January 31, 2008, Letter
Dear Friends, Family and All Good People,
We have had lots of snow and rain the last few days here in the mountain bowl of Suleimaniya. There have been changes voted in the Iraqi flag, primarily because of concerns raised by Kurds. I have yet to see one of the new flags flying anywhere. I stopped at a tailor's shop two days ago and asked about it. He had one of the new flags draped over his counter, but when I asked whether Kurds would use it, he responded, "They are likely to fly the Kurdish flag with the new Iraqi flag if they use it."
Remember the roller coaster I mentioned Sunday? We are still riding it. Yesterday the one-month visa we had been granted was taken back. Instead the residency office told us to go buy tickets, then return to have our passports stamped with a seven-day exit visa. We have to go immediately. No one would say why or who ordered this deed. After lots of searching and asking questions of different levels in the Kurdish government, of Kurdish and international NGOs, and of US officials here in the KRG, we are 99% clear that the US government at some level has made this decision and asked the Kurdish officials to implement it.
Who? Probably the US State Department, but it could be the Hostage Working Group in the Baghdad Green Zone, FBI, or Department of Defense. Why? Would you like to venture some guesses? I suspect it is because we have been raising concerns about the US-supported bombing of Kurdish villages by Turkey. It may be something related to the kidnapping CPT went through about one year ago, although the Kurdish security forces who took the brunt of that have laid it behind them. As I said to the official at the Ministry of the Interior this morning, "Maybe the United States doesn't like one of my colleagues, Peggy, Anita or Michele."
CPT is working in Washington, DC, with legislators to uncover the appropriate agency and then try to get this action changed. This could be the end of CPT presence in Iraq for now. That would be sad because I feel our presence has been able to provide an important on-the-ground perspective of the US occupation of Iraq.
I will sign out of this letter and back in to paste in the Kurdish and Arabic translations of the Open Letter CPT sent to US officials to voice our concerns about the way the United States supported the Turkish bombing of Kurdish civilian villages.
Blessings of peace to your families and to your enemies!