The Iraqi Social Forum (ISF) and the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI)

On 14 February 2018, the Diwaniyah Environment and Peace Forum held its first annual festival at Al-Hurriyah Family Park in downtown Diwaniyah. The approximately 750-1000 men, women and children from Diwaniyah who attended were able to enjoy artistic events, a bazaar of handicrafts and food, and a book fair. The festival’s varied activities embodied an integrated mosaic of diversity and beauty which represents the city itself. The festival opened with speeches by the organizers, one of whom, Laith al-Obeidi, is an activist from the Diwaniyah Forum for Environment and Peace. Al Obeidi explained that ‘this forum emerged from the efforts of civil society groups, volunteers, organizations and unions, all working collaboratively from their different perspectives to address the issues now facing Diwaniyah”. The festival marks an attempt to present “a new vision of Diwaniyah, one of beauty, love and peace”.

A performance by the musician Karim al-Majidi was accompanied by Ahmed Saqr, a painter who drew in front of the audience, inspired by the melodies playing. This was followed by readings from a number of poets from Diwaniyah — Ali Al-Salhi, Ahmed Murad, Abbas Kazem, Mohammed Hashim, Walaa Al-Rikabi and Abo Zaid Al-Naeli — who sang of love for their city and country. The performances concluded with a play entitled “Gifts for Free”, put on by young actors from the city.

The festival also included a bazaar which sold handicrafts and food, along with booths explaining the campaigns of various civil society organizations. The sounds, sights and smells of the bazaar, created a beautiful picture of the city of Diwaniyah, enchanting anyone moving between stalls who stopped to look at art or taste a local delicacy. The themes of the festival: love, peace and the environment, were always present, for adults and children alike.

The Diwaniyah Forum for the Environment and Peace is just one of several groups with which the Iraqi Social Forum is working to create spaces for joint action between civil society and social movements promoting the idea that “Another Iraq is Possible”. This is possible due to support from the Norwegian Karibu Foundation, international and local partners like The Information Centre for Research and Development, The Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative, and the Italian Organization, Un Ponte Per… (UPP).