Archive

May 13th, 2014

IRAQI KURDISTAN: Election day (Part 1)--Police ask international observers to protect them from Asaish Security Forces

On 30 April, Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) Iraqi Kurdistan coordinated a group of five volunteers —three Iraqi Kurds, a European and an American—to serve as observers for the first elections for the Iraqi Parliament since the U.S. Forces left the country.  Voters were also selecting representatives for the Administrative Councils of the three provinces under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).  Since September 2013, Iraqi Kurdistan politics have been in turmoil.  At that time, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) one of the two ruling parties that shared power in the KRG since 1991, lost its share in the Kurdistan Parliament to the Change (Gorran) movement, an opposition political group.  One of the last significant powers remaining in PUK hands was the control of the Provincial Council of Sulaimani.  In this election, the first in nine years, the PUK had much to lose.

In Sulaimani province, the Asaish (security forces/intelligence agency) fall under the control of the PUK.  The electoral law forbids the presence of the armed forces, except the police, inside the polling centers.  However, on this 30 April election day CPT observers visited five schools in and around Sulaimani city and found security forces armed with AK-47s positioned around or directly at the entrance of four schools as well as armed officers inside the three of them. 

CPT arrived at the fourth school in the late afternoon after having observed a group of about eight men armed with handguns and AK-47s walk out of a nearby PUK office and gather near the school's entrance.  The men appeared to be observing the CPTers as the CPTers observed them and after making a phone call, they dispersed and left.




Bullet shells IHEC voting center manager collected on poster of
political parties and their candidates.

Following the CPTers’ arrival, the voting center manager, who worked for the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC)—the formal body responsible for the transparency, fairness and independence of the elections—led the team into an empty staff room and presented a handful of bullet shells.  He said: “We collected them in the school yard this morning after the Asaish tried to come in armed with guns and take over the school after we prevented some people from voting more than once.  The police protected the school.  The Asaish were upset and fired in the air.  Luckily they left.”

May 12th

U.S./PALESTINE/ISRAEL URGENT ACTION: Urge U.S. Reps to attend briefing on Israel’s discrimination against U.S. citizens seeking to enter Palestine


 

 
 

"Entery Denied" stamp from second of
Brenneman's three failed attempts to
enter West Bank in September-October
2013.

Last September and October the Israeli border authorities refused to allow me to join CPT’s work in Palestine.  During my last attempt, the Israeli authorities held me at the border for more than eight hours, questioned me repeatedly, and strip-searched me before denying me entry.  Both my Palestinian heritage and my work with CPT were raised as reasons for my mistreatment and denial.  This underscores the plight of not only other CPTers and international observers doing peace and human rights work in Palestine, but more importantly for other Palestinians in the diaspora trying to visit their homeland.

CPT Palestine has made it a priority to find ways of combating this blatant discrimination.  Today you can help.  Soon after my return to the U.S.A., my home country, I heard the U.S. House and Senate were debating the U.S.- Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2013.  Instead of condemning Israel’s actions and calling on embassies to protect U.S. citizens, this legislation would legalize Israel’s racist immigrations policies that discriminate against Palestinian-Americans and other U.S. citizens.  Section 9 would allow Israel to participate in the US visa waver program (permitting Israelis entry to the US for ninety days without obtaining a visa) without demanding reciprocation, as the US does with every other country.

Grassroots advocacy has stalled this bill, and it will probably be rewritten.  But the debate is not over.  On Wednesday 21 May 2014, a briefing will take place to inform U.S. policy makers of Israel’s discriminatory policies and to urge them not to sign onto the bill.  If you live in the United States, please write or call your members of congress (House and Senate) to attend the briefing.  (Below is a sample e-mail.)

