Saturday, November 12, 2011

A simple explanation of the bombing and shelling of mountain villages of Kurdistan

(Photo credit: Marcus Armstrong)

(Photo credit: Marcus Armstrong)


Two days after I arrived back in Kurdistan (14 October), we closed up the CPT house in Suleymania and headed north on a public bus to join a 4 person delegation. In Ranya we met our bus driver, Aron and his 14- seater bus. Fortunately, there were only 12 of us together with all of our luggage. It made for some squishy travel arrangements when the rain fell and we could not put the baggage onto the roof. But, as I kept reminding them, at least there were no chickens or goats!

The mountains of the Kurdistan are amazing. They are rugged and many shades of brown. There are not many trees. Some reasons for this have been given, including that Sadaam Hussein chopped many trees down to decrease the hiding places for the Peshmerga, Kurdish resistance fighters. After that Sadaam applied sanctions on the Kurds at the same time as they felt the consequences of the sanction on Sadaam and Iraq by the United Nations.  In order to have fuel, they used  wood from remaining trees. Some reforestation has been implemented, but usually there are few trees to be seen.
A wonderful panoramic shot taken with team mate Lukasz
(credit: Marcus Armstrong)


Our trip took us up to the border regions of Kurdistan. The borders of Iran and Turkey have been the site of a lot of bombing and shelling this year. The reasons are plainly stated, but the history is not so easy and uncomplicated.  We have  been tolds that the Kurds are the largest ethnic population without a country of their own. Before World War I they had been living in areas of this region for centuries (and longer). The subsequent treaties and decisions at the end of that conflict split the Kurdish population into bits. Britain drew lines that created the modern borders of Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq right through the Kurdish areas. Out of all of these, the Kurds in Iraq have come out the best. They have been granted the opportunity to have a semi-autonomous government (I understand it as something like our provinces, although that image is probably more wrong, than correct). In the other regions the countries have wanted the Kurds to assimilate and to speak the region's language and to act in the region's way.
The mountains around the village of Suneh where we have accompanied the villagers this Fall
(Photo credit: Patrick  Maxwell (delegate))


This has caused frustration and anger leading to people becoming  resistance fighters- trying to tell the authorities that they don't appreciate being oppressed. These men and women have claimed the mountainous regions as their place of safety and home.  In return  for violence committed by the resistance fighters the leaders have turned to bombing and shelling into the mountainous regions, trying to rout them out and eradicate them.

This is where the villages come into the story.  The mountains have also been the home of small communities of subsistence farmers and nomadic shepherds. Some live in the mountains all summer and fall, then move down to lower latitudes for the snowy months. Others have adequate enough roads and houses that they can hunker down during the cold, preparing for the earliest time they can begin to plow and sow.
We are entering the village of Suneh


The men of Suneh are repairing the corner of the school that was hit by shells this summer. Fortunately, the children were on summer vacation. (credit: Marcus Armstrong)
But, this is when the shelling and bombing begins. As soon as the snow clears and people are on the fields, the planes begin to fly over (from Turkey) and the heavy artillery is pointed their way (from Iran). The vllagers don't know when a rocket or bomb will come close enough to hurt them so they escape from their villages down to the valleys. However, during the time they are away their houses are damaged by the rockets, their crops wither due to lack of frequent irrigation and their opportunity to earn a livelihood disappears. Also, they are forced into tent camps by the side of roads and rivers with minimal provision for their basic needs. In recent days some villages have been directed by the government  to return to their homes from the tent IDP camps. Government workers have forcibly removed all aid such as water tanks and generators. However, other villages are still being heavily bombed so they  are scrambling to create winter-secure tent dwellings as I write this.
Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) tent camp where the families of Suneh spent the end of summer and the Fall.


In my next blog I want to tell a couple of stories of people that we met from these villages. 



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