Iraqi Kurdistan: Anniversary of the Kurdish Spring

by Bud Courtney

Mid-February marked the one-year anniversary of the start of 62 days of demonstrations in which thousands of Kurdish Iraqis spoke out for justice and met severe repression from military and police forces.  The climate surrounding the anniversary was tense with anonymous calls for protests and police forces on standby for days.

Five young men were gunned down by Kurdish Regional Government security forces during those demonstrations in Suleimaniya a year ago.  CPTers and local partners decided to remember them with a Valentine’s Day vigil.

Sixteen of us met in the public garden.  We brought mirrors with pictures of each man attached and a heart drawn around the picture in blood red.  We walked solemnly to the five places where the young men died.  Our numbers grew to forty.

We each carried a rose.  At each stop, we placed roses at the site along with the picture of the man who had died there.

Several family members of the slain men walked with us.  At one stop I was singing “We Shall Overcome” when I realized that one of the fathers was standing next to me.  He was crying.  I kept singing, but stopped playing guitar and put my arm around him.  I was overcome.

We walked on Valentine’s Day to cry out against the senseless killing of youth.  We walked in solidarity with the families who lost sons a year ago.  We walked because no one knows when each of us will end our time on this earth and we must make the most of what we do.  We walked together to say to the authorities, “You can gun us down but you cannot silence us.”

Courtney is a CPT Reservist and Catholic Worker from New York City, USA.