CPTers demand action to protect Kurdish civilians


On Wednesday 8 October, representatives from eight countries gathered outside the Monument of Halabja Martyrs for a silent vigil demanding action from the international community to protect innocent civilians threatened by ISIS.  Many of the representatives were members of a delegation with the international human rights organization Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), who are spending two weeks learning about the situation in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Holding signs reading, “We Saw Halabja and Shangal, Now It's Time for Peace,” and “Kobani,” the demonstrators called attention to history’s repeated international failures to protect the Kurdish people from genocide and displacement.

16 March 1988, Iraqi forces murdered 5,000 Kurds in the city of Halabja with mustard and nerve gas purchased from Germany.  It was the largest chemical weapons attack against a civilian population in history.  The attack occurred as part of Saddam's genocidal Al-Anfal Campaign against the Kurdish people, and the international community remained silent.

Protestors drew explicit connections between the massacre in Halabja, the massacre of Ezidi* people on Mount Shangal (“Sinjar” in Arabic) by ISIS in August of this year, and the current crisis in Kobani.  Vanessa Powell from Australia said, “Every generation, the Kurdish people face violence and displacement and people across the world do not stand with them.  Our governments need to do more to ensure that Kobani does not become another Sinjar, or another Halabja.

”The city of Kobani in Syria has been under siege by ISIS since 16 September, causing hundreds of thousands of Syrian Kurds to flee into Turkey.  International support for refugees has been minimal, and the Turkish government has used water cannons on refugees protesting for better treatment.

Members of the CPT delegation spent the previous week meeting with Ezidi IDPs across Iraqi Kurdistan.  They promised to return to their home countries—Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, the United States, Canada, Australia, and Iraqi Kurdistan—and raise the voices of those displaced by ISIS violence.  Jonas Jung from Germany added, “IDP camps in Kurdistan grow every day. 

Thousands of Ezidi women are still held hostage by ISIS. If the international community does not take this situation seriously, and take serious steps to undermine ISIS, we will be guilty of allowing genocide to occur all over again.”

Christian Peacemaker Teams is an international human rights and peacemaking organization with teams all across the world.  It is dedicated to building relationships to transform violence and oppression.

*The Ezidi people prefer this name for themselves to “Yazidi.”