Here is a link that will allow you to send an e-mail automatically:
http://org.salsalabs.com/o/641/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=15657

May 9th

IRAQI KURDISTAN: Federation of Civil Society Organizations commemorates assassination of Sardasht Osman, decries election violence





May 5, 2014 marked the fourth anniversary of the murder of the young journalist Sardasht Osman.  To address the inaction of the authorities in bringing his murderers to justice and the prevalence of violence, both physical and psychological, in Kurdish society that re-emerged during the recent elections, the Federation of the Civil Society Organizations of Suleimani, of which CPT Iraqi Kurdistan is a member, published a written statement.  Below are excerpts that highlight the yearning of people living in the area of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) for a democratic, transparent, and just society:

 In 1991 the Kurdish people hoped that they had reached an end of the oppressive dictatorship and that the windows and gates to people's dreams for political liberty and freedom of thinking opened.  Unfortunately, the removal of a regime that practiced all possible kinds of abuses did not automatically establish democracy.  The madness of the violation of the political and personal rights continues.  The political parties pursue power, control, and their own benefits instead of the principles of democracy.  They do not accept each other, do not want to allow for the exchange of power between parties.  Parties threaten and fire people from jobs, kill journalists and ignore criminal cases, such as the case of Sardasht Osman and so many others in the past years and present.

May 8th

COLOMBIA: Five-thousand small-scale farmers arrive in Aguachica




On Tuesday, 6 May 2014, a thousand riot police and military personnel arrived in the small town of Norian, just north of Aguachica, and surrounded five thousand small-scale farmers who had begun to gather there since 1 May.  This display of force and the restriction of movement has been a part of the government’s strategy to clamp down on the growing Agrarian Strike.

Earlier on Wednesday, police detained 300 farmers traveling to Medellin on the pretext that they would be a threat to the residents of Medellin, since the public forces did not have enough personnel.

We are curating stories of the Agrarian Strike here

May 7th

CPT INTERNATIONAL: Muriel Schmid appointed Program Director and Jennifer Yoder Communications & Engagement Director

Christian Peacemaker Teams is pleased to announce the appointments of Muriel Schmid as Program Director and Jennifer Yoder as Communications & Engagement Director.

Schmid and Yoder's appointments compliment the new executive directorship of Sarah Thompson.  Together these three new positions replace former roles of co-directors and Outreach Coordinator.

As Communications & Engagement Director Yoder will amplify the communications work of project teams, liaise with CPT groups, and build connections with CPT supporters and potential recruits. Schmid's focus as Program Director will be on CPT's work in Colombia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Palestine, with First Nations in North America and the training and support of the peacemakers who do that work.

 

Muriel Schmid, MDiv, PhD, met CPT in Hebron/Al-Khalil while working with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel.  She went on a delegation with CPT’s Aboriginal Justice Team, joined the CPT Peacemaker Corps in 2013, and served in Iraqi Kurdistan.  A Swiss citizen, she comes to the Program Director post from the University of Utah, where she has been faculty in Religious and in Cultural Studies and director of the Religious Studies program.  Ordained in the Swiss Reformed Church she now identifies strongly with Quakerism.

Jennifer Yoder
Jennifer Yoder, a U.S. citizen, is new to CPT and brings a wealth of experience from her work as a grassroots justice activist in diverse U.S. ecclesial and political contexts.  As the Victim Services Coordinator at the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, she re-ignited statewide campaigns, and successfully rebuilt trust through clear communications and producing media for the Alliance.  In 2009 Yoder was co-creator of the Pink Menno movement for embrace of the LGBTQ community within the Mennonite Church.  Yoder’s ability to notice the interplay of privilege and oppression on personal, communal, and political levels has made her a valuable member of diverse leadership teams and an effective organizer.

Prayers for Peacemakers, May 7, 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers, May 7, 2014

Pray for all those who had their hopes for a free and fair election in Iraqi Kurdistan disappointed on April 30, 2014. 

The team in Iraqi Kurdistan wrote, "Our hopes for fair elections in Iraqi Kurdistan died today":
- as we witnessed the fear that the presence of armed and undercover PUK "security" forces at the gates and inside of the voting centers sowed among the voters and electoral staff;
- as we heard shooting and saw bullet shells gathered at the yard of a voting center;
- as we watched armed PUK men take away a staff member employed by the Independent High Electoral Commission allegedly because he filmed the illegal entry of armed "security" forces into his voting center;
- and as we read that TV station crews and journalists have been attacked, beaten and otherwise prevented from doing their work...

Give thanks for the courageous judge who issued warrants for the arrests of the Director-General of the Asaish (secret police), the head of the Anti-Terrorism unit and the head of the provincial Special Forces, because of the assaults on election observers.


