Saturday, November 27, 2021

Voices and Views from Iraqi Kurdistan


CPT Iraqi Kurdistan team --

By Weldon D. Nisly --  (shared with permission)

November 20, 2021


I am grateful to be on the CPT IK team again in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, after a 20-month covid pandemic absence. The team has had a full schedule for the 8 weeks that I have been here, with only 3 weeks before I leave on Dec 12. This rooftop view of our neighborhood looks down on the markets, bakeries, and shops that provide most of our food and household needs.

For the first time in two years, the 6 team members on the IK team in 2019, are together again. Below we are eating lunch on retreat (from left): Runak (Kurdistan), Melissa (CPT Care Coordinator), Rebekah (Australia), Lukasz (Czech Republic/Colombia), Kamaran (Kurdistan), Mohammed (Kurdistan). I am not a selfie expert and took this photo of my teammates.

Melissa Berkey-Gerard, the CPT Care Coordinator from Philadelphia, was with us for 2 weeks. She led a 4-day team building retreat in the mountain village of Halsho, near the Iranian border. Sleeping/meeting/eating on the floor doesn’t get easier with age.😊  

I invite you on a journey with the CPT IK team for a week in October to engage all three team priorities accompanying: 1) villagers targeted by cross-border bombing, 2) civil society activists and independent journalists threatened and arrested for confronting war and political oppression, and 3) leading nonviolence trainings.


SUN OCT 17 -- Travel from Sulaimani to Duhok, a 6-hour drive across Kurdistan.  

MON OCT 18 – In Zakho, near the border with Turkey and Syria, we met a family who recently fled Turkey's cross-border bombardment of their farm near Hirure. A white cloud from the bomb drifted down the mountain over their farm, causing nausea, coughing, vomiting, and dizziness. Animals died and crops and fruit trees were destroyed. Their mother/grandmother is too ill and weak to get out of bed since the bombing (left photo below). She tearfully asked us to pray for healing and safety for her family and an end to war, which I promised we would do.

Monday afternoon, we met with a man from Hirure who was severely injured by a Turkish bomb while he was gathering walnuts. He is recovering in a home in Duhok, unable to work or return home (right photo below).


TUE OCT 19 – Erbil criminal court trial of Omed Barusky and Badal Bawari, two of the 81 Badinan Prisoners, journalists and activists protesting Turkey's cross-border bombing and Kurdish political corruption. Family members are not allowed in the courtroom and wait anxiously outside, knowing it is more a political than a judicial process. Defense lawyers have little access to clients and little role in the trial with no witnesses or cross examination. After the trial, outside the court building, family members, activists, defense lawyers, Members of Parliament, and CPT gather in solidarity calling “azadi” (freedom in Kurdish) for the prisoners. Kurdish media interviews family members, defense lawyers, and CPT. We are the only international group accompanying the prisoners and documenting human rights violations.

WED OCT 20 -- Trial of 4 Badinan Prisoners. The prosecutor dropped charges on Sherwan Taha. One of the 3 judges refused to participate in the decision, so sentencing was postponed until Nov 8, at which time the prosecutor reinstated charges against Sherwan Taha, who was sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison. This obvious political decision is devastating for him and his wife Jwan (left front with sign in photo below) and their two children.

THU OCT 21 -- Another political trial for 5 Badinan Prisoners. 
FRI OCT 22 – Day off

SAT OCT 23 – Celebrating with those who completed nonviolence training led by CPT! 

Weldon Nisly grew up on an Iowa farm near Kalona. Married with 2 children and 4 grandchildren all living in Seattle area. Studied economics and political science at University of Iowa and did political organizing (1966-73). MA Peace Studies Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (1975-77). Mennonite Central Committee peace and justice ministry (1977-82). Pastor Cincinnati Mennonite Fellowship (1984-95) and Seattle Mennonite Church (1995-2013). Serving half-time with Christian Peacemaker Teams on the Iraqi Kurdistan and Palestine teams since 2017. Committed to contemplative spiritual disciplines and Just Peacebuilding.

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