Christian Peacemaker Teams - Turn your Faith into Action for Peace en Colombia: Soldiers from the Colombian Army rape an Indigenous girl <span>Colombia: Soldiers from the Colombian Army rape an Indigenous girl</span> <span><span lang="" about="/user/26" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Kathy Kern</span></span> <span>Mon, 08/03/2020 - 14:41</span> <div><p>3 August 2020</p> <p><img alt="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="800" src="/sites/default/files/la%20maliche.jpg" width="582" /></p> <p>La Malinche, from the blog of <a href="">Stephanie Monique</a>, a Mexican Mestize woman</p> <p>by Julián Gutiérrez Castaño</p> <p>Colombia is in a state of shock after learning that seven soldiers from the National Army raped an 11-year-old Indigenous girl. The child is a member of the Embera Katio nation and lives in the Gitó Dokabú Reserve, located between Chocó and the West Andean Mountains. The public outcry against this case has called attention to other violations that took place in recent years, but have only now been made public. The sexual assault of a child is something that causes pain and rage in any circumstance. If this attack had been perpetrated by one member of the State Armed Forces it would have increased our anger. The fact that this rape has been carried out not by one, but by seven members of the Army takes the rage of the Colombian people to the limit. I argue that beyond the indignation caused by this terrible crime, this situation touches the most sensitive nerves of the nation because of our collective experience and history.</p> <p>There is a connection between the Embera Katio girl that has been raped and the symbolical mother of all <i>Mestiza </i>people. This affirmation is based on the violent history of <i>mestizaje</i>. All <i>mestizos </i>are <i>hijos de la chingada</i> (children of the one that was fucked). The archetype of our mother is <i>La Malinche</i>, a Nahuatl woman who was abducted by the Spaniard invaders, used as an interpreter during the conquest of the Aztec Empire, and sexually abused by many members of that murderous party. On the other hand, the archetype of our father is the Spanish <i>conquistador</i>, a man emboldened by his military and technological prowess, even though his real strength was not his pretentious superiority, but his viruses. Our symbolic father does and undoes without any limit to his authority and responsibility. If it suits him, he recognizes his <i>mestizo </i>bastards, if not, he denies and abandons them. The Embera Katio girl— found drowning in her tears next to a creek—was forced to become <i>La Llorona, </i>another archetype like <i>La Malinche. </i>In Latin American mythology, <i>La Llorona</i> haunts the riverbanks with her laments, "Where are my children?"—the children that were taken from <i>La Malinche</i> by the <i>conquistadores </i>because an Indigenous mother was not good enough to raise the descendants of White Spanish Europeans. We, the <i>mestizos</i>, are the bastard children of the Spanish and the raped Indigenous woman, those that the Europeans did not want to accept. We are a people without identity because we do not know who we are, we do not dare to assume who we are, and in consequence, we do not know where we are going. We feel shame for our Indigenous mother and we search with anxiety for our father's approval. We feel proud of our Spanish ancestry, which represents nothing more than an army of rapists. We pursue an unreachable whiteness, always trying to resemble that European father who rejected us, trying to speak his languages correctly, copy his culture and manners, participate in his economy, etc. Octavio Paz warned us many years ago that if we do not resolve our identity crisis, we will continue to be lost in the labyrinth of solitude.</p> <p>The Embera Katio girl was raped by seven soldiers of the National Army, members of the <i>Buitre </i>(Vulture) Platoon II. I do not write with irony, that is the real name of the platoon. The vultures were tired of eating death carcasses and jumped in a flock over a girl who is just 11 years old. These soldiers are not very different from our symbolic fathers, those men that arrived from Europe more than 500 years ago. Both represent oppressive institutions, soldiers transformed into evil human beings by war, the invasion of indigenous territories, and their destructive mission. Both come from the impoverished classes of their respective nations, but instead of developing a class conscience that inspires them to improve the situation of all humankind, they have sold themselves to the powers that be, and they have used their force to oppress other human beings equally or even more dispossessed than they are: Indigenous, Afrocolombians, peasants, workers, students, etc. Paraphrasing Violeta Parra, "Arauco has a sorrow / darker than its waistcloth<i> </i>/ it´s no longer the Spaniards / who make them cry / now it’s [Colombians] themselves / those who steal their bread.”</p> <p>We are all wondering in a state of collective indignation what is going to happen to the soldiers. The Government that sends them to fight a war that is convenient only for those that profit with the armed conflict faces a dilemma. On one hand, the soldiers represent an important state institution, one that despite the rapes, extrajudicial executions or "<i>falsos positivos,</i>” killing of children, complicity with paramilitaries to enact massacres and forced displacements, association with drug cartels, illegal interceptions against the political opposition and critical journalists, execution of union leaders—among other illegal actions—continues receiving more than 13% of the national budget for 2020, the equivalent of 35,700,000,000,000 Colombian pesos (US $9,802,934,400,00).</p> <p>On the other hand, the governing political party recently approved an initiative in Congress to modify the National Constitution in order to enforce life sentences. The original proposal was more severe, it sought to implement death sentences in cases of child rape and murder. I do not endorse this position, but if they were consistent they would be demanding life imprisonment or death sentences for the seven soldiers who raped the girl. This sentence has not been their answer. Everything seems to indicate that the Government and its political party are moving in opposing directions, but they are in fact complementary. The Government political party argues that the assault on the girl is all a hoax against the National Army, that the girl desired to be raped, that she was sold by her mother, and all kinds of vicious lies to excuse the Armed Forces. The President has performed a media show asking for a punishment that has not been regulated yet and, in consequence, is against the Constitution; while the Prosecutor has pressed charges for&nbsp; "abusive carnal access,” not "violent carnal access,” against the rapist soldiers. As if it is not violent when seven armed men, who represent the state, gang-rape a child belonging to an Indigenous nation that has already been repeatedly targeted within the armed conflict by multiple actors, including the army. &nbsp; The Government and its political party are trying to save the skin of the soldiers while preaching no tolerance for this kind of crime. Although I am convinced that they would not hesitate to sacrifice the seven "bad apples" to save the reputation of an institution that is itself the cause of the putrefaction that corrodes its members, not the other way around.</p> <p>The Embera Katio people and other Indigenous nations in Colombia are not asking for life sentences for the seven rapist soldiers. That judicial profanity is the invention of a Government that seduces Colombian people with the color of blood, that has done everything in its power to sabotage any peace initiative, and intensify the war that we have suffered for more than seven decades. As Indigenous nations, the Embera Katio expect the respect of their sovereignty; they demand that the Government surrenders the seven soldiers to their Indigenous justice, which would judge and conduct a punishment and cleansing ritual in order to heal the wounds that this terrible act has left in the community. Once they have applied Indigenous justice, the rapists can be judged by the ordinary justice, hopefully with the same emphasis on healing that Indigenous people recognize as a necessary step to reconcile with life.</p> <p>The Armed Forces and other illegal armed groups are not welcome in the Indigenous territories, just as the invading armies that took away their land starting with the Spanish conquest were not welcome. Non-Indigenous Colombians should be consistent with the Embera Katio’s approach to these armed forces and transform our indignation to support of the sovereignty of Indigenous nations. &nbsp; That transformation could be a step towards reconciliation with our identity and towards finding a way out of our labyrinth of solitude.