Christian Peacemaker Teams Provides Human Rights in Iraq

Church of the Brethren Newsline
November 26, 2007

Venus Shamal, the deputy director of Kurdish Human Rights Watch in Suleimaniya, in northern Iraq, recently invited Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) to assist in the human rights training of security officers from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). She told members of the CPT Iraq team that the director of the security office in Suleimaniya, a former teacher, had begun promoting human rights in his office after a scathing critique of KRG human rights abuses from Amnesty International and the US State Department.

Members of the CPT team in Suleimaniya hesitated to accept the invitation because the training CPT receives does not provide in-depth instruction in international human rights principles developed over the past 60 years. But the CPT team agreed to conduct this short one-hour training in the context of CPT’s own experiences.

Hours before the training was to start, the translator CPT had arranged for the module called to say that her relative was ill and she could not translate that day. She contacted a friend who was an English teacher in the local secondary school. He came to the CPT apartment and spent an hour going over the first three pages of a 10-page document that CPT had prepared before the team had to leave for the training. Clearly, the concepts and vocabulary were new to him.

When the CPT team arrived at the classroom, the training coordinator explained that CPT would have just one hour to teach, translation included. CPT presenters cut sections of their talks, which further confused the translator, but the session turned out to be adequate. Shamal praised Peggy Gish for the stories she had selected from the detainee abuse report the team in Baghdad had written and distributed in 2004 (see “CPT reports on Detainees,” at

Afterwards CPT team members had a chance to visit with some of the officers, who came from various parts of the KRG area. One well-educated officer told them, “Security is a very serious concern for Kurdistan.” A day earlier, CPT had learned that 200 security suspects in four northern governates of Iraq had been detained. These detentions happened on the heels of news that the US military had released 500 detainees from its prisons in Iraq. During the “surge” of the last few months, 10,000 new detainees had been added to the US detention centers in Iraq.

The four-day training culminated in a graduation exercise during which the head of the security office came to hand out the certificates and shake hands. Interestingly, this office is in the process of evaluating CPT’s request for extended visas, a requirement for this project to continue. Shamal has asked CPT to assist with future human rights trainings of security officers.

Originally a violence-reduction initiative of the historic peace churches (Church of the Brethren, Mennonite, and Quaker), CPT now enjoys support and membership from a wide range of Christian denominations. For more information go to

–Cliff Kindy is a Church of the Brethren member working in Iraq with Christian Peacemaker Teams. Team member Peggy Gish also is a member of the Church of the Brethren. This report is taken from a press release from CPT.

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The Church of the Brethren Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. To receive Newsline by e-mail go to Submit news to the editor at For more Church of the Brethren news and features, subscribe to “Messenger” magazine; call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.

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