Apple Harvest and Rockets……Peggy Gish Back in Iraq

Our dear friend Peggy Gish is back in Iraq. Peggy has spent a great deal of time in Iraq the last seven years. In fact over four years on the ground in Iraq. She was in Baghdad before the invasion and was part of the Christian Peace Maker Team that started documenting reports about what was taking place in Abu Gharib late spring of 2003.

Peggy would write at least once every couple of weeks when she was first in Iraq. I was often alarmed to read Peggy’s eye witness reports and then US news would have similar reports months after she had shared what she was hearing and witnessing.

This is Peggy’s latest letter from Iraq.

18 October, 2009
Apple Pickers Flee out of Fear of Bombing
By Peggy Gish

Large clusters of ripe apples clung to and weighted down the branches. Kaka Najeeb, the leader of Merkajia, a Kurdish Iraqi village near the Turkish border, led members of the Iraq team 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 [6 October] 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 (1987-1988), a genocide campaign carried out by Saddam’s regime, this and 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 ‘1990’s they came under intense bombardment and residents were kidnapped and tortured by Turkish soldiers. These attacks resulted in destroyed homes, farmland, livestock, crops and the displacement of hundreds of families.

In recent years, soldiers at the nearby Turkish base, about 12 km inside Iraq side of 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.

The Turkish military claim they are 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 U.S. 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.”

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