IRAQ REFLECTION: Dolma picnic brings urban Kurds, IDPs together

7 August 2010
IRAQ REFLECTION: Dolma picnic brings urban Kurds, IDPs together
By Peggy Gish
On 23 July, men, women, and children at the Zharawa IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) tent camp, in Kurdish Iraq, gathered to welcome families arriving from the cities of Suleimaniya and Rania to share in a picnic and time of fellowship.
CPT conceived the project during a team picnic.  After someone advanced the idea to gather food and transport it to the tent village, our veteran driver and translator Mahammad Salah Mahde suggested, “It would be better for people to make dolma (a traditional celebrative Middle Eastern food) and bring it to the camp....  It would be good for a connection to be made between families in the village and families from the city.”
After guests arrived, initial formality soon turned into laughter and casual sharing as the morning progressed.  Large platters of dolma were passed among people sitting inside a large donated tent.  After the meal children gathered in circles to draw, while adults sat in smaller groups taking pictures together and telling about their families.  Local reporters milled about videotaping and interviewing.  Some of the visitors walked through the rest of the camp, getting a better sense of what it might be like to be forced from home and to live in such conditions.
Fifty-three-year-old Gula Abdul Rasul, who recently had surgeries on an arm and a leg for her May 15 injuries by the Iranian shelling in her village of Maradu, sat among the crowd with a radiant smile.  With her left arm still bandaged and in a sling, she showed CPTers an unhealed open wound on the swollen arm.  She was a visible reminder of the reason for the camp’s existence--the extensive bombardment of northeastern Iraqi border areas by Turkey and Iran that forced the people to flee their villages two years ago.  CPT has been monitoring the attacks and their effects on the thousands who have been displaced.  
Over the past three months, leaders of these nine villages have met with government officials of all levels to request assistance for building a new village outside the areas of attacks yet close enough for them to return to their villages at quieter times.  So far, many officials have voiced support, however they have not taken steps to make this happen.  Other officials have told displaced people just to go back to their villages, even though no assurance can be given that they can do so in safety.
And so these people struggle to live between the past and the future, searching for a way continue.  They work to sustain themselves and to inspire hope in their children in spite of the distressing circumstances created for them by persons motivated by greed and ambition.  They are unusually grateful for each act of kindness shared with them. 
Bayz Abbas Pirot, now living in the Zharawa camp, told us, “Everyone was happy that the group came.  Although the dolma was great,” he said, “the food is not the main thing.  It was the people coming from the city to see and be with us that was important.”  The 39 visitors also seemed moved personally by this event.  As we were leaving the camp the director of a Kurdish NGO commented, “Thank you.  This has opened our eyes to what is happening here.”