* Yousif Samer Al-Azzawi
Istanbul – February 2016
Though I have not been working with the Iraqi Social Forum for long, it has been long enough to see their great efforts and the important work they do for the advancement of our country. It has also been long enough to see why members of the Forum enjoy their work — it is honest work, work of real integrity, and work with a vital aim. It is heartening to see such people whilst in the midst of the financial crises the country currently faces; they are the light illuminating a path out of the darkness of corruption.
The activities of the Iraqi Social Forum protest against extremism, against sectarianism and racism, against inequality, against every issue that breeds injustice and thus calls for protest. Protesting is not necessarily manifested in massive demonstrations, we can protest by other kinds of activism, by gathering men and women on stage in front of hundreds of people. We can protest by making it possible for both sexes to run together in the streets in the Baghdad Marathon. Through activities like these we changed a part of the society, we challenged inequality, and we decreased sectarianism and racism by gathering all religions and sects to work in one activity and for one goal.
I have worked in the Iraqi Social Forum as a coordinator assistant, and was honored to take on this responsibility, for it enabled me to organize activities of the Forum with my colleagues, and to take a leadership role of a wonderful team of volunteers of all ages, religions and sects — and in fact, it is they who are the foundation of all the Forum’s success. I also participated in the preparations for the Baghdad Marathon with Mr. Nicola from the organization, Sport against Violence. We faced many difficulties and obstacles from all levels, however, through our efforts and with cooperation from the Forum and its supporters, we were able to make it happen. This proves how powerful we can be given the stability and strength we find in working together as a team. When facing challenges, we do not fall. This unity, determination and vision is the Iraqi Social Forum.
There are many possibilities I hope to develop further with the Iraqi Social Forum during its upcoming seasons. The most important are to:
- Diversify the participation of local organizations, which contribute to the Forum’s activities, and to focus on popular organizations that have a large youth base and take strong actions.
- Increase the artistic events because they are an effective way to change a society’s perception of itself and what it is capable of becoming (we have seen this from our experience in the second season— art reduces extremist ideology and is a great way to attract people to the Forum and make them aware of all it does).
- Build on the experiences of other international social forums so as to develop our ideas and hone our expertise.
*Secretariat of the Iraqi Social Forum.
This paper has been prepared for the strategic meeting between the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI) and the Iraqi Social Forum.