Currently, I’m with the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and Christian Peacemaker Teams on a delegation in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Today, we visited the Red Prison in the morning. Below is the blogpost I wrote for the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. It didn’t hit me until later in the afternoon how drained I was from the experience.
Before coming on this delegation, we were not given a detailed schedule of our 13-day stay. Rather we were told to prepare emotionally. Our CPT delegation coordinator, Terra, explained that this trip will affect our whole being: emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I did my best to prepare for such things before leaving by spending time with friends and re-watching some of my favorite episodes of my beloved Frasier. Yet, today, on the second day of our delegation, I was so emotionally drained from going to and learning about the Red Prison that I had to take a two-hour nap
The Red Prison is just one of the locations Saddam’s regime set up to torture and execute Kurdish people. The facility was built in 1979 and was in full use from 1984-1991. On our tour, we saw where they imprisoned young Kurds. In their cell, there were several depictions of Batman on the wall. Possibly a sign of looking for a superhero to save them from this hellish experience. Notice how Batman’s arms are open wide and that he’s smiling.
We listened to how women and children were kept in the same space. That many of the women were raped and had to birth and raise their children in such wretched conditions.
We saw how each room had a bowl on the ground for the Kurds to eat like dogs and how they were forced to 10 second bathroom breaks.
It’s not that I didn’t know that Saddam Hussein was a horrible dictator who should’ve been captured. These impermissible acts of violence, abuse, and torture are evil. It’s that I wonder why the US did not speak out earlier against these crimes against the Kurds, but that we had to occupy Iraq two decades later (2003-2011(?)). The problem is that the US gave monetary resources and chemical weapons to Iraq during this time. This was during the same time of the Iraq-Iran War (1980-1988) and the Reagan administration wanted to be sure that Iraq would win. This led to the killing of thousands of Kurds using chemical weapons in Halabja and hundreds of Kurdish villages were bombed to non-existence. From 1984-1991, hundreds of thousands of Kurdish people were killed, hundreds of thousands more tortured, and millions displaced.
Kurdish blood stained the floors of the torture rooms. Kurdish blood has stained my heart and memory. May we as peacemakers put an end to torture and executions. May we continue to lift up and remember those who have been murdered with the help of our government. May we, with God’s help, create a world where people are treated with dignity and reparations abundant.
In the afternoon, we met with Mullah Nadar, who is an interfaith peacemaking Muslim leader of Iraqi Kurdistan. He was a joy to listen to. One of the reasons he became non-violent was that he saw his family killed by chemical weapons before his very eyes and understood that violence cannot disrupt violence, only peace can.
Over the next four days we’ll be in the Kurdish mountains with spotty internet access. Keep us on your mind and in your prayers.