by Peggy Gish
“I felt responsible to go to the demonstrations after the violent response of the authorities to the protesters on 17 February,” Mamosta* Mullah** Kameron Ali Khwarham told CPTers. “I wanted to let the protesters know that they are not alone, that some of the religious leaders are with them.”
“There’s a passage in the Holy Qur’an that says if you see those in power oppress the poor, but you remain silent and don’t do something about it, you are standing with the powerful,” he said. “Islam teaches us that there is no justice without freedom and freedom brings justice.”
Mullah Kameron was arrested twice after speaking out in the anti-corruption demonstrations (Kurdish uprising) this spring. His speeches called for a revolution without violence – a “jihad.” He urged the armed militias to put down their guns and appealed to the demonstrators not to throw rocks or hurt them.
“The ‘jihad’ I am speaking about is not a violent struggle or a struggle of believers against non-believers, but the nonviolent struggle of truth and justice against corruption and injustice,” he explained. “But the authorities twisted my words to use against me,” he continued. “They picked out the word, ‘jihad,’ and made it look like I was advocating for violence. Government leaders threatened me. Anti-terrorist forces came to my house, put a mask on my head and arrested me. They took me to jail and tortured me after charging me with encouraging people to participate in illegal demonstrations.”
Kurdish lawyers, protest leaders, CPT, Amnesty International and others organized support and pressured the authorities for his release. After listening to his whole speech which clearly called for peaceful struggle, the judge reduced the charges from terrorism, which carries the death penalty, to a civil charge. He was fined and released.
As the conversation continued, Mullah Kameron interacted with his four children and held them affectionately on his lap. He helped his wife serve the food and included her in the discussion circle.
Mullah Kameron explained that the authorities often sent in provocateurs to throw stones which drew security forces into firing on the crowd. “They created violence in order to discredit and stop the protests,” he explained. “The problem is not with our country or the government itself, but with corruption, injustice, and inequality, so the leaders should step down.”
He spoke harshly about the support of powerful western countries for corrupt and dictatorial leaders here and around the world, thus allowing them to crush their people. “The USA has two faces,” he said. “They promote democracy for their own people and dictatorships for the rest of us.”
“You must try to get your government to stop supporting the violence and corruption of our government,” he concluded. “Please help your people see that there are many people outside your country who do not have the freedom to demonstrate as they do. Help them to want this freedom for all.”
*The prefix “Mamosta” before any given name is a sign of high respect and means “teacher.”
**”Mullah” generally refers to a Muslim man educated in Islamic theology and sacred law.