</p> </div> <div> <div>Categories</div> <div> <div><a href="/taxonomy/term/1399" hreflang="en">Colombia</a></div> <div><a href="/taxonomy/term/1484" hreflang="en">Turtle Island Solidarity Network</a></div> <div><a href="/taxonomy/term/1429" hreflang="en">Undoing Oppressions</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 03 Aug 2020 19:41:53 +0000 Kathy Kern 12395 at AEGEAN MIGRANT SOLIDARITY: Seven floors under—racial segregation in Mytilene <span>AEGEAN MIGRANT SOLIDARITY: Seven floors under—racial segregation in Mytilene</span> <span><span lang="" about="/user/26" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Kathy Kern</span></span> <span>Fri, 07/31/2020 - 13:44</span> <div><p><b>31 July 2020</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><img alt="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="480" src="/sites/default/files/moria17j2.jpg" width="800" /></p> <h6>Peaceful protest in support of the Moria 35 a mass arrest in 2017 of African migrants who were protesting living conditions in Moria.<br /> Those advocating for them widely considered the arrests to be <a href="">racist</a> on the part of the Greek police.</h6> <p>The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, states that everyone is “entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration without distinction of any kind.” At the same time, the U.N. states that,&nbsp; “In the past, the United States and South Africa have used systems of racial segregation. Although these policies are now behind us, isolated cases of racism still persist in various parts of the world.” If we open our eyes a little, if we pay attention to the present, we quickly realize that such statements do not match the reality of many people. If we focus our attention on Lesvos we find, without much effort, explicit examples of systemic racist behaviour, institutional racism, and racial segregation. Lesvos is the third largest island in Greece, only 14 km away from Turkey, and since 2015 it has been at the heart of Europe's migration crisis. Currently, Greece holds 21,000 asylum seekers on this island, mostly in Moria camp, a place initially conceived for 3500 people.</p> <p>The examples below show how racism runs through Mytilene's infrastructure, through informal rules designed to block the full participation of migrants in public life. These rules form an unwritten code by which citizenship rights, access to public space and basic needs are given only to Europeans. Often they enforce the demands of the island's racist right; often they are enforced by its vigilantes. The unspoken nature of these rules means that, despite their existence, they are officially deniable.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>***</p> <p><i>Tax office</i></p> <p>Apart from the asylum procedure, all aspects of daily life are different if you are a migrant. The notorious Greek bureaucracy that is already difficult to navigate as a Greek or European, is almost impossible to penetrate as migrant. Everything is written in Greek and in almost all public sectors, Greek is the only spoken language. On Lesvos Island in particular, the Greek state applies rules different from the rest of Greece. For example, without a Personal Tax Number, known as an AFM, a person can't rent a house, can't get a job, and can’t open a bank account. On Lesvos Island, the tax office began to ask for peoples' addresses to give them an AFM. Moria camp, where most migrants live, is not an acceptable address. This rule doesn't apply to the rest of Greece. So even if people are financially able to rent a house outside Moria camp, it is impossible to do it because they can't get this number. Over the last few days, people that were transferred to Athens and accepted into the International Organisation for Migration’s ‘Helios' housing program have returned to Lesvos because they don't have the AFM.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Housing</i></p> <p>If migrants manage to navigate the bureaucracy of the tax system, they face another block in finding housing. In the private rented sector, an informal “no migrants” attitude is normal. Many landlords say explicitly that they will not rent to anybody planning to house migrants as well. Some have experienced evictions at short notice when landlords learn that their tenants are hosting migrants. In 2018, an organised citizens' patrol group in Gera, Lesvos, went door-to-door checking whether migrants had been transferred into local housing. That year, private individuals and local businesses took Pikpa refugee camp to court in an attempt to close the place down on the basis that the presence of migrants on local beaches was financially damaging. And in February and March 2020, patrol groups in Moria village, close to the camp, attacked the homes of migrant solidarity activists and beat up passing migrants.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Access to money</i></p> <p>Nine days after the imposition of Covid-19 restrictions in Lesvos, the New Democracy government announced the suspension of the 90 Euro per month cash assistance program for those in Moria camp. The government implemented the measure in order to prevent migrants from traveling to Mytilene to access ATMs. Over the previous months, access to ATMs had become symbolic of a lost way of life for the island’s Right. <a href="">Municipal Councilors</a> and <a href="">the Regional Governor</a><a href=";utm_campaign=trueAnthem:+Trending+Content&amp;utm_medium=trueAnthem&amp;utm_source=twitter"> </a>complained that locals could not access cash “because of the queues of migrants,” while witnesses reported vigilante groups establishing a “locals first” queuing system at ATMs. The government announced the installation of a single ATM inside the camp for more than 20,000 people held there.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Port</i></p> <p>One of the main problems faced by asylum seekers is mobility to the mainland, usually Athens. After a long time, months and even years, spent waiting for the validation of their transfer by the European Asylum Support Office, the accepted persons have to go to the port to take a ferry. Once in the port, a violent, unfair and random selection takes place, led by the police officers of the Mytilene Port Authority. They force migrants to wait in a separate line, shout at them and insult them, and treat them like cattle. On many occasions, police resort to violence in order to control and disperse the crowd. Images have circulated on social media of people with head wounds from police batons. After this battle, the discrimination continues. First, their access to the ferry is via a different staircase than that used by Greek or other international passengers. Once on the ferry, those who have managed to get through are separated from the rest of the passengers. The 7th floor is reserved for migrants while the others are for other local and international passengers.</p> <p>In early March 2020, Mytilene Port was the site of an informal detention camp for migrants who arrived on the island after Greece temporarily suspended the right to apply for asylum. They were locked in the pre-departure area without access to proper shelter and electricity, guarded by officers with the support of far-right vigilante groups. Vigilantes noticed a group of Europeans attempting to talk to the migrants through the fence and called the police, who detained the group without justification and held them for attempting to communicate with the migrant detainees.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Supermarket</i></p> <p>In order to get food, the people in Moria camp have to stand in long and desperate queues, often under extreme weather conditions. Yet, as mentioned above, more than 20,000 people live in a camp built for 3500, so the food is largely insufficient. In order to survive, most must go to the supermarket. White people do not need to identify themselves, wash their hands, or bring a mask.&nbsp; Migrants do. Now, with Moria camp in lockdown while the rest of the island population can move freely, migrants held in the camp need permission from the police in order to leave. They cannot access the supermarket if they do not carry the paper granting them permission, if they do not bring a mask with them, and if they do not sanitize first. Of course, queuing is exclusively for them, since the stores ration their entrance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Public recreational space</i></p> <p>Public spaces are also often segregated. With the arrival of the summer heat and the end of the quarantine, people have started going to the beach, some less easily than others. On many occasions, locals and even the police kick out those they consider unsuitable for these spaces. According to Mohammadi T, an Afghan interpreter working for an NGO, “We were on the beach with my children. Suddenly the police came and threw us out. I asked them what we had done wrong and they replied, ‘Nothing, this is our beach, it is not for you.’"