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


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.

Trade unions and civil society organizations addressing the issue of fighting human trafficking and compulsory labor

On World Day against Trafficking in Human Beings, July 30, the laborers’ Economic and Social Rights masar (path), in collaboration with the Labor Solidarity Center, organized a training workshop at the Iraqi Social Forum for trade unions and civil society organizations on legal frameworks to fight human trafficking and prevent compulsory labor in Iraq.

The workshop, which lasted for two days (30-31 July 2018), dealt with the legal frameworks to fight human trafficking in Iraq in accordance with law No. 28 of 2012 and the fight against compulsory labor as stipulated in Labor Law No. 37 of 2015, where signs of compulsory labor were studied along with the ways to observe and follow-up by trade unions and civil society organizations as well as to address cases of human trafficking that were observed during the period.

The participants agreed on forming a national team to follow the issues of compulsory labor and the mechanisms of disclosure of such cases and to raise workers’ awareness on the indicators of compulsory labor and ways to address them either through the labor inspection system or through the competent labor courts. On the International Day of Human Trafficking, participants addressed a number of messages to the society, government, trade unions and civil society organizations, stressing the importance of giving priority to this issue and contributing to the development of appropriate solutions in society and the labor market, of which children, women and migrant workers constitute the largest proportion.

The participants discussed the crimes committed by Daesh against the women in the areas occupied by them and the trafficking of children and women from all parts of these regions, especially the Yezidis. The participants called on  government agencies to intensify efforts to find out the fate of those kidnapped and trafficked, offer all kinds of support to their families, and rehabilitate and integrate them into society. The participants also stressed the solidarity of trade unions and civil society organizations in Iraq with victims of human trafficking around the world.

It is noteworthy that the masar (path) of economic rights is one of the masarat (paths) of the Iraqi Social Forum, which works to protect the rights of workers and give greater importance to the work of trade unions within the sectors operating in the country. The new national team will continue to work in the coming months and coordinate with relevant government agencies and civil society organizations and trade unions to unite Efforts and develop a long-term action plan on fighting human trafficking and compulsory labor.

Arts of Peace Team, Laying a First Stone in a Foundation Dedicated to Nonviolence

From 8-10 July, the Iraqi Social Forum (ISF) held a specialized training in Baghdad to develop the capacity of youth in a new ‘Arts of Peace’ team, part of the ISF’s nonviolence masar (path). The training included a review of key strategies for building successful campaigns, starting with problem analysis, determining the targets best suited to guide the campaign, and finally, measuring the results.

Four young women and five young men participated in the training and now make up the core of the Arts of Peace team. A range of topics were considered, with special attention given to ongoing violence in Baghdad. The participants were divided into two groups and discussed effective ways of building and implementing campaigns dedicated to specific issues. The first group explored ways they might improve the preservation of long neglected buildings of historical and cultural importance in the city, such as theaters and houses. The second group discussed the random shootings in Baghdad which continue to kill many people.

Ahmad Alaa led the training and provided a thorough overview of how to use nonviolent means to confront various social issues, highlighting the ways art can be used effectively in a nonviolent campaign. The team agreed to focus their first campaign on the random shootings, which they will start work on next month. A clear schedule was drawn up listing the activities that will be included in the campaign. The group also determined the time period needed to collect information, and how best to rally public opinion to pressure the government to pass a law directed at ending this senseless violence that is causing so much suffering.

The Iraqi Social Forum is an open space for social movements, civil society organizations, and voluntary teams that collaborate together with the conviction that “Another Iraq is Possible”. This is an Iraq grounded in true democracy, human rights, and social justice. The organizers of the training seek to develop the full potential of the new Arts of Peace team, empowering them to use art as a tool which can challenge the traditional mentality, which assumes that violence is necessary to achieve one’s goals.

Local Forums Across Iraq Reveal a Strong and Growing Youth Movement

Over the past year, the Iraqi Social Forum has become a model for smaller local forums springing up throughout the country. These local forums galvanize and train young activists to work inclusively and nonviolently to create a better Iraq, one based on the values of peace and social cohesion.These values, which became dormant under the weight of unwanted war and violent extremism, are reemerging with increasing strength and vitality as young Iraqis work to implement campaigns and put on events which are creating a new future for Iraq.

Two trainings were recently held in Diyala and Babylon to help further this goal by preparing young activists to become effective agents for positive change. Both trainings drew on the knowledge of the participants themselves — after all, as local residents, they are in a unique position to identify the most pressing issues facing their communities and to come up with realistic ideas of how they might be resolved.

