Friday, July 1, 2011

Victims of War in the "Countries" of Kurdistan

IDP camp in Suly
Some of my Heartland colleagues have been working with IDP's -- internally displaced persons -- here in Suly. These are Arab Iraqis who have fled the sectarian violence in the south (mainly Baghdad and Basra) and have come to Kurdistan to find peace, at least until they are able to return to their homes.  They are living in a camp in Suly -- about 60 families of approximately 250 people -- in makeshift structures.  Their children are not being educated, their water and fuel is sometimes cut off and garbage collection suspended.  And now it is proposed that a football stadium and parking lot be built on the site of the camp, so the land has become valuable and they would have to be moved (perhaps to another camp where currently non-Iraqis are living, i.e., Iranians and Syrians, who are afforded even fewer rights).  The Guiding Principles On Internal Displacement, published by the United Nations sets forth the human rights protections afforded to IDPs; unfortunately, as with other international human rights principles, they are often ignored.

As I mentioned, my colleagues have brought some joy to the children living there in an attempt to give them some normalcy and structure in their lives.   Last weekend the children put on a puppet show, Akhdar and the Enormous Carrot, which was a delight.  It reminded me of the children's Christmas pageant that my former church, St. Matthew's Episcopal in Evanston, Illinois, put on each year:  controlled chaos with children of all ages together with adults having about as much success directing them as they would herding cats!  It was delightful.
At the puppet show
And by the way, we are still accepting donations to cover the cost of the puppet show and other activities here in Iraq.  Please go to to contribute and help bring more moments of joy to these children and their families (you can designate your gift for this purpose).  We all thank you!!
Since coming to Northern Iraq I've been to Duhok twice and Erbil twice.  I've heard that each city -- Suly, Duhok, Erbil and others across Kurdistan (including Kurdish cities in Iran, Syria and Turkey which the Kurds also consider to be part of their "country") are like separate countries and I am beginning to see why.  There are several dialects of Kurdish, including Sorani, spoken in Suly and other parts of central Kurdistan, and Badinani,spoken in Duhok  (this according to one source: "Kurdish dialects can be divided into three primary groups: the Northern Kurdish dialects group also called Kurmanji and Badínaní; Central Kurdish dialects group also called Sorani and the Southern Kurdish dialects group also called Pehlewaní or "Pahlawanik" group in some sources; the two other major branches of Kurdish language are Dimílí group, also called "Zaza" and Hewramí group also called Goraní (Gúraní) in some sources; these are further divided into scores of dialects and sub-dialects as well"). 
In addition to language differences (and although they are called dialects, my understanding from my Kurdish colleagues is that they are so different from one another that often Sorani-speaking Kurds communicate in Arabic rather than Badinani with Kurds in Duhok).  As I mentioned in a prior blog, there are political differences -- the PUK party in Suly and surrounding areas, and the KDP in Duhok and Erbil; geographical differences -- compare the pictures; and cultural differences.  When in Duhok, I met with the President of the Duhok Courthouse to finalize plans for setting up our Know Your Rights Help Desk in the courthouse.  On the way into the parking lot, a lawyer from my Duhok team started shouting with the armed police officer stationed there.  I asked my Suly colleague what they were fighting about (she's an amazing woman who speaks English beautifully, Kurdish -- her native tongue -- and Arabic) and she explained that they weren't fighting but that's how people talk in Duhok!
Monday is July 4 -- Independence Day in the United States, a holiday I've always loved since the time I was a little girl and had to cover my ears when my beloved grandfather would shoot off the cannon in his backyard in LeRoy, Ohio.  In Evanston, a suburb of Chicago, where my son, Christian, grew up, there is always a parade in the afternoon followed by wonderful fireworks over Lake Michigan.  The parade is a classic -- floats, bands, politicians, the kazoo corps, the riding lawnmower brigade, fire engines, antique cars, and Boy Scout troops, just to name a few participants.  People start putting out lawn chairs and other items on the street curb of the parade route days in advance to secure a prime viewing location (remarkably no one removes these objects).  In the late afternoon/early evening, Christian and I would go to the home of good friends for a BBQ and then we all headed over to the lake with our sheets and blankets to watch the fireworks display.

Living in Iraq reminds me of how privileged I am to be an American -- notwithstanding the failings and shortcomings of my country, including an ill-planned war that has left many victims in the land where I now live.  Despite this, I have found that many of these victims want nothing more than to go to the United States even though there are so many others in this part of the world who despise us.

So Happy Fourth everyone!!  On this day, please join me in being thankful for all we have; in hoping for peace throughout the world; and in living (and giving) out of gratitude for the abundance in our lives rather than a fear of scarcity.
Backyard in our house in Suly

1 comment:

  1. "notwithstanding the failings and shortcomings of my country, including an ill-planned war that has left many victims in the land where I now live"

    Has being in Iraq changed your view at all? I agree it was ill planned, but especially to the Kurds, I would think the prior status quo was less desirable.