Jul 30, 2015

Prayers for Peacemakers: This week the bombing started again.



Prayers for Peacemakers, July 30, 2015    

Pray for the Kurdish villagers living in the mountainous border regions between Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey. In 2012, Turkey and the Kurdish resistance entered into a delicate truce.  The bombing ended in the area where the villagers of Basta live. They rejoiced and put money into building a new mosque with the hope that people would come back to the village.




 


 


These are some pictures from the beautiful village of Basta in the mountainous border regions between Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey. In 2012, a delicate truce was begun between Turkey and the Kurdish resistance. There was an end to the bombing in the area where the villagers live. They rejoiced and put money into building a new mosque with the hope that people would come back to the village.

This week the bombing started again. CPT phoned our friend, the muktar of Basta, Kak Bapir to see how the situation was for them. He said that some rockets had fallen- they had not harmed people or buildings but shrapnel had come close to the dwellings. They were going to decide over the next few days if they should flee the village and go down to the valley.

Jul 28, 2015

Basta: a village on the border with Turkey.

These are some pictures from the beautiful village of Basta in the mountainous border regions between Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey. In 2012, a delicate truce was begun between Turkey and the Kurdish resistance. There was an end to the bombing in the area where the villagers live. They rejoiced and put money into building a new mosque with the hope that people would come back to the village.
This week the bombing started again. CPT phoned our friend, the muktar of Basta, Kak Bapir to see how the situation was for them. He said that some rockets had fallen- they had not harmed people or buildings but shrapnel had come close to the dwellings. They were going to decide over the next few days if they should flee the village and go down to the valley.

The is the new mosque in beautiful Basta


When CPT visited Basta two years ago this window was a reminder of the bombing that had happened for many years. Every summer the villagers had to evacuate the village for camps in the valley

The villagers of Basta want to stay in their village in safety to raise their children, plant their crops and shepherd their livestoc

Jul 20, 2015

Three windy days in an IDP camp.




Today was the third very windy day in a row. The team went to visit our friends in Arbat IDP camp. Sheik S told us 50 tents had been blown down. He had tried to alert people to help, but was told that it was a holiday. CPT took the news to other friends in Sulaimani who were able to contact the managers. When people have tents for a home, they should be secure even on a windy day.




Jul 16, 2015

Peace is intereligious dialogue

On 15 July a group of local Islamic scholars ,members of the Maryam Monastery. and one CPTer met in the office of Dr. Anwar Jaff, Islamic Scholar and Lecturer of Law to explore common interests and the possibility of working together. 
We all spoke of hopes for peace. All of us agreed that we are distressed with the situation here. There are many IDP's and many more coming. There are also many refugees and they too keep coming. What is causing so much running? We agree that ISIS is causing hardship, poverty, breakup of families, overcrowded IDP and refugee camps and many more hardships. How can we meet the needs of refugees and IDP's at this time? Can we show the people that we are together,that we do work together?


Please support the work of CPT Iraqi Kurdistan as we walk alongside the local religious communities here in Sulaimani.

