For more than 12 years of invasion, war, occupation and as yet unsuccessful attempts to rebuild the Iraqi nation – its society, culture and government – Iraqi civil society activists have campaigned for a unified and peaceful Iraq. We, in the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative [ICSSI] and members of the international peace and justice community, stand in committed solidarity with these courageous women and men: trade unionists, lawyers, journalists, and human rights defenders. In this moment of dire threat to the integrity of the Iraqi state and the security of the Iraqi people from the forces of Daesh and the scourge of sectarianism, we affirm that a strong and dynamic, active and energized civil society is vital for Iraq.
Your vision of a peaceful society in which diverse peoples live together, a society where there is tolerance and dialogue is most assuredly where hope for the future of Iraq lies. We believe in your vision and are ready to support your work in any way we are able.
The Iraqi Social Forum [ISF] over the last two years has successfully united Iraqi advocates of freedom of expression, women’s rights, workers’ rights, minority rights, environmental justice, youth empowerment and the struggle to end corruption in efforts to shape a new Iraq. In response to the crisis situation caused by the advance of Daesh into Iraqi territory, chaos within the Iraqi security forces, the activities of sectarian militia and the rise of extreme tension and hostilities among Shia, Sunni, Kurds and ethnic minorities, the ISF had been preparing to convene a thematic forum on “Tolerance, Reconciliation and Peace” over the weekend of October 2, to mark the international day of nonviolence. In the face of the ever-escalating violence now afflicting Iraq, we understand that planning for the forum has become a great challenge. We ask you, please, tell us about what you hope to achieve in the forum, so that we can share the vision of the ISF with the wider world. At this moment when there is virtually no media coverage of people who believe that tolerance and reconciliation are possible in Iraq, it is vital that the world hears your voices.
We know that the situation of the Iraqi people is dire. Untold numbers have lost their lives, their families, and their homes. Thousands have become internally displaced people fleeing violence. Water, which is so vital for life, is being used as a weapon of war: a war crime that must end. And, Daesh is also destroying the cultural heritage sites of Iraq – precious for all citizens of the world, but especially for the Iraqi people because of what they signify in terms of Iraq’s great role in the history of civilization.
You should not be alone facing these challenges. Social movements, unions and NGOs worldwide want to support you in whatever ways you think are feasible, from the side of civil society, or by asking our governments to act differently than they are doing today. Do not stay silent, do not loose hope, make proposals, ask for something tangible. The international community needs to hear your story about what is happening in Iraq today and how your future could be different.