On 24 November 2018, at the Baghdad Academy of Humanities, as part of the Iraqi Social Forum’s 5th season, the Arts of Peace team launched a campaign against indiscriminate gunfire in Baghdad: gunshots are often used as an expression of joy and celebration but also result in the deaths of innocent bystanders. After a series of training sessions on nonviolence and peace-building, the team held its first workshop on random fire — ”Your Bullets of Joy End Our Joy”. Representatives from the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of the Interior and several civil society organizations participated.
“We are trying to use art to spread peace, this is the main objective of our team as we stand up to violence in the country,” said Fatima Al-Wardi, coordinator of Arts of Peace team. She continued, “The team consists of a group of young volunteers who wish to promote peace through artistic and musical events as a way to deliver the idea of peace in a distinctive way.” The team’s starting point is the province of Baghdad but their hope is that the innovative ideas and methods they are promoting will spread throughout the country. Sheikh Hani Al-Hafiz, from the Community Guidance Department in the Ministry of the Interior, expanded on the importance of this topic within the context of the community. He mentioned the various awareness-raising campaigns held within the Ministry of the Interior to educate the youth about the dangers of random gunfire. Colonel Nabras Mohammed, director of the Baghdad police information department, explained the laws already in place which prohibit firing guns in public places, as well as special committees established to ensure that laws are implemented so that shooters are fined and sometimes even imprisoned. The colonel added that the Baghdad police department itself has a campaign in place to disarm some areas of Baghdad completely, and he offered his firmest commitment to cooperate with the team, inviting them to hold more workshops to educate the public and reduce this persistence of this phenomenon.
The workshop invited interaction from the audience, and there was fruitful discussion about ways to activate and enlarge the role youth so that they can cooperate with related government ministries to end this destructive practice. Dr. Ammar Fouad, Director of Ibn al-Haytham Hospital for the eyes gave a statistics on the injuries witnessed in the hospital. Annually, especially during holidays, more than 100 people are injured each year, some very serious. “On many occasions, particularly at special events like weddings and funerals, such things happen.” He went on to point out that “hospitals in Baghdad might receive in a single holiday season as many as 150 to 200 cases, most of them children, due to reckless gunshots and fireworks.” Last year Ibn al-Haytham Hospital witnessed four eye injuries because of firecrackers and fireworks. Dr. Fouad ended his speech with a commitment to future cooperation with the Arts of Peace team.
The team ended the workshop with a photography exhibit showing the dangers of firecrackers. The photographer, Yasir al-Nakash, one of the volunteers from the Arts of Peace Team, had an exhibition during the festival of 5th season of the Iraqi Social Forum. The photographs he presented, he explained, were meant to encourage Iraqis to reflect on the situation of citizens in their daily lives and how random gunfire, even if motivated by joy and celebration, can nevertheless have an enormous negative impact.
The Arts of Peace Team is part of the Non-violence and Peace-building masar (path) of the Iraqi Social Forum, and works in cooperation with the Information Center for Research and Development, with support and funding from the Norwegian Karibu Foundation. The team seeks to use art as a tool to change existing stereotypes about a perceived culture of violence in Iraq. It is now working on a series of meetings and events in Baghdad, especially in areas suffering from the phenomenon of random gunfire.
Iraqi Social Forum
6 December 2018