&nbsp;</p> <p>Access to public beaches has been segregated for years in Mytilene. In June 2018, Mytilene's municipality-managed Tsamakia beach hung a sign on its doors stating, “Entry to nationals of non-Schengen countries is only permitted with a passport.” And in 2019, a group of far-right locals, some of whom belonged to the Movement of Free Citizens Party, erected a giant crucifix overlooking Apelli beach. Many migrants used the beach, and the incident led to the cancellation of Nowrooz (Persian New Year) celebrations that had been planned in the area.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>***</p> <p>Once again, racist Europe is showing its best face, daring to claim that racism is a thing of the past. Once again it hides its own hands while it is not only aware of racial segregation, but approves and congratulates the actions of its member states and their denigrating, violent, murderous policies. It tolerates police actions to punish those that didn't have the chance to be born here.</p> <p>We should&nbsp;remember the mistakes, the violence and the oppression of the past. But we must also be aware of the present. It is important to give a name to the social strategies of discrimination, racism and segregation. However, before we can resist these practices, we must recognise that they exist. Only then can we, once and for all, make sure that they remain in the past.</p> </div> <div> <div>Categories</div> <div> <div><a href="/taxonomy/term/1413" hreflang="en">Migration</a></div> <div><a href="/taxonomy/term/1486" hreflang="en">Aegean Migrant Solidarity</a></div> <div><a href="/taxonomy/term/1429" hreflang="en">Undoing Oppressions</a></div> <div><a href="/taxonomy/term/1402" hreflang="en">Europe</a></div> </div> </div> Fri, 31 Jul 2020 18:44:12 +0000 Kathy Kern 12394 at TURTLE ISLAND: No Pride in Genocide; Cancel Canada Day <span>TURTLE ISLAND: No Pride in Genocide; Cancel Canada Day</span> <span><span lang="" about="/user/26" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Kathy Kern</span></span> <span>Wed, 07/29/2020 - 14:12</span> <div><p>30 July 2020</p> <p><img alt="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="389" src="/sites/default/files/Sweeping%20genocide%20under%20the%20rug.jpg" width="640" /></p> <h6><a href="">Adele Perry</a>&nbsp;meme</h6> <p>by Chuck Wright</p> <p>Another Canada Day has passed this month. It arrived amidst a heated historical moment when conversations about race, social inequities, and our country’s history have once again peaked within the public sphere thanks to the mass protests and organizing efforts of BIPOC<sup>1</sup> against police brutality. Statues glorifying colonial conquest and slavery are being torn down or defaced by protesters, such as this one of Canada’s first <a href="">Prime Minister John A. Macdonald in Toronto</a>, and yet I still encountered well-meaning settler Canadians wishing people “Happy Canada Day” and proudly flaunting flags.</p> <p>It is odd to live in a part of the country where the well intentioned regularly acknowledge that their events happen on “unceded” Indigenous territory. It strikes me as paradox to express gratitude to the original stewards of this land while simultaneously acknowledging that we as settlers are knowing occupiers and accomplices in the theft of this land called Canada.&nbsp; And, yet, here we are going about our business uninterrupted by this cold, hard fact and again witnessing the celebration of July 1.&nbsp;</p> <p id="1">I have spent most of my life on Treatied lands in Canada. Cree and Anishinaabe teachers taught me that Indigenous people surrendered no territory at the signing of Treaties regardless of what’s contained in the official text. Their teachings are largely why I decided to change my work email signature to “the stolen homelands” instead of “unceded,” since land was historically never “ceded,” a foreign concept introduced by the colonizer. In response, my boss pulled me aside one day to express his concern that my change was not aligned with the company’s official acknowledgement. In response, I asked him what he thought “unceded” meant. His excuse was that he “has much to learn,” yet he still expected me to change it back.&nbsp;</p> <p>Leading up to July 1, conversations flared up on social media regarding Idle No More’s call to Cancel Canada Day. While loyal Canadians defended their right to celebrate, I once again ruminated on why it is so important to celebrate a nation-state that’s built on stolen lands and the erasure of Indigenous peoples. What does it say about the soul of a country that it celebrates a state that was founded on genocide? How do we continue to live out this paradox that, on the one hand, acknowledges that we are participants in the ongoing theft of Indigenous lands and, on the other, proudly celebrates Canada? As Idle No More organizer <a href="">Dakota Bear aptly stated</a>, “we don’t celebrate Canada Day for the same reason we don’t celebrate the Holocaust.” I recognize that this comparison is a difficult pill to swallow for most Canadians.&nbsp; At the same time, Canada has commissioned two national reports in the past five years—the <a href="">Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Residential Schools</a> and <a href="">National Inquiry into Murdered Missing Indigenous Women and Girls</a> — that have painstakingly demonstrated Canada’s policy toward Indigenous peoples is genocide and referred to it by that name.&nbsp;</p> <p>Given the historical and contemporary realities of Canada, the Canadian flag becomes an overt celebration of genocide, colonialism, and white supremacy. If I give flag-wavers the benefit of the doubt, I could assume a certain level of naiveté on their part. But, I don’t think we as settlers have any legitimate claim to ignorance, unless it’s a willful ignorance. Instead, if we insist on acknowledging Canada Day, let it be a day to grieve, reflect, and stand with those peoples who have nothing to celebrate, and let’s turn our flags upside down until Canada has earned the right to turn it’s flag right-side up again. #CancelCanadaDay #ShutCanadaDown</p> <p>Black Indigenous People of Color.&nbsp; Sandra E. Garcia <a href="">"Where Did BIPOC Come From?"</a>. The New York Times. June 16, 2020&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </div> <div> <div>Categories</div> <div> <div><a href="/taxonomy/term/1484" hreflang="en">Turtle Island Solidarity Network</a></div> <div><a href="/taxonomy/term/1397" hreflang="en">Canada</a></div> <div><a href="/taxonomy/term/1429" hreflang="en">Undoing Oppressions</a></div> </div> </div> Wed, 29 Jul 2020 19:12:43 +0000 Kathy Kern 12391 at AEGEAN MIGRANT SOLIDARITY: Necropolitical Frontiers—Who is allowed to live? <span>AEGEAN MIGRANT SOLIDARITY: Necropolitical Frontiers—Who is allowed to live?</span> <span><span lang="" about="/user/26" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Kathy Kern</span></span> <span>Tue, 07/28/2020 - 14:03</span> <div><p>28 July 2020</p> <p><img alt="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="531" src="/sites/default/files/1.jpg" width="800" /></p> <p>by N.U.</p> <blockquote> <p><em>"The new necropolitical* frontier has shifted from the coast of Greece toward the door of your home. Lesbos now starts at your doorstep. And the border is forever tightening around you, pushing you ever closer to your body." - Paul. B. Preciado</em></p> </blockquote> <p>What is the meaning of living on a border island, and how much did this meaning expand during the quarantine period? 2020 had a difficult beginning for Lesbos Island.&nbsp; As the conditions in Moria camp worsened, obstacles became difficult to overcome between island residents, migrants, and solidarity activists. Self-organization and demonstrations among migrants have become more frequent than ever. Racist attacks rapidly increased and terrorized many. Representatives of right-wing parties and members of far-right groups from different countries around Europe wanted to come to the island to intervene in the situation, but the island's anti-fascist group sent them back with a clear message.</p> <p>Then, news of the epidemic began to spread worldwide and COVID-19 reached the island in early March. It arrived in Lesbos with a Greek woman who had returned from the Holy Land, not, as everyone had feared and predicted, from migrants. Then two more cases entered, this time with a couple returning from their holiday in Thailand. Fortunately, the coronavirus did not like the island or Moria camp. What we feared the most did not happen. In the end, after a total of six cases and one loss of life, the coronavirus was caught on one of the island’s strong winds and went to unknown places.