Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Apple pickers flee, fearing Turkish bombing in Iraq.

Church of the Brethren member Peggy Gish has returned to her work in Iraq volunteering with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). She is part of a team currently supporting Kurdish villages in northern Iraq that have been threatened by bombings from neighboring Turkey. The following is a report on her work, dated Oct. 24:

"Large clusters of ripe apples weighed down branches as Kaka Najeeb, the leader of Merkajia, a Kurdish Iraqi village near the Turkish border, led members of the Iraq team from Christian Peacemaker Teams through his orchard. 'This is one of the best apple crops we've had,' he said. 'With our hired workers it would take us about a month to complete the harvest. Without help, most of the apples will rot.'

" 'Our workers heard that the Turkish Parliament extended for another year the permission for the Turkish military to continue military strikes against Kurdish rebels in the border mountains,' Najeeb continued. 'So when Turkish military planes flew low over the trees the past three days, the workers believed the planes had come to bomb. They all fled.'

"This is not the first time Merkajia, an Assyrian Christian village, has been attacked. During the Anfal of 1987-88, a genocidal campaign carried out by Saddam Hussein's regime, Merkajia and its surrounding villages were destroyed, and the people scattered to other parts of Iraq. Then after the Kurdish uprising in 1991, the 200 families returned and built a new village uphill from the remains of the old. During the 1990s, Turkish soldiers bombed the villages and kidnapped and tortured the residents. These attacks destroyed homes, farmland, livestock, crops, and displaced hundreds of families.

"In recent years, soldiers at the nearby Turkish base which lies inside Iraq about 12 kilometers from the border, have periodically launched rockets at Merkajia and other villages, usually during the spring or summer harvests. In order to go the nearest town, Kani Masi, residents must pass the Turkish base with its tanks and surveillance equipment. While the people in many of the other Christian and Muslim villages in that region have been afraid to return, a small number of men and a few women continue to stay in Merkajia.

"Turkey claims it is targeting Kurdish rebel fighters who have attacked Turkish soldiers, yet most of their strikes are in these civilian villages and not in the stronghold areas of the rebel group, giving the people reason to believe that one purpose of the attacks is to clear the border areas of residents and destabilize the region.

" 'We are a peaceful people and just want to remain in the village of our ancestors,' another resident told us. 'Turkey does this for military purposes. We are the victims of this war. The US government is supporting Turkey's actions. It doesn't care about the Kurdish people, just about their own purposes and profits. We love the American people, but not the American government and what it does.'

" 'Please raise our voices to the people of the world. Do what you can to stop this bombing,' Najeeb exclaimed. 'Our apples and crops would provide for all we need to be happy here, if we are allowed to live and work here in peace.'"

(Find out more about the work of CPT, originally begun as an initiative of the three Historic Peace Churches (Church of the Brethren, Mennonites, and Quakers) at

Source: 11/18/2009 Newsline

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