With the start of the liberation process of Heet from Daesh earlier last April, youth of Heet expressed their desire to bring life back to their city. The youth of Heet launched their youth initiative “Shakoufyan” under the slogan ” Life Starts with One Step”, expressing what Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish said:” What we have on this earth makes life worth living”.

The team gathered under the shade of Shakoufyan, referencing to the oldest and most famous cafe in the city of Heet “Shaqofa Café” and determined to rehabilitate the city and entrench the culture of tolerance and non-violence in the community of Heet. At a time when the process of liberating Heet was rapidly progressing, the youth of Shakoufyan worked on announcing on their initiative to people. They promoted their group through Facebook, aimed at spreading ideas of citizenship, in order to overcome the damage that befell the city of Heet since its occupation for two years by Daesh. The initiative has been receiving considerable support within the city and this support has had already a significant impact on the young people of the city, who now feel motivated to rebuild Heet.

The team received many volunteering requests and has set up their own database of volunteers. The Iraqi Social Forum has had a major role in the evolution of Shakoufyan’s work; they provided support for Shakoufyan programs through joint meetings. Shakoufyan addopted a culture of tolerance, non-violence, community peace and aims to entrench these ideals into the society of Heet and other cities that have fell under Daesh control.

Shakoufyan started their first campaign during the liberation of the city, rehabilitating safe neighborhoods, clean the main streets and painting the sidewalks. Three months later, with the liberation of the city completed and the return of formerly displaced residents, the new school year began. Shakoufyan started their second campaign to reconstruct damaged schools, coordinating with the Director of Dducation of Heet. Afterwards youth of Shakoufyan conducted coordination visits with the local council of Heet as well as the security forces and government departments. They expressed their satisfaction with the work that has been achieved by Shakoufyan so far, and expressed their willingness to provide support for future programs.

Previously, Shakoufyan youth participated in the third season of the Iraqi Social Forum in September 2016. They showcased a small tent in Abu Nawas park in Baghdad, complete with pictures of the heritage and culture of the city of Heet. This participation paved the way for further collaboration between Shakoufyan, the Iraqi Social Forum and the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative along with Un Ponte Per… (Italy) and CCFD-Terre Solidaire (France). The latter provided financial support for the rehabilitation of a large number of schools in the city.

Shakoufyan has seen a remarkable development, and collective team spirit. Future plans have already been set up, including a complete program for 2017 which will help to consolidate a culture of tolerance and non-violence in the city of Heet.