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Join Us for the 5th Season of The Iraqi Social Forum!

The 5th season of the Iraqi Social Forum will be held from 22-30 November under the slogan ”Citizenship”. Civil society organizations, trade unions, labor and professional unions, along with dozens of young women and men involved in the teams and working groups of the ISF are preparing for a week of activities with  far-reaching impact: the halls of the Baghdad Academy of Human Sciences and Abu Nuwas Gardens will be transformed into an incubator for action aimed at social justice and civil peace and harmony.

“Citizenship” will be the slogan of this 5th season of the ISF for it falls in line with the aspirations of Iraqis to reform their country by eliminating sectarian and ethnic quotas and standing up to corruption. It will be an opportunity for Iraqis and internationals to come together to work towards establishing a state that will guarantee the rights of everyone, equally.

The Iraqi Social Forum works to facilitate decentralized networking between various parts of civil society, at both the national and international level, thus activating solidarity between Iraqi citizens and activists all over the world. The following masar (paths) of the ISF represent different topics to be taken up during the upcoming 5th season:

– Civil and political rights (with a focus on freedom of expression and the press in Iraq)

– Economic and social rights and social justice

– Environment and water

– Women’s rights and equality

– Nonviolence and peace building

– Minority rights and co-existence

– The right to education

– Heritage and preservation

These and other subjects will be the foundation for rich and productive discussions that lead to practical solutions to problems facing Iraq today. Join us and participate in workshops, seminars and other independently-organized civic activities.

The 5th season of the ISF offers an independent, non-governmental, pluralistic and dynamic environment, free from all forms of discrimination based on race, color, nationality, religion, doctrine, belief, economic or social status. Your participation is a concrete step towards achieving our dream of building another Iraq — one grounded in human rights and social justice.

We invite you to be part of this important event.

To organize or suggest an activity for the 5th season, please use the following link:

https://goo.gl/forms/BtrQlYGSZvesUa9w2

To volunteer to help organize the 5th season, please use the following link:

https://goo.gl/forms/QWRSsetfSPxDaVTI2

 

For more information, visit our website: http://www.iraqsf.org

 

Dukan Hosts Its Second ‘Sports Against Violence’ Camp

Shahad Samir, 20 years old, had her first volunteering experience with Sports Against Violence (SAV) last year in a camp the organization hosted in Dukan. Shahad attends the University of Baghdad – College of Physical Education, and works in parallel with her studies to support her family. She found an excellent opportunity to learn and develop her skills through volunteer work, and joined the SAV camp in Dukan again this year where she was a distinctive presence: the lively short-haired girl revealed a fun spirit coupled with diligence and seriousness in work.

The camp lasted 3 days, from 25 – 29 September 2018, and aimed to prepare the teams who will volunteer at the upcoming Baghdad Peace Marathon. 35 young men and women from Baghdad participated, including activists and volunteers from SAV along with the leaders of those teams responsible for organizing the marathon. The camp involved a series of activities, meetings, and focused dialogues aimed to develop a strategic plan of action for the next two months leading up to the marathon.

Marathon preparation

The first day began with a welcoming speech from the camp organizers. The participants then began a series of meetings and workshops which explored the strategy of using sports as a tool for peacebuilding. It was led by Ahmed Alaa, who explained to the participants the values central to SAV. Alaa then described the preparations that went into the first marathon organized by civil society in Baghdad in 2012, which included short races and mini-marathons around the city.

The camp was not only about listening and talking: mountain climbing and hiking were among the other activities and cultivated a strong sense of team spirit amongst all the participants. Shahad hiked 6 km with her colleagues to reach the top of a mountain — a trip that took 4 solid hours of walking!

The second day included specialized sessions for the seven teams volunteering at the marathon: logistics, photography, referees, program, decorations, social media and registration. These sessions allowed participants to get to know each other better; for example, former volunteers spoke about their past experiences, and new volunteers expressed their aspirations and hopes. Different groups analyzed the strengths and weakness of each team and discussed how to use the SWAT analysis method.

Shahad, who had never been swimming before, took part in a swimming activity in Dukan lake. With support from her colleagues, she overcame her fears and was able to swim in the lake’s cool waters. In addition to the fun, this activity familiarized participants with the need to preserve the environment.