Jul 15, 2015

“Allow to Pass Freely and Give Every Assistance”—Palestinian refugees in Iraq



Kathy Moorhead Thiessen

In 1943 the British High Commissioner issued Muhammad Ahmad a Palestinian passport in the British-controlled region of Palestine. It gave the command “to allow the bearer to pass freely without hindrance and to afford him every assistance and protection of which he may stand in need.” In 1948, he fled the war between the Jewish settlers and Palestinian inhabitants to Baghdad, Iraq.  In 2015 his descendants have flown again, this time to Iraqi Kurdistan.  The family treasures the ancient passport, but the command means nothing to anyone.
Twenty-two members of the extended family live together in a house in a city in Iraqi Kurdistan. For many years they had established a good life in Baghdad–they had cars, houses and thriving businesses. However, in 2005 they began to receive threats. Men in cars with masked license plates harassed the younger men. Shi’a militia searched their houses for bombs or bomb making materials. They are Sunni Muslims and an ethnic minority and thus the militia accuse them of association with Da’ash/ISIS.
In January 2015, the threats and danger became too much. NGOs in Baghdad encouraged them to flee to the more secure region of Iraqi Kurdistan. They could have a place in a registered camp but they fear that the Iraqi authorities will learn of their location.  They are anxious that the Kurdish security police will extradite them back to Baghdad. As they live in the city they are not eligible for aid or residency cards. Without the cards they cannot find employment either. So, they hide in a secluded house, relying on friends to pay the rent.
According to Muhammad’s grandson, the Shi'a militia spray-painted a message on the door to his house.  The writing scrawled in black paint says that this building is not to be sold or rented. The militia added a new lock to bar entry.  They cannot go back to Baghdad without fear of apprehension. They cannot stay in Iraqi Kurdistan and live a free and safe life.
UNHCR reports that in 2003 there were 34,000 Palestinians lived in Baghdad. By 2008 the count was 9,000 and it has continued to decrease.  The family told us that in the last few months another eighty families have fled the city. Many have set out on a perilous journey using smugglers to the perceived safety of the European Union. They know of eight families who have drowned attempting to escape their situation by crossing the Mediterranean.
The team contacted Amnesty International with a report on this visit.  They replied that they have been monitoring the situation of Palestinian refugees in Iraq, including the Kurdish Regional Government area, and are about to publish their findings. They said, “the testimony you collected confirms the information we have received from other Palestinian families, in Baghdad and Iraqi Kurdistan”.
The Palestinian passport that the family treasures was shown to us as an important piece of the family’s history. They wondered whether it would be helpful to take it to the UK Consulate. When the team investigated the logistics of obtaining ancestral visas we discovered that UK does grant papers to those holding documentation from British colonies.  However, this applies only for passports dated post January 1949—after the creation of the state of Israel.  So we wonder, who will, “afford Muhammad Ahmad (and his ancestors) every assistance and protection of which he/they may stand in need?”

Who is following the plight of Palestinian refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan?  Not a lot of people.  Support the work of the our team.

Jul 11, 2015

Peace is action

This action took place in London, UK, but CPTers from Iraqi Kurdistan team were there. The situation for thousands of people fleeing areas of conflict and oppression affects the team here too. We are frequently asked how to reach safety in Canada, USA, Europe or England. We also know of people who have taken the risk of trying to reach Europe. We need to speak out to those governments and citizens to create a better situation for those who are looking for a safe place to live.
Please consider supporting CPT Iraqi Kurdistan so that we may continue our work here with the host community of Iraqi Kurds and the thousands of refugees and IDPs in this region.

Jul 6, 2015

Teenage resistance to oil extraction



Kathy Moorhead Thiessen

“These are my fields and these are my guests”, fourteen-year-old Ibrahim spoke boldly to the security guard who blocked the way leading to the oil field near the tiny Kurdish village of Haji Ahmed.  He and his younger brother Zaid sat on the bus with CPT delegates waiting to be able to look at their vineyards as well as the oil exploration site.
As we planned the visit, we had discovered that our friend, Kak Mirro, was serving his military time on the front against ISIS but his teenage sons were quite willing to show us around. We knew that the bus would not be able to navigate the tortuous farm road and so we wondered how we would be able to overlook the fields. However, we were very surprised when Ibrahim guided the driver onto the paved road and up to the guard cabin with the barrier stretched across the entrance to the oil field that had once been the village’s land.


