After New Year’s day and a good rest with Chris and Hanna, on 2nd Jan I set off on the second leg of my journey towards the historic town of Halabja, a Kurdish town which was the victim of a chemical weapon assault in 1988, as I mentioned before. (You can read all about this attack on wikipedia.) One of the things I am advocating throughout my journey is the abolition of all chemical weapons and weapons of mass destruction, so I planned to set up my peace camp in the town and speak to locals and tell them about my journey and why I chose their town.
After about four hours walk I reached the first checkpoint, between the city of Sulaymaniyeh and a town called Arbat. Because the daylight was finished and it was very dark, the security people helped me by asking all those cars going towards any town on my way if they could give me a lift, and they found a car which was going to a little town called Kany Panka.
In Kany Panka I had my dinner after speaking to a restaurant owner about what I am doing, and they were quite happy to help me. After that I started to walk towards another town called Sayed Sadiq and again, locals, especially young people, were quite happy to help me and to talk to the drivers of cars which were leaving from there, and finally they managed to talk to a taxi driver, who was going back to Sayed Sadiq, and he kindly took me there.
In Sayed Sadiq I encountered good and bad sides of the coin. A lot of people were being kind to me, especially young people again, and even traffic police, who had a photo taken with me. These people were helping me and asking me about whether I was hungry and giving me food, and after that I was trying to find a place to rest, or find another car to hitch-hike towards Halabja. Then the security people of the town turned up at the place where I was trying to hitch-hike and they told me “People have called us to say a suspicious man is trying to go to Halabja and he is saying he is a peace man”. So they took me to their office and after about an hour’s interrogation and clarification from Sulaymaniyah, they took me back to the place which they picked me up an hour before. So I started again to ask car drivers, with the help of a man from a security checkpoint, and finally we found a car which was going towards Halabja.
The driver kindly took me to Halabja’s Monument for the people who died in the chemical weapon attack. Here I spoke to the security people and I told them who I am and why I came there and they told me “How come you are coming here alone and so late and there is no media coverage of what you are doing?” I told them “I am doing this for myself and it is not all for the media, and it so happened to be at this time because of the way my journey is set up, it is out of my hand when I might reach somewhere, because I am not using money, so everything happens according to other people’s perception, not to my time schedule”.
After all this discussion they told me I can’t camp there that night, I have to go and get a permission next day from the Governer of Halabja and then I can set up my peace camp. Luckily I knew someone who told me if I go to Halabja I can call them and go to their place to stay, so I called and went there and stayed overnight there, and had a good rest.
Next day, 3rd Jan, I headed out to go and see the manager of Halabja’s Monument and had a chat with him. He presented me with the Halabja Monument’s logo and advised me to go and speak to the Mayor. So I went and spoke to the Mayor, Mr Khder Kareem, who is International Peace Bureau ‘Mayors for Peace’ Ambassador and he kindly allocated three people to come with me and help find a place for my peace camp. Then, before the camp set up, one of those helping did kindly invite me for lunch.
Then I set up my peace camp and tonight is my second night here in the camp. I have spoken to a lot of people in these two days, and now I am doing this update using the computer of a kind person.