Iraq

IRAQI KURDISTAN: Speaking truth to power, for the sake of clean water

Last week, the team met with a man who has done his best to address the threats to the water supply here in Iraqi Kurdistan, but now feels that he has reached the end of his rope.  Mohammed—he wishes to stay anonymous because of threats—has degrees in geology and hydrology and has worked with water issues both here and abroad.  Two years ago Mohammed came back after spending several years in a European country, eager to use his knowledge for the benefit of his people.  In different ways, he has tried to educate people and authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan about the importance of clean drinking water and how to ensure pure water for future generations.  




Exxon Mobil oil rig near Sartka, Iraqi Kurdistan.
Its partner, Maersk Oil, implies on its website
  that the company may use
high-volume horizontal fracturing (fracking)
in its Iraqi Kurdistan wells.

Since one major threat to the water is oil drilling and oil refineries, Mohammed has studied these operations in Kurdistan and their effects on the environment.  He is asking the Kurdish authorities to take the responsibility of choosing competent people to decide whether or not to grant concessions to oil companies—something he feels is not happening currently.  One example he mentions is the building of a big oil refinery outside of Sulaimani.  At the location of the refinery, only seven meters below the earth's surface, there is a big underground lake of fresh water.  Such a place should have a protected status, instead of facing contamination by the refinery’s pollution.
 
Last year people with connections to the parties in power warned Mohammed to stop his activities “for his own sake,” but he has continued writing articles and presenting seminars about the threat to the water supply.  Early this year he participated in a television show about pollution from oil operations.  Since then he has received several threats over the phone, men calling from unknown numbers, saying he must stop what he's doing or something might happen to him or to his children.  He is convinced that his phone is tapped, and feels constantly watched.  One evening a couple of months ago two men on a motorbike came up from behind as Mohammed was approaching his house.  One of them hit Mohammed over the nose with a gun, before they quickly disappeared, leaving him bleeding.
 

Prayers for Peacemakers, April 3, 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers, April 3, 2014

Give thanks for the successful conclusion of the training in Iraqi Kurdistan.  It  was an important step in changing how training is done in CPT.  In addition to local participants from Iraqi Kurdistan, trainees, and trainers from Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany, Sweden, Colombia, and Canada.

See IRAQI KURDISTAN: Participants in Iraqi Kurdistan training reflect on their five weeks

See video participants put together about their training experiences.

IRAQI KURDISTAN: Participants in Iraqi Kurdistan training reflect on their five weeks

We knew that the first training in Iraqi Kurdistan would be special not only because of the setting but also because we were training local partners to become official members of the organization.  In addition, we had trainees and trainers from Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany, Sweden, Colombia, and Canada, which created a multicultural atmosphere for the five weeks from 22 February to 29 March 2014 we were together.

The trainees helped to create a video portraying their experiences https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AH7sF4kx5u0
This training was an important step in changing how training is done in CPT. Training and including local peacemakers is a crucial part of our work - please, consider supporting this training and future local trainings by making a donation!

IRAQI KURDISTAN: Iraqi Kurdistan trainees undertake public witness on behalf of Plowshares activists

From 9-11 March, participants in Christian Peacemaker Team’s Iraqi Kurdistan training planned and participated in a demonstration on behalf of Megan Rice, Michael R. Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed, three American peacemakers  imprisoned because of their nonviolent action at the Y-12 Oakridge Tennessee Highly-Enriched Uranium Manufacturing Facility.

On 28 July 2012 Rice, Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed, unimpeded by security, crossed four fences and walked for two hours in the area before the guards found them.  They splashed human blood on the walls and spray painted peace messages.  While waiting for the facility security, they picnicked, and when the guards arrived, they offered to share bread with them.  For this action, which exposed to the world the threat of the nuclear weapons, the peacemakers received sentences of five (Walli and Boertje-Obed) and three (Rice) years in prison.

