IRAQ UPDATE: June 2011


9 July 2011
IRAQ UPDATE: June 2011

On team during this time were Lukasz Firla, Peggy Gish, David Hovde, Garland Robertson, David, and  Chihchun Yuan.

Kurdish Spring Uprising
Mullah K visited the team on the 3 June.  The security forces arrested him during a demonstration and then tortured him.  He told the team that some protestors in Halabja area were still facing harassment after the two-month-long demonstrations.  The team contacted one local friend in Halabja, Mr. R, to find out more of the situation there.  Friend R knew the authorities arrested some people after the  crackdown on the demonstrations, but he was not aware if the arrests continued into June.

On 26 June, a gunman attacked lawyer Karwan Kamal and his friends in a parking lot.  Later a small group tried to gather people at Azadi Square to protest the attack. The Asaish (secret police) got the news and came to the square.  They reportedly arrested three people, releasing two after an investigation.  One, Mr.S, is missing.  (For more about the attack click here.)

Border Bombardment
On 9 June, the team sent two members, Gish and Firla, to Kani Spi, a village at the border.  On 16 June, the team members returned to the city of Suleimaniya for rotation.  On the 17 June, the team learned that seven Iranian soldiers crossed the border.  Some were killed and some injured by landmines.  The shelling started four days after, in the area where the incident occurred.  Because of these factors, Firla and Robertson were not allowed to pass the last checkpoint to enter the village on 20 June.  Told they needed permission from a higher authority, Firla and Robertson spent three days visiting the different offices of the Asaish (Security Forces) in Choman District, Soran District and then the Asaish Headquarters in Erbil. When Firla and Robertson could not get written permission, they decided to return to Suleimaniya on the 22 June.  Later the team discussed the next steps and decided to submit request letters to the Ministry of Interior and the Department of Asaish for meetings to introduce CPT and the idea of the border project, and listen to the concerns of the authorities.

Iranian Refugee Camp
Team members conducted several interviews at one of the Iranian refugee camps.  They learned about the political situation in Iran, the history of the refugee camps, and the life stories of the activists.  Mr. A was in an Iranian prison for fives months in 2010 because of his work as a civil rights activist and narrowly escaped a hanging.  He shared his desire to create a better place for his children.  This longing gave him strength to survive from the torture.  However, he told the team, he was dealing with psychological trauma.  For example, he can become very angry when his children make noise, and did not react this way before.