A refreshing and gentle breeze is being felt above the plains of Iraqi Kurdistan. It brings with it courage and enthusiasm, and the prophecy of a new generation of human relationships. It affirms the wisdom within every human spirit that all persons are equally positioned by the Great Creator.
Barrancabermeja's piano has a legend like this: once a year, two chosen hands reach out to sing an audience silent. Its ivory keys become the words that form a single sentence, different for each member in the crowd.
If only the members of parliament knew what a wondrous gift awaits them in that tent.
5 December 2012
IRAQI KURDISTAN REFLECTION: Those who hunger for righteousness
by Bud Courtney
In the late afternoon of Friday, November 23, we received a call from a friend and partner in the Federation of Civil Societies, an organization of Sulaimani NGO's (of which CPT is a member), inviting us to a gathering in front of the Kurdistan Parliament Sulaimani Offices. A group of six physically disabled men were on the fourth day of a hunger strike. Would CPT come and stand with them for a while? Though it was a day off, two of us quickly agreed to attend.
As we pulled up to the area, we noticed an ambulance and in time saw two of the men taken to the hospital. They returned later that night. The men had not been eating or drinking up to this point, were preparing to begin a liquid-only fast and had to be given intravenous solutions first.
We sat in the tent with the group for some time. At one point, my friend from the Federation asked me if I could come back the following evening with the guitar and sing for the group. I agreed.
When I arrived at the tent that second evening, there were the six men, calling themselves the Disabled Group, and one of their friends; no press, no cameras, no fanfare. We sat about the kerosene heater, drank hot banana milk, listened to an aged New York folk rocker play music and, at least for myself, felt content.
I walked home buoyed by the experience. This is why I had come to Kurdistan. I know I can't change the world. I've given up thinking I can. But I can show up. I can sit with those who stand, as best they can, for non-violent change, who invite others to join them in their struggle.
These men, seeking better conditions for the 125,000 disabled in the KRG and the disputed areas, vow not to eat until Parliament agrees to their demands. They will remain camped in front of the parliament building, building their own community.
They speak very little English, and I speak no Kurdish. Yet, every night I enter the tent, I am greeted and given a comfortable seat on the ground and made to feel one of the family. I am always amazed at the hospitality of the people here in the Middle East, perhaps more so in this tent, by six friends on a hunger strike.
I promised myself I would try to visit each day, if possible. Each day so far, I have done so, with others from the team or another friend, or by myself. We sit and laugh and smile and cry. We look at each other. We hold hands.
Each day I ask if they are feeling okay. I ask if anyone from parliament has visited them. They are fine but no one from parliament has come. I only feel sadness for those who do not come because they do not realize what a wondrous gift awaits them within that tent.
How many more villages will have to be demolished, how many more Palestinians beaten up and arrested, how many more children will have to live in fear of losing their homes and schools before my country stands up and supports Palestinians' right to self-determination?