Reflections

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES SOLIDARITY: Go back to your country; living reality of settler-colonialism in Canada

CPTnet
12 December 2017
INDIGENOUS PEOPLES SOLIDARITY: Go back to your country; living reality of settler-colonialism in Canada

by Rebaz K. Mohammed


“Why don’t you go back to your country?” said the young man to me at the YMCA gym that I attend in Winnipeg/Treaty 1 territory. I naturally tried to defuse the tension, but at the same time I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to point out his position as a white settler on a land taken from the original peoples. I replied calmly, “I can ask you to do the same, you know!” I suspect he understood what I meant, as he gave me an empty stare before walking away quickly.
    
This incident was a good reminder of the consistent racism that non-white people face in Canada. It usually goes unnoticed because Canada is pictured by politicians as a land of inclusiveness, and it still welcomes everyone the same way the first European immigrants were welcomed by the indigenous nations hundreds of years ago. More importantly, this incident was a good reminder of how much work there is to be done in exposing and undoing oppression, the main manifestation of it Canada being settler-colonialism.

Cloth with painted "Freedom from colonization" hangs on the wooden wall

LESVOS REFLECTION: Your Longing Hands -- an asylum seeker from the oppressed Arab minority of Iran shares the story of his life and longing to reunite with his mother and sister

CPTnet
24 November 2017
LESVOS REFLECTION: Your Longing Hands -- an asylum seeker from the oppressed Arab minority of Iran shares the story of his life and longing to reunite with his mother and sister

by Rûnbîr Serkepkanî

They do not make coffee with cardamom here in Greece. No one makes coffee like your mother. It’s been five years since you last drank your mother’s coffee with cardamom. Borders have prevented her from filling your soul with the wonderful scent of cardamom every morning.

You were born in Kuwait. You went to Iranian school there where you learnt Farsi. You worked as a carpenter. Your brother was in Ahwaz, Iran where he was defending the oppressed Arabic minority of that region. During the Eid al-Adha he was dressing in his finest Arabic dishdasha dress and wearing his agal head-dress. He was going out with his comrades. Eid al-Adha is the day when all Arabs in Iran go out together, in groups of five or more. It is the day of resistance. It is the day when everyone breaks the silence. The day when everyone prays and protests together. During one of these eids they captured him and put him in ‘The Security Police’ prison. Three years later he was dead “of natural causes.” Young Arabs in Iran do not die because of natural causes. They die from torture, police beatings, and government-sanctioned hangings.

Longing hands and an empty cup

LESVOS REFLECTION: Into the night sea; waiting for the refugees to arrive across the sea

CPTnet

6 November 2017

LESVOS REFLECTION: Into the night sea; waiting for the refugees to arrive across the sea

by Michael Himlie

As a Christian Peacemaker Team member (CPTer) on Lesvos, I worked on the Night Watch, monitoring vessels in the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece, and awaiting refugees to arrive on Greek shore in the night. While the other Night Watch volunteers are just as intimately focused on the care, rights, and well-being of the refugees crossing as I am, it was hardly ever talked about on an individual basis as we sat through the night together. Typically the conversations consisted of the number of refugees crossing, the conditions of Moria, changes in Greek or European Union (EU) laws and regulations, where boats need to land or where the smugglers launch them. Never do we talk about refugees as individuals. Perhaps this is a coping mechanism for some of the Night Watch volunteers who have been through many arrivals, some of them traumatic. I still look into the night sea and view individual lives on the other side.

Beach 1

When I look into the Aegean night sea between midnight and morning, I am almost always tired, and as the weather turns unfriendly, I’m rather cold. Through the binoculars I see the glimmering lights of the Turkish coast and a few vessels: cargo, coast guard, fishing boats, and maybe some rubber dinghies carrying refugees. Monitoring the patterns and actions of the coast guard boats gives us a good idea whether there is a refugee boat that the coast guard is harassing, illegally pushing back to Turkey or picking up. Meanwhile, in the back of my mind, I am thinking: “oh what I would do for a cup of coffee.”

