Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Photos taken from "Protest Camp for Stolen Women and Children Face Book page and CPT Iraqi Kurdistan)

Today as I sit in Quito, Ecudor as a participant in the  Christian Peacemaker Teams bi- annual gathering, messages are coming from both of my communities on two sides of the world. The calls have similar themes: sisters are being stolen; violence against women must be investigated; violence against women must stop.
From Sulaimani, Iraqi Kurdistan, where my CPT team has been working with our partners in the situation of thousands of displaced minority groups came  a call from the Kurdish women’s group, Jian (life). . They proclaimed Sunday Agust 24 as a day for a civil demonstration on behalf of the Yazidi women who have been captured and enslaved in the city of Mosul by members of the militant group known as  IS (Islamic State). Clandestine phone calls from a few of these women spoke of desperate conditions and  horrific abusive treatment. They told of  women and girls being forced to become wives of fighters and others sold into slavery. 

Sixty activists from several women’s organisations and other civil society groups gathered in front of the United Nations office in the capital city of Hawler/Erbil. They demanded that the U.N. do more to help the Yazidi women and girls who are enslaved by the militant group. At the end of the march several activists were able to take their message into the U.N. building to ask the representatives and the Kurdish Regional Government to act on this emergency and to take urgent measures to help the vulnerable women.

Stop ISIS Brutalizing Against Yazidi Girls

U.N., Take Action, Our Women and Girls are Enslaved,”
Speaking to the media 

At the same time, in  Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada  a group of Anishnabe women have created a protest camp on a strip of land outside the Manitoba government legislature. They are saying to the Canadian government  that they have waited long enough for an investigation regarding the 1,200 missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada.
 The impetus for this protest is the murder of 15 year old Tina Fontaine, whose body was found wrapped in a plastic bag in the Red River two weeks ago. The Canadian federal government still refuses to acknowledge that the numbers of missing and murdered indigenous women are important enough to declare a national inquiry. As Justice Minister Peter MacKay rejected calls for an inquiry, he said "the government is addressing the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women in other ways." Yet, the indigenous women of Canada are still disappearing and are sometimes found as bodies without life.

These are messages from the women of two minority cultures. They echo each other across the world-women are being treated as rubbish, something to be used and thrown away. This must stop. The world must take seriously the cries and work to create safety for the women: the Yazidi women in Northern Iraq and the Aboriginal women of Canada.

Speaking with the media

The Protest tent camp (photo credit- Chris Swan)

* **“Is now the time to make that change? Is now the time we say no sisters more stolen? We say that violence against women must stop. And if we go home and do nothing about this it’s a missed opportunity,” -----Wab Kinew. (Canadian Indigenous musician)

Sunday, August 3, 2014

On the bus to Sagkeeng I looked up and saw a Kurdish man's hat...

A few weeks ago I and my CPT colleague, Peter Haresnape, were invited to join a day away to the First Nation community of Sagkeeng. The main participants of the trip were some of the members of a Genocide scholars conference being held in Winnipeg.

Peter and I made the 730 am deadline to meet the bus and sat and waited for it to fill up. I looked up from my early morning daze  and saw a very familiar head covering, a black and white cap with  a black and white scarf coiled around it. I wracked my brain- did I know of any other culture that might wear such a distinctive cap? As another man joined him with a Kurdish flag wrapped around his shoulders my thoughts were confirmed. By the time the bus headed out for the highway there were 6 Kurdish men on my bus. (along with scholars from many other  countries).

I knew that I had to make contact (and let them know that I was understanding a bit of what they were saying). After a short conversation in Sorani Kurdish I was given three books in English about the Anfal as well as the Darsim Massacre in Turkey (1937-38). The men belonged to a coalition from the capital city, Hawler/Erbil, including the organisation, Kurdistan Without Genocide.

Peter took a photo as I went to speak to one of the men. The man with the flag
 around his neck is up ahead of us.

Two parts of my world collided (I live 6 months per year in Winnipeg and 6 months in Iraqi Kurdistan). I couldn't help thinking about the similarities between the histories of colonisation for the indigenous peoples in Canada and the indigenous peoples of Kurdistan.
-both had boundaries and borders imposed upon them
-both have had the languages and cultural practises and spirituality condemned and banned
-both have been forced out of their traditional lands and into collective towns/reserves.
-both have endured extermination of thousands of their people by fast and slow genocide.
-both live in resource rich lands--but many of their people ask to retain the treasure of what is beautiful and natural and pure: the water, the plants, the trees, the subsistence agriculture.
-they are both resilient people who are reclaiming what makes them First Nations and Kurds.

As we entered the grounds of Turtle Lodge at Sagkeeng First Nation, the Kurdish men posed for a photo with the flag. Diem who had invited us on this trip is on the left of the photo.

As part of the pipe ceremony we took small pouches of tobacco to tie on a tree. Here is one of the Kurdish men beside Norman Meade who wears the symbol of the Metis Nation.

Turtle Lodge and the tobacco ties on the tree.

As the drummers sang the closing song I saw the Kurdish men tapping their feet 
ready to break into dance. 

After a meal of traditional  stew, wild rice and blueberry cake we all received gifts: a braid 
of sweet grass and a small drum with a turtle painted on it.

Below is a  TV news report of the day by APTN news station.

Genocide scholars visit Sagkeeng First Nation to talk residential schools