Reflections

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

COLOMBIA: Threats against social leaders

CPTnet

22 August 2017

COLOMBIA: Threats against social leaders

by Marcos Knoblauch

In Barrancabermeja, paramilitary structures exercise direct and open territorial control. The inhabitants of this city witness how paramilitarism has infected the different spaces of the communes through selective assassinations and micro-trafficking. These illegal armed groups, acting as rulers, operate in the territory trying to perpetuate their control over illegal markets such as micro-trafficking.

We must not confuse ourselves: these groups should not be simply typecast as mere criminals. Paramilitaries are organized structures and, as such, support their activities outside the law based on systemic violence and the ineffectiveness of the State, and even with its complicity.

Chedhos

CREDHOS leaders have received repeatedly death threats. Photo: Marian DeCouto/CPT

In a national political context focused on post-agreements with the FARC, Barrancabermeja is the battle arena for the control of the various illegal groups. Whoever raises his or her voice against violence and in favour of human rights will be, in the eyes of these paramilitary groups, an objective on which they will discharge their violence.

GREECE REFLECTION: Poems from the Brink of Despair; powerful voices of refugees in detention of Moria

CPTnet

August 15 2017

GREECE REFLECTION: Poems from the Brink of Despair; powerful voices of refugees in detention of Moria

compiled by: Annelies Klinefelter

The camps near Mytilene (the capital of Greek Lesbos island) are filling up because of the steady influx of people — between fifty and a hundred each day. Because of this, Greek authorities opened a new camp in the north of the island where most refugees have been arriving. In an effort to counteract this influx the authorities arrange weekly deportations and send around 8-15 people back to Turkey against their will. There is no love for the European Union-Turkey deal here. 

I talked with a number of refugees. They are desperate. One man was telling me about the growing numbers of self-inflicted mutilations and even suicides.

People come from all over the world to seek protection of the European Union: Iraq, Iran, Congo, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and many other places.

Tuesday 21 June, 2017 marked the commemoration of an International Refugee Day. On Lesbos, I participated in an event where the detained refugees from the Moria camp were allowed to speak. They read beautiful poems they had written that reflect their pains and send a powerful message to us all and the powers that be.

Lesvos Solidarity

Photo credit: http://www.lesvossolidarity.org

PALESTINE: What would you risk for peace?

CPTnet

31 July 2017

PALESTINE: What would you risk for peace?

by Rachelle Friesen 

In April 2017, more than 1,600 Palestinian political prisoners went on a hunger strike. As I write this article, strikers have refused food and have been drinking only salt water for the last 31 days. They are protesting being held without charge or trial, medical negligence, poor treatment and the lack of family visits. The strikers are putting their bodies at risk to nonviolently protest their treatment; many are experiencing severe fatigue, malnutrition and dizziness.

Throughout Palestine, people are rising up in support of the hunger strike. Nonviolent resistance to the policies of occupation are not new. When I lived and worked in Palestine with Mennonite Central Committee, part of my job was to accompany and support the nonviolent resistance. Every week, activists would protest against the separation barrier in various villages around the West Bank, and every week those same activists were faced with violent repression from the Israeli military, who used tear gas, sound bombs, rubber-coated-steel bullets, live ammunition and beatings by soldiers. 

While putting their bodies in danger, they also risked arrest. At the Nakba demonstration in 2015, Mazzen Al Azzah, a friend and nonviolent activist, was arrested. When he was released, it was on the condition that he would not attend any more demonstrations. When I asked him what he was going to do, his response was, “I will go. I am not afraid. This is part of the struggle.”

Palestinian man

GREECE REFLECTION: The Tree with the Ten Fruits; conversations with a boy named Sina at Pikpa.

CPTnet

24 July 2017

GREECE REFLECTION: The Tree with the Ten Fruits; conversations with a boy named Sina at Pikpa. 

by: Rûnbîr Serkepkanî

Sina does not believe in the standardized definition of things. His mind does not comprehend standardized frameworks. He understands life as flowing — flowing into dreams, trees, animals and seas. He is passionate about planting. Outside his family’s house he has sown dozens of flowers, herbs and other plants in little pots. Once I was sitting on the bench outside the office. And he came up to me with one of them. “I planted this!” he says, “I love planting”. Chicki, one of the dogs of the camp, is present, and Sina tries to feed Chicki with the plant. Chicki is not really interested.