A short trial marathon in Dukan

A short trial marathon concluded the third and final day of the camp. It was an opportunity for participants to apply all they had learned during the camp’s initial days. Teams could practice the roles they will play during the actual marathon — coming soon on 30 November 2018.

One of the key aims for volunteers in this short marathon was to create an environment that encouraged women volunteers and runners to become more involved in the marathon and all the activities related to it. Shahad ran and won first place in the women’s category.

The camp concluded with a small celebration organized by volunteers. Baraa Mahmoud, the coordinator of the marathon preparatory team, spoke at the beginning of the celebration saying: “The success of the camp and all the activities of Sports Against Violence is due to the spirit of unity we have.” The celebration included music, dancing and sharing funny stories experienced during the camp. The participants then returned by bus to Baghdad, full of new ideas, experiences, and special moments that they’ll keep in their minds and hearts forever.

The camp was organized in cooperation with the Information Center for Research and Development, sponsored by the Norwegian Karibo Foundation, as part of a project to support the activities of the Iraqi Social Forum.

Campaign to protect Euphrates from pollution and garbage

Along with World Cleanup Day 15 September, a campaign launched by volunteers of the Peace Forum in Rmadi to defend Euphrates River against pollution in the same city mentioned earlier. The campaign conducted in coordination with Ramadi Police Directorate, Ramadi Municipality and Anbar Environment Directorate, which showed spectacular support to the campaign. within that framework, the volunteers went down the river and made an introductory session on the idea of that Iraqi civil society is trying to form a group to defend the Euphrates River,  the group’s name is Humat Euphrates (Euphrates Protectors).

The Environment Department of Anbar, represented by a number of cadres, expressed its full readiness to cooperate in such environmental activities, which urged the youth to do more in order to promote the environmental reality of Ramadi and generally city of Anbar. The cadres of the Department have made many observations about the environmental situation of the river and the quantities of pollution it suffers. There are many wastes floating on the surface of the water, in addition to dumping heavy water into the river water, causing many serious environmental problems. Our team, consisting of 15 young activists, took to the streets of the city and distributed brochures and posters promoting awareness of the importance of hygiene, environmental protection and pollution reduction. The team also carried out a clean-up campaign including Sidna Omar Street in solidarity with the workers who clean the streets. The campaign was widely welcomed in the city and many of people in the city of Ramadi appreciated the efforts and thanked those who made it.

It is worth mentioning that the activities of Ramadi Peace Forum being held in cooperation with the Iraqi Social Forum, Information Center for Research and Development, the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative, and The Italian organization, Un Ponte Per…  Within a project funded by the Swiss Foundation, FAI.

 

 

A Training Offered by the Iraqi Social Forum’s Kahramana Masar (Path) Empowers Activists to Support Women’s Rights

 

There is no doubt that the feminist movement within Iraqi civil society has reached a new stage of maturity, enabling many activists to achieve goals, which previously seemed out of reach. Perhaps one of the most prominent signs of this success is the integration of women into organizations and institutions in decision-making roles. This broader inclusion of women is precisely what the Kahramana masar (path) of the Iraqi Social Forum has helped to achieve. Kahramana, with support from the Tammuz Organization for Social Development, has been involved in a series of advocacy activities which call for greater representation of women in leadership positions within country, and more generally, to ensure that opportunities for women are on par with those available to men of similar competence and experience.

In order to enhance the ability of the Kahramana masar to continue its exceptional work, activists (both men and women) received a specialized training on the mechanisms of managing advocacy campaigns. The training was organized at the headquarters of Tammuz Organization for Social Development in Baghdad on 15 September and was led by the activist, Ahmed Alaa, a member of the Iraqi Social Forum. 26 activists from the Kahramana masar attended; they benefitted from professional advice and took part in detailed discussions about the opportunities and challenges campaigns often face.