The training in Diyala, on 30 June, was attended by 11 young men and women, and began with a brainstorming session about what they saw as the most urgent problems in the province today. Three critical issues were identified: 1.) stopping the continued pollution of the Khresan River which is having devastating effects on residents and the environment; 2.) taking a stand against the harassment of women who work in the private sector in Baquba city; and 3.) preventing the dredging of farmland in Baquba city to construct more housing. Participants then divided into groups and worked on possible solutions to each problem. For instance, the group considering the dredging of farmlands in Baquba acknowledged the need for more housing given an increasing population, but proposed using unproductive land for the construction of residential buildings rather than vital farmlands necessary for food and commerce. Those considering the pollution of the Khresan river identified garbage from cafes along it as a major contributing factor. Priority was then given to determine strategies to manage the cafe trash.

At the end of the training, each participant received a certificate and together they decided to form a coordinating committee that will act as the core of their new local forum. The committee will prioritize and organize its future activities.

In Babylon, on 6-7 July, 9 youth activists came together to learn about planning and implementing nonviolent campaigns aimed at resolving local problems. As in Diyala, the training did not take the form of a passive lecture, but gave the participants an active role in identifying and thinking about how to tackle the problems around them.  This engagement allowed the young men and women taking part to draw on their own knowledge and experience so that it could be channeled to help improve their communities. The two main issues that came up had to do with the need to preserve the rich heritage of the city, both archaeological and natural. Participants started to develop campaigns which will help to improve the administration of historical sites and raise public awareness about environmental issues and place pressure on local government to take action.


Both trainings come within a wider program for social cohesion called ‘Paths of Coexistence in Mesopotamia’, supported by the Swiss FAI Organization, in partnership with the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative, the Italian organization, Un Ponte Per, and the Information Center for Research and Development. This program aims to spread and strengthen the core values and principles of the Iraqi Social Forum by establishing local forums in number of Iraqi cities which support social cohesion and peace-building.

Urim: A civil initiative to protect the ancient city of Ur

Each year, hundreds of people visit the city of Ur, which lies to the west of Nasiriya City. After it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, officials in charge of the city were provided an opportunity to implement a plan to run and protect the ancient city. Iraqi civil society actors believe that the success of any plan to run and protect the archaeological site is only complete with the participation of two main actors: local communities and civil society. These two sets of actors complement each other and in turn the efforts of executive authorities and relevant ministries to achieve the goal of proper and sustainable city administration, which ensures preservation of its heritage contents and protects it from any kind of harm or damage.

“A Sustainable Preservation Plan for the Ur Archaeological Site” is the title of the seminar that was organized by the Urim Initiative in the Chamber of Commerce hall in Nasiriya City on 20 July. Several local officials from Dhi Qar City attended the seminar, as well as many others interested in Iraqi archaeology and heritage. Several discussions centred around the most prominent ways of protecting the immense cultural heritage that the city of Ur has to offer.

The seminar opened with a welcoming and an introductory speech on the Ur initiative. This was followed by the archaeologist and professor Abd Al Amir Al Hamdani speaking about the national effort and achievement of getting the ancient city of Ur listed as a World Heritage site, which enabled it to be further sustained and cared for, and protected from the dangers the city currently faces.

Dr. Ismael Dawood, of the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative, displayed the proposed plan for protecting the archeological site of Ur, which was designed by the office of the Italian architect Carlo Leopardy and in collaboration with the University of Laspiansa in Italy. Dawood explained that this plan would be sent to Iraq’s Ministry of Culture for review and implementation with hopes that the ministry would take advantage of the great possibilities and opportunities within the plan.

Professor Franco de Agostino, an Italian archaeologist, provided an extensive presentation on the Italian role in this initiative. This was followed by comments from the Chairman of the Committee of Tourism and Antiquities within the Dhi Qar Provincial Council, Ajyal Karim, who praised these types of initiatives and activities related to archaeological preservation, and announced the readiness of her committee to provide full support and cooperation for the success and achievement of the goals of the initiative. The director of the archaeological site of Ur, Ali Kadhim, also shared her opinion and announced the readiness of the Antiquities Directorate in Dhi Qar and the management of the site of Ur to provide full support and cooperation to ensure the success of the Urim Initiative.

One of the most important presentations was from the President of the University of Dhi Qar, Dr. Riad Shenta Jabr, who emphasized the full cooperation between the Faculty of Archeology at the University and the Urim Initiative. This was followed by a discussion about the vital role of the central Iraqi government in supporting, assisting and facilitating the procedures that would contribute to the protection of archeological sites and ancient cities. Speakers also cited the need for allocating financial support within the federal budget for sustaining and protecting the archaeological site of Ur and the marshes of Iraq.

