Those who hunger for righteousness

In the late afternoon of Friday, November 23, we received a call from a friend and partner in the Federation of Civil Societies, an organization of Sulaimani NGO's( of which CPT is part of), inviting us to a gathering in front of the Kurdistan Parliament Sulaimani Offices.  A group of 6 physically  disabled men were on the 4th day of a hunger strike. Would CPT come and stand with them for a while? Though it was a day off, two of us quickly agreed to attend. As we pulled up to the area, we noticed an ambulance and in time saw two of the men taken to the hospital. They both returned later in the night. The men had not been eating or drinking up to this point, were preparing to begin a liquid only fast and had to be given intravaneous solutions first.

We sat in the tent with the group for some time. At one point, my friend from the Federation asked me if I could come back the following evening and bring the guitar and sing for the group. I agreed and did so.

That second evening, I walked home afterwards buoyed by the experience. When I had arrived at the tent, there were the six men , calling themselves the Disabled Group, and one of their friends. No press, no cameras no fanfare. We sat about the kerosene heater and drank hot banana milk, listened to an aged New York folk rocker play music and at least for myself, felt happily content.

Walking home, I felt this is why I had come to Kurdistan. I know I can't change the world. I've given up even thinking I can. But I can show up. I can sit with those who stand, as best they can for non-violent change. who invite others to join them in their struggle.

These men, seeking better conditions for the one hundred twenty five thousand disabled in the KRG and the disputed areas, vow to not eat until Parliament agrees to their demands.  They will remain camped in front of the parliament building, building their own community.

They speak very little English,  and I speak no Kurdish. Yet, every night I enter the tent, I am greeted and given a comfortable seat on the ground and made to feel one of the family. I am always amazed at the hospitality of the people here in the Middle East, perhaps more so in this tent, by six friends on a hunger strike.

I promised myself I would try to visit each day, if possible. Each day so far, I have done so, with others from the team or another friend, or by myself. We sit and laugh and smile and cry. We look at each other. We hold hands.

Each day I ask if they are feeling ok. I ask if anyone from parliament has visited them. They are fine but no one from parliament has come. And I only feel sadness for those who do not come because they do not realize what a wonderous gift awaits them within that tent.

By Bud Courtney