They gave us the keys to their homes

“They gave us the keys to their homes.” Neighboring Christian and Muslim villages help each other during bombing attacks.

Asmar with our team member Julie Brown. Photo by: Peggy Gish.

By Peggy Gish

Seventy-year-old Asmar, grabbed my hand and welcomed us enthusiastically into the home she shares with her son and village leader, Khan Avdal Muhammed Sdia, his wife, Bilmas, and their children, in the village of Dupre, nestled in the mountains in the Dinarta sub-district in Iraqi Kurdistan. As we drank tea and ate almonds and cashews from their trees, they told our team about the recent round of bombing of their village on May 20, 2016.

Turkey had bombed in the areas around the village in the past, but this was the first time the bombs came inside the village. An estimated 56 bombs hit the ground in over an hour and half in the middle of the night when villagers were sleeping. No one was injured or killed. Homes weren’t directly targeted, but fragments of bombs damaged thirteen homes, tore a hole through the roof of one, shattered windows throughout the village, cut power lines, and killed over thirty-two animals.

 Photo by: Peggy Gish.

Photo by: Peggy Gish.

“It was frightening for everyone,” Khan told us. “If some of the families didn’t move from rooms in the outer parts of the house to sleep in more central rooms that night, many could have been killed. We all left the village and stayed away for twenty days. The children weren’t able to complete their school exams.”   “Even now,” Asmar added, “when I hear planes fly over our village at night, I get scared.''

 

Kkan said that members of the PKK (Kurdistan ‘Worker’s Party) were not in the area around their village, even though Turkey claimed that was the reason for the bombing. “This conflict has been going on for a long time, but we want our voice to be clear for a peaceful resolution.  When that happens we will be able to manage our lives well.  It was hard for me to be on duty recently as a Peshmerga on the frontlines against Daesh (ISIS) and worried about whether my own home and family would be bombed here.”

Children gather around. Photo by: Peggy Gish.

After walking around the village where other residents showed us the damages to their buildings, we walked up the hill. Children followed us, timidly at first, but then playfully posed for our pictures. From there we looked out over the rice fields, vegetable gardens and fruit and nut trees. On the other side of these fields we saw the village of Kashkawa.

“Kashkawa is a Christian village, and in Dupre, we are all Muslim,” Khan told us, “but for over 100 years we have been living side-by-side with very good relations. Kashkawa is where we ran in the morning after the bombing and then stayed for twenty days. Our Christian neighbors gave us keys to their houses so we could come and stay there whenever we felt in danger. We would do the same for them if their village had been targeted. We are not divided by differences of religion, but feel like one family.”

Kashkawa village in back left, Dupre village in front right. Photo by: Peggy Gish.