Iraq

Prayers for Peacemakers, November 4, 2015

Prayers for Peacemakers, November 4, 2015 

Give thanks for the ten new Peacemakers who have successfully completed the 2015 Christian Peacemaker Teams training.  Pray that the Creator will work within them to give them the strength and courage they will need to do the difficult and rewarding work of peacebuilding with our partners in Colombia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Palestine and Indigenous communities.




IRAQI KURDISTAN: Zergaly villagers who survived Turkish bombing speak out

In the early morning hours of 1 August 2015 Turkish warplanes fired rockets into Zergaly village, destroying houses, killing an elderly woman, and injuring her husband and three relatives. 

After people from the surrounding area and other villages came to help the wounded, the warplanes returned—dropping bombs and firing more rockets on to the rescuers—killing seven and injuring eight more. 

Throughout the 1990s, and between 2007 and 2012, Turkish warplanes and military forces regularly bombarded the mountain regions of Iraqi Kurdistan. Aided by the USA, the Turkish so-called “war on terror” against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), gravely impacted the lives of thousands of subsistence farmers and shepherds, and their communities.

The airstrikes and artillery bombardments killed and wounded many Kurdish civilians, destroyed and emptied villages, and burned or poisoned much agricultural land and livestock. 

The peace process between the PKK and the Turkish government, which began on 21 March 2013, raised long awaited hopes among the Kurdish people, despite being overshadowed by doubts rooted in their historic experience. 

Recently, hopes for peace were shattered when the Turkish government—under the pretext of joining the war against Da’esh (ISIS)—restarted attacks on the border regions of Iraqi Kurdistan in July of 2015. Turkey again targeted the PKK—the main force fighting against Da’esh in the region, as well as the civilians.

Christian Peacemaker Teams Iraqi-Kurdistan filmed the testimony of the survivors and family members of the Zergaly bombing.  Turkey continues to bomb the villages of Iraqi Kurdistan. 

Christian Peacemaker Teams-Iraqi Kurdistan will continue to tell the story of the villagers facing these bombings that the world is largely ignoring.  Please share this video widely!

I lived through the death of my family (bombing of Zergaly)

CANADA/IRAQI KURDISTAN: Political leaders stepping down graciously—and not.

 

The government workers (teachers, medical workers etc) have been 
 demonstrating since 3 October. They have not received salaries in 3 months. 
They have received their salaries very sporadically for two years.

Last Monday my country, Canada, had an election. Most of the people I know, with some exceptions, welcomed this event. We were tired of a leader who had created a Canada that we did not recognize anymore, one that removed protection from our rivers and lakes, who ignored indigenous peoples, made the process of immigrating to this country more onerous and oppressive etc. etc. We were hopeful that a new prime minister and cabinet would be better, even if they were not perfect.

In Canada, a prime minister can run and be re-elected as many times as the people say yes. Steven Harper could have continued to be the leader until he died if the voters had chosen him to continue. However, the voters had had enough and turned out in numbers that had not been seen in twenty-two years. We heard of some polling stations that ran out of ballots because so many people came to express their dissatisfaction and desire for change.

Two days after the election.  I was reading articles coming from Iraqi Kurdistan where I spend the other half of my life working with Christian Peacemaker Teams. In this region, Massoud Barzani is the president.  Iraqi Kurdistan has the rule that a president can stay in power for only two terms or eight years.  He was first elected as president in 2005. He was re-elected in 2009 with nearly 70% of the vote. Then in August 2013 the Kurdish parliament extended the term for another two years, bringing the end date to August 2015.

Prayers for Peacemakers, October 14, 2015

Prayers for Peacemakers, October 14, 2015

Pray that civil war will not break out in Iraqi Kurdistan. The government has not paid civil servants’ salaries for three months.  Demonstrations across the region have left five dead, and dozens injured, and dozens detained by the secret police. The ruling KDP party has forced the Gorran (Change) party to leave the government and the capital. The majority of those who demand changes to the current situation do not condone violence. They call for the changes to come through non-violent means. Pray that those voices and actions prevail.

 

MIGRATION REFLECTION: Not since World War II… so many people looking for HOME

 

Afghan refugees on Lesvos

I have been home three weeks and am now able to re-enter Winnipeg society. I no longer have to cocoon in my house, unable to face the huge grocery stores and my friends who ask me how I am.  Already I can go hours without even thinking of  the people I sat with in Iraqi Kurdistan. I am forgetting the heat and the sweat and the burning hot wind. I am forgetting the tears and pain of mothers sitting on the sidewalk begging with their eyes, families in unfinished houses asking for a refrigerator so their water can be cool enough to drink and people living in flappy tents that fall down in the blustery winds.   I am forgetting the father looking at his 21-year-old son who is thinking of paying money to a smuggler to try to get to a life worth living. I am forgetting the words, "What else can he do?"

But there are still hours when I remember. When I read news of seventy people dying in a smuggler's truck because no one would open the doors.  When I hear from my colleagues working on the island of Lesvos of ordinary people risking the life and breath of their children to get onto inflated boats trying to find a society who will embrace them and say welcome. 

IRAQI KURDISTAN: What is our sin? What have we done?—the Yezidis remember.

In early August, my teammate and I attended the commemoration of the year since the Yezidi genocide in Iraq at the invitation of our friend Sheik Shamu in Arbat Internally Displaced Persons Camp.