However, the night on the Turkish coast, from the stories of refugees, is vastly contrary to that of mine on the Greek side, and far more horrifying. Refugees pay smugglers thousands of Euros each to cross just fifteen kilometers of water. They have no guarantee that they will make it to EU soil. Usually the boat is meant to hold only fifteen people on a river, not 70 or more people in open water. If they are lucky, ahead of them lies a detention center with strict and changing policies for asylum case procedures. But they do not know this.

COLOMBIA: Celebrating Resistance

CPTnet

31 October 2017

COLOMBIA: Celebrating Resistance

by Carolina Gouveia

Doña Fanny Garcia

Doña Fany García, co-founder of Cahucopana, while planting in memory of the victims killed from her region. “Forgive is not to forget, it is to not allow history to repeat itself." Photo: Caldwell Manners

September 17 was a long day. We woke up early and traveled to Remedios, Antioquia where we met a caravan of about 30 people who were also preparing for the long journey of another 6 hours until the village of Lejanías. Joy and energy were palpable during this long ride. People were loud, singing and even dancing. The reason for the party may seem odd at first: Cahucopana (Corporation for Humanitarian Action, Peace and Coexistence of North-Eastern Antioquia) was recognized as a subject of collective reparation by the Unit for Attention and Reparation of Victims of the conflict in Colombia. They were celebrating that the state recognizes them as victims. It seems absurd but it makes sense.

The conflict in Colombia lasted more than 50 years. Many people lost their lives. Many lost sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. Many of them do not know what happened to their family members. According to the Victims Unit, Colombia has 8,532,636 direct and indirect victims of the armed conflict.

In 2016, the peace agreement between the FARC, formerly known as Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, and the state created the Integral System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition. This system exists in order to guarantee that what happened during the conflict will never happen again. One of its mechanisms is the recognition of individual and collective victims, such as the organization Cahucopana. Upon being recognized as victims, the process of reparation begins. Depending on the context, it may include restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction, which means the verification of the facts and full and public disclosure of the truth, and guarantees of non-repetition.

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES SOLIDARITY / IRAQI KURDISTAN: Broken promises -- Indigenous self-governance and Kurdish independence

CPTnet

23 October 2017

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES SOLIDARITY / IRAQI KURDISTAN: Broken promises -- Indigenous self-governance and Kurdish independence

by Rebaz K. Mohammed / Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Project

Today, while many are celebrating how far we have progressed in upholding human rights, the facts on the grounds offer a much less polished picture of the human-made systems running our world.

Being an indigenous person myself, a Kurd, I was always drawn to understand what has happened to indigenous nations around the world, including my own nation. How come a nation of more than 40 million people does not have a country of its own? As I expanded my horizon I found out we were not alone, many indigenous nations around the world suffer from the same injustice, especially indigenous nations on Turtle Island (North America). I soon realized that the basis of the oppression is the same: unadulterated racism, and the similarities are uncanny. 

Following World War I, the European colonial powers committed to support Kurdish self-determination and self-governance. The treaty of Sèvres promised the establishment of a Kurdish state after the fall of the Ottoman empire. This promise was broken when the Kurds were divided between four countries: Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and Iran. European powers then actively backed the quashing of numerous Kurdish revolutions and attempts to establish a state. Most recently, Europe, the U.S., and Canada have come out against Iraqi Kurdistan’s Sept. 25 independence referendum. 

referendum

Photo from NRT TV.

COLOMBIA: Palm Oil Company Retaliates After Las Pavas Receives Favorable Court Ruling

CPTnet

17 October, 2017

COLOMBIA: Palm Oil Company Retaliates After Las Pavas Receives Favorable Court Ruling

by Caldwell Manners

Twenty workers of palm oil company Aportes San Isidro on the morning of September 8 occupied and planted over one hundred palm oil tree saplings on the Las Pavas farm, only two weeks after the Consejo de Estado, Colombia’s highest administrative court, ruled in favor of the campesinxs of Las Pavas. The court’s decision affirmed the Colombian land institute’s (INCODER) finding that through the process of eminent domain the 3000 hectares of land in dispute belonged to the state. The responsibility now lies in the hands of INCODER’s successor, the Agencia Nacional de Tierras to implement their decision and guarantee the campesinxs’ right to return to their land.

A boy from las Pavas

A boy from Las Pavas plucks a palm oil nut. Photo: Caldwell Manners

LESVOS REFLECTION: Moria is Like a Prison; asylum seekers face unjust and inhuman conditions in the government run camp.