The training was sponsored by the European Union in cooperation with Tammuz Organization for Social Development and the Iraqi Social Forum, in partnership with the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative and the Italian Organization, Un Ponte Per.…

Experts Meet to Address Pollution in the Alyahodia River

The Babilia Social Forum held a research seminar on the challenges currently facing the Alyahodia River in Hilla. The seminar, held on 28 September at Abjad Foundation Hall, brought together university professors and environmental experts to identify problems and propose solutions for the increasingly polluted river.

The Alyahodia River (also called the Babylon or Nabo channel) has a rich history, and the meaning of its name — Judaism — reveals aspects of Iraq’s past that are often forgotten today. Naming this river, Judaism River, dates back to 550 BC when Jewish prisoners were taken from its shores to Babylon by the Babylonian armies. Some inhabited the area from that time until 1950, living harmoniously with neighbors of many different religions and traditions. After 1950, most of them left for Israel. The river was once an area characterized by diversity and peaceful coexistence — which is possible again. Dr. Hazim al-Rubaie, Dean of the Faculty of Environmental Sciences in the University of Green Qassim, explained that . Dr. Dakhil Nasser from Babel University’s Faculty of Science said that the river has suffered in the transition from the past and the present. In the past, its banks were an intersection of cultures and religions, which formed a thriving and integrated community. Today, it is a garbage dump, a cradle for disease and insects that make thousands of families vulnerable to health and environmental problems.

The seminar witnessed great collaboration between activists and experts, who came up with a set of proposals and solutions to solve this crisis. Dr. Mohammed Al-Zafairi, Director of the Environmental Research Center, University of Babylon, presented a series of detailed studies of toxic substances in the river’s water, as well as an account of how to deal with the insects and rodents, which populate it. The river has become a dumping ground for sewage and toxic waste from laboratories. This is a particular problem for textile factories which burn affecting the air quality in surrounding residential communities.

The Babilia Social Forum, a youth volunteer group of the Iraqi Social Forum, is now carrying out a large awareness campaign to reduce the problems of Alyahodia River and has already launched a “#Saveنهراليهودية” hashtag. The group is working to rally public opinion so that their voice can reach the government and related authorities. Several posters and brochures have been distributed to make people aware of what is happening to the river, and a large sports activity will be put on along the river in the coming days.

Councils for Social Cohesion Launched in 4 Governorates

The Iraqi and Kurdistan Social Forums have launched a new initiative to promote social cohesion in 4 governorates. “Councils for Social Cohesion” have been established in Sulaymaniyah, Baghdad, Amara and Ramadi, coordinated by civil society organizations belonging to the working groups (masar) of the social forums. Within these councils community leaders, local authorities and civil society will join forces in order to increase accountability of local authorities and reduce tension within communities. The councils will consist of members representing their local community, from a diverse background including women, and will assemble frequently.

Specifically the councils will hold workshops and roundtables with local authorities, conflict mediation and field visits to the city forums. Local communities will be involved in the decision-making process of the councils and civil society will play a coordinating role. The aim of the workshops and roundtables is to form a coalition between civil society, local communities and local authorities to address thematic issues and find the solutions for them.  The conflict resolution sessions will allow civil society to play a mediating role in local communities.

From 1-2 October in Baghdad, coordinators and facilitators of the four councils gathered to create a strategic plan and to take part in a training on conflict transformation methods, mediation and consensus-building. On the first day participants received a theoretical w to leadership methodologies, conflict roles and negotiation. The second day focused on concrete techniques of negotiation skills, active communication and negotiation agreements. The training was conducted by Mr. Saad Al-Khalidy of the Iraqi Center for Negotiation Skills and Conflict Management. A follow-up training will be organized in 2019.

The councils are expected to schedule their first assemblies in the coming period.

In Sulaymaniyah the council is managed by Un Ponte Per (UPP)

In Baghdad the council is managed by the Iraqi Social Forum

In Amara the council is managed by Misan Social Forum

In Ramadi the council is managed by Fallujah Social Forum

First Mesopotamian Water Forum Announced for Sulaymaniyah March 2019 – Call for Contributions!

