Barbara Briggs-Letson, an activist with Code Pink and Campaign Nonviolence, is currently visiting Iraqi Kurdistan with a Christian Peacemaker Team delegation during the Campaign Nonviolence Week of Actions 2017. Barbara has sent in several photos during her visit which we’ve posted below.
Barbara wrote on Sept 14th, “We began our 12 days in Iraqi Kurdistan by visiting the cite of Saddam’s use of chemical weapons on his own people in the city of Halabja in 1988. People from the city, including a survivor whose whole family was killed joined us to ask for peace.”
CPT shared this on their Facebook page, “Our CPT Iraqi Kurdistan September Delegation arrived on the 12th of September. Delegation started with an orientation on Kurdish history, culture and language, which was followed by a traditional Kurdish meal.The following day CPT delegation in Iraqi Kurdistan visited the memorial in Halajba. On March 16, 1988, the Iraqi regime bombed Halajba, using chemical weapons. Upwards of 6000 people were killed. The chemicals were originally produced by France, Netherlands, and US. After speaking to a survivor of the attack he asked the delegates not to apologise for their government’s complicity but rather work to make sure this never happens again to anyone. Sadly these attacks are still a reality in our world. We call on the CPT community to ensure their investments are not involved in weapons manufacturing.”
“On September 23rd, just two days before Iraqi Kurdistan was scheduled to vote on a referendum for independence from Iraq, the village of Bine Rashkin was shelled by the Iranian military. Bine Rashkin sits close to the Iranian border in the Sidakan district of Iraqi Kurdistan. Rashad, a CPT partner whose village is also located in Sidakan called during the shelling saying, “ Iran is dropping bombs everywhere. It is close to the houses and everything is on fire.”
On September 27th CPT visited the area with Rashad as our guide. He explained to us that one woman was badly wounded and in critical condition in the hospital and offered to take us to her house.
When we arrived at the woman’s home, Kak Idris Saadi, a family member, talked to CPT about the events of the 23rd and the the woman’s condition. She had been home with her five-year-old son when the attack took place. A shell landed about five meters from her home and the blast blew out all of the windows and sent shrapnel tearing through the house. The woman was severely injured as shrapnel and glass from the explosion lodged within her body along one side. She was rushed to a local hospital by other villagers fleeing the bombing but her five-year-old son was nowhere to be found. Hours later her son was located in a nearby village. Someone had helped evacuate him during the bombings and he was reunited with his family. The woman had to be transferred to the main hospital in the capital city of Erbil due to the extreme nature of her injuries. Kak Idris told CPT that she is still in Erbil in critical condition waiting to find a hospital that can perform a major surgery to remove fragments in her spine as well as an organization that can help with medical expenses.
As Kak Idris was sharing these details, he walked us around the home that was targeted. The windows had just been repaired and family members were working hard to fill the hundreds of holes on the exterior of the home. The house and roof were covered in mud. Kak Idris explained that the shell had landed in the small stream in the yard. When it exploded it sent mud and earth flying everywhere. He also said that if it hadn’t been for this small stream, things would have been even worse.
Villagers believe that the attack was a message from Iran to people in the area not to vote in the Kurdish referendum. Iran has been shelling these areas for years targeting armed groups. This attack was different because villagers say there had been no recent activities in the area to warrant a response from the Iranian military and previous attacks happened outside the village of Bine Rashkin.”
You can follow there journey via the CPT Iraqi Kurdistan Facebook page here.