During the fifth season of the Iraqi Social Forum, a workshop was held entitled, “The National Plan for the Prevention of Extremism … Multiple Approaches.” Announced at the workshop was the creation of the Iraqi Observatory for the Prevention of Extremism (IQ-OPEV). Participants and attendees included a number of activists representing the international secretariat of the Observatory, as well as representatives of the Observatory in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
The four sets of activities at the workshop included:
- The founding statement of the Observatory was read in the presence of a number of members of the National Secretariat of the Iraqi Social Forum. Also discussed were the various principles and ideas that ground the Observatory’s work.
- The Observatory’s definition of extremism was presented and discussed, noting that extremism is not linked to any particular religion, sect or nationality, and instead is about the ways in which all kinds of extremism may lead to violence. Moreover, regional work was discussed, identifying key Observatory members who are responsible for regional networking and communication.
- The results of Observatory research were presented and reviewed, focusing specifically on a questionnaire that asked approximately 400 people their opinions about the root causes of extremism.
- The workshop closed with a dialogue and discussion about the results of the research, and how to design a program focusing on the prevention of extremism. Participants emphasised that part of this process must include identifying effective criteria to properly measure extremism and moderation in Iraq, and how to achieve broad consensus around such criteria and standards.
The most important action points identified at the workshop included:
- Continuing to produce research on extremism in Iraq.
- Working towards building a national plan that a wide selection of the Iraqi public can participate in to effectively create and build peaceful outcomes.
- Communicating with politicians and state agencies in order to achieve the implementation of programs to prevent extremism.
- Communicating with academics, researchers and study centres who are already working on extremism issues.
- Building Iraqi standards to measure the phenomenon of extremism and associated negative effects.
- Designing and building a process towards the prevention of extremism, and developing mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating outcomes and progress.
- Collecting successful Iraqi experiences around prevention, and networking between activists, intellectuals and academics.
- Raising awareness around the necessity of prevention, such as through educational programs for civil society groups, media activists and social networking sites.
- Working on gathering moderate social, political and intellectual figures to convey the message of moderation to Iraqi society and to introduce the public to key figures promoting moderation.
- Building a national plan to deploy a variety of approaches to the prevention of extremism. This plan will be based on UN guidelines and the Barcelona Declaration, as well as research and planning efforts agreed on by activists and researchers in Iraq.
Iraqi Observatory for the Prevention of Extremism