Iraq

IRAQI KURDISTAN/ABORIGINAL JUSTICE: “Now is the time we say ‘No More Stolen Sisters’”



 

 

"Stop ISIS Brutalizing Against Yazidi Girls"

Today as I sit in Quito, Ecuador, a participant in the Christian Peacemaker Teams biennial gathering, messages are coming from both of my communities on two sides of the world. The calls have similar themes: sisters are being stolen; governments must investigate their disappearances and their murders; violence against women must stop.

From Suleimani, Iraqi Kurdistan, where my Christian Peacemaker team has been working with partners who have sought to help thousands of displaced minority groups, came a call from the Kurdish women’s group, Jian (Life).  They proclaimed Sunday, 24 August a day for a civil demonstration on behalf of the Yazidi women whom members of the militant group known as IS (Islamic State) have captured and enslaved in the city of Mosul.  Clandestine phone calls from a few of these women described desperate conditions and horrific abusive treatment.  They told of women and girls forced to become wives of fighters and others sold into slavery.

Sixty activists from several women’s organisations and other civil society groups gathered in front of the United Nations office in the capital city of Hawler/Erbil. They demanded that the U.N. do more to help the Yazidi women and girls enslaved by the militant group. At the end of the march, several activists were able to take their message into the U.N. building to ask the representatives and the Kurdish Regional Government to act on this emergency and to take urgent measures to help the vulnerable women.

IRAQI KURDISTAN: Kurdish activists call on U.N. and KRG to take action for kidnapped Yazidi women.

On Sunday, 24 August 2014, over sixty activists from a Kurdish woman’s organization marched to the U.N. Consulate in Erbil (Hawler in Kurdish) to demand that the U.N. do more to help Yazidi women and girls kidnapped by the militant group that calls itself the Islamic State (IS). They carried banners reading, “U.N., Take Action, Our Women and Girls are Enslaved,” and “Committing Genocide Against the Minorities is a Stark Violation of International Humanitarian Law.” Protesters, who chanted slogans as they walked, then read a statement in front of the consulate before several organizers went inside to speak with representatives from the U.N. Two members of Christian Peacemaker Teams, Peggy Gish and John Bergen, accompanied the protest.

One protester, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “I'm Kurdish. It's my duty to come out here and support my country and encourage other teenagers to demonstrate and support Yazidi girls and their human rights.”

Those organizing the campaign want to pressure the U.N. and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to treat the kidnappings of Yazidi women as more of an emergency, and take more urgent measures to help them.  The IS forces (also called ISIS, ISIL and DAASH) have forced some of these women to become wives of fighters and sold others into slavery. Militants also threaten Yazidi women with death, and have killed Yazidi men who refused to convert to the group’s version of Islam.

IRAQI KURDISTAN: Gish’s *Walking Through Fire* describes history of CPT’s work in Kurdistan

As the militant group that calls itself the Islamic State terrorizes, kills and forces minority ethnic groups out of their villages in northern Iraq, countries of the world have begun deploying a new round of military strikes and supplying weapons to the Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi government forces. In the midst of this violence, Peggy Gish has been working with the Christian Peacemaker Teams on the ground in the Kurdish region of Iraq. With local individuals and groups, the Iraqi Kurdistan team has been able to listen to, share the stories of, and advocate for the needs of the people whose lives have been under threat.

In her book, Walking Through Fire: Iraqis’ Struggle for Justice and Reconciliation (Cascade Books, 2013) Gish calls on us not only to open our hearts to victims the violence, but also to understand these events in light of the past decades of war, occupation, and internal strife.  

 We are invited to step into the streets of war-torn Iraq with her and meet those who live every day with the consequences of military “solutions.” Through Iraqis’ eyes—through their stories—Walking Through Fire “tells the truth” about what war and the U.S. government’s antiterrorism policies have really meant. Iraqis recount the abuses they experienced in detention systems, the excessive violence of the U.S.-led occupying forces as well as tensions between Kurds and Arab Iraqis—tensions rooted in Saddam Hussein’s genocide against the Kurds.

IRAQI KURDISTAN NEWS ACTION: Civil Society Organizations' Urgent Call to the Int'l Community--HELP THE DISPLACED YAZIDI PEOPLE FROM SHANGAL

HELP THE DISPLACED YAZIDI PEOPLE FROM SHANGAL: CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS’ URGENT CALL TO THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY

Representatives of three human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs), a German-Kurdish organization Wadi, a North American-based international organization Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), and Duhok-based Alind Organization, conducted a two day visit on 15 and 16 August 2014 to areas in the Duhok Governorate of Iraqi Kurdistan where Yazidi Iraqis who fled the violence of the Islamic State (IS) forces from the Shangal (Sinjar) area are now staying.  The representatives spoke with an official at the Peshabur (Faysh Khabur) Iraqi-Syrian border crossing, who estimated that since 5 August more than 100,000 people have entered seeking refuge.out their future.  The majority of the interviewees said they feared to stay in Iraq and wanted to emigrate to Europe, the U.S.A., or Canada.

