Syria – Qamishlo

There is virtually no disagreement about the need to ensure certain fundamental rights ​​to all people, such as the right to life, human dignity, basic freedoms, equality and justice. While respect for these rights is essential, exactly how they are realized must take into account the different cultures and peoples who practice them. Qamishlo, a Syrian city known for its diverse population, recently held a festival to promote and recognize universal human rights by celebrating the free expression of some of the many rich cultural traditions that coexist in the city. Similar festivals and campaigns are being organized in several Iraqi cities by the Iraqi Social Forum, which coordinates with civil society in Qamishlo to foster actions for social cohesion across the borders of Mesopotamia.

As a way to express love for the city of Qamishlo, the We Love Qamishlo Initiative and the Doz Civil Society team (a non-profit youth, migrant, and diaspora-led organization) organized a festival entitled “We Love Qamishlo” at the Palace of the Nobles Hall in the city of Qamishlo on 16 December 2017. There was widespread participation in the event, including cooperation from local organizations and associations such as the Jumard Charitable Society, Arab National Organization, Sara Organization, Shawishka Association, Baladna Organization, Dost Association, Kurds without Boarders, the Common Ground Organization, and the Human Rights Organization in the Aljazeera district. Given the extensive attendance from residents throughout the city — notably some prominent cultural and religious figures — the festival received wide media coverage.

It began with a minute of silence for those who have died in recent eruptions of violence. This was followed by welcoming words from the festival organizers, who expressed their aim of strengthening social integration among the different sectors of society. In order to achieve this integration, the festival included singing and poetry, along with a brief presentation from the We Love Qamishlo Initiative celebrating the city and the prominent figures who came from there.

During the ceremony, the Jumard Organization presented Kurdish, Arab and Assyrian songs, the Sara Organization presented a poetry for young people in both Kurdish and Arabic and the Shawishka Society performed a musical ensemble using a variety of different instruments. Doz presented the theatrical artist, Abdul Majeed Mohammed Khalaf, who performed his show which simulates the reality for Syrians living in the shadow of the ongoing war. His play calls for community solidarity and the renunciation of violence.

The festival also included a show of popular costumes from the region worn by girls from Doz, the Arab National and Baladna organizations. At the end of the festival, Doz, Dost and Baladna organizations explained some of the rituals and practices that went into traditional wedding preparations in the  region in the past.

Attendees to the festival could explore an exhibition of books and several booths which displayed various aspects of the region’s heritage, highlighting its folklore and paintings, its manuscripts, photographs of its most important monuments, as well as some of its traditional handicrafts and art.

Members of civil society organizations and civilians who attended appreciated the efforts of the festival’s organizers and expressed a wish to continue similar activities aimed at supporting a rapprochement between the various sectors of Qamishlo’s population. The festival concluded with attendees participating in the local dancing, called ”Dabkah”. Final words thanked all those who contributed to the festival’s success and reiterated the goal of making the diverse city of Qamishlo a symbol of love, coexistence and peace.

Organization of the Qamishlo festival 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 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 these 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 and unity are celebrated simultaneously. 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/