Solidarity in Action!
The Iraq Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI) is an advocacy initiative working to build concrete links of solidarity between international civil society organizations and the growing Iraqi civil society. We support advocacy campaigns and projects that promote human rights, a just peace, and all efforts to oppose sectarian conflict, corruption and violence in Iraq. The ICSSI was born out of the worldwide coalition that organized the largest demonstration in history, on February 15, 2003 to protest against the war in Iraq. We have worked since then to end the foreign occupation of Iraq and to advance dignity, human rights, and social justice for all Iraqi citizens through nonviolent action. We support the involvement of Iraqis in the World Social Forum process and we develop our strategy in partnership with the Iraqi Social Forum Committee, since we believe another world is being built through the constructive actions and protests of social movements.
To support the nonviolent initiatives of Iraqi NGOs, labor unions, social movements and independent media that are striving to promote social justice, defend human rights and overcome years of war, violence, and deprivation by building a just and lasting peace.
Communications: gathering information on Iraqi civil society from social media and social networks, translating and publishing it on our websites, stimulating Iraqi CSOs to produce and share info on their activities, sharing news on actions and reports of international CSOs working on Iraq.
Campaigning and Advocacy: empowering campaigns led by Iraqi and international CSOs to promote human and environmental rights and build peace in Iraq, using a strategic approach in which we select priorities with Iraqi partners and seek constructive dialogue with local and national Iraqi authorities
Solidarity: developing advocacy actions by which international partners can support and strengthen Iraqi campaigns, stimulating international networking, internships and cultural exchanges with Iraqis, calling for international volunteers to support Iraqi CSOs and to join them in Iraq when security conditions allow for it.
The ICSSI works daily through core staff that manages coordination, communications and advocacy work, editing multi-lingual websites and using social networks. A voluntary board of advisors, including both Iraqi and international activists, campaigners and experts, meets monthly to contribute to specific campaigns supported by the ICSSI. This board helps to develop campaign goals, tactics and strategies; and works to connect those working on our campaigns with sources of programmatic, logistical and financial support outside of Iraq.
Since 2009 we have held annual conferences bringing together Iraqi and international activists to develop joint campaigns and actions. Representatives of more than 300 CSOs have taken part in our conferences and many coordinate their advocacy actions through the ICSSI.
THE PRIMARY ICSSI CAMPAIGNS OF 2014
Iraqi Social Forum Process
To support the vital, on-going expansion of social justice movements in Iraq, Iraqis and internationals are working together to strengthen the Iraqi Social Forum as an open political and social space for movements, organizations and individuals who share a progressive agenda in Iraq. The Iraqi Social Forum is based upon the principles of the World Social Forum Charter, which unites people worldwide who struggle for human rights, peace and social justice, and against neoliberal policies and militarism. The Secretariat of the Forum, hosted by Tammuz Organization in Baghdad, facilitates the exchange of information and coordination of activities among Iraqi civil society organizations. About 20 of them gathered in the Iraqi Social Forum Committee under the slogan “Another Iraq is Possible”, to organize the first Forum in Baghdad in September of 2013; they continue to meet monthly to plan future initiatives.
Save the Tigris and Iraqi Marshes
Led by civil society organizations from Iraq, Turkey and Iran, this advocacy campaign is part of an international effort to save the ecosystem of the Tigris River and two potential World Heritage sites – the ancient city of Hasankeyf in Turkey and the Mesopotamian Marshes of Iraq (the “Cradle of Civilization”). Both are severely threatened by the Turkish government’s construction of the Ilisu Dam on the Tigris River in Turkey. Evidence of centuries of human settlement, local cultures, unique ecosystems and rare wildlife could all be destroyed. The campaign works to draw attention to the negative impacts of the Ilisu Dam and to develop advocacy and awareness activities that involve all relevant actors: local communities, civil society organisations, media, national and local institutions, legal experts, intellectuals, research centres, universities and others.
Shahrazad for Iraqi Women
Iraqi women experience the second highest rate of sexual harassment and violence in the Arab world, just after Egypt. This is the troubling reality of Iraq today, but many young activists are now joining traditional women’s rights organizations to address this devastating situation. They are working to promote cultural change among members of future generations in Iraq. These young activists have organized through social media, but now they need support in order to grow in their advocacy capacity. The Shahrazad campaign is being developed by the ICSSI and the Iraqi Social Forum Committee to empower young Iraqi activists in their efforts to promote women’s rights and end domestic violence and sexual harassment. Support of international women’s networks and experts on gender issues is needed to strategize about the campaign and develop activities on the ground.
Freedom of Expression and of the Media
Independent Iraqi journalists are working to amend the misnamed “Journalists’ Rights Law” that threatens freedom of the press in Iraq by asserting that journalists should never criticize the actions of political authorities. Working through the Iraqi Federal Court and the Parliament, independent journalists aim to ensure that Iraq respects its international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to guarantee that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression…freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Meanwhile, international partners in this campaign denounce the threats against, beatings, and killing of Iraqi journalists and cartoonists who dare to write and draw freely.
Workers’ Rights and a Just Labor Law
Iraqi workers face threats, fines, demotions, travel restrictions, and arrest as they work to organize trade unions. The government frequently interferes in internal union affairs. Suppression of workers’ rights has been most severe in the oil sector. Lack of a just labour law, consistent with internationally recognized workers’ rights, is the most important obstacle the Iraqi labour movement faces. Iraq’s current labour law, which dates back to Saddam’s era, classifies most Iraqi workers as civil servants and prohibits them from forming unions. ICSSI partners have pledged to work to pressure the Iraqi parliament to pass a new labour law with the modifications to the draft law that were previously agreed upon by Iraqi labour leaders. We call on labour movements outside Iraq to organize broad international support for our efforts to win this new labour law.
Control Private Military and Security Companies
Iraqis and internationals have joined forces to advocate for the regulation of private military and security companies (PMSCs) in order to stop their human rights abuses and crimes. These companies, which make business out of war, accompanied the US and UK armies into Iraq during the 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation. Killings of civilians, torture and other abuses in prisons, arms trafficking and violations of workers’ rights became widespread. There was virtually no accountability and no agreed upon mechanisms to compensate victims. PMSCs are still widely employed in Iraq today; UN agencies and the Iraqi government are now routinely contracting these companies’ services. Iraqi NGOs have agreed to organize a public information campaign and joint advocacy actions to promote the regulation of PMSCs through national and international laws in partnership with the International Coalition to Control PMSCs.
Sports for Peace
Sports can play a vital role in promoting peace and building a strong and vibrant civil society. Marathons, races and walks are very effective ways for civil society to reclaim the streets and involve large numbers of people in their activities. On October 7, 2011 the first international marathon in Iraq was organized by civil society organizations in Erbil. After the marathon, the Erbil Running Club was born and every Friday people met in Sami Park to run together. The Erbil Marathon has become an annual event with thousands of athletes. In October 2012, more than 100 runners participated in a 5K race at Baghdad University and others ran in Basra before the Nonviolence Forum. Now we are working to form a Baghdad Running Club and to organize the first international Baghdad Marathon, within the Iraqi Social Forum process! The support of the Italian organization Sports Against Violence is a fundamental component of this campaign.
FIND US ONLINE!
English website: http://www.iraqicivilsociety.org/
Arabic website: https://ar.iraqicivilsociety.org
On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/solidarityinitiative.icssi
To join our campaigns, email to: firstname.lastname@example.org