CPTnet

13 October 2017

LESVOS REFLECTION: Moria is Like a Prison; asylum seekers face unjust and inhuman conditions in the government run camp.

By: Michael Himlie

“Moria is like a prison” stated a Kurdish refugee at a demonstration outside the camp. This is a phrase that nearly every refugee I meet and talk with on Lesvos says. “Moria is like a prison” I hear again as I walk alongside the four meter tall fence lined with razor wire, riot police on my other side. As I walk with a resident, or rather a prisoner of Moria, he explains to me the human rights violations and ill treatment of refugees by Greece and the wider European Union. He sleeps in a small room with nine others, receives one meal a day, has limited amounts of water and electricity, and considers a lucky day to be one where there is enough water available to take a quick shower.

Moria

IRAQI KURDISTAN: Family impacts of the Iranian cross-border bombardments

CPTnet
25 September 2017
IRAQI KURDISTAN: Family impacts of the Iranian cross-border bombardments

by Julie Brown

Khatun Ali lives in Shora, a small village in the Choman district of Iraqi Kurdistan. She is the head of a household in an area that Iranian military regularly targets in a cross-border war between the Iranian state forces and the KDP-I or Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran. Khatun is a widow with three other people living in her home, a daughter-in-law, two small children and herself. One of her sons is a Peshmerga who is often away.

Woman in Kurdistan

Khatun Ali talking to CPTers at her home in Shora. Photo by: Julie Brown


“When my husband was alive, I lived like a princess honestly. I didn’t have a lot of responsibility. Now I have to look after a lot of trees, our herds and the children,” Khatun said as she pointed to the sheep grazing on the hill just behind her home. She told members of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) of how her home and crops were burned three separate times during the time of Saddam Hussein but she and her family managed to rebuild. “We were poor then but we had a good life. Things in the region have improved but here there are no salaries, food, or kerosene and now we are scared.”

COLOMBIA REFLECTION. Disappearances in democracy: supporting Santiago Maldonado from Colombia.

CPTnet

19 September 2017

COLOMBIA REFLECTION. Disappearances in democracy: supporting Santiago Maldonado from Colombia.

By Marcos Knoblauch

Many people are missing here. And we lack many stories and truths. Throughout the world on the 30th of August, hundreds of thousands of victims of enforced disappearances are remembered. On this date the demand for justice and, above all, the search for truth is kept alive.

More than a month ago Santiago Maldonado was last seen during a repressive police operation against demonstrators in a town in the southwest of Argentina. An indigenous Mapuche community has for many years maintained a process of defense and reclamation of their ancestral territory of the community, a process to which Santiago had joined in solidarity. The forced disappearance of Santiago Maldonado has generated strong demands from local and international human rights organizations. On September 1, some 200,000 people marched to the emblematic Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires demanding from the State the appearance of the young man alive. According to an Amnesty International statement, "during the morning of August 1, 2017, about 100 members of the Argentine National Guard (GNA), a security force of a military nature, entered irregularly and violently into the territory of the  Mapuche Pu Lof in Resistencia community [...] According to the community, the GNA fired lead and rubber bullets and burned objects belonging to the families. "Santiago Maldonado was last seen there and some witnesses indicate that they saw the GNA hitting a bound man and throw him into a vehicle.

Protest in Buenos Aires 

Peaple gather at the historic PLaza de Mayo in Buenas Aires protesting the disappearance of Santiago Maldonado. Foto: Flikr – luzencor

IRAQI KURDISTAN REFLECTION: The different faces of society

CPTnet
8 September 2017
IRAQI KURDISTAN REFLECTION:The different faces of society

by: Peggy Faw Gish

“So, what’s it like for the people in Iraqi Kurdistan?” my friends back home ask me over the Internet, now that I’m back on the CPT Iraqi Kurdistan team.

My answer would probably start with explaining that, of course, Iraqi Kurdistan and its government, the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) continues to be the most secure and stable area of Iraq. It’s not so far in miles from Mosul, but is fairly removed from the battles with the “Islamic State.” From outside the country, it may appear that life in Iraqi Kurdistan is going smoothly, but from here, one can see that the average Iraqi Kurd is beset with various social challenges.

Girl students with Kurdish flags