To mirror the Plowshares’ action, the trainees agreed, “Let’s make a picnic.  If it is possible to make a picnic at a nuclear facility, it should be also possible to do one on the sidewalk outside the US consulate in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan."  After preparations going far into the night, and four-hour early morning drive, the group of eight (trainees, trainers and a support person) arrived with a picnic carpet, apples, leaflets, photos of the prisoners, cookies tagged with internet links, and banners stating: “Being a peacemaker is NOT a crime” and “Thank them, don’t punish them.”

IRAQI KURDISTAN/COLOMBIA REFLECTION: Damn Tree

 

[Note: Parwen Aziz is a Kurdish woman living in Iraqi Kurdistan.  She is currently participating in the first CPT training in Iraqi Kurdistan.  She knows firsthand the effects of governments exploiting villagers in the quest  for oil revenue.  She wrote this reflection after a role-play depicting the consequences for Colombian farmers when large corporations take their traditional farmland to plant oil palms, which can produce alternative fuel sources for automobiles. ]

Damn Tree
The cycle of life has been reversed.  Trees defeat the earth.  I do not like to say your name, Oil Palm.  Scents of gunpowder and pictures of distressed mothers because of a damn tree.  When I first heard your name and learned how your fruit could be squeezed and the juice used as a replacement for petroleum oil, I rushed to interrupt my teacher.  “How can we bring this tree to Kurdistan?”  I wondered.  I wanted the response to be that we could import this miraculous tree to our country.  I wanted this to be a substitute for oil so that all warfare, extermination, and destruction over the black substance will not happen to humankind ever again.  But, alas, all my dreams and imaginations were destroyed when I perceived that this tree caused just as much destruction.  This damn tree causes thousands of Colombian families to become fugitives from their homes.  Thousands of families have become low-paid workers in their own fields.

I became depressed when I heard a story of a widow with her son.  They were working in the heat for three months, planting, tending, and harvesting their corn.  All their efforts were fruitless and wasted.  Someone set the pile of corn on fire and the products were burned.  They were left with nothing to feed the children.  I heard her say, “Take as many pictures as you can, take photos of everything here so that the whole world will know of what happened to us.”  War and oppression pivots around corrupt governments and capitalism.  The core point is that the capitalists get a lot of money and they become rich and richer, while the workers and needy people remain poor and disappointed.

IRAQI KURDISTAN REFLECTION: Voices of small people—the story of Dana Jamal

On 12 October 2012, in the Sharazur District of Iraqi Kurdistan, twelfth grade student Dana Jamal decided to skip his sports class to study for his upcoming exam. In earlier years, the school planners decided that schoolyard trees were not necessary, leaving students to seek the shade of an eight-foot high stone wall. The government authorities decided not to listen to voices calling for repairs to dilapidated school buildings. Dana paid the price when the boundary wall fell on him as he intently read his book.


One of Dana Jamal's fellow students tells
about the day he died

In 1988, Saddam Hussein ordered many new construction projects in the Kurdish region, including Halabjai Taza, or “New Halabja” to prove to the international community that the reports of chemical bombing were greatly exaggerated. Now, the school buildings that he had ordered to be built in a hurry are cracking and falling apart.

For the past year, Dana’s family has pleaded for someone to take some responsibility for the tragic accident. However, everyone refuses to do so and blames others.  The Ministry of Education is currently appealing the court’s decision that holds it responsible.

Prayers for Peacemakers February 27, 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers February 27, 2014

Give thanks for the participants currently involved with the Iraqi Kurdistan training, and ask the Holy Spirit to fill both the trainers and trainees undergoing the training.

 

Epixel* for 2 March 2014

So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this
as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

2 Peter 1:19

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

IRAQI KURDISTAN: Great joy in a small community—the ordination of an archbishop in Kirkuk, Iraqi Kurdistan

On 24 January in Kirkuk, CPT Iraqi Kurdistan participated in the new Archbishop’s ordination ceremony.  Yousif Thomas Mirkis OP began to shepherd a community of about 10, 000 Chaldean Christians from the Kirkuk and Suleimaniyah region.  Kirkuk is a point on the Iraqi map to which Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens all claim a right.  It is also a target of militant groups.  The small community of Christians in Iraq is especially vulnerable to this political and social instability.

