A Brief Overview of the Villages in the Kurdish North of
By: Michele Naar-Obed - currently in
This information may be repetitive for some readers. For others it is new. At the end of this short historical analysis is the story of one family whose voice CPT is hoping to raise. Although this is only one story, there are over 1 million internally displaced families like this one in northern
As Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) resettled up north from
The villages throughout northern
In the 1980’s, Saddam unleashed the Anfal campaign and over 2/3 of Kurdish villages were destroyed. Over 100,000 villagers were killed. Kurdish identity and their way of life remained under attack until the
1991 Kurdish uprising against Saddam. The uprising failed and more Kurds were killed or forced to flee. In 1992, the northern no fly zone was instituted by the UN and this offered the villages up north more protection. People went back to their villages and rebuilt their homes and their infrastructure. It was a long and difficult haul for them but they managed to re-establish themselves.
Meanwhile, the PKK and PJAK, the armed Kurdish liberation groups established themselves in the mountains along the borders with
Up until the last 2 years, war between the governments and the 2 liberation groups have taken place primarily in the mountains. There have been incidents of spill over into the Kurdish villages inside
These attacks also raise the possibility of destabilizing the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) as well as the larger region. Some speculate that destabilization of the KRG is the aim of
“What you have done for the least of these, you have done for me” is what often comes to mind when I think about CPT’s work with the villagers. These folks are for sure on the bottom rung of the ladder.
To remain silent in the face of their being systematically wiped out, would be a sin and a crime.
CPT is documenting the stories and recording the human rights violations from which the villagers are currently suffering. We are trying to walk with them as sisters and brothers in the human family, and upon their request, we are trying to raise their voices to the world community. In attempting to figure out the best way to approach this, CPT consulted with the UN and was told that good documentation could lay the foundation upon which the international community would be able to advocate on the villagers behalf for their safe and sustainable return home to their villages.
In the process, our presence, our interest and our concern lets these folks know that they are somebody. They are not dispensable pawns to be captured and discarded in a chess game of political giants. We see life come into the eyes of a villager when we recongize all they have contributed to the world just because of who they are.
By telling their stories back home, we hope to be a window through which the rest of the world could get to know them. We hope that these steps will help reduce the lethal violence, both physical and spiritual, that the Kurdish villagers are subjected to on a daily basis.
Portrait of a family from
Mr. Ali Hamed Ahmed, and his wife Khoshia Biez lived in the small
Like other villagers from Razga, Ali raised animals for food and dairy products and grew nut trees and vegetables that were sold at the local market.
The family has lived through the many years of intermittent shelling by
There wasn’t much in the way of compensation.
Since 2007, the shelling by
On February 14, 2009, the Kurdish Regional Government negotiated a deal with
Within a few days of the announcement, Ali, Khoshia, and their baby boy Mohammad went home to Razga. They spent about a week in total bliss. Their joy soon turned into a nightmare.
On March 10,
CPT visited the family in early April. They were living with relatives in Zherawa but knew that it had to be a temporary arrangement because the house was overcrowded. They were obviously traumatized. Both of them cradled a pink plastic picture frame with Mohammad’s picture in the center and were in tears. “We’ve lost houses and property in the past because of these attacks, but we never lost life before”, Ali’s mother told us. “I wish it was me that died. I am old”, she said. “I hear my son crying every night for his baby boy”.
On April 13, CPT visited the new Zherawa tent camp. Ali, Khoshia and Ali’s mother greeted us with kisses and warm embraces. No one knows how long they will live there. They say they will not go back to their village without some guarantee from the international community that the attacks will end. It is the intention of CPT to document these stories so that the UN might be able to advocate for such a guarantee.
A good friend of mine here in the Kurdish north recently told me that if CPT can get one family safely home to their village, you will have done a tremendous job. “However, you must be patient here and don’t let the bureaucracy wear you down”, my friend so wisely advised.
Michele Naar-Obed - currently in
Olive Branch Catholic Worker,
Ph (218) 728-0629
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs