IRAQ: Severed from Land, Life and Home, Part I, “Mothers for Peace”

15 July 2009
IRAQ: Severed from Land, Life and Home, Part I,
“Mothers for Peace”

By Michele Naar-Obed

At the end of a long, dusty road, Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) arrived at the Makhmoor Refugee Camp in Iraq’s Nineveh Province.  Since 1998, this camp has been home to over 11,000 Turkish Kurds under the protection of the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees.)  They are the living relatives of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fighters killed in battle by the Turkish military.  In 1996, these refugees fled from the Kurdish populated villages along the southeastern border of Turkey following a military crackdown against the PKK.

The Makhmoor camp is also home to nine “Mothers for Peace.”  These Kurdish mothers are part of a larger organization over 1000 strong.  All of them call for the laying down of arms and for the establishment of political and diplomatic means to guarantee Kurds their basic human rights.

“We want neither the Turkish nor the Kurdish mother to cry again,” Amin tells CPT. “We have seen our children tortured and killed and we know the Turkish mothers have seen their children killed,” she continued.  “It is time for reconciliation, forgiveness and peace.”

Since 13 April, PKK fighters have adhered to a unilateral ceasefire.  “As Mothers for Peace, how much influence do you have over the PKK's decision to adhere to the ceasefire?”  CPT members asked.  “They are our children and loved ones.  We have great influence over their actions,” Amin assured us.  “But the Turkish military must show some evidence that they will stop waging war against us and talk to us…  So far, they continue to answer us by killing us…To this day, they take our Kurdish children, ten, eleven, twelve-years-old, and torture and kill them.”

Women and children suffer most in war.  An aging woman, with soft yet anguished eyes, Amin is one of the many women who hold a powerful hope and determination to work for peace despite all that they have seen and experienced.  However, Amin's voice is virtually silenced, as she and the other mothers remain sequestered inside the refugee camp.  

The world cannot afford this silence.