Save the Tigris Campaign and partners announce the first alternative civil society forum for water in Mesopotamia: the Mesopotamian Water Forum will be held in Spring 2019 in Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan Region of Iraq, and will involve civil society actors from the states of Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria. It will be an open space to give voice to those who are marginalized and excluded from the discussion about water management in the region. The Mesopotamian Water Forum is based on the social forum model, and is part of the global world social forum process. The idea of the Forum was launched during a joint meeting of Save the Tigris Campaign in the city of Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan Region if Iraq, in April 2017. The website of the Forum can be found here.

We want to foster public debate and encourage broad involvement in initiatives that might be implemented to transform water into an instrument for solidarity and peace, making it a model for the just and fair sharing of resources. We reject the use of water as a tool for oppression, used to entrench inequitable power dynamics that perpetuate ongoing conflicts. This Forum will provide a space for open and public dialogue about the status and access of bodies of water in the Mesopotamian region, and propose a framework for a water policy which is based on participation, sustainability and other social and ecological principles.

This event will be an important opportunity to promote a society-wide coalition for transboundary water cooperation that includes all relevant actors in the region. Civil society organizations, activists, researchers, academics, journalists, local community representatives and local authorities who share our values and are involved in the struggle for sustainable and participatory water management methods, who support our conviction that water is a tool for solidarity and sustainable peace, are invited to take part in the discussions and actions of this Forum. At least 300 participants from the region and beyond will take part in the 3 days of activities.

We believe the preservation and equal sharing of water resources requires cooperation across Mesopotamia and on global levels. Thus it is crucial to share local knowledge with different parts of the world, and to gain from each other’s experiences. This event aims to gather people from Mesopotamia and beyond the region. Such as diverse group will allow us to come up with effective plans which build on and incorporate different perspectives. This in turn will facilitate actions promoting water as a force for peace among the nations of the Mesopotamian region.

The preliminary program of the first International Mesopotamian Water Forum:

Day 1: Opening and plenary discussions

Day 2: Self-organized workshops by participating organizations

Day 3: Plenary workshops conclusions and final declaration

Registration for the Forum will open in December 2018. Keep an eye on our website for updates.

Call for Contributions

We have identified 3 main water challenges in the region: public participation, dams and preservation of the ecosystem. To kickstart the discussions during the plenary sessions of the Forum, we will publish 3 papers on these topics in advance of the event, in December 2018. To complete these papers, we will need to include views from different geographical locations and expertise! Are you based in Iraq, Turkey, Syria or Iran? Do you have expertise in water resources? Then your contribution might be valuable. To do so, please read the abstracts on the website of the Forum and contact the authors via email. Your contribution could be included in the final paper and presented during the Forum! We welcome contributions in English, Arabic, Turkish, Farsi and Kurdish.

For any inquiries, contact coordinator.en @ savethetigris.org

11Local Social Forums Gather in Baghdad for their National Meeting

Eleven local social forums from different Iraqi cities met in Baghdad to discuss their role in the Iraqi social forum process.

“We Love Iraq” meeting

Baghdad

The Karrada district, located in the heart of Baghdad, hosted a 3-day meeting of 11 social forums representing 11 different Iraqi cities. The gathering “We Love Iraq II”, was attended by 50 young men and women from newly liberated cities from Daesh’ occupation in the Upper Euphrates and Tigris River area and their counterparts from the Mesopotamian cities in Southern Iraq. These city forums are part of the Iraqi Social Forum process.

The participants shared updates on their activities of the past year, which included trainings, campaigns as well as festivals, with the Iraqi Social Forum and the Iraqi civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI). Through selected working groups the city forums discussed how to intensify their impact and how to increase coordination among each other.

Water pollution is becoming increasingly acute in major rivers and tributaries in Iraq. The city forums have campaigned on this issue: The Social Forum of Diyala launched a campaign to save the Khorisan River, which is heavily laden with garbage and waste, while the Babylonian Social Forum ran a similar campaign to save the Jewish River in the city of Hilla. Other forums, including the Hit Peace Forum, the Ramadi Peace Forum and the Falluja Peace Forum, decided to do campaigns on community dialogue and social cohesion to help their cities overcome divides among local communities. Other forums focused on the preservation of cultural heritage. For example, I Love Dhi Qar is currently collaborating with authorities to protect the site of the ancient city of Ur and the archaeological museum of Nasiriyah, while the Social Forum of Maysan is intensifying its campaigning to protect the Marshes and the cultural heritage of the city.

