"We are writing history..."
On August 15th, CPTers visited an ancient village built beautifully on a mountain side. Dark moss covered stones formed the pathways between the gardens and they were lined with old leaning trees covered with abundance of fruit ready for harvest. Oral tradition places the existence of the Gullan village into the pre-Islamic times. The age and wonder breathed out from each stone and plant. Wisdom and joy of life emanated from words spoken and smiles exchanged. The lovely lunch was all village produced food. We drank tea with kak Latif and Pshtiwan who shared their worries of the village's future. “Our ancestors have lived here and worked on this land for centuries but now we are afraid that our water sources will soon be destroyed and we will have to leave this place.”
A U.S.-based multi-national corporation has started to drill for oil above the village, in the same way as they do around other villages in the area. If the company builds up a well, the oil exploitation process will eventually contaminate the water that sustains two dozen villages. Both our hosts came from the Gullan village. Latif is a law college graduate and Pshtiwan attends the College of Islamic science. Together with friends, they have started an activist group named
Council for environmental protection and common rights.
That day was going to see their first public action. They planned to gather villagers at the crossroads in Sarkapkan, a nearby town, and invited media to amplify their demands to the government to withdraw the permits for the oil explorations. According to the group the government representatives signed the contracts with the company without the village resident's agreement. The villagers want the company to leave. “We are a peaceful community and would like to work against the company in a peaceful way. We try to speak in one voice.” The group asked CPT to accompany them.
At the afternoon action, over a hundred villagers of all ages, mostly men, gathered. CPT was the only international organization present. At first people stood at the side of the road but as they saw the oil company trucks returning from the work sites, they threw wooden logs in the middle of the road and blocked all the traffic. Holding banners, such as: “The beauty and abundance of our land is our oil” and “Do not destroy our environment for the leaders' pockets”, the villagers spoke to the media, both independent and political parties' affiliated. The villagers maintained the blockade for about an hour until the armed government forces arrived and cleared the way first for the private cars and later also for the oil company trucks.
A company representative arrived with a group of security guards and met with the villagers in a nearby mosque. He told the villagers what they already knew: that the company works under the government given permission.
One of the villagers told a CPTer: “Today was the first time we were able to gather and act like this together. We are writing history.”