Women in Bastan Village, Kurdistan

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Between politics, culture, nature and religion in Iraqi-Kurdistan

This week has evolved in a series of diverse events. If you want to know what a week in North Iraq’s Kurdistan Region looks like, here it goes: on a single week I have been to the court, the church, the mountains and to a music hall here in Suleimaniya. Sounds like busy fun, huh!  I was in the court to follow an honor killing case, to a reception for the new Chaldean Catholic Patriarch, to a concert featuring Kurdish String Ensemble, and to the mountains were Kurdish Peshmerga fought Saddam and families took refuge from constant bombings; while at the same time, tenth of thousands of Iraqis demonstrating on the streets against government sectarian divisions and unjust treatment of Sunni Muslim minorities in Iraq. ANd one cannot be in this region and not follow closely what is happening in Syria.....Stressed, who, me?

On Monday, I was in Suleimaniya’s court for the hearing of a case of a young woman murdered by her father on February 2012. Her name was Sakar and she was a 28 year-old teacher. The case of Sakar mobilized activists and women rights organizations who started a long advocacy campaign. Supported by more than 60 human rights organizations and activists in Kurdistan, this yearlong campaign has featured demonstrations, TV, radio and newspaper coverage together with meetings with the government to denounce violence against women and demand accountability from the government. Our efforts gained the attention of the Prime Minister and the eventual re-arrest of the father, after he was released last September.

The same week, I was invited to a reception for the new patriarch of the Catholic Chaldean church, Luis Sako, who was until then Kirkuk’s bishop. This celebration contrasts last week news of the pope’s resignation. Patriarch Sako gave a touching but pragmatic speech about tolerance and the need to work together for a pluralistic Iraq. He has a tough task in front of him of building the bridge  uniting Iraq.

Patriarch Sako, after his address followed by the wife of Iraq's president Khero Talabani. 

On Valentine’s Day, I attended a concert featuring the Kurdish String Ensemble and Tara Shaf, a famous Kurdish singer that with her beautiful voice together with the harp gifted the public with traditional Kurdish songs. It was nice to see that there were young and old enjoying classical music here in Suleimaniya.

It’s starting to look like spring, and on Friday we went for a hike in a nearby village, like 40 minutes from the city. We walked through amazing nature, also full of history: this place was once the shelter during Saddam’s attack of the Kurds during the 1980’s and the Iran-Iraq war. One of our colleagues showed us a small cave were he and his family used to hide for 7 months in a time of constant shelling. It was hard to believe that among all the beauty, there is also a story of war and suffering. As the saying goes the Kurds have “No friend but the mountains”.  
Beautiful views even before Spring starts
All that happened on the backdrop of tenths of thousands of Iraqis protesting on the western provinces of Iraq, against what they see as sectarian division and corruption. The demonstrations, which have been ongoing for nearly two months, have consistently urged for the ouster of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki while criticizing the alleged targeting of minority Sunnis by the Shiite-led authorities. The protest have been taking place on Friday’s after prayers on the cities of Anbar, Ramadi, Fallujah, Mosul and Samarra, and the protestors have been threatening to take them into the capital Baghdad. SO far, the government has imposed movement restriction in major cities on Fridays. Civil society organizations in Baghdad went to visit the protesters last week and to show support for their demands, saying that the government should respect the right of protestors to demonstrate freely. Provincial elections are scheduled for April and as tensions are escalating, there is increased fear of protests turning violent. I don't want Iraq to turn into a Syria like war. Iraqis have seen enough blood, war and suffering for the last 30 years...

Thousands demonstrate in the western province of Iraq, could this be the beginning of a Syria like civil war?

Staying warm after a long hike

No comments:

Post a Comment