Iraq

IRAQI KURDISTAN: “They gave us the keys to their homes.” Christian and Muslim villages help each other during bombing attacks.

Asmar with our team member Julie Brown. Photo: Peggy Gish.

Seventy-year-old Asmar, grabbed my hand and welcomed us enthusiastically into the home she shares with her son and village leader, Khan Avdal Muhammed Sdia, his wife, Bilmas, and their children, in the village of Dipre, nestled in the mountains in the Dinarta sub-district in Iraqi Kurdistan. As we drank tea and ate almonds and cashews from their trees, they told our team about the recent round of bombing of their village on May 20, 2016. 

IRAQI KURDISTAN: You can say we lost our lives--Turkish bombing of Sergali village

Hasni Islam and his son show team members Peggy and Mohammed damage to buildings in Sergali. Photo by Julie Brown.

“Back in 1991, Turkey bombed our village of Sergali so heavily that we left the area,” Hasni Islam, the village leader, told our team.  He pointed north to the mountain behind which their old village had once stood.  “Because of the ongoing war between Turkey and the PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party) we couldn’t return to the village area, and so moved to this site and established it as our new village. But now, two months ago (June 2016), Turkey bombed around the village here, and half of the families fled again and scattered to other towns. The other half has no other place to go or the financial means to leave, so are still here, even though they are afraid.” At one time the village included 350 families, but now there are only forty.

IRAQI KURDISTAN: What peace looks like here

 

Weza village located near the Iranian border in Iraqi Kurdistan. Photo by: Peggy Gish.

 “Is this the village of Weza?” I asked my teammate, not believing what I was seeing. This did not look like the same village our team visited in June 2010. Weza, nestled in the mountains of northeastern Iraqi Kurdistan and close to the Iranian border, looked bigger.  Fields were larger and greener and the houses in better repair.  Residents, we spoke to said that even though they know in the back of their mind that danger could return to their village, they feel more relaxed. Tourists are once again coming into the area for vacations, to enjoy the beautiful views and the milder summer temperatures.

Six years ago, in June 2010, we sat in this same village, with the uncle of fourteen-year-old Basoz, as he told us about his niece’s tragic death three weeks earlier.  A rocket had exploded near Basoz while she was preparing tea for the rest of the family who were working in their fields.  Her twenty-year-old cousin, with her at the time, was not physically injured, but was severely traumatized.  The uncle, describing the situation there, told us, “Over the last ten days, more than 200 rockets have exploded around our village.  People here are terrified, and many have left.”

IRAQI KURDISTAN: July 2016 Newsletter--Border bombings, AVP training, what peace looks like and more!

Border Bombings

No Place to Hide

By Julie Brown
One of the CPT partner communities in the Allana Gully impacted by Iranian cross border bombings into Iraqi Kurdistan. Photo by: Julie Brown.
"When the bombing starts, where do you hide?" That is what I asked Sulltan.
"There is no place.  Behind rocks, wherever we can. We all just run in every direction. Everyone has to find their own place.  Even the children."

The last shelling started on June 23rd at 10am and did not stop until after noon.  The farmer said over 160 bombs fell on the small area in those two hours.  After it was over, many animals had been killed and three children were injured.  It was this story that we heard in detail as we documented the events of that day.

In the Choman District of Iraqi Kurdistan High in the mountains near the Iranian border lies the Allana Gully.  It was here that CPT visited after hearing reports of a recent cross border shelling from Iran. The drive through the mountains to this remote area was slow. The road is an unpaved rocky path that hangs on the sides of very steep mountain ledges. In many places it is so narrow that the wheels of our vehicle came dangerously close to sliding off the edge.

Prayers for Peacemakers, August 17, 2016

Prayers for Peacemakers, August 17, 2016

Pray for the villagers who are suffering from the impacts of Turkish and Iranian cross-border bombing in Iraqi-Kurdistan with almost no attention from the world community.

*Epixel for Peacemakers  August 21, 2016 
In you, O LORD, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame.

 In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me and save me.

Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.

Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel.

For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth. Psalm 71:1-5
 
*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing  with a text from the upcoming Sunday's Revised Common Lectionary readings.

IRAQI KURDISTAN: To drink tea without fear--Iranian bombing in Sidakin

 

Photo by: Julie Brown.

In the middle of Ramadan this year, farmers in Iraqi Kurdistan experienced bombing by Iran. In the last three years there were not any bombingsalong the border with Iran. It was also the first time the area of Barbazin in Sidakan sub-district was bombed so heavily.