The Urim seminar is part of a set of events being held alongside the UNESCO meeting, which will take place in Manama, Bahrain at the end of this month. For example, Mashufna Cultural Center organized a trip to the ancient city of Ur, and to the city of Chabaish, where the Marsh Festival was held. The festival emphasized the need to keep the Iraqi marshes on the World Heritage List, and pressed the Iraqi government to implement UNESCO requirements for the site, and to protect the marshes from drought through the development of an appropriate water management plan under the slogan: “Let’s Keep it Global.”

The Urim Initiative is an effort launched by local and international organizations aimed at: assisting the local government to develop a sustainable conservation plan for the archaeological site of Ur, highlighting UNESCO’s requirements that must be met in order to keep the city of Ur on the World Heritage List, and emphasizing the great cultural heritage of Ur.


From the Chibayish District, the Marshes Festival Sends a Call to Iraqis to Protect Nature

Save the Tigris Campaign

After Iraqis celebrated the inclusion of their marshes on UNESCO’s World Heritage List two years ago in July 2016, it was expected that a new stage of recovery and prosperity throughout all of the Iraqi marshlands would begin, that this international recognition would end years of neglect and resulting environmental damage. However, this hope quickly faded due to continued negligence on the part of the Iraqi government and a failure to alert the world’s attention to the marshes as an international heritage. The failure to enact clear policies protecting this rich heritage is the cause of urgent environmental and humanitarian crises (severe drought, clean water shortages, power outages). And these crises have in turn galvanized local and international organizations to take action.

The Marshes Festival, collectively organized by a number of civil society groups and located in the heart of the marshes themselves, was a response to governmental neglect and a call for change. Participation was extensive and included: the Humat Dijlah Association, the Nature Iraq Organization and the Mashufna Cultural Center/Information Center for Research and Development. The festival was held within the central marshes of the Chibayish district of Dhi Qar province on 19 June 2018, just a few days before the UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting in Bahrain which would discuss the marshes and highlight which international recommendations on file had been achieved, ultimately determining whether the marshes will remain on the World Heritage List.

The festival received wide media coverage from both Iraqi and international media outlets, and the urgent message about the magnitude of the danger now facing the Iraqi marshes was spread throughout the world. The environmental destruction and the human suffering caused by continued neglect of the marshes were made clear, the most prominent being low levels of water and the constant threat of drought, which puts all existing life forms in the marshes in jeopardy. Thriving biodiversity and normal levels of population activity are also at serious risk due to rising pollution and the resulting disease and epidemics which kill humans, wildlife and native flora. Policies must be put into place which prevent the dumping of sewage directly into rivers without treatment (including waste composed of solid and non-biodegradable materials and chemicals), for all this then flows straight into the marshes. These are long-standing problems that people who live in the marshlands have talked about for years, with increasing bitterness and anger.

Mr. Mustafa Samad, one of the shekhs of the Chibayish district, opened the festival by welcoming guests who came from other Iraqi provinces and other countries to show their solidarity with the people of the marshes. Then Dr. Franco Dagostino, a well-known archaeologist and head of the Italian exploration mission in Iraq, spoke on behalf of his international colleagues about the international community’s understanding of what the Iraqi marshes are going through and what it represents for human civilization and the world. He expressed his firm support for any movement aimed at protecting these natural wonders.

The festival also witnessed the launch of a book entitled Iraqi Negotiator and Ilisu Dam which presents a reading of the 1997 Convention on the Law of the Use of International Watercourses for Non-navigational Purposes. The author of the book, Dr. Ismail Dawood, presented a brief summary of the central ideas raised in the book including some tactics and strategies the Iraqi negotiator might use to obtain water rights when negotiating with upstream countries. Dr. Dawood, who was one of the founders of Save the Tigris Campaign six years ago, also highlighted the active role civil society must play, for instance, by making clear and unequivocal demands to the Iraqi government about how to move forward negotiations with Turkey and Iran on  these urgent water issues. He pointed out that the countless delays already witnessed by this file will only lead to further water disasters in Iraq. Dr. Dawood concluded bu  calling on the concerned parties to take a firm and clear position with Turkey and Iran about this water emergency, one that stands apart from and above other political interests.