We immediately saw the hand lettered signs attached to the tents in the area where the Yezidis live. Then three little girls, all wearing screen printed T-shirts met us. When Juliane asked if she could take a photo, one lifted a photograph up and held it sideways. The scene was one that little girls should know nothing about, but we knew that they had witnessed things that their little minds will never forget.

 The event was held in the huge brick building that serves as a school during the year. Today it held all sorts of ages of the Yezidi community, as well as visitors from NGOs and politicians. Sheik Shamu, a leader of the Yezidi community, noticed us very quickly and assured that we had seats alongside the mayor and other dignitaries. We received the bottles of water offered to everyone gratefully. There was no chance of a breeze entering the building and sweat was pouring in the 45 C heat. 


 

Prayers for Peacemakers, September 2, 2015

Prayers for Peacemakers, September 2, 2015 

Pray for Veronica, a Mexican human rights lawyer who stopped by the CPT office for lunch after she relocated to Chicago in the wake of serious threats to her safety because of  her advocacy on behalf of Mexican farmers whose land was targeted for confiscation by multinational corporations. Her struggle mirrors that of CPT's partners.  Pray for CPT's partner communities in Colombia and Iraqi Kurdistan who are also resisting violence generated by multinational resource extraction corporations.  

 *Epixel for Sunday, September 5, 2015 
The rich and the poor have this in common: the LORD is the maker of them all.

Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of anger will fail.

Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor.

Do not rob the poor because they are poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate;

for the LORD pleads their cause and despoils of life those who despoil them. 
Proverbs 22:2, 8-9, 22-23

 
*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing  with a text  from the upcoming Sunday's Revised Common Lectionary 
readings.

IRAQ: As ISIS atrocities denounced, human rights abuses of Iraqi forces underreported

Iraq's civilians are caught between Scylla and Charybdis—between two dire alternatives: on the one side, opposition groups including ISIS; on the other, the US-led coalition and Iran. While human rights violations committed by ISIS are widely condemned, those committed coalition partners, including Iraq, are underreported.

Since the beginning of the conflict, human rights organisations have been implicating coalition members in human rights violations that may constitute war crimes. Major coalition contributors such as the US, Britain and Australia have a poor human rights record in Iraq. The Iraqi Government, in particular, is responsible for widespread abuses, mainly against Iraq's Sunni population.

Harmeet Sooden (second from left) interviewing a displaced Iraqi family in Arbat IDP Camp in May. Iraqi forces 
displaced up to 85 per cent of the camp’s 17,300 residents.

IRAQI KURDISTAN: Artwork of ordinary people in IK travels to Winnipeg to tell stories of Kurdish, Yazidi, refugee situations

 

Young Syrian Kurdish refugees depicted life in Syria before they left bombs and collapsed houses to find a bit of peace in Iraqi Kurdistan. A woman from the beautiful valley of Gulan showed what life is like for the subsistence farmers in the mountains.

These were just some of the fifty people currently living in and near Sulaimani, Iraqi Kurdistan who used an opportunity to show the reality of their lives through drawing and painting.  CPT Iraqi Kurdistan team member, Kathy Moorhead Thiessen, collected the artworks and carried them in her suitcase to Winnipeg, Canada for a six-week exhibition in spring 2016.

Ray Dirks, curator at Mennonite Heritage Centre Gallery, read an article in Canadian Mennonite magazine about Thiessen and the work of CPT Iraqi Kurdistan. He sent her an email. “I see an exhibit which could include 25-50 artworks created by people you interact with—could be children, men, women, whatever works/is appropriate/is culturally and religiously acceptable. I’d not be looking for professionally created artworks but raw interpretations of the local situation, issues, etc.… created by ordinary people.”

IRAQI KURDISTAN: July Update 2015

Violence of 2003 Laying the Foundation for Current Crisis

CPT Iraqi Kurdistan recently discovered in our files a report by CPT Iraq in January 2004. It is titled, Report and Recommendations on Iraqi Detainees .

“Between May 31 and December 20, 2003, CPT Iraq conducted dozens of interviews of Iraqi detainees and/or their families and support networks. This report summarizes the findings from seventy-two cases… CPT is particularly concerned that any mistreatment of the Iraqi people could lead to long-term problems including:           
   1. Increasing numbers of Iraqi people joining resistance groups. 2. Increasing danger of attacks against Coalition soldiers. 3. A growing record of human rights violations against the Iraqi people….
 Our conclusion is straightforward: the military actions designed to ensure short-term security are in fact compromising long-term security interests of Iraqis and all internationals…. Developing a process for handling detainee issues that is transparent, efficient, and that upholds basic legal rights is essential for establishing a secure and democratic society…. The (US-led) Coalition Provisional Authority could model the sort of justice system most desirable for a future free, democratic Iraq.”

Now have a look at The Guardian;  ISIS: the inside story—Martin Chulov; 11 December 2014
"There was a huge amount of collective pressure exerted on detainees to become more radical in their beliefs. Obviously, this was supported by the fact that the detainees were being held against their will in a facility with minimal communication with their family and friends. This led to detainees turning to each other for support. If there were radical elements within this support network, there was always the potential that detainees would become more radical in their beliefs.
According to Hisham al-Hashimi, the Baghdad-based analyst, the Iraqi government estimates that 17 of the 25 most important Islamic State leaders running the war in Iraq and Syria spent time in US prisons between 2004 and 2011."