</p> <p>The coronavirus made the borders that were invisible to the privileged suddenly visible to all: the border between the island of Lesbos and mainland Greece, which Westerners could cross easily; the borders between Schengen countries**; the border between Turkey and Greece that many died crossing but the privileged could cross safely with a 10 Euro ticket. During quarantine, everyone experienced being trapped on the island together. A Swiss friend was telling me that for the first time he felt that his passport did not give him the freedom to travel, and how strange this feeling was. For the first time, I, who had dealt with visas and borders throughout my life, felt the impossibility of reaching loved ones in my country, which I saw every day in front of me, on the other side of the border, in Turkey.</p> <p>So did the visibility of the borders equalize us? Of course not. Those who had difficulties getting water to wash their hands if by chance they find some soap; who were waiting for hours in the meal lines of Moria camp in big crowds while social distancing warnings were repeated worldwide, who did not have the right to benefit from the most basic healthcare, their asylum interviews postponed for unknown dates; those prisoners on hunger strike in the “pre-removal” detention center of Moria who were suppressed by a brutal police force, or the new arrivals on the island who were quarantined not for 14 days but indeterminately, who for more than a month, sometimes in the rain, were held on the beaches, without tents, without even a camp ... did this pandemic bring equality to them?</p> <p>Although it seems that for now, we got away without incident, the days were full of precariousness, fear, and paranoia, with migrants locked down in the camp during the quarantine period. The government response to Covid-19 has created the conditions of a closed migrant camp on the island, which it had constantly proposed and postponed, and now it has acted on its desire to keep it. Turning the camp into a detention facility that migrants cannot leave has always been a desire of the government so that it could impose discipline and control. The pandemic has created the grounds to allow the system to enclose unwanted bodies, and the steps it is taking now are giving signals that Moria camp will remain closed from now on.</p> <p>If the virus is foreign and “other” by definition, recent days have made us question some things. Which stranger is the danger? What is a stranger? The stranger who is thought to be across the border has infiltrated everywhere, and we don’t know if it’s there or not. Unlike the migrant stranger, who will appear even if you try to make them invisible, this stranger is invisible even if you want to see it. Maybe even in the air you just breathed or settling on you. Here, unlike the strangers you made invisible, it captured you with its invisibility. It was your biggest fear.</p> <p>“Foreigners” who are not accepted in Western society; workers who are forced to work during the quarantine period; those who do not have a home while the hashtags called for us to stay at home, will rise against those who make them worthless and sacrifice them to a virus. Preciado is right. As the oppressed, to survive in this society, it is time to learn from the coronavirus and mutate. Nobody believes that these conditions can continue. The self-organized demonstrations in Moria during the lockdown period are proof of the non-viability of the status quo</p> <p>_________</p> <p>*<i>Necropolitics</i> is the use of social and political power to dictate how some people may live and how some must die. The term was first used by Cameroonian philosopher, Achille Mbembe.</p> <p>**<i>Schengen Countries </i>are European Union countries that do not require passports to cross their mutual borders.</p> </div> <div> <div>Categories</div> <div> <div><a href="/taxonomy/term/1486" hreflang="en">Aegean Migrant Solidarity</a></div> <div><a href="/taxonomy/term/1413" hreflang="en">Migration</a></div> <div><a href="/taxonomy/term/1445" hreflang="en">Lesvos</a></div> <div><a href="/taxonomy/term/1402" hreflang="en">Europe</a></div> </div> </div> Tue, 28 Jul 2020 19:03:50 +0000 Kathy Kern 12389 at Response to the Turkish Consul General's claim that Turkish military operations in Iraqi Kurdistan never target civilians. <span>Response to the Turkish Consul General&#039;s claim that Turkish military operations in Iraqi Kurdistan never target civilians.</span> <span><span lang="" about="/user/26" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Kathy Kern</span></span> <span>Fri, 07/24/2020 - 13:07</span> <div><p>24 July 2020</p> <h6><img alt="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="432" src="/sites/default/files/fffiiill.jpg" width="576" /><br /> <br /> Burnt farmland from Barmiza village in the Sidakan area after Turkish bombardments.</h6> <p>During a press conference on 15 July 2020, Hakan Karacay, Consul General of the Republic of Turkey in Erbil, responded to a question about the ongoing Turkish military operation in Iraqi Kurdistan by saying, “We have never targeted any civilians.”</p> <p>We as Christian Peacemaker Teams-Iraqi Kurdistan (CPT-IK), an international human rights organization that has been documenting the impacts of Turkish military operations on civilian lives and livelihoods since 2007, would like to bring attention to the fact that Mr. Hakan Karacay’s statement does not correspond with reality.&nbsp;</p> <p>The Turkish Air Force’s Operation Claw-Eagle launched on 15 June 2020 followed by the Turkish land incursion Operation Claw-Tiger on 17 June, have killed at least six civilians and wounded at least four. In addition, these military operations have <a href="">burned agricultural lands, orchards and livestock</a> and <a href="">threatened the existence of many villages</a>.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>On 17 June, a Turkish airstrike killed Abas Maghdid, 30- years-old, in Khnera heights in the sub-district of Sidakan. Abas was a nomadic shepherd. CPT-IK learned of his killing from a trusted partner.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>On 19 June, a Turkish airstrike killed five men who went for a leisure trip to the Balanda valley near Sheladze after work. CPT-IK was able to document the names of four of them: Mukhlis Adam, Azad Mahdi, Deman Omar, and Ameen Salih.</p> <p>More information on the incident is&nbsp;<a href="">here</a>.</p> <p><img alt="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="624" src="/sites/default/files/image-asset.jpeg" width="468" /></p> <h6>A damaged car from the Turkish bombardments in Shiladze.</h6> <p>On 25 June, a Turkish drone bombed a grocery store in a picnic area of Kuna Masi while many families were in the vicinity. The attack severed the leg of Peyman Talib, a 31-year-old woman, from the knee down, broke her second leg in many places and burned both of her arms. Talib’s husband, Keywan Kawa, 30, and their two children, a 7-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy, were also injured in the attack.</p> <p>A video interview with the family members has been published <a href="">here</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p><img alt="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="530" src="/sites/default/files/lweirfyu.PNG" width="465" /></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h6>Peyman Talib, injured by the Turkish airstrikes in Kuna Masi. CPT got this picture from the Kurdish journalist Rebaz Majeed.</h6> <p>On 10 July, residents of Avla village, Batifa sub-district, Duhok province, fled their homes after Turkish forces dropped 26 bombs on the village.&nbsp;</p> <p>More information about the bombing is&nbsp;<a href="">here</a>.</p> <p>On 11 July, Turkish artillery targeted Bedihe village in Duhok province with six mortars causing damage to ten households. The artillery also damaged groves and orchards of locals in the area.&nbsp;</p> <p>More information the assault on Bedihe is&nbsp;<a href="">here</a>.</p> <p>Operations Claw-Eagle and Claw-Tiger are an extension of a three-decades-long war the Turkish military has been waging against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the territory of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. According to CPT-IK’s documentation, since August 2015, Turkish fighter jets, drones, artillery bombardments and gunfire have killed at least 85 and wounded more than 95 civilians. Of the 85 fatalities, 15 civilians were killed in the first six months of 2020 alone. The Turkish operations have emptied more than one hundred villages and caused an alarming deterioration of safety and economic security for several thousand families.