The Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiate (ICSSI)

Qamishli (or Qamishlo), a fertile city located in northeastern Syria on the border with Turkey, is a place characterized by its diverse population, inhabited by a mixture of Arabs, Kurds, Syriac, Assyrians and Armenians. From this unique location, the youth initiative, “We Love Qamishlo”, was organized by Doz, a non-profit youth, migrant, and diaspora-led organization, working for sustainable social and economic development for local communities in home and host countries. The initiative was launched with help from a group of young Syrians as a way to overcome the social and cultural problems resulting from the war.

As part of Doz’s endeavor to provide development initiatives to Syrian youth, the Qamishlo team of volunteers, along with other young people from the city, have worked together over the past months to plan a variety of different activities promoting peace and nonviolence. To publicize their current initiative, volunteers organized visits to a number of civil society organizations, associations and radio stations, where they introduced their objectives and proposed activities. They distributed promotional brochures about the initiative in hopes of drawing support from other organizations and volunteer groups which might want to collaborate in the endeavor to offer trainings and workshops targeting the city’s youth on a range of different topics.

Today, these young people are planning to launch campaigns which promote peaceful coexistence within the city. They recently completed  a cleaning campaign to revitalize one of the public parks in the city, where groups of families gathered and lived after they were forced to flee during the war. The cleaning included the entire garden, taking care of trees and watering plants, providing games for children, and more generally, encouraging the people living in the neighborhood to participate with campaign volunteers. Participation cultivated a sense of belonging and ownership, empowering both young and displaced people, and hopefully leading them to continue in these collective actions.

On the occasion of the International Day of Peace (21 September 2017), the youth of the Qamishlo Initiative toured around different areas of the city and celebrated its heritage, with hopes that peace and harmony will soon prevail throughout Syria, As part of a joint initiative with youth from the Iraqi Social Forum and their partners in the Iraqi cities of Baghdad, Hit, Kut, Babylon, Najaf, Amara, Fallujah, Ramadi and Sulaymaniyah, they sent letters to the entire world declaring their rejection of war and violence, and their belief in a nonviolent alternative to conflict. They also expressed their solidarity with all those cities currently struggling with conflict throughout the world, calling for the consolidation of the principles of peaceful coexistence between all parts of society.

The team brought communities and members of different religions together in order to highlight the archaeological monuments in Qamishlo which they all share, clarifying their city’s historical importance, and introducing the youth and newer residents to the city’s many treasures. The team, along with 40 young residents of Qamishlo and others who had recently arrived, took a particularly moving trip to the ST. Febronia Monastery of the Syrian Orthodox Church in the Hemo neighborhood. Here, the Rev. Fr. Malki Isho, introduced the monastery to the volunteers and recounted the story of Saint Vebronia, drawing attention to the religious significance of the place as well as the history of its building.

The team hopes to carry out more activities of this kind which aim at introducing the youth to their city, its landmarks, its history and its incredible diversity. To that end, they are planning a festival in December that will include a series of activities and exhibitions which will promote the city and its distinctive culture.

All this comes within the framework of an integrated program entitled “Paths of Coexistence in Mesopotamia”, supported by the Swiss FAI Foundation. This program seeks to promote peaceful coexistence in the cities along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Iraq, Syria and Turkey, and grows out of a vision that conceives of these cities as intimately connected to each other through the arteries of the rivers.

The project hopes to reinforce concepts of peace and nonviolent alternatives to conflict resolution, to raise awareness within civil society, and to build a sense of active and tolerant citizenship, where differences are celebrated. The program includes a number of trainings workshops, festivals and activities in all the cities involved.

For more information, visit the Facebook page of “We Love Qamishlo” Initiative here:

https://www.facebook.com/weloveqamislo

Or have a look on Doz Organization website here: https://www.doz.international/