Iraq

IRAQI KURDISTAN: “Allow to Pass Freely and Give Every Assistance”—Palestinian refugees in Iraq


In 1943 the British High Commissioner issued Muhammad Ahmad a Palestinian passport in the British-controlled region of Palestine. It gave the command “to allow the bearer to pass freely without hindrance and to afford him every assistance and protection of which he may stand in need.” In 1948, he fled the war between the Jewish settlers and Palestinian inhabitants to Baghdad, Iraq.  In 2015 his descendants have flown again, this time to Iraqi Kurdistan.  The family treasures the ancient passport, but the command means nothing to anyone.

Twenty-two members of the extended family live together in a house in a city in Iraqi Kurdistan. For many years they had established a good life in Baghdad–they had cars, houses and thriving businesses. However, in 2005 they began to receive threats. Men in cars with masked license plates harassed the younger men. Shi’a militia searched their houses for bombs or bomb making materials. They are Sunni Muslims and an ethnic minority and thus the militia accuse them of association with Da’ash/ISIS.

IRAQI KURDISTAN: Teenage resistance to oil extraction

“These are my fields and these are my guests”, fourteen-year-old Ibrahim spoke boldly to the security guard who blocked the way leading to the oil field near the tiny Kurdish village of Haji Ahmed.  He and his younger brother Zaid sat on the bus with CPT delegates waiting to be able to look at their vineyards as well as the oil exploration site.

As we planned the visit, we had discovered that our friend, Kak Mirro, was serving his military time on the front against ISIS but his teenage sons were quite willing to show us around. We knew that the bus would not be able to navigate the tortuous farm road and so we wondered how we would be able to overlook the fields. However, we were very surprised when Ibrahim guided the driver onto the paved road and up to the guard cabin with the barrier stretched across the entrance to the oil field that had once been the village’s land.

IRAQI KURDISTAN: Peace through the eyes of Syrian children

 

Peace is what it was like before the war

On Tuesday, 26 May, three CPT members of the Iraqi Kurdistan team took the Children’s Art and Peace Project to the students of Kobani School in Sulaimani. 

The children were refugees from Syria. Their cheerful faces belied any suffering that they had endured. Several were wearing school uniforms they may have worn when they were students in Syria. They eagerly participated in the program, in many ways demonstrating the resilience of children. 

Wanting to show that working together is enriching, we told them that we came from different countries, with the same dream. One of us is from Poland, another from Canada and the third from the USA.  We are a peace team, involved in working for peace in spite of our own government's decisions regarding solutions to the violence. People around the world are joining hands, seeking peace, dreaming of what a world of peace would look like. Then, ready to have them share their dreams, we asked them, "What does peace look like?"

Prayers for Peacemakers, June 10, 2015 Iraqi Kurdistan

Prayers for Peacemakers, June 10, 2015     Iraqi Kurdistan

Give thanks for the successful completion of the eight-week psychosocial program in Bazian, Iraqi Kurdistan that brought together youth who were Arabs from Anbar province, Yazidis from Sinjar mountain, and Syrian Kurdish and Syrian Arab refugees.  CPT partnered with REACH to create an experiential learning program that focused on communication, team building, and trust with the multi-faith, multi-cultural group of participants: children aged 11 to 14 and young people aged 15 to 18. 

*Epixel for Sunday, June 14, 2015
He also said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth;
yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, 
so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade." Mark 4:30-32
 
 *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: May 2015 Update

 

MAY 2015
 

Iraqi Kurdistan

Visit to Gullan

On May 5-6 we visited our friend Kak Latif in his home village of Gullan.  CPT has partnered with Kak Latif and other activists who are speaking out against Exxon Mobil oil exploration in the region.  On a walk through the mountains that surround his home, we were reminded of the sacredness of land and our delicate connection to it.  We are extremely grateful to Kak Latif and his family for their hospitality and their struggle to preserve the land that gives all of us life.

