Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Celebrating Earth Day in Sulaimani- the first Green Music and Arts Festival

I wrote this reflection for CPT Net. But I will post it on my blog too.

...live justly and peaceably with all creation

CPT Iraqi Kurdistan Reflection

“A world of communities that together embrace the diversity of the
human family and live justly and peaceably with all creation.”
I had CPT’s new vision statement in mind as I set out on the half hour
walk to Sulaimani’s Azadi Park. The dust storm of the night before had
blown away, leaving behind a cool breeze and hot sun.

CPT Iraqi Kurdistan’s friend Anna Bachman  who works with Nature Iraq
had informed us of the first “Green Music and Arts Festival.” I
offered to arrive at the site early to help with set up.

Nature Iraq and the other sponsoring organizations know that Kurdistan
is struggling with the concept of caring for all creation. War and
oppression came upon the region around the same time as companies
decided that packaging food in plastic was a good thing to do.  The
citizens did not know what to do with all these containers. One person
has said to me, “but they can just lie there, the sun will make it go
away.”  Meanwhile the landscape and rivers are littered with the

Now, in 2012 life seems to be pretty good here. The economy has
improved symbolized by large amounts of construction with concrete
cinderblocks which are created on the edge of rivers, as well as many
more vehicles on the roads, leading to more air pollution.

An unusual sight in Iraqi Kurdistan. The sign reads, "please don't eat me". The owner learned about being vegan on the internet.

The security police  were there enjoying the sunshine and music.Maybe they were thinking that enviromental revolution might break out.

The organizers hoped that the Green Festival would bring some of these
issues to the attention of the Kurds of Sulaimani. And they were
successful. Around 2000 people left their leisurely stroll around the
park to listen to Kurdish and American music and look at the displays.
They were able to see that the ubiquitous 250 millilitre water bottle
could be threaded onto a wooden frame to create a green house. They
heard from high school students that wind and solar power are
something that could be considered in this region. They saw the
advantages of placing trash into receptacles that would go to the
dump. They were reminded by the many nature photographs and paintings
that their region has so much beauty that must be maintained.

Me getting acquainted with the rubbish person made by children in one of Sulaimani's Arabic refugee camps.

Putting up the 250 ml water bottle greenhouse

Yet, as I walked around the exhibits I saw one that would not be
present at the Earth Day festivals in Canada. The Mine Action
Professional Organization had created a simulated minefield with about
100 different kinds of defused mines and bombs.   They wanted the
citizens to remember that there are still around 7 million mines left
over from the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980’s. The exhibitor told me that
there have been 14,000 victims since 1991 and education is the only
reason this has decreased to only 40 incidents in 2011. I thought of
our partners in the mountains who face these land mines  on a daily

The lack of financial resources which have been put into just
surviving, the lack of psychic energy to think of what to do with the
plethora of plastic and other pollutants, and the dangerous residual
evidence of a time of war, are all factors that leads to a region
struggling to become reacquainted with the land.

A beautiful Kurdish sunset on the way home.

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