&nbsp;</p> <p>CPT-IK calls on the Government of Turkey to respect civilian lives and put an end to its military operations in the territory of Iraq.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Additional information:&nbsp;</b></p> <p>Families that lost members in Turkish attacks are asking for an end to the bombings. Learn more about their <b>Hear Us Now: Stop the Bombing!</b> campaign <a href="">here</a>.</p> <p>To read CPT-IK’s latest reports and learn more about the impacts of Turkish bombings on the civilian population in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq please <a href="">click here</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="">CPTIK</a></p> <p>JULY 21, 2020</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </div> <div> <div>Categories</div> <div> <div><a href="/taxonomy/term/1408" hreflang="en">Kurdistan</a></div> <div><a href="/taxonomy/term/1406" hreflang="en">Iraq</a></div> </div> </div> Fri, 24 Jul 2020 18:07:29 +0000 Kathy Kern 12388 at Colombia, the pandemic before the pandemic <span>Colombia, the pandemic before the pandemic</span> <span><span lang="" about="/user/4" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Caldwell</span></span> <span>Fri, 07/24/2020 - 02:36</span> <div><figure><img alt="Flowers and photographs laid in a circle to commemorate the victims of state violence - MOVICE. Photo: Marcela Cardenas" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="455" src="/sites/default/files/2020-07/MOVICE(1).jpg" /> <figcaption>Flowers and photographs at a MOVICE ceremony to commemorate the victims of state violence. Photo: Marcela Cardenas</figcaption> </figure> <p><strong>By Marcela Cardenas</strong></p> <p>Protests marked the last quarter of 2019 throughout several countries in South America. The discontentment took to the streets and promised not to return home until it was heard and attended to.&nbsp; Colombia was no exception. It shares the realities of the region; its people have a long list of demands and many reasons to raise their voices and take to the streets.&nbsp; Why did it take so long for Colombia to protest?</p> <p>The truth is, in Colombia, the historical list of social issues is so great that it is impossible to simplify and unify a list of demands representing all disadvantaged sectors of society. For years they have demanded the state vindicate their rights, but it has been absent and provided few guarantees.</p> <p>Protests, demonstrations, public vigils, pot-clanging actions, curfew, and rising tension characterized the end of 2019. People brought their demands and filled the streets of the country, calling for a readjustment to the government's national agenda.&nbsp;</p> <p>The actions of the people brought a breath of hope, bringing unity to the call for change in the country. These actions brought hope to those who have been making visible the dire inequalities in the country. They saw the Great National Strike as a spring of indignation.</p> <p>The New Year was born in hope.</p> <p>But unfortunately, 2020 had other plans for the world: COVID-19. The pandemic swept through the country, across urban and rural territories, infecting more than 220,000 people and causing more than 7000 deaths. But those who know the tragic history of Colombia remember there was a pandemic before COVID-19, with its own set of statistics.</p> <p>Violence in Colombia is the old pandemic that spread through the streets of big cities and small towns. Through the desert and jungle. It infected the impoverished and those abandoned by the government. It left behind eight million victims.</p> <p>Represented among these eight million are forced displacement and disappearances, homicides, torture, kidnappings, rape, silenced lives, destroyed families, a battered social fabric, and a shattered society. The problem with figures is that they only register a number; they do not speak of lives, of pain, of sadness. They represent everything, but they do not speak of anyone.</p> <p>COVID-19 did not bring new violence to Colombia. Instead, it has intensified the already existing reality. The virus has confirmed that violence is not only hidden, but it impacts women in varied ways. The number of domestic violence cases since the quarantine began, has doubled compared to last year.&nbsp; The murders of 120 women have been classified as femicides, calling into question the mantra, "staying home saves lives." Another record of death in Colombia registers more than 166 social leaders assassinated in 2020.&nbsp; And 36 former FARC combatants, signatories of the 2016 peace agreement, have been victims of targeted killings in 2020 alone.</p> <p>The first pandemic—that of state violence—normalized corruption and gendered violence. It is a part of the daily routine. COVID-19, the second pandemic, became an exclusive priority; it replaced the demands of the people from the Great National Strike.&nbsp; The demands for social change became invisible.</p> <p>The deaths caused by the second pandemic do not have a lower value; that is a belief of those who think that some deaths hurt more than others. First-class deaths and second-class deaths do not exist. Any death is painful. Any preventable death caused by violence, neglect, corruption, or government abandonment hurts, and matters.</p> <p>But in Colombia, focusing on the figures has made this country not feel grief when it comes to the death of 10, 100, 1000, or 10,000. Mothers who have lost sons and daughters to both these pandemics know the difference between each number. Their pain does not distinguish between categories; they feel each one. Therefore, the country should grieve as the mother of all who died, of all the disappeared. The world should speak more of lives, of struggles and legacies, rather than of numbers that do not commemorate anyone nor humanize barbarity.</p> <p>When those of us who defend human rights speak, we do so from pain. We speak while holding a photograph of a missing person, or when we light a candle or call out in remembrance. We resist alongside those who have given everything, even their lives, even when all their land is stolen. But we also speak from hope, because we hope these stories end and that the storm stops, and the calm we do not know comes. We hope for the peace that is spoken of in books and studied by scholars. It is a peace that has to do more with social justice, one that guarantees the essential minimum without exception, gives access to dignified healthcare and education, and the right to live a life free of violence.</p> <p>We cannot allow the virus to hide the pandemic before the pandemic. The government cannot use COVID-19 to evade its responsibilities. Its collaborators: corrupt politicians, armed actors, and war profiteers, need to be held accountable. Next time, we will be out on the streets sooner.</p> <p>______________________________</p> <p>The article has been updated to reflect the current number of COVID-19 cases in Colombia, the number of femicides and the number of social leaders and former FARC combatants assassinated since the publication of <a href="">April - June Newsletter on June 22, 2020</a>.<br /> &nbsp;</p> </div> <div> <div>Categories</div> <div> <div><a href="/taxonomy/term/1399" hreflang="en">Colombia</a></div> </div> </div> Fri, 24 Jul 2020 07:36:45 +0000 Caldwell 12386 at IRAQI KURDISTAN/OCEANIA: Reflecting on the Coronavirus Lockdowns <span>IRAQI KURDISTAN/OCEANIA: Reflecting on the Coronavirus Lockdowns</span> <span><span lang="" about="/user/26" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Kathy Kern</span></span> <span>Sat, 07/18/2020 - 13:41</span> <div><p>18 July 2020</p> <p><img alt="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="4848" src="/sites/default/files/claudio-schwarz-purzlbaum-Zh-btVpBcdw-unsplash.jpg" width="7268" /></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>by Rebekah Dowling</p> <p>An Australian friend told me the other day that a strong case of nostalgia is floating about at the moment. As the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown continue, it seems many of us here in Australia are forced to reflect on our lives—one of the casualties of time alone.</p> <p>Those of us dreaming of a new world have a sense of hope. Maybe all this time to reflect will cause people to see the problems in the world and make positive changes for peace in their relationships and on a global scale. Maybe they will see the inequality in government actions and global capitalism and insist on change.