Aug 13, 2011

Statement to the Iranian Consulate and to the World

Statement to the Iranian Consulate and to the World

We come peacefully on behalf of all people concerned for the safety of persons living in the mountainous regions along the Iraq-Iran border.

The consequence of Iranian shelling on farmers and their families in Iraqi Kurdistan is devastating. Iranian shelling kills and injures people, kills and scatters animals, destroys orchards and property, and prevents harvests from crops already planted because persons must abandon them in order to survive.

Iranian shelling of the border villages does not prevent or discourage the activities of the PJAK or the PKK. The disruption caused by Iranian shelling inside Iraqi Kurdistan is an ineffective and irreverent way of resolving conflicts created by innocent cultural and ethnic diversity.

We plead with the Iranian Consulate to use the influence of his office to inform governing officials in Iran of the distressing consequences of the shelling and to obtain compensation for damages done to farmers. We plead with the Iranian Government to stop permanently the shelling temporarily suspended in honor of the spirit of Ramadan.

We also urge officials in the Iraqi Central Government, the Kurdistan Regional Government, and the United Nations to lead the international community to unite together to condemn Iran's routine slaughter of people and the destruction of an ancient pattern of community life.

Finally we plead for compassion to replace violence for all persons involved in this historical conflict.

CPT (Christian Peacemaker Teams) is an international human rights organization dedicated to reduce violence and restore relationships damaged by injury and suffering. CPT has been in Iraq since 2002.

Search for Freedom: Ayad Klanm

Ayad Klanm
By David Hovde

In 2007 Ayad Klanm lived with his family in a neighborhood of Baghdad where most of his neighbors were Shia. Many were members of the Mahdi Army, a Shia militia formed by Muqtada al-Sadr. Because Ayad was Christian some of his neighbors believed he worked with the Americans although he never had. One day as American troops drove down his street in their vehicles Ayad was outside his house and greeted them. Some of his neighbors asked him why he did that and said it proved that he worked with the Americans. Ayad responded that he greeted them because they were human beings. Ayad thought it strange that they would let their children talk to the American troops, but they would not allow him to. They told him that if they ever saw him talk to the Americans again they would cut off his head. After that Ayad believes people began to monitor his family. When his children would go to their relatives, some of his neighbors would tell him they knew they were there.

Someone put an explosive outside Ayad’s family’s front gate that detonated late one night at 11pm as Ayad’s four-year-old daughter, Maryam, and her aunt went outside the front door. The explosion injured Maryam’s right leg from the knee down, tearing off the skin. The family drove her immediately to the government hospital. The doctor was not there that night so they waited until the day hours. When the doctor saw her injury he said that he could not do surgery for her because if he did the Mahdi Army would kill him when he went outside the hospital. The doctor advised them to take her to the clinic or a private hospital. Ayad told him that they did not have money to pay for surgery at a private hospital. The doctor said that would not be a problem that they should take her there and that they would do the surgery. An hour later they arrived at the private hospital. The doctor there said they would do their best and the rest was up to the gods. After two hours of surgery the doctor came out to talk with the family. He said it was like a miracle. He put a rod in her leg during the surgery, but he did not know how the surgery went as well as it did.

Aug 12, 2011

Basm William

Basm William
By David Hovde

In April 2011 Basm William and his family lived in a Shia neighborhood in Baghdad. Some of their neighbors who in the past had visited with them, eaten with them, and spent time with them in their house later told Basm and his family that there was no place for Christians in that neighborhood and that Basm and his family would have to leave the neighborhood and the country. On April 17, 2011 Basm found a note on his car from Kataa’ib Saraya Al Haq (Righteousness Brigade), a militia that broke off of the Mahdi Army. Kataa’ib Saraya Al Haq is trained in Iran and does activities in Iraq against Americans and Christians. In the letter they used many bad words against Basm’s family. The letter said that they had to leave this Muslim country and there was no place for Christians here. It said they had to leave Baghdad immediately or they would kill all his family members.

After two days Basm and his family left Baghdad, leaving their house and furniture behind. They heard that people could go to Syria and stay there for up to three years while applying for asylum in another country. Basm went to Syria to try to apply for asylum. He heard of people who had been there for three years who had spent up all their money and had not been given asylum in another country. He decided to move with his family to Sulaimaniya in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Basm and his family now live in Sulaimaniya in a crowded apartment and sleep on the floor. He does not have a job. His wife, Maha Mashalla, sometimes travels all the way back to Baghdad to work. Though his family receives some financial assistance, it is not enough to cover their rent. They desperately want to find asylum in another country. Meanwhile they need financial and material assistance.

Basm says there used to be 1,500,000 Christians in Iraq. Now there are about 300,000. The churches in Baghdad are guarded by troops or behind walls now. Basm says that there is the possibility that someday there will be no more Christians in Iraq.

Aug 9, 2011

Iranian Attacks on Kurdish Villages Intensify

Iranian Attacks on Kurdish Villages Intensify
by David Hovde

“The tomatoes will be ready in a few days,” Mahmud said. “Yesterday (07/27/11) there was bombing on this mountain.” Mahmud is the leader of Kani Spi, a village in the mountains of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq a few kilometers from the Iranian border. Mahmud described the advances that the PJAK (a resistance group fighting for the rights of Kurds in Iran) had made recently. “The PJAK burned two Iranian tanks. One day a helicopter came and the PJAK made it turn around. One morning at 4:30am the PJAK took over an Iranian base and killed all the soldiers. This made Iran very angry because they thought they could control the area. So, Iran attacks harder with shelling this year. One mountain is PJAK controlled, one Iranian controlled. For two days the PJAK controlled the Iranian bases on the other mountain. Then the PJAK chose to leave since they didn’t have the power to stay longer.

“One night several bombs came close to Kani Spi.” (Mahmud shows us a piece of shrapnel.) “We heard the noise in Weza and other neighboring villages. As the noise came closer our whole village left. There are two different kinds of rockets: one explodes before it hits the ground, one explodes when it hits the ground.