A youth panel on non-violence, organized by the Iraqi Social Forum and the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative

Baghdad – October 2017

On 21 October, in a unique event in Baghdad, the Baghdad La-Onf group, which works closely with the Iraqi Social Forum to promote nonviolent principles and action, organized their first youth panel. The panel gave individuals the opportunity to share their own success stories in nonviolence and peace-building through art, sport and social networking. The event was held in Karrada, the heart of Baghdad, in celebration of the International Day of Nonviolence and the birth of the leader, Gandhi.

The talk show presented many different experiences from young people who engaged in nonviolent actions as a way to rebuild peace in Iraq. The show included theatrical and musical performances as well, and highlighted the way these young activists are working actively to change social reality through personal effort and cooperative volunteer work.

At the start of the show, Mahmood al-Hiti, an activist from the Shakoufyan Initiative active in Hit, presented his experience of peace-building as he and a team of volunteers worked to rehabilitate a number of schools in the city for the returnees after the liberation of Hit from Daesh.

Bara, part of the Sports Against Violence team in Iraq, presented her experience helping to organize a range of sports activities, and explained the positive impact of those activities on both members of the team and on the broader community.

Salman Khairallah described his work with the team, Humat Dijlah, and their efforts to protect the Tigris River. He stressed the importance of preserving the environment and protecting bodies of water for these are elements that contribute directly to the stability of the community. A flourishing natural environment contributes to peace-building, and builds solidarity among the residents of those cities through which the Tigris and Euphrates rivers flow.

Rawan, the youngest participant in the talk show, shared her experiences of volunteer work with her father in the city of Babylon. Together they put a smiles on the faces of children, showing them how to change their lives for the better by giving them greater opportunities for their futures. More specifically, with a volunteer team, Rawan helps displaced children and fights for children’s rights, and led more than 200 children in a demonstration calling for the right of Iraqi children to live decent lives. The volunteers have also organized campaigns promoting music and reading. Rawan is also working on a humanitarian project to help 150 displaced children in her hometown who fled from Daesh. In the future, she hopes to establish a children’s parliament to ensure children’s voices are heard.

The Mashofna team from Nasiriyah put on a theatrical performance about the protection of migratory birds and aquatic life in the marshes of Iraq, in which they warned of the dangers of overfishing, and raised awareness about the need to preserve biological diversity within the marshes.

Fatima and Hassan shared their beautiful story about their volunteer team called ‘Baghdad City of Peace’. Every year, this team organizes a special festival to celebrate International Peace Day in Baghdad. They spoke of their efforts to spread word of their festival through social networking sites, in hopes of reaching other volunteers in governorates beyond Baghdad who might put on festivals as well. And in fact, many youth teams in the other Iraqi cities were able to organize festivals that promoted beauty and art, thus helping to change the image of Iraq as a country of war and destruction.

Ahmed Abdul Salam, member of HHU, a rap group from the city of Hit, shared his experience of positive rap, and how his band was launched from the Upper Euphrates. He spoke of the prospects for the development of this art within the youth community.

The talented musician Hussein Samah from Diyala city shared his experience of how he managed to transcend the image of blood and destruction with his dear friend, the Piano, and talked about his dreams and his message to re-present sophisticated music and singing to the younger generation.

The show ended with a performance of a rap song by Ahmed from HHU band, as well as the number of beautiful songs that dazzled the audience by Hussein Samah, ending with Ali Taqi, who presented “beat box” show with the rapper Ahmad.

The Baghdad Nonviolence Team presented this event within the space of the Iraqi Social Forum, in collaboration with Sawtona Organization, Information Center for Research and Development, the Italian Organization Un Ponte Per… and the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative, as part of a project funded by the Swiss FAI Foundation. The aim was to disseminate experiences and success stories of youth groups that contribute to the spread of nonviolence and promote peace, igniting youth energy that looks to the future with optimism and believes that ‘Another Iraq is Possible’.