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Letter from Iraq – ‘bombing or flooding?’

Pur Aish sits in the thin walled tent, her new accommodation.

Recent tweets by US President have led to Turkish bombing in Northern Syria beginning another refugee crisis. However Turkish bombing of Kurds has been ongoing in the region for some years. In September 2019 Australian community worker, Rebekah Dowling returned to a Kurdish community in Northern Iraq. Since arriving Bek has written several articles. We include here Bombing or Flooding? about events that go unreported
Editor
October 2019

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Bombing or Flooding?

Displaced students from Zewka, try to keep up with their studies in desperate conditions.
“If we go back, we will be bombed; if we stay here, we will be flooded,” Pur Aish [Auntie]  told CPT. “What kind of choice is that? What did we do?” she asked. She was speaking about her village called Zewka, in Iraqi Kurdistan near the Iranian border, after the whole village was displaced by bombing.

Turkish Air Force warplanes and drones bombed Zewka 24 times overnight on September 26.

The next morning all 20 families, about 100 children, women, and men, fled from their village down the mountain, with only the belongings they could carry. Some tents were provided which they set up on the rocky ground along a river.   

Pur Aish explained that autumn rains and winter snows will soon make it too dangerous to remain in this makeshift camp. Yet the threat of Turkish bombardment makes it too dangerous to return to their homes in the mountainside village. 

This was the third time Zewka has been displaced by bombardment since 2011. But it was the first time they have been bombed by Turkey. Zewka is located near an Iranian military outpost on the Iraqi Kurdistan side of the mountain. Previously they have been bombarded by the Iranian military.   

A displaced village also means a displaced school. Two small tents, three white boards, and nine desks were provided for the children’s school. They are taught under the flimsy canvas or at desks by the river. Any rain means school is cancelled and the children are told to stay home.   

CPT team members, Kamaran Osman and Weldon Nisly, visited the village on October 19. They met teacher Awat, the Zewka school headmaster, in the city of Qaladze, who rode with them to the displaced village and school.

Due to lack of space, two girls from Zewka sit at a desk outside, near the soon to be flooded river.

The school’s four teachers, including teacher Awat, live in Qaladze and drive the hour-long trip over the mountain early each morning in time for school to begin at 8:00 a.m. At noon the classes end and the teachers begin the tiring journey home again.

The teachers spend most of their meager salary on transportation to and from the camp. They pooled their money to purchase a 1980s four-wheel-drive Toyota to drive across the mountain in all but the worst weather. They know that if they don’t show up, the children will not have school. “I am coming here to teach because I love these students,” one teacher explained. The other teachers echoed his sentiment. They all vowed to continue teaching the children in this makeshift school. 

How is it possible for these children to learn in this life-threatening situation?

The teachers emphasized how hard it is for children to learn when they are traumatised by bombings and displacement. “How is it possible for these children to learn in this life-threatening situation?” Teacher Pishdar asked CPT. Another teacher expressed their concern, saying, “The children of Zewka need a safe and stable school with adequate resources so they can get the education they deserve.” 

Water is another significant concern for the displaced village. Their primary source of water is the river, which is polluted with human and animal waste. They drink the river  water and use it to cook, wash dishes and clothes, and bathe their children. Their children often play in the river and are suffering from skin rashes and diseases. 

CPT team, Kamaran and Weldon, stand with the students and staff of the displaced village school.

Zewka village calls on Turkey to stop bombing. They also call upon their own government and international humanitarian agencies to provide aid so they no longer face the terrible choice of being bombed or being flooded. 

CPT echoes the people of Zewka, calling on the international community to tell Turkey to stop bombing them and all others who suffer the ravages of war.

Rebekah Dowling
September 2019

References
Other articles include one about Turkish bombings of Hezanke (below) as well as published a reflection that she helped write earlier in the year with a Sr Rosemarie who was a reservist with our team.

The most recent article released was written by my team mate, Weldon, a Mennonite pastor from the USA, about a village that was displaced last month because of the cross-border bombings.

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