The discussion began with Ibrahim’s definitive statement. There seemed to be no doubt in his mind that he had the right to show his guests the land and crops.  Finally after much conversation and an obligatory scribing of all our names, the guards allowed the delegation to pass. Ibrahim and Zaid were grinning from ear to ear and did not stop until we had passed the exploration site and moved on to the vineyards covered with small green, unripe grapes.
CPT Iraqi Kurdistan has walked alongside the members of the village Haji Ahmed since 2013, when we heard word of their resistance to Exxon Mobil’s oil exploration activities. We created a video, Voice of the People, telling the story of the villages nearby the site. CPT has raised the voices of the villagers by bringing media attention and accompanying their visits to parliamentarians and government officials. We have watched the oilrig activities, from afar, with the boys’ father, Kak Mirro, many times. This day we witnessed the firm resolve of the next generation.
As we passed the deep excavations of the site we noticed that the tall drill was dismantled and gone. Huge white plastic tarps covered the mound and the only people there, other than us, were two guards in small huts. We don’t know what the next step is for the extraction. We know that they have struck oil. We assume that the crude will wait underground until the time is right to begin work again.
These young men know very well how the oil has affected life in their village. They showed us the damage to fruit trees caused by the extreme heat of the burning gas, three months earlier. They have smelled the oil reek that has permeated the valley. They have sat through many meetings with the villagers and CPT discussing next steps and strategies. Now, they have taken on the task of resisting in the way that is available at this stage. They brought a busload of twelve foreigners and three Kurds to the fields that represent their livelihood. They insisted and succeeded. That is resistance.

Jul 5, 2015

Peace is taking care of the creation

Last week as CPT Iraqi Kurdistan traveled back from beautiful Gulan we stopped by the favorite picnic spot beside Dukan River. We wanted to put our feet into the cool river water. But what we found was a mess of plastic bottles and other rubbish. Mohamed had the idea of creating an event to clean up the river. So on Saturday six people went to the river. We were 3 Kurds, an Arab, a Canadian and an American. In two hours we collected more than 50 bags of rubbish. That night the event was published on a local TV station's website and it brought 5,000 likes and hundreds of comments. Mohamed was busy all day answering phone calls from people wanting to join us for the next clean up event. We hope that all who live in this land, Kurds and foreigners will join together for the peace of creation.

Jul 1, 2015

June 2015 Newsletter

Iraqi Kurdistan

Teenage Resistance to Oil Extraction

     “These are my fields and these are my guests”, 14 year old  Ibrahim spoke boldly to the security guard who blocked the way leading to the oil field near the tiny Kurdish village of Haji Ahmed.  He and his younger brother Zaid sat on the bus with CPT delegates waiting to be able to look at their vineyards as well as the oil exploration site.
      As we planned the visit we had discovered that our friend, Kak Mirro, was serving his peshmerga time on the front against IS but his teenage sons were quite willing to show us around. We knew that the bus would not be able to navigate the tortuous farm road and so wondered how we would be able to overlook the fields. However, we were very surprised when Ibrahim guided the driver onto the paved road and up to the guard cabin with the barrier stretched across the entrance. The discussion began with Ibrahim’s definitive statement. There seemed to be no doubt in his mind that his right was to show his guests the land and crops.  Finally after much conversation and an obligatory scribing of all our names we were allowed to pass. Ibrahim and Zaid were grinning from ear to ear and did not stop until we had passed the exploration site and moved on to the vineyards covered with small green, unripe grapes.
     CPT Iraqi Kurdistan has walked alongside the members of the village Haji Ahmed since 2013 when we heard word of their resistance to Exxon Mobil’s oil exploration activities. We created a video “Voice of the People” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQZhcSimLHg telling the story of the villages nearby the site. CPT has raised the voices of the villagers by bringing media attention and accompanying their visits to parliamentarians and government officials. We have watched the oil rig activities, from afar, with the boys’ father, Kak Mirro, many times. This day we witnessed the firm resolve of the next generation.
     As we passed the deep excavations of the site we noticed that the tall drill was dismantled and gone. Huge white plastic tarps covered the mound and the only people there, other than us, were two guards in small huts. We don’t know what the next step is for the extraction. We know that they have struck oil. We assume that the crude will wait underground until the time is right to begin work again.
      These young men know very well how the oil has affected life in their village. They showed us the damage to fruit trees caused by the extreme heat of the burning gas, three months earlier. They have smelled the oil reek that permeated the valley. They have sat through many meetings with the villagers and CPT discussing next steps and strategies. Now, they have taken on the task of resisting in the way that is available at this stage. They brought a busload of twelve foreigners and three Kurds to the fields that represent their livelihood. They insisted and succeeded. That is resistance.
 

