ICSSI, 1st of August 2013

When they started preparations, local organizers of the Iraqi Social forum (ISF) were hoping to gather more than five thousand activists, between Iraqis and internationals (read the call for internationals) in the center of Baghdad. Their vision was to bring back, through this event, the image of civic peace and activism in a city that once upon a time was known as Dar Alsalam (City of Peace )(read ISF charter).

Many challenges have faced this group of activists. It has been very complicate to get official approval for an independent event such as the Iraqi social forum in the midst of political conflicts. It is even more complicated to organize it while the country is facing a new wave of violence that  put Iraq on the headlines of international media again, talking about thousands of civilian casualties this year.

But Iraq is not only violence, this is what Baghdadis will tell you. We are not going to give up and we will build our country. From almost nothing, they build great projects and preserve hope. In almost 3 months the organizers of the ISF succeeded to attract about 130 young Iraqi men and women, volunteering to build the coming forum. They have organized more than 3 workshops to increase their skills, their knowledge of the World Social Forum process, and to organize them in small groups.

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What do they discuss in their meetings? Here as some replied we received:

- “If the security situation is bad tomorrow, no problem, we can meet in another day”

- “if we don’t get funds to organize a training for interpreters, my friend has a hotel in Shaqlawa and will give us 20 rooms for free”

- “hey I have a new idea: let’s get together to create sculptures with rubbish, we can call them “rubbish monsters” and use them to address environmental issues during the forum”

ISF volunteers working in Baghdad July 2013

In this sprit they work, and in this way they could convince the new Governor of Baghdad to give them authorization to use the space and buildings of Al-Qishla and Baghdadi Cultural Center, near the Tigris river in the center of Baghdad. Al-Qishla was the Ottoman governor’s headquarters, it’s a recently restored building and its linked to Al mutanabi Street, the main place were books are sold and where Baghdadi intellectuals meet.

Tower_clock_of_the_qishla_of_Baghdad

 

This unique place in Baghdad will host the open events in the 2nd and 3rd days of the forum. The first day will take place inside Baghdad University in Jaderia, since this day will be dedicated to Sports Against Violence (SAV) (read about SAV) and to the opening event of the Iraqi Social Forum. These places are relatively safer than other locations in Baghdad, and normal life flows there every day. The event and the hotels of internationals will not be inside the Green Zone, where the Iraqi government and foreign embassies are located, the symbol of political power.

The clock tower of Qushla is seen at noon in central Baghdad

Many internationals visit Baghdad every day, mainly for commercial purposes or religious tourism. The majority of foreigners visiting Baghdad are Turkish, Chinese and Iranian, are live in a number of safe and protected hotels. What the ISF organizers are expecting instead, is the arrival of international activists from the global solidarity movement with Iraqi people. Few days ago the ISF organizing committee – made up of NGOs, unions and union federations from the whole country – sent a letter to all internationals encouraging them to participate in the Iraqi social form:

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Dear friends

first, we would like to thank you and send you our appreciation for the support you are giving us and your engagement with civil society in Iraq. It’s a pleasure to collaborate with you building the first Iraqi social forum, as a space for dialogue and exchange of ideas and experiences, involving all the spectrum of Iraqi people.

As you’ve seen, the deterioration of security led to the murdering of tens of civilians and security forces. We feel that this situation changed your attitude regarding participation in the forum activities at the end of September 2013. The organizing committee in Baghdad was kind of disappointed about this.  We would like to re-affirm that the situation here is not as terrifying as it seems in the news. Life is going on here actively and naturally.

Holding the Iraqi forum, with international and national participation, will have a positive impact on the crisis in this country. A social forum is a great support to the activities of civil society in Iraq, that is trying to have a pioneering role to solve the urgent problems in the country. This forum will give us more strenght to stand against the political conflict that is taking place in Iraq, and the political tension which affected negatively the security and living condition of Iraqi people.

Therefore, in order to empower Iraqi civil society in changing our country and the general policies of the Iraqi state, we invite you to participate in this forum and in side activities along the days of the forum. Join us to witness the hope and aspirations of all Iraqis, and to see the dedication and love of Iraqis for life. The venue of the forum has been confirmed and local facilities will be available to make it happen.

Once again, we thank you and we wish you will come to Baghdad, the land of peace, for a better Iraq.

The Preparatory Committee of the Iraqi Social Forum

Baghdad, 29th of July 2013

 

If you would like to participate in the Iraqi social forum , or to take action register here :