The representatives observed Yazidi families camping out under makeshift tents along the roads throughout the area, under highway overpass bridges, or in the open sided concrete buildings under construction.  They visited the displacement camp for an estimated 2,000 people (no official numbers given) in the Khanke municipality near the town of Semel, and the Bajet Kandala Refugee Camp, near the Peshabur crossing.  At these camps, they spoke with over fifty displaced persons.  Those interviewed shared many common experiences.  Families reported men in their family killed and women raped or kidnapped by IS forces, escaping to Mount Shangal, watching relatives die for lack of food and water and suffering extreme heat exposure.  They appeared deeply traumatized, and spoke of shame and despair about their future.  The majority of the interviewees said they feared to stay in Iraq and wanted to emigrate to Europe, the U.S.A., or Canada.

IRAQI KURDISTAN NEWS ACTION: Syrian refugees donate their relief supplies to newly displaced; have received reduction in rations

 

Relief supplies donated by Basirma 
camp residents

Please circulate widely on Facebook,  E-mail, Twitter, and other social networks.  

Syrian refugees in the Basirma Camp near Erbil (Hawler in Kurdish), in the Kurdish Regional Governate (KRG),have donated some of their relief supplies to the newly displaced refugees fleeing Islamic State militants.  They took up this collection from their own rations and paid from their own money to have it transported to people camping in parks and churches. 

CPT’s Iraqi Kurdistan team went out to the Arbat Camp yesterday near Suleimani and heard from Syrian refugees there that they no longer receive flour, just oil, rice, sugar, tea, and some spices.  They must now buy the rest of their food. 

Residents of the camp get a monthly subsistence-level monetary and food allotment, which, those who can, supplement by doing day labor or using money they brought with them when they fled.  The camp currently houses about 500 families, all from Syria, but the authorities are expanding the camp to include 150 more families from the old camp.  The old camp will then receive the influx of people from northern Iraq displaced recently by violence.

IRAQI KURDISTAN NEWS ACTION: United Nations declares highest level of emergency regarding crisis in Iraqi-Kurdistan

 Please circulate widely on Facebook,  E-mail, Twitter, and other social networks. 


The United Nations has declared its highest level of emergency regarding the humanitarian crisis in Iraqi-Kurdistan.  

The city of Dohuk, north of Mosul, after the arrival of over 150,000 refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) has surpassed its ability to feed and shelter all the people who are in grave need.  We hope the U.N.’s declaration will increase the money and resources available to provide for the needs of such people as the Yazdis and other displaced people.  

The photos below were taken today by the team at the Arbat Refugee Camp.  One displays the agencies that are working within the camp.  The other, if you look closely at the receding utility poles, shows the scale of the camp. 


IRAQI KURDISTAN ACTION: Support WADI’S relief efforts among the displaced refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan

CPT’s Iraqi Kurdistan team has partnered with WADI on several occasions in its work to end violence against women, including honor killings and female genital mutilation.  More information about its programs is available here.  WADI, because of the overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe currently unfolding in Iraqi-Kurdistan is currently focusing on helping refugees, and we encourage our constituents to support its efforts.  Below is its appeal:


Please donate to the refugees in Kurdish Northern Iraq!

This time it is mainly Yazidis and Christians.  Hundreds of thousands of them are currently seeking refuge in the Iraqi Kurdish Region.  They narrowly escaped the butchers from the Islamic State, and the horror they must have gone through can still be read in their faces.

After all the Syrian refugees (approximately 225,000) and then the wave of IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons), this new wave of refugees is an immense challenge for the region which has a population of about five million and is now accommodating over a million refugees.

Local people are willing to help and share, but the supply situation is very tense.  With temperatures rising to almost 50 degrees Celsius/ 122 degrees Fahrenheit, there is a lack of the most basic supplies, especially food, medicine, clothes, tents, and lodging.  The municipal infrastructure is overloaded, and the regional government and UN Refugee Agency are simply overwhelmed by the sheer number of refugees.

WADI, in cooperation with several local partners and activists, is providing relief on the ground.  Each donation will directly benefit the people in distress.


 

IRAQI KURDISTAN NEWS ACTION: "The last thing Mirdo Ali told me before his phone battery died"--Conversations with Yazidis in the Shangal/Sinjar Mountains

[Note: Please share widely with friends on e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks.  Organizations accepting donations for the humanitarian crisis in Iraqi Kurdistan include Mennonite Central CommitteeSave the Children, and Unicef.]