Despite all these difficulties, Christians in Iraq find many opportunities to celebrate and show their joy.  One of these moments was the ordination ceremony of the new archbishop.  Inside the crowded cathedral, nobody thought about the hundreds of soldiers surrounding the building in order to provide safety.  It was a time for joy, singing, and helhele (Middle Eastern women’s celebratory trilling.)

In his speech, Archbishop Yousif Thomas emphasized the love that should be the sign of Christians.  In Kirkuk, an eternal fire has burned for 5000 years, giving light and heat that is like Christian love.  When Jesus went to the cross, he started the fire of love.  “He is our fuel, our fire, hand to hand, back to back we can burst out into flames and make everyone around us, Muslims, Jewish and everyone feel our loving fire,” said the new archbishop.  He also mentioned the role that he would like to play in the church.  He wanted to lead the Christians into keeping that fire of love.  “This fire has become like a candle with a shaky fire, almost going out, but with team work we can do it and be like the Eternal flame.”

IRAQI KURDISTAN: Hajji Hussein is free! Thank you for your e-mails

 




Hussein sits with boy on lap

After seventy-nine days in prison and four court hearings, Hajji Hussein has finally re-united with his family.  On 9 December 2013, the Criminal Court of Appeal acquitted Hajji Hussein of all charges brought up against him by the former Director-General of the Asaish, Hakim Nadir.  The court acknowledged that a report, which the members of the Human Rights Committee of the Kurdistan Parliament compiled following a visit with Hajji Hussein in prison after he was tortured, was sufficient to prove his innocence.  This release marks the second time the court has acquitted Hussein of the same charges and the second time it has liberated him from incarceration.  Together with the first stint he served in prison, he lost over ten months of his life, and much more, for refusing to give false testimony even though his inquisitors beat and threatened him.

Members of CPT’s Iraqi Kurdistan team are deeply moved by the efforts of Kak Umer, Hussein’s brother and lawyer, whose tireless work has truly moved mountains, and rejoice with the family.  The team would like to thank everyone who sent out emails, prayed, shared this story, or performed other actions in support of Hajji Hussein's release.

IRAQI KURDISTAN URGENT ACTION: Please send e-mails before 9 December to Judicial Council of Kurdistan Region of Iraq for political prisoner Hajjii Husseini

 




Husseini with CPT visitors at
the prison.

In October, CPT Iraqi Kurdistan put out a release about the case of Hussein Hama Ali Tawfiq (known as Hajji Hussein).  He will be having a hearing a week from today and is very much afraid the authorities will find an excuse (e.g., an investigation into his ill-treatment) to keep him in prison longer.  The Iraqi Kurdistan team is thus asking that the CPT constituency to send e-mails this week to the Presidency of the Judicial Council of Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Attention: Mr. Hozan, hozan@krjc.iq

Below is a sample e-mail

Dear Mr. Hozan

I have learned from several international human rights organizations about the case of the businessman, Mr. Hussein Hama Ali Tawfiq (known as Hajji Hussein), who since September 2013 has been held in Kani Goma prison in Suleimani.

Mr. Hussein claims that after he was imprisoned on 27 March 2012 in an Asaish prison, he had been ill-treated, beaten and under physical violence and threats aimed at his family, was pressured to sign a false accusation against then-Mayor of Sulaimani Mr. Zana Hama Salih and other politicians, which he refused to do.  On 4 April 2012, representatives of the Human Rights Committee of the KRG Parliament visited Mr. Hussein in prison and wrote a report proving that he had been ill-treated…

#GIVINGTUESDAY Sometimes Iraqi Kurdistan team partners are taking on ExxonMobil, sometimes they are advocating for one man in prison who refused to tell a lie.  Your donation helps shine a light on their efforts.

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