I have been back at EMU a little over two days now. My jet lag is becoming better (I slept until 7 instead of 4!) but I am finding it really hard to process my trip. Right now I find it hard to even think about Kurdistan because thinking about it makes me miss it. Somehow in those mountains I found a home and leaving this new home was really hard for me. I also find myself not quite sure to do with the stories and experiences...I feel like I changed but I don't even know how. I don't even know what to write. So instead of writing a new reflection, I am posting the words I read the last day in Kurdistan to the Kurdish press. Some of it might not make sense to those not familiar with the situation in Kurdistan, but I think it will be a good starting point. As the weeks go by, I plan on expanding and telling specific stories. Hopefully this will be a good way to process all that's happened and share all of the amazing things that I experienced.
"Welcome and thank you to all who have gathered here today. Christian Peacemaker Teams is human rights organization that is committed to building partnerships to transform violence and oppression. We have come on this delegation from the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, Iraq, and Kurdistan to learn about the situation of the Kurdish people living in Iraq and Turkey as well as CPT’s work here in the region. Part of the CPT team is here with us today. These topics rarely make the news back in our home countries. We came to see the situation with our own eyes so we can take the information back to our home countries and communities and also to find ways that we can stand in solidarity with the Kurdish people to help bring about peace.
We began our journey in Diyarbikir, Turkey. There, we learned about the harassment and repression of Kurds living in Turkey. We met with members of an organization who work with Kurdish children displaced by violence from the Turkish government and a social worker with the Diyarbikir municipality who is facing eighteen years in prison for working for her fellow Kurds within the Turkish borders.
After traveling into Iraqi Kurdistan we visited several villages along the border of Turkey and Iran. In these villages we learned about the international political situation. We saw several Turkish bases with tanks pointed at civilian houses. We learned of Turkish and Iranian cross border attacks on civilian populations. We met with village families who showed us the places where Iranian shells hit their houses as well as saw with our own eyes, the Iranian military bases on the mountains overlooking Iraqi Kurdistan. As we learned about the political situation, we saw the impact of the violence on individual, human lives, culture, agriculture, and the livelihood of the men, women, and children that live there. We met with the mayor of Sidakan and the media where we had a press conference about the IDP camps and situation of the villages. We met with a principal and teachers in the village of Sunnah near the border of Iran and learned of the perseverance to keep the school going despite of shellings and multiple displacements. We saw the fear, but also the bravery of the children and villagers.
We learned about the presence of minority groups while visiting Hawler. We have spent the last few days of our trip here in Sulaimani. We learned about the demonstrations that took place in this city only last year. As we met with a local Mulah, we learned of the works of nonviolent action along with the stories of violence. We met with women activists promoting the rights of women. We visited the Anfal cemetery and museum. Yesterday, we met with three families of those killed during the demonstrations. We heard their story and saw their tears. (Some of them are here with us today demanding legal justice and the end of private negotiations. )
We all knew that violence and conflict takes place around the world, including in our own countries, but we did not know the specific situation here in Kurdistan. We now plan to take this information back to our home countries to share with our own communities the stories we have heard and the realities we have seen because we do not hear about them in our local media.As we leave this country we will to take with us the resilience of the villagers who rebuild their houses again and again after being bombed. We will take with us the bravery of the religious leaders who have tried to bring about peace through nonviolence. We will take with us the stories of the amazing hospitality we have felt by the Kurdish people we have encountered. We have been extremely blessed by our time here and want to take these stories of hope and peace back home."