Young females were well represented at the national meeting. A seminar was dedicated on how to create a suitable environment  for females to participate in local social forums in different cities of Iraq. Participants agreed to work to “create a stimulating environment for girls to work within the forums instead of repeating the old saying that our society does not allow girls to participate,” from the locality of each city forum.

Who are the local social forums and why are they important?

The local social forums represent a first-of-its-kind joint space that coordinating the work of youth teams and civil society organizations in each city. These forums adhere to the values and principles following the Iraqi Social Forum movement in Baghdad, which was founded in 2013. The local social forums generally campaign on the following topics: peace and social cohesion, water and environment, cultural heritage, labor and social rights, women’s rights. Each of these forums have been organizing localized campaigns on these issues. With the aim to sensitize communities and advocate with authorities in order to make a tangible difference in Iraqi society. Each forum has held an open annual festival celebrating their city.

Six of these forums are on the Euphrates River: the Hit Forum – in city of Hit, the Ramadi Peace Forum – in the city of Ramadi, Falluja Peace Forum – in the city of Fallujah, the Babilia Forum – in the city of Hilla in Babylon, Najaf social Forum – in the city of Najaf And “I love Dhi Qar” Forum – in the city of Nasiriyah. The other five forums are located along the banks of the Tigris River. These are: Tikrit Forum – in Tikrit city, Diyala Forum – in Diyala city, Kut Social Forum- in Kut city, Diwaniyah Environment and Peace Forum – in Diwaniyah city, Maysan Social Forum – in Amara city.

The participation of the National Committee of the Iraqi Social Forum in this meeting was an excellent opportunity for the city forums to familiarize with the democratic participatory process that exists within the Iraqi Social Forum, the “mother” forum in Baghdad. The National Committee is a committee composed of about 19 organizations, voluntary teams and masarat (paths) that form the backbone of the Iraqi Social Forum.

Different paths of the Iraqi Social Forum were present in the meeting, representing different thematic spaces within the forums. They have encouraged activists from the city forums to integrate these different paths in their cities. In particular the path of Kahramana, which focuses on women’s participation in decision-making, has been invited to expand its work to most of the cities.

This was the second national meeting organized by the secretariat of the Iraqi Social Forum with a diverse group of volunteers and the ICSSI team. The first meeting was held in 2017 during which eight forums participated. The local social forums are part of the program “Paths of Coexistence in Mesopotamia”, supported by the Swiss Foundation FAI, in partnership with the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative, the Italian organization Un Ponte Per, and the Information Center for Research and Development. The program aims to promote and pass the core values and principles of the Iraqi Social Forum through local forums that work for social cohesion and peace building.

What Was Not Destroyed by Drought is Now Burned by Fire

Humat Dijlah, 7/8/2018

As a result of drought and water scarcity in the marshes, fire continues to spread over large areas of al-Huwaizah Marsh in Maisan Governorate in Southern Iraq, ravaging the natural area. Environmental activist Ahmed Saleh Neema, based in Maisan, explained the fire started in the pond of Um Alneaj of al-Hawizah Marsh between 6thand 7th of July. As it spread rapidly clouds of thick black smoke covering the area from were seen from kilometers away. Neema  says fires are common as they are usually started by local inhabitants, who burn reeds and papyrus at the end of each year in a tradition known among the local population to revitalize the vegetation in the areaBut this time the fires broke out for different reasons: drought and water scarcity. This led to the death of hundreds of hectares of reed lands, and dry reed makes it easily susceptible to fires at high temperatures.

Al-Janabi: This Time the Fire is Out of Control!

“The fires in Huwaizah are an additional disaster on top of the water scarcity,”  said Dr. Hassan al-Janabi, Minister of Water Resources in Iraq. “This time the fire is out of control!,” he added.

