely, and we can't be controlled if we are educated," one of the camp representatives told CPT.

The most emotional and powerful moments for the team occurred during the meeting with The Mothers of Peace.  Nine live at the Makhmoor Camp, but over 1,000 Mothers of Peace live in Turkey.

"What we are asking for is to have a life with dignity and have our lands.  We don't want to take over anybody's house or lands," said a representative for the mothers “…What law calls a child in a mothers womb a terrorist?  We are old women, mothers of peace.  We ask for peace from the Turkish government and they answer by killing us.  No government accepts us."

Indeed, Turkey's sole legal Kurdish party, the Democratic Society Party (DTP) won many seats in various municipalities during the recent Turkish elections.  Within two weeks after the elections, the Turkish authorities raided the DTP offices, detaining 300 DTP members and throwing some of them in jail.  People in the camp told CPTers that thousands of orphaned Kurdish children languish in Turkish jails, and on 24 April 2009—Turkey's National Sovereignty and Children's Day—a Turkish police officer beat and killed a Kurdish child.

Yet, the Mothers of Peace continue to ask for peaceful solutions, democracy, and brotherhood.  "We have seen our children martyred.  We do not want more blood shed.  We want neither the Turkish mother nor the Kurdish mother to cry or have their hearts wounded.  Our solution is peace," one of the mothers told the team.

The men of the camp told team members that the PKK had tried to achieve Kurdish liberation through armed revolution in the past.  "We have learned from those mistakes.  Our answer is to struggle for liberation through democracy, education and peace," one of the spokesmen told CPT.  The PKK has called for a unilateral ceasefire with the Turkish government.

During CPT's meeting with both camp representatives and Mothers for Peace, team members did not hear a single word suggesting that violence was a solution, even as self-defence.  Words of reconciliation, forgiveness, diplomacy, and democracy echoed throughout the encounters CPTers had with residents of the camp, and they asked CPTers to share these beliefs with the rest of the world.