By Iraqi Social Forum and ICSSI Secretariats – August 10, 2017

Najaf | Baghdad 

On 14-15 July 2017, the Iraqi Social Forum held a training for 13 young volunteers in Najaf. The training resulted in the formation of an organized volunteer platform: the Social Forum in Najaf.

The volunteers who attended the training belong to a number of different volunteer teams and organizations in the province of Najaf, including:

  • Iraqi Imprint: a registered organization in the city of Najaf dedicated to peaceful coexistence, community building and support for youth initiatives.
  • We Are All Citizens: a team dedicated to the promotion of active citizenship, creating a society in which there is open communication between government and citizens, aimed at cultivating peaceful relations among diverse groups.
  • Think About Others: a team that takes two approaches to promote a culture of peaceful coexistence and conflict resolution: one, through the many activities of its dedicated volunteers, and the other, through humanitarian assistance.
  • Akito: a team based on the work of volunteers, implements humanitarian and other activities which encourage civilian action to promote social solidarity and peaceful coexistence.
  • Dare: a team of students working within the University of Kufa, specifically the Faculty of Science, working to create a culture of conscious citizens through focused trainings and awareness raising activities.

The training was led by Mr. Ghailan al-Jubouri, a member of the La-Onf group in Baghdad. It was divided into 3 parts: the first was devoted to exploring the concept of nonviolence. Mr. Ghailan al-Jubouri first gave a definition of the term, and then provided specific examples of social movements that had used nonviolence to achieve their goals in building a better life for their communities. The second part reviewed ways to manage the different campaigns effectively. It looked at planning strategies and techniques used to engage the public and raise awareness. The third part looked at the work and goals of the Iraqi Social Forum (ISF), its masar (‘paths’) and their activities, both at the local and international level. Over the course of the training, the participants came to see the need for a collective platform for volunteers, and agreed to form the “Najaf Social Forum”, a platform that is open to teams, organizations and activists from the city of Najaf. The Forum operates in accordance with those principles and values ​​that underpinned the Iraqi Social Forum in 2013, which is grounded in volunteerism and nonviolent civil activism.

Therefore, the Najaf Social Forum will, above all, “support coexistence and social peace.” Given the fragile social situation in Najaf, due in part to the displaced people who were forced to come for their own safety, as well as those who chose Najaf for its stability and livelihood, the community needs to promote peaceful coexistence in order to ensure that all residents can together harmoniously. The groups organized under the Social Forum in Najaf will carry out activities in a broad campaign for peaceful coexistence in the coming weeks.

This training in Najaf is part of a bigger, integrated program which will involve a number of cities situated near the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Trainings like the one held in Najaf will ultimately be offered in other cities, including: Baghdad, Tikrit, Diwaniyah, Kut and Amarah, along with Ramadi, Hit, Babylon, Najaf, Nasiriyah. The cities, linked through their shared connection to the two rivers, will, like Najaf, have the opportunity to create their own social forums. The broad aim of this extensive program across all the cities which participate will be to reinforce principles of peaceful coexistence, to encourage nonviolent alternatives to conflict resolution, to raise awareness of civil society concepts, and to promote active citizenship, accepting ‘the other’ as one’s equal. A number of workshops, festivals and other activities will be held in these cities.

The training was conducted with the support of the Swiss Fondation Assistance Internationale (FAI), in cooperation with the Information Center for Research and Development, the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI) and the Italian organization Un Ponte Per…