Iraq

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. 

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.”