A friend of the CPT Iraqi Kurdistan team, Rezhiar Fakhir, had a chance to speak on the phone directly with several people who escaped from the city of Shangal to the mountain area out of IS's control.  We believe his conversation with the on the mountain is very important and would like to share a transcript of the phone interview with our friend's comments which he  originally published on his blog. 

Risho Khwdeda and his son Alias Risho told me some really tragic stories about what ISIS is doing to the Ezidian people. 

 “At first, they bombed our temples, “said Alias.  They exploded two temples called Mahawia and Saida Zainab.  ISIS also tried to reach Sharfadin temple in order to destroy that too.

Alaias said, “People have left Shangal.  They are heading towards the Shangal Mountains.  They cannot come back because ISIS controls the area in and around the mountain.  Children are dying and they cannot take them to the cemetery.  They have to bury their children under stones.”

I was later able to talk to another member of the Ezidean community that has fled Shangal.  Bdal Mirdo Ali has also taken refuge in the mountains.

I called Badal Mirdo Ali and I asked him to tell me about their situation in the mountains.  Mirdo Ali said:  “The situation is really bad.  Lots of children have died.  We are in the desert; it is hot and we don’t have any place here to stay in or to seek shelter away from the sun.”

Badal Mirdo said, “There are nearly 20, 000 refugees in the Shangal Mountains.  Some have tried to go down the mountain to bring back food and clothing but ISIS arrested them.  They killed the men and took their women.  They have also tried to capture the young men.”

“I was there when ISIS arrested some people.  They killed the husbands and took the wives along with the young guys.  Three of my brothers and their wives were arrested by ISIS.  I do not have any news about them.  We do not have enough food and water and the situation is rapidly deteriorating.  If we stay here we will all die.”

“We can’t go down because ISIS controls all the areas around the mountain.  We are very scared of ISIS.  If someone does not come to help us, we will die here.  Already lots of children and women have died here and we hope more people do not die.  If we stay here under these conditions any longer, it won’t be good for us.  ISIS is near us.  We can feel and hear them.  We can see them.”

The last thing Mirdo Ali told me before his phone battery died: “I hope people hear my voice.  Thank you.”

  
  

IRAQI KURDISTAN NEWS ACTION: Churches in Iraqi Kurdistan filled to overflowing with refugees

CPTnet
9 August 2014
IRAQI KURDISTAN NEWS ACTION: Churches in Iraqi Kurdistan filled to overflowing with refugees

 
 Monastery in Suleimani

CPT’s Iraqi Kurdistan team spent all day yesterday at a monastery in Suleimani that has taken in sixty-five Christians from Qaraqosh who fled Islamic State militants with nothing but the clothes on their backs.  CPTers heard today that the monastery is expecting sixty more refugees to arrive tomorrow.  Below is a link to a CNN story about Christians filling St. Joseph’s Cathedral, the largest church in Suleimani. 

ACTION: Those of you with Facebook accounts, please post this on your pages, but don’t stop there.  PLEASE ASK 10-20 OF YOUR FRIENDS TO POST this news item on their pages and to ask 10-20 of their friends to post this story, in order to alert people to the humanitarian disaster looming in Iraqi Kurdistan.  Please share via e-mail, Twitter, or other social media accounts as well.

CNN Video: Iraqi Christians at St. Joseph's Church in Suleimani 

IRAQI KURDISTAN URGENT ACTION: Alert your networks to the humanitarian catastrophe facing Iraqi minorities

[Note: The Iraq team has spent all of today in a church with sixty-five Christian refugees from Qaraqosh, who fled with nothing but the clothes on their backs.  One man walked thirteen miles in his pajamas and slippers.  All churches in Suleimani are packed with refugees.  The UK government has ordered its citizens to leave Erbil.  The situation on the ground is changing by the hour, and the Iraqi Kurdistan team will attempt to provide a nonviolent perspective on what they see.  Check its Facebook page for updates.]

 
Refugees at the Erbil checkpoint

The humanitarian crisis unfolding in Iraqi Kurdistan and has reached catastrophic proportions.  Tens of thousands of Yazidi people (a religious minority in Iraq) are trapped by ISIS, which refers to itself as the, “the Islamic State” (IS) forces in the Sinjar Mountains without food or water.  According to reports, seventy children have died so far of heat and dehydration.  Hundreds more are likely to die in the coming days.  An estimated 100,000 Iraqis—Christians, Shabak, Yazidi, and other minorities—have fled their homes.  They are attempting to enter the area of northern Iraq controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), a region already stretched beyond capacity with more than one million internally displaced persons from the conflict with IS and refugees from Syria.  Those who cannot leave their homes risk forced conversion, kidnapping, rape, torture, and gruesome death.