IRAQ UPDATE: November 2008


15 December 2008
IRAQ UPDATE: November 2008

CPTers serving on the Iraq team during this period were Peggy Gish, Bob Holmes, Craig Kite, John Lynes, Anne Montgomery, and Chihchun Yuan.

Saturday 8 November

After the mayor of Pshdar told IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) that it was illegal for them to buy houses in town and that they should go home, the team prepared a letter to Mr. Bakhtiar Amin, a former Minister of Human Rights Iraq.

Sunday 9 November

The team met with a member of the Iraqi Parliament, who expressed interest in hearing about the plight of the IDPs in Zharawa. She asserted that the government of Iraq has been doing what it can for IDPs, and was surprised they were not allowed to move to the municipality.

Tuesday 11 November

The team visited the Qalawa IDP Camp in Suleimaniya and met with Ayad, a representative of the community. He told the team that about 60 Arabic families (approximately 250 persons) who had displaced from the south were still in the camp. The United Nations was offering $200 USD to finance those who wanted to return home ($350 per family) and about 250 families had returned. Those that remained had no schools for their children and had difficulty obtaining identification cards from the Ministry for Displaced Persons (DDM).

Friday 14 November

The team went to Choman. They met a village leader whose right leg had been destroyed by a landmine. He took the team members to his home in Choman, and explained that he could no longer live in his ancestral village, Kani Spi (Kurdish for “White Spring”), located on fertile land in mountainous country close to the Iranian border. After Iranian rockets targeted the village in 2007 and 2008, killing many cattle, setting fire to the crops and terrifying the children, the families relocated to Choman, 14 km away.

The man then took the team to Kani Spi and showed them the crater left by a still-unexploded missile. Although Turkish and Iranian governments claimed to be targeting PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) “terrorists”, their aim seemed to be to remove Kurdish families from the border areas.

Saturday 15 November

The team was welcomed in Daraw and met with several villagers, including school teachers, in one home. There were 14 families in the village. They spoke of being bombed by the Turkish planes as long ago as 1998 when one villager was killed and others wounded. Daraw was attacked seven or eight times since. The bombing started again on 15 January 2008, and the villagers fled to Sidikan for 8 months. They returned because they could not afford to rent homes in town. There was still bombing 5 km from Daraw, and only one older couple remained in one of the most frequently attacked villages.

The Kurdish government promised compensation for lost crops and livestock, but had delivered nothing. One teacher said he would write a report and send it to the team with photos, asking CPT to raise their voices.

Thursday 20 November

The team visited the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) Deputy Minister of the Interior in Suleimaniya to learn the reaction of the KRG to the proposal of the Iraqi government to create local militias to oppose terrorists. The deputy minister claimed that Prime Minister al-Maliki’s motives were to restore power to former supporters of the Ba’ath and Jash movements, to destabilize Kurdistan, and to obtain a nucleus of supporters in readiness for the forthcoming elections. He said that Kurdish parties were opposed to the proposal, and considered it unconstitutional.

Wednesday 26 November

The team accepted an invitation from Mr. Rafat, head of the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) in Kirkuk. They visited the PUK Party, the Kirkuk Mayor, and a Turkman politician, all of whom emphasized that the media gave the false impression that the area was on the brink of civil war. They claimed that Kirkuk was peaceful, with cordial relations among Kurds, “Arabs”, Turkmen and Christians, and that trade was flourishing.

Later, the team visited a Christian assistant to the Governor of Kirkuk. He thought it unwise for church leaders to intervene in secular politics, which were based on ethnic divisions, and said Christians should respect that arrangement, pursuing their political aims through their ethnic affiliations.

In the afternoon, the team briefly visited an Assyrian church, an Evangelical church, and Armenian Christians whose church had been attacked with a small bomb two days earlier. Church members were more anxious than their politicians about their prospects since the United States was perceived as Christian. Islamist radicals who resent the American presence vented their anger on local Christians. Many Christians had left Kirkuk in search of a less hostile environment in the West.

Friday 28 November

The team traveled to Barzen and were directed to Hardon, an IDP village where they met a man from Shingel village. His community left the village in December 1995. They stayed in tents for two years, and then with help from NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) built new houses in Hardon. The families from 16 villages were now relocated there. The families were unable to earn an income because the four bridges separating them from their crops had been bombed. Bombing was constant in the area.

Saturday 29 November

The team went to Kani Mase, a town close to the Turkish border. On the way, they passed a Turkish Military base and two army trucks with Turkish soldiers stationed in the KRG. In Kani Mase, a displaced person told the team there was another Turkish military base on a hill outside the town. The Turkish soldiers reportedly watched villagers and gave information to the base in Turkey to attack the villagers when they went home. The team met two men harvesting apples in a nearby village, Trwanish. There were many housing complexes there built by the KRG that 2,000 people used to inhabit. Now they were almost completely empty.