</p> <p>Lockdowns stopped what governments considered “non-essential” work. Here in Australia, that included things like community social spaces, food vans, public libraries, and even selling the Big Issue, a street newspaper. The authorities are arresting protesters and levying hefty fines against them, even though the protesters are practicing social distancing. Meanwhile, the government keeps the mines and military up and running. New surveillance apps are being introduced and the Australian government agreed to 3000 U.S. troops arriving in Darwin, despite the continuing high rates of coronavirus transmission in the USA.</p> <p>Meanwhile, in Iraqi Kurdistan, it has been much the same situation. The government has enacted lockdowns to ensure safety for civilians but they are also using this crisis. The Kurdistan Regional Government began covertly building a military base in Warte, and arresting journalists and civil activists who opposed its efforts. The lockdown has forced people with limited financial resources into further poverty. Families who usually survive on the income they make day to day were forced to stop their jobs. One of my teammates in Kurdistan told me how their neighbors, a Syrian refugee family, had knocked on their family’s door and explained how the lockdown had left them without money for food or heating. This family is certainly not an isolated case.&nbsp; As the protestors in Lebanon cried, “I would rather die of coronavirus than starvation.”</p> <p>For a second there were some hopeful indicators. Carbon emissions plummeted, and we saw proof that governments had the ability to tackle climate change, if not the willpower. Business as usual was halting and it looked like that business might include military operations. When the lockdowns began, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on governments and armed groups, “The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war. It is time to put the armed conflict on lockdown…Put aside mistrust and animosity. Silence the guns; stop the artillery; end the airstrikes. End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world. That is what our human family needs, now more than ever.” But despite some rhetoric from groups such as Hezbollah, most militaries and armed groups act exempt from lockdown measures. Our partners in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan continue to face the threat of regular cross-border bombing, only now it is exacerbated by fears of the virus and the impact on the lockdown on their food sources and access to medical care.</p> <p>These fears are so different from the ones in Australia that had people panic-buying toilet paper, hoarding flour, and fighting in supermarkets. In Kurdistan, the shops on our street remained fully stocked and people calmly chatted as they bought what they needed. I asked one of my Kurdish teammates about it, and he told me how his family had been part of the exodus to Iran when Saddam Hussein’s army was fighting and killing the Kurdish people. Thousands of people died during that time from exposure and starvation. His family journeyed into the mountains with as much as they could carry, and no idea if they would survive. Another teammate told me once about the effect of the sanctions on Iraq, and how his family mixed sawdust with their flour to fill out their meals. Meanwhile, in countries where roughly 1/3 of our food is wasted, the myth of scarcity has permeated western society. While people in Australia, Kurdistan, and around the world go hungry, capitalism encourages supermarkets to bin perfectly good food and for all of us to hoard unnecessarily what is left. Growing numbers of people in Australia are living by themselves, not only increasing the number of goods stored and consumed per capita but leading to the pervasive loneliness exacerbated by the COVID-19 lockdown.</p> <p>The Kurdistan Regional Government was congratulated by the World Health Organization for how effectively they imposed the lockdown. In our seven-hour trip to the airport in Erbil (usually three hours away) we drove through 12 checkpoints put in place to limit coronavirus transmission. In Australia, the government funded my compulsory quarantine in a hotel. These measures have worked.&nbsp; Coronavirus cases are down and many people have done great things in this crisis but militaries—in most cases—remained exempt from lockdown measures. This exception has highlighted the sacred space the military occupies within decisions of governance, and the suffering that distinction causes for people like our partners in the mountains who continue to be bombed.</p> </div> <div> <div>Categories</div> <div> <div><a href="/taxonomy/term/1406" hreflang="en">Iraq</a></div> <div><a href="/taxonomy/term/1408" hreflang="en">Kurdistan</a></div> </div> </div> Sat, 18 Jul 2020 18:41:09 +0000 Kathy Kern 12383 at BORDERLANDS: Maria and Ernesto <span>BORDERLANDS: Maria and Ernesto</span> <span><span lang="" about="/user/26" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Kathy Kern</span></span> <span>Fri, 07/17/2020 - 12:46</span> <div><p><img alt="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="600" src="/sites/default/files/Picture%20for%20Borderlands_0.jpg" width="800" /></p> <h6>The CAME Center on left; couple in CAME diningroom on right</h6> <p>by Linda Knox</p> <p>In February of this year, Ernesto and Maria* arrived at the CAME (Centro de Atencion al Migrante Exodos) migrant shelter in Agua Prieta, Sonora. Fleeing extortion and threats of violence from the organized crime groups in southern Mexico’s State of Guerrero, they hoped to present their asylum claim at the U.S. Port of Entry and to live with family members in Indiana while they awaited their asylum hearing.</p> <p>In the past year, local volunteers, members of Presbyterian Peace Fellowship (PPF), and CPT reservists accompanied over 1000 asylum seekers in Agua Prieta from the shelter to the tent by the port of entry. People who made it to the tent waited from three days to three weeks for their turn to make their claim with U.S. Customs officials. Since unaccompanied migrants were in danger of kidnapping or extortion by the local cartel, CPT, PPF, and local accompaniers walked with these families back and forth from the tent to the Migrant Resource Center three times a day for showers, bathroom breaks, food, and relaxation.</p> <p>Then Covid-19 arrived; CPT and PPF closed their operations, and on 21 March, the U.S. government used the health crisis as an excuse to stop accepting people with asylum claims.</p> <p>Maria and Ernesto had made it to the tent just a few days earlier, and when the U.S. closed the border, they were the very next family in line to make their claim. The other two families waiting there have gone back to the CAME shelter, but Maria and Ernesto are still living in the tent. Now they have been there for more than two months [Note: this article was written in May 2020]. Local volunteers still accompany them to the Migrant Resource Center. Besides the usual break time, they are helping clean in and outside of the building and to take care of the garden started by volunteers. They have harvested vegetables the CAME uses for salads.</p> <p>Now they are not sure if they will continue living in the tent through the hot summer months. The U.S. has extended its border restrictions until late June, and there is no guarantee it will lift those restrictions at that time or any time in the near future. People all across the U.S./Mexican border are living in uncertain and dangerous conditions. Ernesto and Maria’s situation is definitely uncertain, but, thanks to the many people, including CPT, who are accompanying migrants in Agua Prieta, their situation is not quite so dangerous.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>*Names have been changed.</p> </div> <div> <div>Categories</div> <div> <div><a href="/taxonomy/term/1413" hreflang="en">Migration</a></div> <div><a href="/taxonomy/term/1396" hreflang="en">Borderlands</a></div> <div><a href="/taxonomy/term/1409" hreflang="en">Mexico</a></div> <div><a href="/taxonomy/term/1430" hreflang="en">United States</a></div> </div> </div> Fri, 17 Jul 2020 17:46:41 +0000 Kathy Kern 12382 at Why we should advocate for defunding police <span>Why we should advocate for defunding police</span> <span><span lang="" about="/user/26" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Kathy Kern</span></span> <span>Mon, 07/06/2020 - 14:25</span> <div><p>6 July 2020</p> <p><img alt="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="533" src="/sites/default/files/50026676017_22beab06da_c_0.jpg" width="799" /></p> <h6>Black Lives Matter - Sit In - Occupy Bay Street - College Street - Toronto Police Headquarters - June 19, 2020 - <a href="">Creative Commons</a></h6> <p>by Esther Townshend</p> <p>Over the past few weeks, the U.S. and other countries, including Canada, have seen mass protests led by Black activists against police brutality. It has been a long time coming. In the U.S., protests began in response to the police murder of George Floyd. Canadians have our own stories closer to home. On May 27, 29-year-old Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a woman of Black and Indigenous ancestry, died after falling from a 24<sup>th</sup> storey balcony in west Toronto. Her family believes that police officers in her apartment pushed her off. Her mother had called police for help getting Regis to hospital for emergency mental health care.