On February 5, 2008 Christine and I were treated to a special invitation. Yunis and Jamilla, a Kurdish couple with whom we have come to know quite well in the past two years had us to their home for a meal and a most enjoyable and enlightening visit.
We were treated to a delicious meal of ethnic Kurdish cuisine including their well known “Nane-tanik (a type of pita bread) and “Dolma ”(mixture of meat, rice, and vegetables wrapped in Swiss Chard leaves, garnished with dill and baked). We finished off the meal with a relaxing cup of tea and some sweet pastry dessert.
Jamilla and Christine have become close friends in the past year. Jamilla is a deeply compassionate young woman who has lived amidst a lot of tragedy and hardship during her life. As one of the older girls in her family, she had to stay at home and help take care of the family instead of going to school, so was denied the opportunity to learn to read and write in her own language. Today she speaks with much pride about the progress she is making to learn to read and write in English. “I thank God every day for how God has spared my own and my husband’s lives and how He has brought us to
Following the meal our hosts shared with us a video which told the story of Saddam Hussein’s rise to power and the execution of the “Anfal” in which Saddam’s army systematically destroyed over 4000 Kurdish villages by mass evacuations, bombing with chemical and conventional weapons, bulldozing the ruins, and leaving their fields scorched and poisoned. It is estimated that over 100,000 Kurds died. There were scenes of Saddam Hussein barking orders, laughing devilishly, and his followers knocking people around. There were horrific scenes of devastated Kurdish villages with dead bodies lying everywhere and one scene of a blindfolded and bound prisoner having grenades taped to his body and then detonated. A second video showed Junis testifying at Saddam’s trial in
Junis, then in his late teens, was a member of the Kurdish “peshmerga”, a guerrilla army of freedom fighters who were fighting to defend their homeland from the ravages of Sadaam’s Baath regime. He joined the peshmerga, not because he really wanted to be a soldier, but because, as said in his own words, “Sadaam was killing even our old men, women, and children and I had a responsibility to protect them!”
Yunis was injured by a gunshot in his arm, arrested, and along with 180 of his companions, imprisoned. About a month later they were all tied up and blindfolded, loaded onto canvas covered trucks, and told they were going to be transferred to a prison in
They arrived by night at some undisclosed desert location in
Yunis managed to cross the border into
For much of the past year the world and national news has been dominated by the 2008 presidential campaign. In past years I have usually ignored political campaigns, particularly presidential campaigns, mostly because I view them as big games, organized and run by those with big money and media influence, and nearly as silly as the student council elections I remember in high school.
This year is different though. I have been following the political shenanigans with considerably more interest. I even voted for the first time in the
So why, may you ask, am I writing about politics? Well, there is this thing about this war in Iraq—who got our country into it—what this next presidential administration is goingto do to keep us in it or to get us out of it. Oh there are the other things of course—the economy, taxes, government spending, education, global warming, issues affecting our agricultural future, yada yada. I don’t really have strong opinions about whether Democrats or Republicans will most effectively handle these issues, but I am concerned about how this war will be resolved.
I grew up in and was nurtured by a religious community that taught that militarism and participation in war was wrong for Christians. Jesus’ teachings that we should “love our enemies” and “live as peacemakers” contradicts in spirit much of what I believe military establishments throughout the world model and teach.
Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and Sadaam Hussein are all examples of men who became what they were largely as a result of military training. It is only such men who are capable of committing the kind of atrocities that were seen in the German Holocaust, the Bolshevik revolution, the dropping of the A-bomb on
I confess that I don’t have a good answer for this question and that if I did, many of those who read this, including myself, would not like it or agree with it. I only have an interest in the persons who are going to be positioned in the coming years to deal with that question more directly than I ever expect to.
Now my thoughts go back to the stories of Jamilla and Yunis and others among our Kurdish friends. They have given me a perspective on this whole