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Update on 'Freedom's Phoenix' in Iraq....

Written by Subject: Iraq

Dear Friends and Loved ones, 

On Tuesday we drove 8 hours to the Turkey/Iraq border through mountains, winding roads, and numerous checkpoints.  My smile that has rescued me from several traffic violations came in very useful while answering questions regarding our activities up north! I even snapped a few photos at one checkpoint with the anti-war and IVAW banner, stupid, yes…but oh so difficult to resist such a powerful photo opportunity – you can yell at me when I return home :)

In the region of  Erbil we stopped at a massive grave site.  The grave is the final resting place to approximately 10,000 bodies buried under 500 unmarked tombstones. The victims were murdered in the South around Baghdad during then Anfal Campaign, a genocide that took place against the Kurdish population of Iraq in 1988.  The campaign was under the leadership of Ali Hassan, Sadaam’s cousin, aka “chemical Ali" - 75,000 Kurds were deliberately murdered by chemical attacks, Ariel bombing, and mass executions.  Their remains were transferred up North and now lay to rest at this site. 

On Wednesday I experienced a normal day in the life of an NGO/Human rights worker in a war zone.  The team has been documenting the stories of IDP’s along the Turkey/Iraq border since 2007.  They collected a report that detailed destruction of property, physical harm, and the deaths of civilian victims from Turkish bombing.  We traveled to the village of Kani Masi and met with the Maktar (leader of  the village), mayor of Kani Masi, and a local family to document the current situation and overall comfort of life.  The team first started working with Kani Masi in October of 2008, and it was reported that their crops were destroyed by bombing.  Harvesters refused to work in the village due to the fear of attacks, and this was one of many contributing factors to the poverty of the village.  During our meeting, the Maktur gladly reported that the situation had improved, although the number of IDP familes had increased from 13 to 27 because of the dangers in the South.  They have seen over a 50% increase in refugees seeking shelter in their village because of the situation in Baghdad and Mosul. Our next stop was meeting with the mayor of Kani Masi, who is appointed by the KRG.  He reminded me of a party line republican – he claimed that the reason people were not returning to their villages was because they were lazy and did not want to work after experiencing the “comforts” of city life.  He entertained us to a lovely lunch in his palace-like office and sent us on our way.  Our final stop was with a local Kurdish family that has experienced the firsthand effects of the bombing.  Through Kurdish, Arabic, and a broken English translation he pleaded with our team for help – his people are terrified of bombing because the Turkish military base is only 40km away from their homes.  His brother was tortured by Sadaam’s secret police, and he feels as if his people were freed from an evil dictator only to be delivered into the hands of another oppressor.  It was obviously a very different story from what the young, political mayor had to say.  These people are crying out for the chance to live in peace and it is absolutely aggravating that their voices are not being heard.


On the way home we stopped at an IDP camp 20km outside of Mosul.  The camp is home to Iraqi refugees from the war in the South, Iraqi Kurds, and Turkish Kurds who were accused of associating with PKK "terrorist" activity and therefore forced to flee Turkey.  We heard from about 20 Turkish Kurd refugees who literally begged me to tell their story back home, "we just want peace, we want our rights like every human being."  

It has been a very difficult couple of days, nothing less than I expected.  I wish I had more positive things to tell you, but this update is not peaches and sunshine - I am reporting to you from a war zone.  

Human rights work in Iraq feels like a single drop of rain during a drought.  The good news is that the crops are about to be watered, but it will take several drops to quench its thirst.   I hope my raindrop splashes someone in the eye en route to its crop. 

Tomorrow we hit the bumpy road again and travel to the Iraq/Iran border to meet with leaders of a village that are living in extremely inhumane conditions.  The UNHRC built 90 tents for 130 families, and there is no cooling/heating system for the water.  I wish I had more time here to hear the people's stories and understand the political situation that binds them to live in fear and without basic human rights.  All I can really do now is listen - and prepare for a longer delegation this fall with adequate funds for better media equipment and maybe a few extra brave patriots to join me on this journey. 
I return home Sunday night and then only have a few more days here in the cradle of civilization.  Thank you so much for your love and support,


2 Comments in Response to

Comment by foundZero
Entered on:

Now that is a poster girl!

Comment by Psychictaxi
Entered on:

THANK YOU SO MUCH for those priceless photos!!!



Ed, Editor


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