</p> <p>I have spent a lot of time lately reflecting on how disturbing it is to live in a society where police are the resource most immediately available to intervene in a mental health crisis. And as CPT’s recent statement in solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives calls us to do, I have begun advocating for the City of Toronto to defund police.</p> <p>Why? The most obvious reason is that policing is a racist institution. Statistics show beyond a doubt that police are far more likely to stop, arrest and kill Black and Indigenous people than they are white people. Their actions are not simply a matter of individual or collective prejudice among police officers that their superiors could take measures to correct. From its beginning, policing has been a tool for enforcing white supremacy. In the U.S., the first police departments were slave patrols. In Canada, the famous Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) was founded to remove Indigenous people from their lands to make way for railroads and settlers. Today, police still treat Black people as suspected criminals simply for moving freely in public spaces. The RCMP continues to remove Indigenous people forcibly from their lands to make way for pipelines and condominiums. In fact, police brutality and the criminalization of Black and Indigenous people have worsened over the past 40 years as neoconservative policies have cut funding for social programs, enabled increasing corporate exploitation of people and land, and increased police funding as a means to suppress rising social discontent. Law and order rhetoric has justified the militarization of police and the expansion of surveillance, to the point that police behave much like an occupying force in poor and racialized communities.</p> <p>Yet even knowing these things, many, particularly white North Americans, have difficulty imagining a future without police. This lack of vision is the second reason I believe that defunding the police is important: the massive resources spent on policing diminish our collective capacity to build safe and healthy communities.&nbsp; We currently use policing to manage the crises that result when society denies people their basic needs. The most effective public safety strategy we can pursue is to reduce inequity. How much more peaceful would our communities be if everyone had access to affordable housing, good food, public healthcare, and meaningful work? How would our relationships with our neighbours change if we treated addiction and mental health as public health issues instead of public order issues? Equity, of course, means much more than providing for people’s basic needs; it also means relinquishing public safety strategies that prioritize social control over human dignity. What kind of community programs would enable us to respond to conflict with strategies of de-escalation, mediation and transformative justice instead of arrest, incarceration and surveillance?</p> <p>CPT accompanies communities that resist state and corporate violence with nonviolence. We see these communities building cultures of nonviolence through education on decolonization and traditional healing practices. We see communities that cannot rely on police finding nonviolent ways to de-escalate crises. We know it is possible, over generations, to build communities that understand conflict as an opportunity for transformation. For those of us who live in North America especially, one of the most important witnesses for peace we can take is to advocate for our governments to defund violent policing and start funding initiatives that heal our communities.</p> <p><b>Take action:</b></p> <p>Check out the links for actions in Christian Peacemaker Team’s <a href="">Defund the Police statemen</a>t</p> <p>Support local chapters of <a href="">Black Lives Matter</a> and <a href="">Showing Up for Racial Justice</a></p> <p>Call or write political representatives to advocate defunding police and investing in community programs</p> </div> <div> <div>Categories</div> <div> <div><a href="/taxonomy/term/1429" hreflang="en">Undoing Oppressions</a></div> <div><a href="/taxonomy/term/1484" hreflang="en">Turtle Island Solidarity Network</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 06 Jul 2020 19:25:10 +0000 Kathy Kern 12379 at “We are unable to go outside freely and without fear”:  Civilian impacts of the new military bases on Zine Asterokan <span>“We are unable to go outside freely and without fear”:  Civilian impacts of the new military bases on Zine Asterokan</span> <span><span lang="" about="/user/26" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Kathy Kern</span></span> <span>Mon, 06/29/2020 - 10:25</span> <div><p>29 June 2020</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p class="text-align-center"><a href=""><b>PDF</b></a></p> <p><b>Summary</b></p> <p>The construction of new military bases by the Kurdistan Peshmerga Forces near the town of Warte in March 2020 and the following Turkish Air Force cross-border bombardments of the area in April and May are escalating local residents’ fear of further violence and a possible outbreak of war in the region.&nbsp;</p> <p>The construction of the bases has threatened the security of local residents as well as the economic stability of the region.</p> <p><b>Location and Political and Historical Context</b></p> <p><img alt="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="696" src="/sites/default/files/Zine%2BAsterokan%2BMap.jpg" width="750" /></p> <h6>A map detailing the location of the new military base in relation to the towns of Warte and Shawre, Erbil and the borders of Turkey and Iran.</h6> <p>Warte is located in the Rawanduz district of Iraqi Kurdistan, approximately 50 km to the west of the Iranian border and 150 km south of the Turkish border. Warte is surrounded by three mountains: Asterokan, Hallamund, and Karokh.&nbsp;</p> <p>Due to the landscapes and weather, Warte is considered to be among top tourist locations of Iraqi Kurdistan. Tourism contributes significantly to the local economy, as does agriculture and animal husbandry. Approximately 500 families live in the Warte area.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Shawre valley, which lies to the south of Warte and falls under the administration of Ranya, is home to approximately 1,200 families. The main sources of its residents’ livelihoods are agriculture, fruit orchards, vineyards and animal husbandry.&nbsp;</p> <p>The military bases have been built on the Zine Asterokan Mountain range, which forms a geographical boundary between Shawre and Warte, as well as a political boundary between the Sulaimani and Erbil governorates. An important road, which connects the two governorates and two regions within Iraqi Kurdistan, passes over the Zine Asterokan Mountain range.&nbsp;</p> <p>In the 1970s, Kurdish armed groups used the mountains surrounding Warte as strongholds in their fight against the Iraqi regime. Following the establishment of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in 1992, the Shawre and Warte regions were battlegrounds of the 1994-1998 civil war between Kurdish factions. After the war, the border between the spheres of influence of the two main Kurdish political parties, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Kurdistan Democratic Party (PDK), was established on Zine Asterokan.&nbsp; The parties left the mountain range without any military bases and established security checkpoints in the valleys on both sides of the range.&nbsp;</p> <p>Since the 1990s, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) guerrilla members have used the Asterokan and surrounding mountains to move between their bases in the nearby Qandil Mountains and other locations.</p> <p><b>Timeline of the Construction of the Military Bases</b></p> <p>On 18 March 2020, under the pretext of enforcing the lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the KRG Ministry of Peshmerga stationed a sizable military force on Zine Asterokan under PDK leadership.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Two days later a Peshmerga force under the control of the PUK established another base on the same mountain two kilometers away.</p> <p>In response to these two new military bases, the PKK stationed their own fighters in an outpost between the two new Peshmerga bases.</p> <p><b>Immediate Impact of Turkish Airstrikes on Civilians</b></p> <h6><img alt="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="535" src="/sites/default/files/Warte%2Breport.jpg" width="686" /></h6> <h6>Smoke and dust rising from a Turkish airstrike on Zine Asterokan Mountain.