By Amy Peters
In the last weeks of 2011, the United States officially withdrew the last of its troops from Iraq. Within a couple of days, news reports from Baghdad were filled with more violence, death and destruction. On December 22, a series of bomb attacks killed 63 people in the capital city. These events seemed to confirm speculation that conditions in Iraq will worsen with the departure of U.S. troops.
We in CPT have been curious about the thoughts and feelings of Kurdish people on the current situation in Iraq. One person told me, “The Kurdish people do not like that the Americans are leaving. They came without a plan, but now they are leaving and there is still no plan.” Because of this, many people in Iraq think that civil war is inevitable.
Another person told me that there is no foundation for peace, that “this land is like magma, ready to erupt, the ground is ready for war”. I heard similar thoughts from a high school student and a lawyer.
I have not seen U.S. soldiers in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, and so sometimes I have a hard time believing that their departure will have a big impact here. When I say this, Kurds respond, “It will be worse in the south, but anything that affects southern Iraq will be felt in the North. The central government still controls us. If it is unstable, we will be too.”
Kurdistan is a region that has survived chemical bombing and genocidal campaigns, and continues to endure cross-border attacks. Most recently, on December 29, while most people were preparing for New Year’s celebrations, Turkish warplanes killed 35 young people along the Turkey-Iraq border.
War has been a lifelong lesson for the Kurdish people. So now it seems their automatic response is, “You can’t talk about peace in war time. War forces you to reorganize your whole life. We know war. We have learned it.” We speculate on the year to come and wonder if this year will see a continuation of violence and oppression. But we continue to work and live in the hope that this year can be the one that challenges history and shows us all new ways of doing things.