On Thursday, 5 October 2017 at the Shakoufyan Cultural Center, the Peace Forum in Hit organized a workshop on nonviolence. The training focused on building the skills needed to carry out nonviolent campaigns aimed at peaceful coexistence as an alternative to sectarian violence in Mesopotamia. This is the first workshop in Hit since its liberation from Daesh, and is an early step in the “You are Our Other Half” campaign, which works to foster good relations between residents of the city and those living in the surrounding areas. Relations were strained by the horrors of living under Daesh, and continue to be fragile since its departure. By recruiting fighters from all sides of old conflicts, Daesh reignited strife in the city based on differentials of power and influence. This deliberate aggravation of hostility between residents of Hit broke down social ties, and deepened the divide between groups living in different areas of the city. With participation from 30 residents from different voluntary organizations and civil society groups from all over the city, the workshop became an important means for rebuilding trust.
The coordinator of the Shakoufyan Initiative, Mahmoud Al-Heeti, said that the workshop hoped to increase an understanding of the principles of nonviolence, its tools and its strategies. This knowledge in turn will help to realize the aims of the masar (path) of peaceful coexistence within the Iraqi Social Forum, which receives further support from the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative and the Swiss FAI Foundation.
The coordinator of the Sada Al-hayat team, Mohammed al-Bakr, explained that “The community of Hit is divided into two parts: the first is dominated by the civil character within the old city, and the second has the tribal character present in those areas outside the city center. There are many conflicts between the two communities, and the campaign “You are Our Other Half” represents a new vision in which channels of dialogue are open, thus uniting the two groups into a single community of Hit, overcoming racist beliefs with nonviolent tools.”
The media director of the Peace Forum, Ahmed Salam, said, “Since Hit’s liberation from Daesh, conflicts have emerged in society which have caused fears among citizens about the possibility of the return of terrorist organizations. At the Peace Forum, we realized the importance of ensuring that there are open channels of dialogue between all people of Hit. This will help to build the sense that conflicts can be resolved nonviolently and that peaceful coexistence is possible. We have relied on young people because they have the greatest influence in this kind of endeavor, and this workshop was organized to empower them, showing them how the tools of nonviolence can build bridges of confidence and mutual respect. The campaign will work specifically on rehabilitating a number of schools in three areas of Hit: Albu Nimr, Tal Aswad and Bakr, with the primary goal of conveying a message that conflicts cannot break the common bonds that bind us.”