The Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative is happy to invite you to participate in its 11th International Conference Starting Over from Solidarity, which will take place from 11th to 16th March in the city of Sulaymaniyah.
Three years have passed since we last gathered in Baghdad to celebrate the 10th anniversary of ICSSI. Those days represented a chance to reflect on the development of the Iraqi civil society, on its achievements and its impact on the Iraqi society.
Since January 2019 many things have changed, both on a national and on a global level. In October young Iraqis flooded the squares of the main cities all over the country, calling for a change in the political system, denouncing corruption and public money mismanagement, and demanding basic services for each and every one. During the uprising – known among Iraqis as al-Thawra Tishreen – protesters self-organized and managed to create an alternative society based on the principle of madaniyya, of civic representation: a society for all Iraqis, women and men, from all religions and background. Demonstrating the Iraqi youth desire for change, those squares are testimony that another Iraq is possible, as stated by the recent Iraqi Social Forum’s Season.
Parallelly, we assisted to the repression faced by the demonstrators and activists of the protests. Hundreds of them have been killed, triggering their anger but also leading them to call for the resignation of the Prime Minister, which they obtained as the scheduling of early elections and the new electoral law. Civil society activists and Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) who supported these protests had to face double threats: one coming from the militias that considered these protests as a threat to its power and another threat coming from the government, mainly national security and directorate of NGOs. Hence the phenomenon of shrinking space for Iraqi civil society is unfortunately growing and represent a real challenge today.
Early elections were thus held in October 2021 with a new electoral law, despite the boycotting campaign launched by some parties which denounced the lack of basic conditions for free and democratic elections, showing one more time the importance of enhancing civic rights and political freedoms in Iraq. Now the political future of Iraq is unstable, but new lessons have been learned in civil society from the electoral process while the new alternative political forces emerged from the protests are blooming inside and outside the Parliament.
These recent developments have been accompanied by the impact of Covid-19 pandemic, which broke out in 2020 with dramatic effects on the already difficult socio-economic situation of Iraq. Civil society organizations adapted their activities to the new reality, often taking on their shoulders the State’s role in providing assistance to vulnerable people. Growing attention is devoted to the field of economic and social rights, which is well represented in these days also by the protests taking place in Sulaymaniyah, where the University students took the streets to demand their right to financial aid, which had not been allocated for seven years. Peaceful demonstrations that have been met with tear gas and acts of violence from the security forces, but also with the solidarity of university teachers and the city population.
Furthermore, during these years changes happened then not only in the surrounding Iraqi and global context but also inside the ICSSI working processes. The Board of Members reduced its activity, resulting in the prevalence of the ICSSI Secretariat – the implementation body of the ICSSI. During the last year, the Secretariat nominated two new Coordinators and worked for improving the ICSSI capability to support the Iraqi Civil Society reviewing its approach to its partners and undertaking with and for them the Strategic Review of the ICSSI Mission Statement and Internal Regulations. The International Conference will thus also be the occasion to share with ICSSI partners and friends the results of this process, to start again a stronger ICSSI solidarity activity on Thematic Issues relevant to Iraqi Civil Society and constitute the new political body of the ICSSI, the Assembly of Members, made by the voices of the most active Iraqi and International CSOs willing to become members to guide the work of the Initiative.
It is thus time to gather again, Iraqi organizations together with international ones, considering all these new developments: we will analyse the current situation of Iraqi context and Civil Society, identify priorities, needs and paths for solidarity, so as to create a common strategy to overcome the challenges that will face us in the near future. As we still believe that we, Iraqi and international civil society, need to start over building and strengthening connections, which lay at the chore of active solidarity.
In partnership with the Iraqi Social Forum and Kurdistan Social Forum, we therefore invite you to participate in the international conference which will be held in Sulaymaniyah from 11th to 16th March 2022.
The ICSSI invites partner organization to verify their availability to sustain their costs of travel independently and invites international partners to consider also the possibility to sponsor one Iraqi civil society organization travel to the conference.
The principles of the conference have been set by the Iraqi and International organizers, and should be respected by all participants: there will be no discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, religion or gender; participation will be independent of political parties and religious or sectarian affiliation; we support nonviolent struggle as the only means of change; we are committed to the fundamental importance of voluntarism and non-profit ethics; we advocate for an active, dynamic civil society to build a democratic Iraq, free from extremism and corruption.
The final program and a guide for the logistics, will be shared by the end of January 2022.
If you are interested in participating, PLEASE REGESTER HERE by 15th February 2022.
For any questions contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org