The Ministry of Water Resources released a statement on the issue: “Recently there have been fires in the densely reed areas in the northern part of al-Huwaizah Marsh, one of the Southern Iraq Marshes and one of the four natural sites within the World Heritage property [of the Ahwar] and the first site of the Ramsar Convention in Iraq”. The statement claimed the drought was the result of drought in  large parts of the marshes due to severe water scarcity and low water flows to these wetlands, reaching exceptional minimum levels this year.The Ministry added: “The unprecedented increase in temperatures contributed to the spread of these fires. This has a negative impact on the health of the local population and biodiversity in the region, with significant air pollution caused by the smoke from the fires.”

The Ministry called on “international agencies and national and international organizations to provide support and relief to the people of those areas and to provide them with drinking water, food essentials and livestock feed to alleviate the harm and help them overcome this crisis,” demanding “cooperation between Iraq and Iran to increase the release of water from both sides to protect the site.” Huwaiza Marsh is located on the border, with two-thirds in Iraq and one-third in Iran. A decade ago the Iranians built an embankment on the border within the Marsh.

The Revolutionary Guard Intervenes on the Iranian Side

Days after it broke out, the firespread to Hoor al-Azim on the Iranian side of the Marsh, prompting the Iranian authorities to act immediately to quell it. Brigadier Farzadi Bauer referred to the Revolutionary Guard’s procedures to extinguish the reed fire in al-Hawizah Marsh, confirming that on July 18, following the instruction of the Air Force Commander of the Revolutionary Guards, two 171-mile helicopters equipped with firefighting equipment went to carry out the firefighting operation. According to Brigadier Bauer the helicopters of the Revolutionary Guard carried out more than 70 hours of flights to extinguish the fire in Hoor al-Azim, pointing out that the fire was very large and due to heavy smoke, access to the eye of the fire was fraught with difficulties. The main goal of their operation was to prevent another outbreak of fires in the Marshes.

Appeals to the Iraqi Government

From her side, Ms. Simra Al-Shabib, Director of the Marshlands Rehabilitation Center, welcomed the Iranian offer for cooperation to fightthe fire on the Iraqi side of Al-Huwaiza Marsh with the help of equipment of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Sheindicated that the Center had approached the Iraqi Ministry of Defense earlier to request assistance in order to mitigate the crisis, but the Ministry was unable to provide the necessary air force for this operation claiming the required type of aircraft is not available in Iraq.

Meanwhile, more than 28 days of fires have been reported to have destroyed hundreds of hectares of reed forests along the Marshes, as well as the displacement of birds, destruction of their nests and the deaths of other wild animals. While environmental activist Jassem al-Asadi confirmed that there were no human casualties as a result of these fires, and no cases of loss of livestock were recorded, according to the follow-up to the crisis.

According to al-Asadi, the main cause of the fire were the reed forests in the Marshes which were so dry they burned easily. Because of high temperature fires swept through the dry cane forests quickly. He stressed that the biggest crisis experienced by the Iraqi Marshes is the drought and low levels of water, bringing havoc in all its forms to the region.

Humat Dijlah Association calls on the Iraqi government and the local government in Maisan Governorate to take into consideration the extent of the environmental, natural and demographic damage caused by these fires in the Marshes. We call on the Iraqi government to take serious steps to resolve the drought crisis and to take steps to restore life to these natural areas and avoid further damage to the property.

I Love Dhi Qar” Forum Holds a Training Workshop on Human Development

On the weekend of 3-4 August, “I Love Dhi Qar” Forum held a training workshop on developing the capabilities and abilities of its youth volunteers. Training consisted of four hours each day over the two days, and was held in the hall of Mashhovna Center in Nasiriyah.

During the course of this training, several topics related to human development were discussed. The first day included discussing comfort levels that directly relate to the life and goals of people, and how to develop good habits and routine. The second day discussed the method of developing the subconscious, and thinking outside the box, which is greatly related to creativity.

The training was attended by 17 young people, including 3 women representing volunteer teams working with the “I love Dhi Qar” Forum. The training involved thoughtful interactions among the young people who participated. The different topics included a need and desire to understand various aspects of human personality.

This training is part of “Social Cohesion of Mesopotamia” project, which aims to support young people in a number of Iraqi governorates. This project is implemented by the Iraqi Social Forum and the Information Center for Research and Development, in collaboration with the Iraq Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI) and the Italian organization Bridge To, and is sponsored by the Swiss FAI Foundation.