The month started with Cpter Patrick Thompson and Partner Mohammed Salah visiting the registry office so that Thompson could get is residency granted. Due to administration problems, public holidays and bureaucracy that would make Robert Kafka’s The Trial, look like a nursery rhyme, the process took many days. Eventually legal status was granted.
This month also marked the farewell of a long serving member of team, whom has often carried the CPT Iraqi Kurdistan team through many hard times, Partner Mohammed Salahs truck. Salah had decided to sell the truck to help pay for his new family home, and CPT is encouraging Salah’s dedication to becoming more reliant on his own feet to carry him about Sulaimani. Salah and his truck have been pivotal for CPT in the last few years enabling the team to visit many “out of the way” places. However with Mohammed’s newfound dedication to walk, CPT has also decided to become more imaginative in developing ways to travel the Iraqi Kurdish landscape.
CPTers David Hovde, Garland Robertson, and Carrie Peters, visited St. Mary’s Chaldean Church in Kirkuk, from 4-5 August, to reconnect with their contacts in Kirkuk’s Christian community, Father Silwa and Bishop Sako. During their stay, the team unexpectedly met with Jim and Deb Fine, from Hawler’s MCC office. Following Saturday mass, the Fines joined Hovde, Robertson and Peters for a surprise dinner at Father Silwa’s, and spent nearly four hours conversing in a mix of Arabic, Kurdish, French, and English. Over dinner, the team asked Father Silwa how he felt the Christian population in Kirkuk, and Iraqi Kurdistan in general, was faring. Unfortunately, Father Silwa described a trend he’d observed over the past several decades, that Christians were steadily leaving Iraq for more stable regions because they have no sense of security here. He also lamented how - as he put it - the leaders of Iraqi Kurdistan today were yesterday’s criminals and terrorists, using their power to protect those whom they favor, and few others. He did not feel Iraq and/or Kurdistan’s Christians were among that protected number.
Cpters Thompson, Peters and Hovde visited The Domiz refugee camp with mcc worker Jim Fines. This was the second time the team had visited with the Kurdish Syrian refugees of Domiz and the team was interested to hear more about the conflict, the development of a Kurdish autonomous State and the conditions of the camp. Cpt and Fines managed to meet with the camp meager, the doctor the head of the UNHCR for the camp and with a Syrian Kurdish family that had fled from Damascus months previously when the fighting got very bad.
Despite the heavy heat and thick sandstorms that where plaguing the whole of the Iraqi Kurdish region, Cpt was happy to see that the conditions had improved, but were worried that the numbers of the refugees had also tripled in the last month and that the camp was preparing to host up to 10’000 people. CPT learnt that these camps often after a few years become permanent. People who are tired of living in tents start to build solid structures around them until they become houses, at which point it is difficult to differentiate between refugee camps and towns.
Cpt continues to monitor the situation in Syria, especially the situation of the Kurdish Syrian population.
On 23 August, CPTers Thompson and Peters joined CPT partner Saleh on a one-day excursion up to Kani Spi, a village very close to the Iranian border. The team has maintained a connection with Kaka Mahmoud and his village for several years, and they wanted to see how he and his family fared, since there were no attacks in the region this year. The team was therefore delighted to find Kaka Mahmoud and several male relatives working on an addition to their house, and to see several women out in the fields, tending flocks and crops, and all living their lives in peace. When Thompson and Peters talked with Kaka Mahmoud, he expressed his happiness that CPT was passing along his story, and the story of Kani Spi, to new team members (neither Peters nor Thompson had visited Kani Spi before), and affirmed the importance of CPT’s work in amplifying the voices of the villagers.
Salah, Peters, and Thompson also traveled to the border with Iran. to the crossing town of Hagi Omeron. This small town is one of the main land crossings from Iraq in to Iran. Thompson was amazed by the thousands of Oil Tankers of all shapes and sizes waiting at the roadsides. They sat waiting for the night to come, where they would be allowed to cross over in to Iran. Salah commented that some of these tankers would wait weeks before permission was granted for them to cross in to Neighboring Iran. The team also noticed the amount of white watchtowers that dotted the tips of the mountains. The team has been told that in recent years there has been a push by Iran to make their borders more secure. This takes the form of large white hill top fortifications that glow in the light and cause a great sense of fear in the Kurds that live close by.