Saturday, February 25, 2012

Anniversaries and Memorials

The snow-covered Goyja Mountains towered above the valley that holds Suleymania. The mourners felt the bitter wind despite the bright sunshine. It seemed to symbolise the grief that the families still are feeling very strongly. It has been one year- the hardest year in the life of 10 families. Yet, they have gathered together. One sister reported on TV that they have become support for each other. They are attending each other's son's memorials. They are being there for each other.

This past week has been a week of anniversaries and rememberings here in Suleymania. I was not here yet, but 17 February, 2011 was the day when the 62 days of demonstrations began in the main city square. It was also the day of the first death of a young man who was part of the crowd. The deaths went on throughout the 62 days. Five died in Suleymania, one in nearby Chamchomal, Kalar and three others in Halabja.

CPT Iraq walked with the families in an action planned by a local artist on Valentine’s day to commemorate lost lives and loves.

School friends arrive at the cemetery to remember Surkiu.

 On 17 February, we attended the remembering at the cemetery for Rezhwaan. Two days later we watched just outside the gates as the families gathered at Surkiu’s graveside. We noticed two plainclothes Asaish officers who were watching from the same position as us. They are quite noticeable in their black leather jackets, cell phones and prayer beads. A couple of truckloads of uniformed security officers drove by as well. Maybe it is because Surkiu’s father had stated on radio that he wanted this to be a gathering for those who wanted to remember the demonstrations of last year.. The authorities were  not allowing this to happen in the square*, so he wanted people to come to the cemetery instead.
Rezhwaan's grave

 This tiny girl was taking tiny pieces of mud and pressing  them onto the side of a grave.
People were given photos of all 5 of the young men from Suleymania
A photo of 12 yr old Germian from Chamchamal

*Several Facebook sites called for people to come to Maidan Sara (Sara Square) on February 17, 2012. But the security forces obviously read social networking sites too. When our team got to the square at 11:30 it was ringed at least two times by security forces carrying PVC batons. They were not letting ANYONE even look like they were going to use a camera. A young friend was going to get a haircut, saw the forces and decided to take a snapshot. He landed in jail for the day. He is not an activist and was very embarrassed about the situation. Another journalist friend was beaten and dragged off to prison. He is not intimidated. Everyone was released the same day.

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