IRAQI KURDISTAN UPDATE: April 2015



APRIL
 

Iraqi Kurdistan


Accompaniment in Kani Shaya

On April 27th, CPT accompanied farmers of Kani Shaya, a village in the Bazian area, to a meeting with a representative of the company which is constructing a new cement factory on agricultural land. Some farmers of the community signed contracts with the company and sold their land. However, the monstrous construction also affects the adjacent fields, whose owners have not received anything. In the presence of CPT the company representative promised that after the construction is finished and the company begins earning money from the cement, the farmers will be compensated. In the meantime, the company expressed that they might be willing to meet the request of the farmers to provide electricity to some of their houses that they use while working on their fields.

Prayers for Peacemakers, May 14, 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers, May 14, 2014

Pray for CPT’s Iraqi Kurdistan team’s partners who work with children, teaching peacebuilding skills and comforting those who had to flee from their homes.

                              *Epixel for Sunday, May 17, 2015
Children at Kobane School:
"Peace is what it was like before the war. On the right you can see children playing and going to school, trees, 
flowers, and birds. This is what it used to be like in Syria. Now, there are tanks and rockets, people wounded 
and dead." 
For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. Psalm 1:6
*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing with a text from the upcoming Sunday's  Revised Common Lectionary  readings.

Prayers for Peacemakers, April 8, 2015

Prayers for Peacemakers, April 8, 2015
Pray for the displaced Yazidi and Arab residents of Arbat Camp in Iraqi Kurdistan—all of whom have fled great violence and upheavals. 

 (Photo by  UNICEF- Belgium)

IRAQI KURDISTAN REFLECTION: Praying for God to forgive ISIS at the Easter Sunrise Service

 

He is Risen! 

Yesterday the team awoke at 4:00 a.m. to travel to the Chaldean Monastery for an Easter Sunrise Service. When we arrived we went through the usual routine of passing through the security detail, having our bags hand searched and being patted down for weapons. (Men only, since there were no women assigned to the detail.) Stepping across the threshold into the courtyard of the monastery we noticed that it was very quiet. A few people were awake but the day had not yet started.  It would be a work day for most, since Easter and Sundays are not holidays or days off in Kurdistan.

When I first came to the monastery several years ago it was a place for quiet reflection and meditation, a retreat center staffed by two priests and one sister. Now it is a refugee center for the IDPs—internally displaced persons—from Mosul, Qaraqosh and other Christian communities from Iraq and Syria. As the time of the service approached, the people living in the monastery, Christian Kurds and internationals, began to file in and the service, led by Father Jens, began. The service was in Arabic and English, one part, like the Apostle's Creed, read in Arabic, the blessing for Host in English, then the wine, in Arabic. One of the more powerful points during the worship came when the Christians in the church prayed for God to forgive Al-Bagdadi, ISIS, Al-Shabaab and finally those who most recently massacred Christians in Kenya.  As I stood there I realized I still have much to learn about forgiveness.  My heart is still hardened by revenge after spending time in the camps hearing the stories of the Yazidis. How could the people in that church who have suffered so much and lost everything they owned ask God to forgive those who have committed such horror against them? Perhaps I should open my ears and heart to the story of Jesus' passion and learn the lesson of Easter?  Standing shoulder to shoulder with the Christians of Iraq has taught me much about the road I still have yet to travel.

 Happy Easter.... He is Risen indeed! 

IRAQI KURDISTAN: Exxon Mobil pollutes Kurdish villages, denies villagers access to land

On 9 March, a Kurdish farmer, Kak Mirro, committed an act of civil disobedience by burning grapevines in his own fields.

The day before, he had phoned the CPT Iraq team,  â€śPlease come to Haji Ahmed. Tomorrow at 10:00 am the oil will begin to flow.” After some discussion, three of our team decided to drive the two hours to the tiny village, picking up our lawyer friend, Latif, along the way.

 The day was bright with a spring chill in the wind. We met Kak Mirro at his house and then drove over the tortuous farmers’ roads up to a spot overlooking the oilrig built throughout the last year.  Kak Mirro told us the oil company, with the backing of the government, has ordered them to stay away from these fields—at a time when they need extra attention—a rule reminiscent of the period two years ago when the exploration had begun and the company destroyed crops and vineyards.

 
Kak Mirro with excess gas fire burning in background.