Despite the heavy heat outside, the basement was cool, almost damp, with the smell of old crumbling concrete and years of dust storms. It was dark but a light glowed, soaking everything in a sinister red film, showing the way through, showing their faces, twisted with fear, and pain, and loss.

Pictures hung on the walls, one per wall. Large, almost life sized images of fallen bodies, decaying children, bloated cows. I stood in silence. I know the history, the decades of brutality, of ethnic cleansing, the systematic murder of Kurdish men, women and children in the 1980s; Saddam’s al’Anfal campaign. I had even seen those pictures before. But this was different; the horror was close and chilling.


The approach of Naqba Day, the Day of the Catastrophe, brought a sense of trepidation to the Al-Khalil Christian Peacemaker Team. This day commemorating the displacement of Palestinians following the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948 is often marked by demonstrations and violence on both sides. While patrolling the evening before, we had observed Israeli soldiers conducting drills, moving portable barricades and simulating the rescue of fallen comrades. This stoked our anxious anticipation of the day to come.

As morning dawned on Naqba Day, additional military presence was evident throughout the Old City. Soldiers at their checkpoints checked every schoolchild’s bag. Having heard of a march planned in the city’s Palestinian-controlled sector, we proceeded as a group to the planned route. Various political parties, clearly separated and defined by their distinctive flags, participated in the march. When part of the Hamas Party group broke away and moved toward the Israeli-controlled zone in the Old City, we became concerned that heightened tensions could lead to violence.


“The entire history of man is war,” the speaker told us, “conflict driven by racial, religious and territorial ambition.”

He sounded regretful, as if he wished it could be otherwise, but knew it was foolish and negligent to trust any force other than violence for the common good. As he went on, outlining the dangers of Islamic immigration to Western countries, he branded those who disagreed with his analysis as “naïve,” even “traitors.” I saw that most of the crowd agreed.

IRAQ REFLECTION: A moment for the martyrs

This is the story of Sardasht Osman. On 5 May 2010, his body was found, shot, outside the city of Mosul. He had been abducted from outside his university two days earlier, in front of a crowd of witnesses. 

The prospective journalist's final opinion piece, “I Am in Love with Massoud Barzani’s Daughter,” criticized the KRG president’s wealth in biting satire. “All my friends said, ‘Saro, let it go and give it up or you will get yourself killed. The family of Mulla Mustafa Barzani [Massoud Barzani’s father] can kill anyone they want, and they surely will.’ ”

It appears they did. 

AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): The Israeli Paradigm, Part II

In the first part of my reflection, I noted that historian Ilan Pappé challenged us to bring into the discourse of Israel and Palestine the words “Settler-colonialism,” “occupation” and “apartheid” and that the situation in Hebron supports the truth of these words:

Our neighbor in the old city of Hebron—where her family has lived for hundreds of years— requires a permit to live on Shuhada Street in but cannot go out of her front door.  When we walk through our neighborhood, I we see gun watchtowers and checkpoints.  On one street running near the Ibrahimi mosque, a concrete barrier divides the street in two.  The left half of the street is for Israelis and the right side is for Palestinians.  Israelis can drive on their part of the street but the Palestinian side is too narrow for cars.

Soldiers guard Palestinian house that settlers have occupied, March 2012

AL-KHALIL (HEBRON) REFLECTION: The Israeli Paradigm, Part I

 I have been reading Ilan Pappé’s (1) book Forgotten Palestinians.  I find his writing to be informative and thought provoking and so was excited a couple weeks ago, when the team and I got a chance to hear Pappé speak at the Alternative Information Centre in Beit Sahour.

What Pappé said offered an alternative to much of the discourse surrounding Israel and Palestine.  Pappé argued that most people, even those who see themselves as being pro-Palestinian, still speak and think within the paradigm (2) created by Zionists.

According to Pappé, in this paradigm of peace the Zionists saw that they must establish full control over the West Bank, to fulfill their vision of the State of Israel.  He likened the situation in the West Bank to that of a prison.  If Palestinians within the West Bank are willing to work within the framework of the paradigm and ‘behave,’ they will receive rewards and benefits, and the prison will resemble an open detention center where people have some freedoms and can move around somewhat freely.  These benefits, Pappé stated, could even incorporate a state, but it would be a state without sovereignty, and a state that was still within the Zionist paradigm, and therefore still ultimately under Zionist control.  However, if the Palestinians dare to challenge the paradigm they will find themselves in a maximum-security prison where Israel severely restricts their rights and limits their freedoms.

IRAQI KURDISTAN REFLECTION: "…live justly and peaceably with all creation."

The organizers hoped that the Green Festival would bring some of these issues to the attention of the Kurds of Suleimaniya.  And they were successful.  Around 2000 people left their leisurely stroll around the park to listen to Kurdish and American music and look at the displays.  They were able to see that the ubiquitous 250-millilitre water bottle could be threaded onto a wooden frame to create a green house.  They heard from high school students that wind and solar power might work well in the region.  They saw the advantages of placing trash into receptacles that would go to the dump.  They took in the beauty, through nature photographs and paintings, of their region, which reminded them that they must find ways of preserving it.

IRAQI KURDISTAN REFLECTION: Warmongering and the KRG/Iranian border

The whole world knows that war is a terrible thing.  Every nation on the earth has witnessed first hand the truths of war.  Yet even with these first hand experiences, governments claiming to represent the best interests of their people are still willing to inflict war on others.
Currently the war drum is beating against Iran.  Pundits and politicians, backed by various lobbies as well as Israeli and European allies are calling for it.

COLOMBIA: Where two or three... or fifteen are gathered

 Just weeks after the celebration of International Women's Day, on 22 March, the Popular Women's Organization (OFP) asked us to visit the house of a friend and OFP colleague, named Iluminada.  Her neighbor, a man who identifies himself as a paramilitary, attacked and threatened her in her home.   In a demonstration of solidarity, eleven women from the OFP showed up to her house that morning, plus four CPTers.

IRAQI KURDISTAN REFLECTION: I am afraid of bombing. (And there is shelling too)

[Note: Remember to sign up for the 24-hour prayer-a-thon for peace to support displaced Colombians.  In coordination with the Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia (DOPA), the Colombia team is seeking prayers from all over the world over the course of a full day. Click here to sign up for an hour, alone or with a group, between 6:00 pm Saturday 14 April 6:00 Sunday 15 April 2012.  Light a candle, sing, meditate, read a story, or just sit quietly in the presence of God.]

Me: I like the colour blue. What colour do you like?

Boy: I like the colour black.

Boy: I like the colour yellow.

Me: I like to go walking for fun.  What do you do for fun?

Boy: I like to swim.

Girl: I like to play guitar.

Me: I am afraid of very loud thunder. What are you afraid of?

Girl: I am afraid of snakes.

Girl: I am afraid of bombing.

Teacher: (And there is shelling too)


The Iraqi Kurdistan team had made the three-hour trip to Sunneh, in eastern Iraqi Kurdistan to teach English.  Not exactly the mandate of CPT, but we see these monthly trips as a way to become acquainted with some of the eighty pupils in the school.  We would like them to be part of a video narrating their life in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan, telling what it is like to be part of a village that is shelled every year from a country on the other side of the mountains.