One of the CPT partner communities in the Allana Gully impacted by Iranian cross border bombings into Iraqi Kurdistan. Photo by: Julie Brown.
"When the bombing starts, where do you hide?" That is what I asked Sulltan. "There is no place. Behind rocks, wherever we can. We all just run in every direction. Everyone has to find their own place. Even the children."
The last shelling started on June 23rd at 10am and did not stop until after noon. The farmer said over 160 bombs fell on the small area in those two hours. After it was over, many animals had been killed and three children were injured. It was this story that we heard in detail as we documented the events of that day.
In the Choman District of Iraqi Kurdistan High in the mountains near the Iranian border lies the Allana Gully. It was here that CPT visited after hearing reports of a recent cross border shelling from Iran. The drive through the mountains to this remote area was slow. The road is an unpaved rocky path that hangs on the sides of very steep mountain ledges. In many places it is so narrow that the wheels of our vehicle came dangerously close to sliding off the edge.
Since Christian Peacemaker Teams arrived in Barrancabermeja in 2001, we have had the honor to walk in solidarity with the brave women of the Womenâ€™s Popular Organization (OFP). OFP has been fighting for womenâ€™s voices to be heard since 1972. They have fought so that women would not be under submission or controlled by violent actors in the conflict. They have fought so that women would not be under submission or controlled by norms and sexist laws that have allowed men to hurt or even kill their partners without consequences. They have fought for women to be educated and trained and be independent, strengthened and be recognized as a political subjects with proposals for peace in Colombia.
On July 21, 2016, to celebrate its forty-four years, the OFP invited its members of several municipalities of the Magdalena Medio region and sectors of Barrancabermeja, to build and paint murals depicting peace. The women of OFP have always worked with symbols to express themselves. The murals, ten in total, were profound symbols of how the women of OFP have built and continue to build peace through its space led by and for women (though with much love, they allowed us men to participate). The murals show the pain and suffering of women as a result of the war and the appalling sexism that has oppressed them. But the beauty of the effort is that they did not remain in the pain. In the murals they showed that with strength and determination they gained respect and were able to move forward with concrete proposals for a better society. A just and decent society to live in peace.
In the middle of Ramadan this year, farmers in Iraqi Kurdistan experienced bombing by Iran. In the last three years there were not any bombingsalong the border with Iran. It was also the first time the area of Barbazin in Sidakan sub-district was bombed so heavily.
The team decided to visit the area and to learn what had happened. After driving for several hours on the highway and unpaved roads we had the privilege to meet Rashad. While I parked the car near his house, I could see him outside making a fire for his tea. Rashad stood up to look at these strangers coming to his tents. As I greeted him, he very warmly greeted me in return and firmly shook my hand. Through his eyes and smile I could see that he was excited to know more about who we were.
I noticed he had difficulty walking and I was not sure if he was disabled or if he had lost his leg because of a landmine. The reality of life in a border village is that there is always one or more disabled villager who has lost a part of his or her body because of mines.