Iraq

IRAQI KURDISTAN ANALYSIS: Questions about the Islamic State in Iraq, aka ISIS, IS, DAASH

[Note: This release has been adapted for CPTnet.  The original, more comprehensive piece is available on Gish’s blog.]




CPT has been monitoring the checkpoint into the KRG
where tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians, Yazidi,
Turkmen, Shabak and Shia have been fleeing ISIS advances.

Many analysts of the current situation in Iraq had predicted that the Islamic State of Iraq and SHAM (ISIS), renamed the “Islamic State” (IS) a month ago by the group (and also called “DAASH” by the Kurds in the KRG) would make a major offensive on Baghdad before the end of Ramadan.

Jessica Lewis, a former American military intelligence officer with several years of service in Iraq, describes IS as capable of both guerilla style warfare and conventional warfare, and predicts it will attack soon, first the bases around the city and important government buildings.

The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S.-based think tank, which has been analyzing IS activity in Iraq, reports that the coordinated suicide attacks conducted around Baghdad in predominantly Shia areas on 19 July, demonstrate that ISIS has infiltrated highly coordinated sleeper cells into the city. Their analysts predict that the coming attack will likely be in the form of guerrilla and terrorist offensive, rather than a huge conventional military assault. It would be intent on instilling chaos and fear and keeping the Iraqi government focused on defending the capital rather than mounting an offensive to retake Mosul and other captured territory.

Prayers for Peacemakers, July 30, 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers, July 30, 2014

Pray for the Christians, Turkmen, Shabak, Yezidi, and Shia Muslims of Mosul.  ISIS militants have driven them from their homes in Mosul and confiscated their possessions.  Give thanks for Iraqi Muslims who are speaking out against this violence and injustice.

 Epixel* for Sunday August 2, 2014
 
 

Wondrously show your steadfast love, O savior of those who seek 
refuge from their adversaries at your right hand. Psalm 17.7

 Checkpoint on road to Mosul entering Kurdish Regional Governate
  *epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches, related to and appearing with 
a text from the upcoming Sunday's Revised Common Lectionary readings. 

IRAQI KURDISTAN: Iraqis cross checkpoint near Erbil, fleeing Mosul because of ISIS threats

Children and teenagers sat in the back of pick-up trucks, amidst bundles of clothing and household items.  Parents holding babies looked worried and tired.  Other families sat on blankets in temporary shelters out of the hot sun, waiting for the authorities to process their papers or for the person sponsoring them to meet them at the checkpoint and escort them into the area of Iraq controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).  They had all fled their homes because of ISIS’ takeover of their communities.

We were at the first checkpoint for those seeking to enter the Erbil Governorates.  Though only about twenty km east of ISIS-controlled territory, the people coming through were now in a relatively safe area protected by the Peshmerga (Kurdish soldiers).

IRAQI KURDISTAN: Update from the Christian Peacemaker Team in Sulaimani

In the face of the recent violence in Iraq, the CPT Iraqi Kurdistan project is doing well.  CPTers are maintaining a presence there and have been able to accompany and support Kurdish efforts for justice and peace. 

The violence that started in the north of the country was not located in the Kurdish region.  From the border between the autonomous region of Kurdistan and the rest of Iraq, the militant ISIS group has moved down towards Baghdad.  See Isis road to Baghdad.

Kurdish military forces are located at the border with Iraq to contend with any possible violence against the Kurdish region.  In addition, they took the control of Kirkuk—a city of great emotional and political significance to the Kurds.  There are many analyses of how this violence will affect or not affect the Kurdistan, but nothing is clear at this point.  It is clear also that the are many powerful interests behind what is happening in Iraq and what could be the future of the country: One state?  Three states?

But the major concern for the people in Iraqi Kurdistan is the massive influx of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) from the south.  An estimated 500, 000 people fled last week towards Kurdistan—considered the safest place in the country right now. 

The possibility of a U.S. attack, invasion, or support? The role of Iran and Turkey?  What will happen in Kurdistan?  Time will tell. 

The CPT Kurdistan team will continue monitoring the situation and evaluating possible courses of action in conjunction with their partners and advisers in Sulaimani, in case the safety of the region and the city where CPT is located changes. 

Meanwhile, our team hopes to continue supporting Kurdish partners in peacebuilding efforts.  The expected humanitarian crisis—given the number of refugees from Syria and IDPs from within Iraq—will almost certainly take a part of our attention, as it will knock the doors of the CPT project. 

 




Iraqi Kurdistan team with CPT trainees during training session in Sulameini February-March 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers, June 18, 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers, June 18, 2014

The Iraqi Kurdistan team writes, “As violent struggles continue for control of key Iraqi cities, Kurdistan focuses on power and security. With the conflict unfolding, and our work with partners locked in land struggles with oil companies continuing, your support and prayers are appreciated for our team and for peace for the Iraqi and Kurdish people.”

 

Epixel for June 22, 2014


With your faithful help rescue me from sinking in the mire;
let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep
waters. Do not let the flood sweep over me, or the deep
swallow me up, or the Pit close its mouth over me.

Psalm 69:13-15

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

IRAQI KURDISTAN: “Fingers should be used for voting, not shooting”; CPT reports on Iraqi election




CPT Iraqi Kurdistan team members at 14 May press conference

On 14 May, CPT Iraqi Kurdistan released to the general public via the media its new report regarding the recent Iraqi Parliamentary and Kurdistan provincial councils election. The report summarizes concerns of the five-member international election observer team, which CPT coordinated, based on what they observed during the 30 April election and the subsequent vote recount process. The report title, “Fingers should be used for voting, not shooting” refers to the Iraqi electoral symbol: an index finger dipped in ink after a voter casts a ballot, and the intimidating presence and dangerous activities of the security forces that CPT observed.  The five page report can be read here in English  and here in Kurdish.

Two major Kurdish TV channels and one journalist attended the press conference. The KNN TV channel used the report as one of its main news headlines and broadcasted it repeatedly for two days.

IRAQI KURDISTAN: Election Day (Part II)—an interrupted abduction




CPTers report abuses they witnessed on 30 April election at a 14 May
press conference in Suleimani

At the request of the police officer and the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) manager, two of our colleagues remained at the school mentioned in our previous release

My Kurdish female teammate and I went to observe a nearby voting station after having heard gunfire from that direction.  We arrived at the school ten minutes before the polls' closing time.  A group of men in military uniforms and armed with AK-47s blocked the entrance to the school.  An elegantly dressed man from the surrounding crowd approached us.  We could hear his anxiety as he said, “The situation here is very bad.  They should not be here.  We are not free.  This is not democracy.”  His words were supported by Iraqi electoral law, which grants authority for protecting the voting centers to civilian police, not military troops controlled by political parties.

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.”

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.

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.