Dec 21, 2016

coercion is not a viable alternative

By: Latif Hars

Gulala and Awat speaking to the teachers in the city of Sulaimani. Photo by: Kasia Protz
We were invited by the two of the main organizers of demonstrations in the city of Sulaimani to accompany them, they said “we really need you  to support us, we don’t feel safe, We fear for our lives and lives of our family members after our cars were burnt and Asai sh had arrested us last month. The security forces threatened us and continue to do so, instead of they protecting us and our property…”
During October 2015 the demonstrations started, they were organised by the teachers in demand for their full salaries. Awat one of the main organizer of demonstrations  told us  what had happened and is happening to him and his family. “My car was burnt, Asaish arrested me, they came to my home, they checked my whole house, destroyed some of my electronic devices and even my children’s toys. Later I was put in a solitary cell, I was not given any food during my time there except one glass of water, over twelve hours.”
Awat told us “the government stopped paying our full salaries in 2015, we began demonstrations in October of 2015, we continued our boycott and protests till October 27, asking for our principal rights, but the government didn’t listen to us. They brought huge army force to end protests and to compel us to quit our struggle for our rights. He said  security forces have arrested and beaten some of the teachers. At the same time government decided to keep three quarters of our salary promising they will pay us back later. Amanj who is Awat’s brother was sitting beside Awat. He told us “security forces arrested me and moved me to Asaishs building, they beated me very badly.”

When Gulala invited us to her house, she said “we just received nine months of our salaries, only a quarter each time. We have a council  of thirty three teachers, the council organizes  the peaceful demonstrations.” she said “I was threatened by Asiash then they arrested me, I was being held for 8 hours, they took away my mobile. When I received my mobile back after four days,  there was a tracking device inside it, I took it out, immediately my phone stopped working.” She added “I can not sleep because the security forces (Asaish).” Teachers stood up for their rights last year, but government still remains silent.
So the teachers didn’t open schools this academic year, they said “We started demonstrations to demand our basic rights on the 27th of October 2016, we are demonstrating in a peaceful way, still after more than a year government is not responding.”
Teachers gathered close to directorate of education in Sulaimani. Photo by: Kasia Protz
“The government isn’t listening to us, so we continue to protest for our basic rights, we care about students but government doesn’t care about them. They forced us to go teach pupils without giving us our salaries. We refused to obey to this decision, we believe teachers whose rights are denied can not provide good education for their students. The demonstrators are not just teachers, but other groups affected by the corruption in the government, they face the same problem.

During last two years CPT had observed teachers demonstrations, we heard from the demonstrators “We have a lot of oil and gas but the government has not given our full salaries, they don’t care about the future of students and our country, they care about their own interests  and positions. Everything is on hold except selling oil, gas and the goods that they bring from outside, just to make it clear, the whole business in the region is controlled by the officials.” In one of the demonstrations that CPT observed, security forces (Asaish) arrested some teachers,  they used tear gas to separate them from each other. Asaish also tried to send the demonstrators home, but they refused it, they told Asaish “We are not here just for our rights, but also for your rights and your children’s rights ” they continued “education is very important for people, we can't give up on the future of our children, our peaceful struggle is to bring real changes, where everyone can have a brighter future, Also to prepare a generation that can stand up for their basic rights and to know their duty and responsibility.”The government has been careless and did not respond to their demands instead they accused teachers and said ‘’Closing down the schools is a crime against the society, and the teachers should go back to their schools regardless if they paid or not or regardless of having a corrupt system.’’
The teachers from Hawler and Duhok cities have same problems, however a political party that is running Erbil and Duhok cities did not let them express their concerns, they forced and threatened them to open schools, and to teach without receiving their salaries.
I heard from many teachers in Sulaimani city saying that “Our struggle remains peaceful, in spite of us getting arrested, threatened, and our cars being burned. We didn’t stop demanding our rights,  and we will continue our nonviolent protests for the future of our children and country.”  During the demonstrations the teachers asked security forces “ Please don’t beat us, arrest us, and threaten us because we remember the former president of Iraq, Sadam Husain and what his regime was doing against civilians” they continued “We are brothers and sisters from the same country, our struggles and future are the same, please understand our peaceful effort.” We heard the same from Gulala, Awat and his brother Amanj “we remember exactly Sadam’s regime and what had happened to us.”  
When you go and observe teachers demonstrations you always hear demonstrators expressing their love and respect for their country,  however you also hear their desperation and heartbrokenness about what is happening here. They said “Our history, culture and humanity had been reduced to oil and gas processes, a small group is running the country with support of some super pack countries and companies, they changed Kurdistan to a small circle of violence and broken dreams. We don't trust human rights organizations and states any more because we didn't see them do anything for us, we believe they work for themselves.”
When I think of their situation I see them surrounded by barbed wired fence if they try to climb out to receive their rights they get hurt if they stay they suffocate. And The only solution is getting freedom and justice back to this region.


Dec 14, 2016

Amidst death threats, Gulala Sdiq’s voice still echoes change

Gulala giving a speech during one of the latest protests in the city of Sulaimani. Photo by: Kasia Protz
Gulala Sdiq is a teacher, civil society activist, and one of the main organizers of the current protests in the city of Sulaimani. She is one of thousands of teachers that have been on strike in the streets of Sulaimani demanding their full wages and an end to government corruption. As a result of the ongoing strike, the schools remain closed in the city of Sulaimani and surrounding areas. Gulala Sdiq requested Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) to accompany her and her family after receiving threats from security forces over the past few weeks. CPT is an international human rights organization seeking to transform violence and oppression. After hearing her story an agreement was made to accompany Gulala Sdiq for the upcoming days in her home.

Read the full report here

Kormori Bchwk - the Forgotten Village

Kak Hassan and other villagers explaining their struggle to CPT. Photo by: Kasia Protz

“They promised us many job opportunities and a better road. However only two men were hired over the last two years. Most of us have to work outside the village now, we were hoping for jobs with Dana Gas but they lied to us!"
Five other men nod in affirmation as Kak Hassan tells the CPT team of some of the hardships his community faces daily from the presence of their unwanted powerful neighbor. Kormori Bchwk (Small Kormor) is a remote village of 22 families, seven out of which live there permanently and fifteen seasonally. It is not easy to find Kormor, especially coming from Sulaimani, which lies some two and half hours of drive away. It is surrounded by thousands of low treeless hills stretching for miles in all directions and towards the nearby unclear borderline between Kurdistan and what is left of Iraq and just a recent front-line against Daesh (ISIS). This scarcely populated area which Saddam Hussein turned into an example of his commitment to genocide Kurds, falls under the sphere of administration of the district mayor of Chamchamal, which lies some 90 km away, and  under the sub-district mayor of the nearest town of Qadir Karam.

Read the full report here.

Dec 5, 2016

Awat Hassan continues to be the voice of change among ongoing death threats

Awat Hassan talking to CPTers at his home, December 04, 2016. Photo by: Rezhiar Fakhir.
Awat Hassan Abdulla is a civil society activist and one of the main organizers of the teachers’ protests that are currently happening in the city of Sulaimani. Since the beginning of the school year in September 2016, the teachers are on a strike and demand that their full wages be paid and that the government sector will stop and deal with its internal corruption. The schools and universities remain closed until now. Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), an international human rights organization, have been in contact with Mr. Awat Hassan Abdulla and his family, who requested that we accompany them. Mr. Awat and his family have been receiving threats and following a series of violent detentions and beatings by the Security forces (Asaish), the last one took place on the 1 December 2016, he and his family fear for their safety and lives. CPT agreed to accompany him and his family.