Press Statement – Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI)
Baghdad – Monday, Oct 5th, 2015
The Iraqi Social Forum (ISF) launched its second session at Abu Nawas Gardens in Baghdad on the 1st, 2nd, and the 3rd of October 2015, under the slogan: “Another Iraq is Possible.” The ISF, with its civil society and democratic organizations, calls for political and social changes that respect human rights, do not rely on sectarian quotas and avoid discrimination among Iraqis according to religion, sect or ethnicity. The statement of the ISF National Committee, read on the stage by a young activist, made it clear: “The Iraqi Social Forum starts its second session under a political and security crisis. We stand at a crossroads and whether or not we create a civil state our future will change dramatically. We must escalate our work, going forward to empower our civil approach to society in this country”.
The will of Iraqi youth defied a sand storm, technical difficulties, and the anxieties that exist because of the security and political situation, and for three days the Abu Nawas Gardens were turned into an inspiring carnival of political and social discussion, attended by about 2500 Iraqis from different provinces of Iraq. Joining them, for three days of stimulating activities, were participants from Arab and non-Arab nations. The activities included interactive sessions, musical performances, focused activities, and self-organized booths. All the while, more than 150 volunteers, mostly youth, roamed the gardens “like bees” to organize the Forum.
Tunisia, Palestine, Italy, Zambia, and Germany were among the countries that sent representatives to attend the ISF and represent civil society movements from their countries. Overcoming the difficulties set by some Iraqi embassies to grant visas to Baghdad, they carried with them the greetings and love of many other internationals who were unable to join the ISF because of their inability to obtain Iraqi visas. In the future, the ISF and the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative hope that friends of Iraq from all over the world will be allowed to attend our events.
The Iraqi Social Forum activities were reported by an alternative national youth press that relied upon the efforts of the ISF volunteers; simultaneously, the Iraqi Network for Social Media (INSM) played a major role in delivering a live stream of many of the activities of the ISF (recorded videos are available online). The opening and closing ceremonies, and the marathon for Sports Against Violence, demonstrated the valuable contribution of hundreds of talented young Iraqis who translated the ISF slogan, “Another Iraq is Possible”, into reality and built participation with a massive campaign on social media in September. They thereby showed that youth, who transcend narrow sectarian and ethnic affiliations, have the means and voices to achieve their goals.
The voices of young girls and boys proclaimed from the stage “We are Iraq! Who are you?” Emotional messages from Palestine and Tunisia confirmed for the Iraqis that they are not alone. The whole world needs Iraq to be again a great country, and its people to launch cultural festivals and important social and regional forums.
The ISF program included the Baghdad Marathon for Peace, which was the dream of many years, attended by at least 200 male and 20 female runners. The Forum Secretariat and the National Committee of the ISF worked hard to implement the whole program, even though all activities had to be suspended on Friday afternoon for the weekly anti-corruption demonstration and the risk involved by massive participation of Sadrist followers. On Saturday, Abu Nawas Street saw anyway the run for Peace, postponed of one day; despite the last minute changes for security concerns, participation exceeded expectations for both male and female participants.
The forum framed this year’s activities with the overarching topic of civil peace, and gave a positive characterization to this word: Peace does NOT mean surrender! Indeed the ISF supports civil movements that have acted and organized massive demonstrations in response to the rampant corruption and sectarianism that exhausted Iraq for many years. The speech of the ISF National Committee stressed that: “The social civil movements in Iraq faced all of these risks earlier, and stand in demonstrations carrying the slogan of peace, calling for national unity, seeking a state that adopts the interests of the community and their aspirations for safety, peace, stability and decent living. The National Committee of the Iraqi Social Forum is a part of what happens now every Friday. This session of the ISF was devoted to community needs, and civil peace stands at the top of our list”.
For pictures and to add your comments, check the Facebook page of the ISF:
The Iraqi Social Forum 2015 has been supported by: CCFD, Fondation Assistance Internationale, ICSSI, Karibu Foundation, Norwegian Social Forum, Sports Against Violence, Un ponte per…