The latest letter from Peggy Gish who has been in and out of Iraq since Jan of 2003. She was there during the invasion and has been back many times.
26 February 2009
Guarantees of Concern
By Peggy Gish
Rain poured down as we headed up the windy mountain road to Erbil. The winter’s rainfall had been low in northern Iraq, so it was a welcomed sight. We were driving to meet with UN representatives and two leaders of Kurdish villages in the Chumchee region (in northern Iraq near the Turkish border).
“Yesterday, I was back in my village to do some necessary work, and there wasn’t any time that I didn’t hear bombing,” one of the village leaders told us when we asked them to share about the effects of Turkish attacks. “We have to sneak back in because Turkish intelligence planes flying overhead will target us if they see us. There are up to 50 to 60 bombs in one day.”
“We can’t go home because of continual bombing,” the other village leader added. “There are more than 100 villages in our area, and our people want to return and take their animals back to graze.” He described how the bombing has torn up their agricultural land, destroyed or blocked water and irrigation systems, and has left many unexploded bombs on the ground. “We ask for a guarantee that the bombing and shelling stop so we can go back to do our work.”
This meeting was one step in seeking international support for a plan being formulated by CPT and the displaced villagers, for returning together to their villages. It would start out small—going for part of a day, so that villagers could care for their fruit and nut trees, their land and property. Then step-by-step, our presence could be extended, with the possibility of team members and villagers living together in those previously bombed areas. This might be called a “peace village,” an area in which weapons or violence are prohibited. We could institute a “no-fly zone,” an area of villages being declared off limits for international military recognizance or attacks.
We planned these actions fully aware of recent political agreements among governments of Iraq, Turkey, and Iran to cooperate in targeting Kurdish rebel groups along the border. We refuse to get subverted into politically justifying offensive military attacks in the name of defense and security. We choose to focus on the basic rights of these people, well outlined in international treaties and human rights laws—to be able to live in their homes and carry out their livelihood in safety,
Each one in that room acknowledged that going together into the villages would not guarantee their safety. We however, hope that with greater international attention to the violation of the international human rights of these border residents and the necessity of finding non-military solutions, such a project would decrease the possibility of more attacks.
Just as these simple farmers and shepherds, and the victims of violence in other places of the globe, depend on rain to sustain their lives, so they also need “guarantees” of worldwide concern and willingness to stand with them, so that their ancestral villages can once more become places of sustenance and peace.