For three days, a group of Iraqi and international civil society activists met in the Norwegian city of Oslo to discuss the current crisis in Iraq. They came together to build international solidarity with civil society in Iraq in order to promote the far-reaching political and social reforms that are essential to confronting the root causes of violence and extremism. The meeting took place in the context of a rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in Iraq. The recent invasion and occupation of the city of Mosul and of significant other parts of Iraqi territory by Daaesh [the so-called “Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham” or ISIS] and the brutal crimes these extremists are committing – crimes against humanity including kidnapping, slavery, rape, and genocide – have focused international attention on Iraq’s security crisis. Daaesh’s violence has produced a devastating humanitarian catastrophe as thousands have fled their homes and communities, and become internally displaced persons and refugees.
A delegation of 15 Iraqi women and men representing a broad spectrum of civil society organizations traveled from Iraq to engage in discussion and dialogue with Iraqis currently living outside Iraq and with over 30 international activists from around the world, the global South as well as the North. The goal of their dialogue was to share information about the ongoing crisis in Iraq and to plan solidarity efforts by which the international community can support Iraqi activists’ work. The Iraqi delegation was organized by the Iraqi Social Forum (ISF) whose meeting in September of 2013 in Baghdad brought together over 3000 Iraqi participants – primarily youth, human rights activists, women activists, and trade unionists – to propose alternatives to war and violence, visions for a sustainable peace and the reconstruction of their country. This was before the crisis in Mosul.
In Oslo, the Iraqi delegation and the internationals agreed together upon the priorities and objectives of the campaigns that the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative [ICSSI] would work on over the next two years. These objectives were presented and discussed in thematic workshops that focused on each of the major campaigns being coordinated by Iraqi organizations and the ICSSI:
Shahrazad/ Women’s Rights in Iraq Today
- Strengthen international solidarity in support of Iraqi civil society’s efforts to require the Iraqi government to implement its obligations according to the recommendations of the CEDAW.
- Strengthen international solidarity to pressure the Iraqi government to protect women in Iraq from human rights violations, especially in areas where there is armed conflict, so they can live as equal citizens, free from fear.
- Especially, pressure the Iraqi government to implement a national action plan to apply the United Nations Security Council Resolution No. 1325 related to the status of women in the areas of armed conflict.
- Strengthen international solidarity to pressure the Iraqi government to establish a documentation center to record the names of kidnapped women and children, and also to create programs to facilitate the rehabilitation of women and girls who were victims of violence and armed conflict, so that they may be reintegrated into their communities.
Workers’ Rights and Freedom for Trade Unions to Organize
- Build international support for the campaign to have the Iraqi government enact a labor law that conforms with international labor standards.
- Strengthen international solidarity with Iraqi civil society efforts to obtain legislation that guarantees workers’ freedom of association and right to organize that conforms with internationally recognized principles of human rights. Especially, intensify international solidarity to demand that the Iraqi government ratify the International Labour Organization [ILO] Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize.
- Pressure the Iraqi Parliament to share all draft laws concerning social security, labor, and freedom of association with the Iraqi trade unions and the International Labor Organization (ILO) in order to engage them in debate concerning these laws that of particular concern for all workers.
- Build international support to pressure the Iraqi government to help the workers affected and displaced by Daaesh, in particular to include them in the social welfare network so that they receive support and compensation.
Sports Against Violence and Baghdad Marathon
- Encourage international partnerships to organize sports activities that promote the values of non-violence and coexistence, such as mini-football championships and road races, which can be organized throughout the Iraqi provinces. Work to share international experiences and expertise.
- Continue to promote the long-term strategic goal of the Iraqi Social Forum and the Sports against Violence Association of organizing the Baghdad Marathon – an international marathon in Iraq – as soon as circumstances in Baghdad make it feasible.
- All Sports Against Violence activities will be coordinated with other ICSSI campaigns, especially the Iraqi Social Forum.
The Iraqi Social Forum
- Organize a second meeting of the Iraqi Social Forum [ISF] as a thematic forum focusing on peace and tolerance.
- Expand the activities of the ISF in the central and southern governorates, and other safe areas, so it can be an incubator of Iraqi social movements throughout the country.
- Insure that Iraqi civil society activists attend and contribute effectively to the World Social Forum in Tunisia in 2015.
- Increase the number of organizations and social movements that participate in the activities the ISF.
Freedom of Expression Campaign
- Intensify work on a national level and build international solidarity to prevent passage of the so-called “freedom of expression” draft law currently under review by the Iraqi Parliament, until the proposed law conforms with internationally recognized human rights standards. Involve independent Iraqi and international activists who have expert knowledge of issues concerning the freedom of expression.
- Emphasize the Iraqi government’s responsibility to protect journalists’ right to life and to be secure, and the rights of women journalists to be protected from harassment, discrimination or abuse by media institutions and in the workplace.
- Build international support for the Iraqi women journalists’ and civil society organizations’ campaign to ensure a quota for women’s representation in all state media institutions, and especially to include guarantee of this quota in the laws establishing the Communications and Media Commission and the Iraqi Media Network (which runs all state media).
Save the Tigris River and the Iraqi Marshes Campaign
The Campaign agrees to develop and strengthen its strategy in two dimensions:
- Regionally: Iraq and all its neighboring states must be pressured to collaborate, according to the principles of international law, in making all decisions related to the construction of the Ilisu Dam, or other dams and projects affecting Iraqis’ right to water from the rivers that flow through their country.
- Specifically, pressure Turkey and Syria to sign agreements that guarantee a fair share of the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers to Iraq.
- Increase international dialogue and diplomacy with Turkey, and develop solidarity between civil society in the two nations.
- Internally: The Iraqi government must be pressured fulfill its obligations to protect its citizens’ water rights.
- Especially to guarantee protection of the infrastructure and to ensure that water is not used as a tool of war or political conflict between different factions within Iraq.
- Iraqi and international civil society activists must expand advocacy work on water rights with the new Iraqi government and the new Parliament.
Protection of Iraqi Minorities Campaign
- Call for the creation of a single, unified national center for registering all alleged violations against minorities in Iraq, to be established through the cooperation of the Iraqi government, the Kurdistan Region Government, and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq [UNAMI].
- Emphasize the need for international support of the Iraqi organizations working in the field to provide relief, humanitarian aid, and support for minorities to return to their home communities. The Iraqi government should provide all practical and legal protections necessary to ensure the delivery of aid in a fair and transparent manner.