Ezidi Young Adults Working for their Community

At  Sharya IDP camp near Dohuk, home to 40,000 displaced Ezidi people,  the  CPT  delegation met a deeply inspiring group of Ezidi/Yazidi young adult activists and community organizers: three women and three men. Together, they voluntarily run a community center project partially supported by  Alind, a CPT partner organization. After these young people fled ISIS  and  exchanged their homes and lives in Sinjar (Shingal) for tents in a camp, they did not want to just sit back. They began to organize themselves to serve their community through offering psycho-social support, activities with children, various trainings and community work. They continue doing so even despite the fact that the funding from a major aid agency ran out. In these hot summer months they must buy water for the participants from their own pockets. We are very thankful for the opportunity to move together beyond the veil of what our CPT mandate is (and is not) and experience a deep inter-human connection. In the narrative where Yazidi people are mainly portrayed as uneducated, poor and victims, and in the camps where jobs are often given to non-Ezidis, the group members' agency and commitment will hopefully encourage and inspire others.
 

Celebration to Conclude Children's project

The members of the delegation added their talents to plan the party to celebrate the achievements of the Children's project. The Family Centre  in Rapareen, Sulaimani offered their facility as the venue. Children from the various displaced communities: Iraqi Christian and Arab, Syrian Kurdish and Arab, Ezidi/Yazidi, and from the Kurdish host community came together.  These children, who had participated in the CPT experiential project exploring ways to build peace, joined  to view their artwork, play many games and feast on delicious food. To conclude the event all fifty children drew together a 10 meter long picture depicting their images of What is peace.
 

Bazian Community Centre Psycho-social Newspaper

As a conclusion to the eight week psycho-social program that CPT co-facilitated in partnership with REACH, the participants created and printed a newspaper. They wanted to spread the news that friendship among different cultures is possible. Throughout the eight weeks of group work we focused on building trust, shared responsibilities and learning the importance of co-operation between cultures. We have come to realize and want to share the news that we are one family living under one sky.

 

Next Steps in Alternatives to Violence Project

In March CPT Iraqi Kurdistan facilitated and participated in the first 60 hour AVP training in this region. Now, in June we worked together with newly trained facilitators to guide young people in two  one day workshops. The participants, members of refugee, IDP and host communities, have encountered much distress as the result of severe tensions between the groups. In the workshops the participants have experienced how they can overcome cultural, language and gender barriers  to listen and understand the situation of each other.  A young Syrian Kurdish woman said, "We learned that they (Iraqi Kurds) don’t hate us  and if we just get to know each other we can be friends". At the end of the day they asked for more.

 

 CPT  Iraqi Kurdistan Delegation
                  June 2015

June 2-11 saw three delegates and leader, Terra Winston join CPT Iraqi Kurdistan for a delegation. The days were full and the activities varied.  Most of the the team joined the  visitors to travel north to Dohuk area to visit a community of Ezidis/Yazidis who are still living in unfinished houses. We had the privilege of touring the sacred place for Ezidis, Lalish, where we were welcomed and experienced the hospitality given to visitors of all faiths. In Sulaimai we heard stories from several partners of CPT IK and visited the Anfal memorial museum , Amna Sureke.

Report on communal tensions and ethno-religious discrimination
in Arbat IDP Camp

After the team spent many weeks speaking to representatives from every group in Arbat IDP camp, our report is complete. The findings of the report are very sensitive and might cause an escalation of camp tensions. Therefore the report is not public. Team shared it with care with the UNHCR officials and several other people and agencies who we hope could commit to working on strategies to alleviate the causes of  these tensions.

New water tank for CPT roof

When CPT Iraqi Kurdstan moved into this house in Rizgari Taze, Sulaimani in 2007 there were two water tanks on the roof. These containers have received and stored city water every 2-3 days.  After  8 years of constant use the old water tanks were a mess with much mud on the bottom  and one of them was leaking. It was  time to buy a new big one, to have more and cleaner water. Thanks to God for the ones who donate to CPT so we can have clean plentiful water.


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       AUGUST 28 - SEPTEMBER 10

Two men hauling water tank onto roof and installing: $200