The First of its Kind in Baghdad: A Traveling Art Festival Celebrating the Workers of Iraq and Expressing Solidarity with their Demands
By ICSSI – Baghdad, May 2016.
Throughout the entire day on Saturday, May 15, young people coordinated by the Iraqi Social Forum carried a banner and moved in a small bus through the different areas of Baghdad. Each time they parked in one of Baghdad’s neighborhoods, they transformed the bus into a kind of open-air theater and gallery space for their beautiful and inspiring shows.
On the banner, one could read slogans such as:
Safe working environments for all,
Trade union rights and freedoms guaranteed,
Social justice and security, with equal rights and steady work for everyone,
A greater role for women and young people in within our communities.
Carefully selected phrases such as these reflect the aim of this itinerant festival: solidarity with the working class and its urgent demands, and at the same time, a kind of international celebration, a day to acknowledge their joy and unity with people from all over the world. The festival also aimed to break through the social isolation so often felt by workers. Some workers who perform the basic and fundamental services needed by all members of society, such as cleaners, those selling goods in the streets and others, are subjected to discrimination and social exclusion, despite the necessity of all they do for the continuation of public life. The subject of social security received particular focus in the festival, as it coincides with a serious campaign recently launched to raise awareness of the need to expand the scope of workers who are covered by social security, and the need to push for legislation to address this important issue directly.
The traveling festival stopped in Alwat AlRasheed, a place where a significant number of workers in Baghdad sell fruit and vegetables, as well as in AlMansour Mall, which is an important shopping center in the heart of the city. The festival presented a variety of activities such as theater, song, music and other shows. Each stop won the admiration of the audience. At the same time, social media covered the festival as it moved around, capturing a large number of its activities in beautiful pictures and short films for those not physically present. Different activists could document their activities, and these too could be shared to people across the world. A #Social Media was launched recounting details of the festival.
This was the first time that young men and women from Baghdad celebrated and supported workers through creative expression, recognizing and helping to make their demands known. This festival was not spontaneous, rather it was possible only because of the dedicated planning, training and coordinating of its organizers: for instance, the interactive theater team in Baghdad coordinated its activities with the theater trainer in YPEER, Wisam Jawdhari, at the Youth House in Waziriy. Likewise, the Iraqi Social Forum prepared and coordinated with some of the trade unions, who in turn cooperated with the International Solidarity Center, which specializes in the trade union struggle. The extraordinary and distressing recent security events did not prevent Iraqi youth from moving forward in their preparation and organization of this outstanding festival.
A number of organizations contributed to the traveling artistic festival: the Iraqi Social Forum (ISF) supervised the organizing of the event, in cooperation with their partner, activists of the YPEER network. Additionally, the International Solidarity Center and the General Federation of Trade Unions of Iraq’s workers, and the Information Center for Research and Development worked on preparing speeches and scheduling activities. The festival was supported by the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI), and the Norwegian Karibou Foundation as well as Fondation Assistance Internationale (FAI).
You can see more photos on the Iraqi Social Forum Facebook page, by clicking here