The team decided to visit the area and to learn what had happened.  After driving for several hours on the highway and unpaved roads we had the privilege to meet Rashad. While I parked the car near his house, I could see him outside making a fire for his tea. Rashad stood up to look at these strangers coming to his tents. As I greeted him, he very warmly greeted me in return and firmly shook my hand. Through his eyes and smile I could see that he was excited to know more about who we were.

I noticed he had difficulty walking and I was not sure if he was disabled or if he had lost his leg because of a landmine.  The reality of life in a border village is that there is always one or more disabled villager who has lost a part of  his or her body because of mines.  

IRAQI Kurdistan: No place to hide

"When the bombing starts, where do you hide?" I asked Sultan.

 "There is no place.  Behind rocks, wherever we can. We all just run in every direction. Everyone has to find their own place.  Even the children."

 The last shelling started on 23 June at 10:00 a.m. and did not stop until after noon.  The farmer said over 160 bombs fell on the small area in those two hours.  After it was over, many animals had been killed and three children were injured.

In the Choman District of Iraqi Kurdistan high in the mountains near the Iranian border lies the Allana Gully CPT visited after hearing reports of a recent cross border shelling from Iran. The drive through the mountains to this remote area was slow. The road is an unpaved rocky path carved into the side of steep mountain ledges. In many places it is so narrow that the wheels of our vehicle came dangerously close to sliding off the edge.

 "When the bombings start, some families try to flee in their vehicles.  You have seen the road; it is very dangerous." Sultan pointed to the rugged path; it's the only road that leads down.

Sultan showing his daughter's injury. Photo by: Julie Brown

Sultan was one of the first people we met.  As soon as Sultan heard we had come to talk about the shelling from Iran, he summoned his daughter, a young girl with long blond hair.  He reached down and gingerly took her arm and lifted it up for us to see.  He explained that she had been hit by shrapnel.  Metal had entered her palm and lodged in her wrist.  She had to have surgery to remove the shrapnel, which a wound that went all the way through.  As I took pictures of her injuries I could see the trauma on her face.   

IRAQI KURDISTAN: War looms at their borders, but life goes on

A construction worker in Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan. Photo by: Peggy Gish

Even in the 110 F. heat, Kamal* works daily as part of a construction crew, building a several-story-high building in our residential neighborhood of the city of Suleimani.  He stopped a moment, in the hot sun, to pose for my photo, not minding the short break from his work.

Every day, early morning until late in the evening, Shorsh* and a crew of three other men slap out dough into large thin discs, bake them, and lay them out on an open table.  Eight large rounds of bread cost a little less than a U.S. dollar. People, of all ages, mill around his shop, buying fresh bread for their families.

 A few doors away, a clothing shop opens only in the evenings, when there is some relief from the intense heat and more people amble along the street to shop. A few will also stop at the ice cream shop next door. Others will visit a grocery shop where Rebaz,* his wife, or any of their three older children, greet me and other customers with a smile and help us find what we need. 

CPT INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ SOLIDARITY: Dear Settlers

 

Rezhiar Fakhir

It has not been very long since I visited the land of the Indigenous peoples. I acknowledge that it took me a very long time to write this. That was for two reasons. First, I come from a place where we have suffered from different conflicts, not just over decades but over centuries. I thought it would not be a good idea for me to write a judgment of Canadian society when we are deeply impacted by war in our own region. Second, North American history is very complicated for me even though some have told me it is very simple: the settlers came and destroyed the life of the Indigenous peoples – the story is as simple as that. Even after my first visit to Grassy Narrows, an indigenous reserve, I was not courageous enough to write this reflection. But I made a pledge to my indigenous friends that I would write about their struggle even though I am not Canadian.

My journey in Canada began when I arrived in Nelson in British Colombia to finish my course at Selkirk College in mid April. From the moment of my arrival I felt the generosity of the people of Nelson. They were very kind and welcoming. Nelson portrayed a perfect Canada in my mind. However, I began to hear from my very good friends, classmates and instructors about some problems and difficulties that Canadians faced. I met many people in Nelson who told me stories about the Indigenous peoples’ struggle. They gave me an overview of the history and the challenges of indigenous peoples in North America. One late afternoon, I even saw one of my classmates arguing with the police from Nelson about the history of colonization. Or my instructor who expressed concern about the extinction of some indigenous communities in Nelson.