Take ownership of your home

Kak Bapir welcoming CPTers at his home village. Photo by: Daan Savert

By: Daan Savert

On Monday May 15th, we as delegates of the CPT Iraqi Kurdistan spring delegation visited Basta, one of the 63 villages in the Pishdar region of Iraqi Kurdistan. We were welcomed by the village leader Kak Bapir and his family. “The people of CPT are no longer guests here,” Kak Bapir said. “So take ownership of your home.”

The civilians of the Pishdar region were displaced during the regime of Saddam Hussein. After the fall of the Ba’ath regime in 2003 the people were glad to come home again. But in 2007 a new period of misery started, when both the Turkish and the Iranian government started to bomb the region. In 2012 Iran stopped bombing, but until today Turkey has continuously been bombing the Pishdar district. The latest bombing took place on April 6, 2017.

One of the camps that was used by the villagers of Basta, while they were fleeing both the Iranian and Turkish governments bombardments. Photo by: Rezhiar Fakhir

Over the last ten years twenty people have been killed and more than one hundred civilian houses have been destroyed. The inhabitants of the Pishdar region have been displaced several times. The people suffer from a loss of animals, destruction of businesses and their agriculture and a delayed electrical project. All of this has resulted in a lot of mental health problems in the region. Because of the bombings there is a lack of teachers, since they are afraid to enter this region.

Basta has always represented peace. During the war between the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the father of Kak Bapir talked with leaders of both parties and made them, after around seventy sessions, sign a peace agreement. The Turkish government claims to target the PKK with their bombings. If these bombings would “help” to defeat the PKK, then they would have been defeated twenty years ago. This is however not the case. The bombings are making life impossible in an area that, because of the great suitability for agriculture, beekeeping and livestock, could produce enough for the whole region.

On Thursday May 18th, we joined Kak Bapir at the Consulate General of the United States of America in Erbil. Kak Bapir asked the Consulate to put pressure on the government of Turkey to stop the bombing of the Pishdar region of Iraqi Kurdistan. We as the delegates of the spring delegation wrote a letter to the Consulate in which we amplified his voice in this important struggle.  Although the political officer, Adam Kotkin, expressed his understanding he kept repeating that Turkey is targeting the PKK, a group that is considered a terrorist organization by the USA. Kak Bapir invited the people of the Consulate to visit Basta, but the officer told him that because of security reasons there would be no chance to take this travel.

“Take ownership of your home.” Somehow these words that Kak Bapir spoke are still ringing in my ears. His hospitality and peaceful presence are a sharp contrast with the violence and injustice that are taking place in the region he is living in. We as the CPT delegation hope that somehow the small steps that are being taken in raising awareness and putting pressure one day will make Kak Bapir and the other inhabitants of the Pishdar district able to finally live in peace in their homes.