</h6> <p>On 14 April&nbsp; the Turkish Air Force (TAF) started bombing Zine Asterokan Mountain. From April to May they bombed the area a total of six times. The local media reported that the bombings were targeting members of the PKK and that they wounded several members of the Peshmerga that were stationed at their base. The surrounding land used by the local community was severely damaged in the bombings. A shepherd from Shawre Valley told CPT that the warplanes bombed a shelter and the land that their family uses to raise their livestock and thus destroyed the primary source of the family’s yearly income.&nbsp;</p> <p>Residents of the area told CPT that since the airstrikes started, they have observed flights of Turkish warplanes and/or heard drones on a daily basis. Warte, Shawre and the nearby city of Ranya are home to many families who fled their villages from the Turkish and Iranian cross-border attacks in the past. Some of them have lost relatives in those attacks. The Warte and Shawre areas were considered safe for civilians but the bombings and ongoing patrolling of fighter jets and drones have shattered this feeling of security.&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lasting Impacts</b></p> <p>From the interviews that Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) conducted with residents of both Warte sub-district and Shawre Valley, it has become evident that the presence of the new military bases and the Turkish bombardments have critically disrupted the routine life of the local residents. In addition to destroying their previous feeling of security, the bases have damaged the economic stability of the region.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>A resident of the Warte area told CPT,&nbsp;</p> <blockquote> <p><i>During summer much wild vegetation, like gundelia, arum, mushroom and rhubarb, grows on the mountains around Warte. Collecting these plants and selling them is one of the important income sources of many families in these areas. Our family has seven members and I am the only one who receives a government salary. Due to the fear of being bombed by the Turkish drones and jets flying over the area, we could not collect any of these plants this year. On top of this, the government has not paid our salaries for four months. This has caused a terrible financial crisis for us. But worse than that, is the fact we are unable to go outside freely and without fear, as we are always expecting to be bombed."&nbsp;</i></p> </blockquote> <p>Another important livelihood for the people of Warte and the villages of Shawre Valley is raising animals. Annually, in the middle of spring, villagers take their livestock to the highlands of Zine Asterokan to graze. They stay until the early autumn due to the favorable weather and presence of grass in the area. This year many of the shepherding families have not been able to take their livestock to the highlands, fearing the bombardment by Turkish warplanes and drones. As a consequence, many families have had to sell their animals for much lower prices than the usual market value.</p> <p>Tourism is another major source of income for the residents of Warte. The spectacular natural views have long brought tens of thousands of tourists from other parts of Iraq to visit the resorts of the area.&nbsp;</p> <p>A local resident&nbsp; told CPT,&nbsp;</p> <blockquote> <p><i>We were living solely on the income of our summer resorts, we did not need any other sources of income. But because of the military bases stationed on Zine Asterokan Mountain and the Turkish warplanes flying over the area, even after the lifting of the lockdown imposed because of COVID-19, people have not come here because they do not see the resorts as a safe and secure place for tourism. We are the victims of battles, wars and bombardments. We ask for nothing, just a life away from war and the roaring of fighter jets.</i></p> </blockquote> <p><b>Possibility of Further Military Escalation&nbsp;</b></p> <p>A civil society activist told CPT,&nbsp;</p> <blockquote> <p><i>Contrary to the KRG's claim that this military base has been established temporarily to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the base will most likely remain on the mountain permanently. People in the area are watching trucks carrying industrial materials for permanent constructions going up the mountain.&nbsp;</i></p> </blockquote> <p>Local residents told CPT that several Turkish agents have been seen around Zine Asterokan and the military base of the Ministry of Peshmerga.&nbsp;</p> <p>A resident from Warte, who had gone to Zine Asterokan in April to harvest wild plants, told CPT,&nbsp;</p> <blockquote> <p><i>My sister-in-law and I were on our way back from the mountain when we saw two men in civilian clothes, both wearing hats. One of them was scanning the mountain with binoculars and the other had a two-way radio in his hand. We greeted them, but they were embarrassed and did not respond. They spoke to each other in Turkish, so we did not understand them. Fearing that we would be arrested and be accused of telling other people about seeing them, we returned to Warte by a different route.</i></p> </blockquote> <p>Residents of the area express a growing suspicion and fear&nbsp;that the establishment of the military bases on Zine Asterokan is the beginning of a new Turkish offensive against the PKK. Even though the Turkish military operates more than 30 bases and outposts within the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, this would have been the first Turkish base in this area and the first one so close&nbsp;to the PKK’s headquarters in Qandil.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Response of Local Residents</b></p> <p>According to the local residents, dismantling the bases is the only way for a return to a peaceful life Warte and Shawre. The people of Shawre Valley, the Warte sub-district, and other civil society activists from the region, organized four peaceful protests demanding that all armed groups, including the KRG military, abandon their bases and leave the area.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>On 19 April, representatives of 70 villages, accompanied by civil society activists gathered in front of the military bases and called for peace talks. The commander of the military force met with the protestors in the base. By the end of the meeting the Minister of Peshmerga, who joined the meeting via phone, and the commander were both promising that the military base on Zine Asterokan would be removed soon.&nbsp;<img alt="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="561" src="/sites/default/files/95097175_3002726179810600_2921258702574977024_n%2B(1)_0.jpg" width="750" /></p> <h6>Protesters gather on the road and speak to media, after they are stopped by security forces on 29 April.</h6> <p>However, these promises have not been kept and further attempts at demonstrating against the base were stalled.</p> <p>In the third protest organised on 29 April, the KRG security forces prevented a group of protesters from meeting and marching together to Zine Asterokan. The father of two people killed in a Turkish bombardment stood in front of the security forces and media that were present and, shedding tears, he said, "I lost two children. I don't want the same thing to happen to other families."</p> <p><b>Recommendations</b></p> <p>CPT is concerned with the grave risks and disruptions that the establishment of the KRG Peshmerga military bases created for the local residents of Warte and Shawre, who are already struggling to recover from the negative economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is CPT’s understanding that the bases, and the consequent PKK and Turkish military operations, pose a serious threat to the lives and livelihoods of local residents and exacerbate the possibility of further escalating violence in the region.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>CPT calls on the Kurdistan Regional Government to ensure that local residents’ lives and the economy are protected and prioritized.&nbsp;</p> <p>Together with the local residents, CPT calls for the dismantling of the bases and the withdrawal of all military forces from Zine Asterokan.&nbsp;</p> <p>CPT calls on the Turkish government to cease all military operations near the Warte area and Shawre Valley as they threaten civilian lives and seriously disrupt the livelihoods of 1,700 families.</p> </div> <div> <div>Categories</div> <div> <div><a href="/taxonomy/term/1406" hreflang="en">Iraq</a></div> <div><a href="/taxonomy/term/1408" hreflang="en">Kurdistan</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 29 Jun 2020 15:25:56 +0000 Kathy Kern 12377 at