Epixel for May 11, 2014



Gorran election observer in hospital after he was abducted and severely beaten

For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering
unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is
that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God's
approval.
1 Peter 2:19-20

*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing with a
text from the upcoming Sunday's RevisedCommon Lectionary readings.

May 6th

AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): Israeli soldiers arrest disabled man, twelve-year-old boy

In separate incidents around the same time (around 11:00 a.m.) on the morning of Tuesday 6 May 2014 the Israeli military made two arrests in Hebron. 

The first was of Eyad Jaabari, a twenty-year-old man with a learning disability from the Jaabari neighbourhood of the city.  Israeli soldiers took this young man first to the police base near the Gutnick centre and then walked with him to the military base by the Ibrahimi Mosque, holding him for thirty minutes from the time CPT heard of his arrest.  When Israeli soldiers brought the young man out of the base and released him, he was clearly bewildered and distraught, and collapsed on the ground and then into the arms of the older male relative who was waiting outside. The reason for the arrest is unknown. 

May 5th

COLOMBIA URGENT ACTION: Send e-mail to U.S. State Dept this week urging suspension of aid to Colombian military


Take Action: Send a message to the State Department



In the coming week, the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) will be issuing a report about the “False Positive” murders committed by the Colombian military entitled “The Rise and Fall of ‘False Positive’ Killings in Colombia.” (“False positives” were executions of civilians by troops who then claimed the victims were guerrillas killed in combat.)  The research in the report shows that of the Colombian School of the Americas/WHINSEC instructors and graduates from 2001 to 2003 for which information was available, twelve of them 48% had either been charged with a serious crime or commanded units whose members had reportedly committed multiple extrajudicial killings.  John Lindsay Poland, author of the report, will be meeting with State Department Representatives this week.

Accordingly, FOR, SOAWatch, and other NGOs think it is important at this time for immediate e-mail pressure on the State Department to end assistance to the Colombian military.  In February, General Jaime Lasprilla Villamizar was appointed commander of the Colombian Army.  A former instructor at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly known as the School of the Americas) General Lasprilla previously commanded Task Force Omega, which received tens of millions of dollars in U.S. training, supplies and equipment, under Washington’s ill-conceived drug war and “war on terror.”  In 2006-2007, Lasprilla directed the Ninth Brigade in Colombia’s Huila Department, which was responsible for at least seventy-five killings of civilians under his command.  Lasprilla’s appointment shows that Colombia is continuing its culture of impunity regarding military human rights abuses.

May 2nd

AT-TUWANI: Still in need of water

It’s four and a half years since I last worked in the South Hebron Hills village of at-Tuwani, so I was glad to go for an overnight stay.  There have been many changes since my last stint there with Christian Peacemaker Teams.  Of course, babies have been born, children have grown up, young people have married, and adults have aged.




At-Tuwani's school now has an
additional floor.

There have been some positive changes for the village.  It received a master plan some years ago from the Israeli authorities and so villagers are able to build and extend homes within the boundaries it specifies.  The school now has an additional floor and is safe from demolition (with which the Israeli authorities threatened it as soon as it was first built), so now the village school is able to take pupils from the beginning of primary school right through to the end of secondary school.  The village’s clinic is also safe from demolition.  There is mains electricity [an electrical grid] that the villagers attribute partly to Tony Blair’s visit to Tuwani in 2009, during which he described electricity as a human right, and the villagers have received permission to connect to the water main as well.

As one young man said to me, ‘Tuwani is a city now, Miriam: electricity, water . . .’

May 1st

Prayers for Peacemakers, May 1, 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers, May 1, 2014

 

Pray for the people of At-Tuwani, who remain steadfast in their resistance to occupation, although settlements continue to confiscate lands they have depended on for their livelihood.

See blog post: Tuwani: still in need of water

 

Children walking to school in Tuwani from Tuba and Mighayer Al Abeed.  Ma'on is on the hill on the right.  Note the extensive polytunnels and the new orchard behind the children.  There is an extensive area of fruit trees out of shot to the right.

Children walking to school in Tuwani from Tuba and Mughayer Al Abeed. The Israeli settlement of Ma’on is on the hill to the right. Note the extensive settlement polytunnels and the settlement's new orchard behind the children.