7 August 2012
IRAQ REFLECTION: Change happens to be good
by Garland Robertson
For seven consecutive summers Turkish and Iranian bombing and shelling attacks displaced residents of villages along Iraq’s borders with Turkey and Iran. A resurgence of intense confrontations between guerrilla groups and Turkish and Iranian military forces in 2004, part of a decades old conflict, disrupted village life and dealt inhabitants property damage, injury and death.
In 2006, Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) relocated to northern Iraq from Baghdad with the intention of forming new partnerships and engaging the sources of power behind these disruptions. In encampments along contaminated streams and in hot, dusty fields, team members visited people forced to evacuate their homes and farms every year. They nurtured relationships, conducted investigations, and recorded and published interviews detailing impacts of the cross-border attacks on civilians in the regions.
In 2011, Iranian mortar, rocket and shelling attacks and bombing from Turkish fighter jets damaged and destroyed more life and property along these borders than in any year since the operations began.
|The author interviewed during public witness action |
at Kurdish Regional Parliament, November 2011
In August of 2011 the team decided to try yet one more thing to end the annual disruptions. For the first time since its arrival, it scheduled a series of public protests to raise awareness of the ongoing attacks and their consequences on behalf of village partners, who feared the personal repercussions of speaking out against the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).
The first action, outside the Iranian Consulate in Hawler (Erbil), capitol of the KRG, was followed by weekly actions outside the Turkish and U.S. consulates and the KRG Parliament. Through posters, banners, signs, pictures, flyers and statements the team urged officials to take action to end the attacks. Partners encouraged the team in these actions, at times risking their personal safety by joining in. The attacks nevertheless continued unabated.
When winter snows put a stop to border area operations, CPT did not rest but committed to do everything possible to end the violence that had become routine in the region. In visits to the KRG’s Human Rights Committee and the Iranian and Turkish consulates, the team shared the plight of the border villagers in pleading for an end to the targeting of civilian life in the border regions.
On New Year's Day, 2012, CPTers, acting on behalf of village partners, delivered letters and goodwill gifts to the Turkish and Iranian consulates. They asked that 2012 be a year of no attacks on border residents, a time about which people one day would say, “This was the year we began to live in peace.” In public actions outside the KRG Parliament CPTers kept asking government officials not to be idle until the attacks recommenced, but to act now to prevent them.
Much has changed in Turkey, Iran and Iraq over the last twelve months. Engagements between guerrilla groups and Turkish and Iranian military forces continue along Iraq’s borders. Yet so far this year, no attacks have affected civilians living in villages along the borders. They are in their homes, sleeping in relative safety, sharing family and community life, shepherding their flocks, caring for their orchards, growing their crops.
CPT Iraqi Kurdistan is grateful to the many people, communities, institutions and public servants who have labored to bring this refreshing change, and is pleased to count itself among them.
CPT Iraqi Kurdistan opposes violence by Turkey and Iran against the Kurdish people, UN sanctions that collectively punish Iranians and Kurds in Iran, and the calls for military action against Iran.