After he sailed to Athens with his family for his interview at the asylum office, he came back full of new impressions and ideas about things. He trots past me once riding on a stick. “Is that your new horse, Sina?” I ask him. He stops and wipes the sweat from his brow with his arm. “No, it is not,” he said, “It is my new train”. Then he approaches me. “We went to Athens by ferry. The ferry was so big. We went to the top of the ferry and the sea was all around us,” he exults. “How was Athens?” I ask. “Athens is too crowded. We went by train. It is like a big snake which goes under the ground. We went inside it and it took us all the way to my uncle's place,” he replies. “I have to get on my train again,” he finishes. Then he rides off aboard his train.

Lesvos

PALESTINE REFLECTION: Three stories of throwing

CPTnet

17 July 2017

PALESTINE REFLECTION: Three stories of throwing

by Kathy Moorhead Thiessen

In March 2017, I spent 10 days in Hebron and observed three throwing situations that showed a microcosm of the occupation in that Palestinian city. Hebron, a major city in the southern West Bank, is where some 800 Jewish settlers, protected by hundreds of Israeli soldiers, have moved into the old city, among the Palestinian population.

I was there with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) a faith-based organization that has teams in Colombia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Canada and Hebron, Palestine. The Palestine team, which began in 1995, supports Palestinian-led, nonviolent, grassroots resistance to the Israeli occupation and the unjust structures that uphold it. Some of their activities are documenting the treatment of school children passing through military checkpoints and of Palestinians going to Friday prayers at Ibrahimi Mosque. CPT team members also attend to calls from Palestinian families who are harassed by Israeli settlers.

Shuhada Street in Hebron, once a vibrant market road that is now forbidden to all Palestinians, was the route for a parade marking the Jewish festival of Purim. Israeli settlers were welcome to walk there. Music, laughter, costumes and much wine added to the celebration, as they commemorated the courage of Queen Esther and the buffoonery of the evil Haman.

Israeli soldiers are arresting a Palestinian boy

Photo: Israeli Border Police detains a Palestinian boy who threw a stone at the reinforced checkpoint.

COLOMBIA: El Guayabo Eviction Suspended


CPTnet

10 July 2017

COLOMBIA: El Guayabo Eviction Suspended

Last week, the eviction ordered for July 5 in El Guayabo was suspended after the Inspector General and Public Advocate offices in Bogotá warned that the human rights of the residents of El Guayabo would be at high risk of violation.

In January, the local court in Puerto Wilches, the municipal center for El Guayabo, ruled in favor of Rodrigo López Henao, in his claim to ownership of the San Felipe parcel of land of which 150 families have been dependent on for the last 30 years. While the residents of El Guayabo were only notified of the eviction on June 30th they have been living with the potential threat of eviction since the ruling, a repetition of the violent and traumatic eviction of the local teacher in June 2014.

Victims of the Colombian armed conflict are guaranteed certain rights under the constitution to prevent a violation of their fundamental rights. The letter sent by the Land delegates of the Inspector General and Public Advocate offices that was addressed to the judge who made the ruling, and the Police Inspector – the public office that enforces evictions – argued that the residents of El Guayabo “have not been guaranteed their right to due process.” If the eviction were to be enforced, the municipal authorities would have to first comply with a list of eight prerequisites pertaining to procedures that guarantee the human rights of persons affected by the armed conflict as required by the Constitutional Court ruling T239/13.

On July 4th, two members of the community visited the Police Inspector’s office in Puerto Wilches to acquire a written statement declaring the suspension of the eviction. The first statement with which they were provided justified the suspension due to the lack of an adequate riot police personnel. Only upon insistence by the farmers was the declaration amended to acknowledge the receipt of official correspondence from Bogotá to suspend the eviction because enforcing it would violate their human rights by omission for not following through with the “procedures of eviction.”

Family in El Guayabo

Photo credit: Caldwell Manners