The environmental expert Jassem al-Asadi, representative of the Nature Iraq Organization, and one of the organizers of the festival, presented a comprehensive review of the fluctuation of water levels in the years before the inclusion of the marshes on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. He then contrasted this with levels after the inclusion, indicating the magnitude of the damage suffered by residents of this region. Al-Asadi has a personal stake in this issue as he is himself a resident of the Chibayish marshes, and one of the activists studying and documenting the water situation there. Salman Khairallah, representative of the Humat Dijlah Association, spoke about the ongoing struggle of Humat Dijlah in all Iraqi governorates to increase environmental awareness about the importance of protecting nature and water in Iraq. He pointed out that the youth movement of Humat Dijlah, which started in Baghdad three years ago, is now active in more than 10 Iraqi cities, and that the concerns of the association are not focused on protecting the Tigris River only, but on protecting all water sources in Iraq, whether major rivers, sub-tributaries, natural and industrial lakes, wetlands or marshes.

Other activists and academics contributed to the event, raising awareness about the importance of protecting the heritage of Iraq and its historical legacy, such as Dr. Abdulamir Al-Hamdani and the expert Rashad Salim, who came from Britain to participate. The festival also included a bazaar with exhibits from several participating teams and organizations, including the Maysan Social Forum, the Save the Tigris Campaign, the Mashufna Cultural Center, Humat Dijlah and Nature Iraq. Dr. Dawood also took the opportunity to sign copies of his book and give it to some participating individuals and organizations.

The Marshes Festival was organized by the Humat Dijlah Association and the Nature Iraq Organization, in cooperation with the Mashufna Cultural Center and the Iraqi Social Forum, in partnership with the Italian organization Un Ponte Per.., the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative and the Save the Tigris Campaign. It received funding from the European Union, and the French CCFD.

A Successful Training Organized by Najaf Social Forum

With the participation of 14 young activists from different organizations and voluntary teams, the Najaf Social Forum organized a specialized training in collaboration with the Iraqi Social Forum. The training focused on how to plan and run effective campaigns, and took place in Najaf city from 1-2 June 2018. This training is one of a series of trainings organized by the Iraqi Social Forum in cities all over Iraq. Taken together, the trainings are creating a strong network of young activists who are well prepared to contribute to a growing Iraqi youth movement working for peace and social cohesion.

After reviewing some of the essential tools for planning, leading and administering civil campaigns, Salman Khairalla, member of the secretariat of the Iraqi Social Forum and leader of the training, engaged the trainees in an open discussion about the most pressing social problems now facing Najaf province. Together they evaluated these problems and considered how civil campaigns might be used to help resolve them. For instance, how might a civil campaign be designed to counter hate speech from extremists who claim to speak for many, but who in fact represent a small minority of people? How can activists work to counteract the suffering caused by the pollution of the Kufa River? And how might a civil campaign work to prevent further water shortages, thus putting an end to their damaging impact on nearby farmlands? What kinds of solutions are available to the people and the government?

The Najaf Social Forum was established last year and gathers together those who want to work on peace-building and other related social issues in Najaf province. One can see its impact already by considering the range of organizations and youth working teams which participated in this recent training, including: the Imprint of Hope organization, the Think About Others team, Writers Union of Najaf, AKITU for Solidarity and Sustainable Development team, as well as some individual activists.

The Iraqi Social Forum has been working over the past few years to pass on its experiences to many Iraqi cities, primarily cities near Tigris and Euphrates rivers. This activity  comes within a wider program for social cohesion called “Paths of Coexistence in Mesopotamia” which is run by the Iraqi Social Forum and the Information Center for Research and Development, in partnership with the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative and Un Ponte Per organization, with the support of the Swiss FAI Organization.

The Diwaniyah Environment and Peace Forum Organizes a Training on Campaign Management

From 29-30 April 2018, 13 young men and women from various organizations and volunteer groups attended a specialized training on campaign management organized by the Diwaniyah Environment and Peace Forum. The training was one of a series of trainings that form part of a larger initiative by the Iraqi Social Forum in which various cities have created forums to support youth movements across Iraq. The local forums build the capacity of activists, giving them the tools they need to implement effective and targeted campaigns with lasting results. This network of local forums has been growing in number since the beginning of last year and all follow in the footsteps of the Iraqi Social Forum.

Some of the organizations and youth teams that participated in the training are already active in Diwaniyah, and include: the Nature Iraq Organization, Humat Dijlah Association, Steps Organization, the Iraqi Association for Sustainable Fisheries, the Green Oasis Association, and the Y-Peer Education Network. But now these existing organizations, along with a number of other volunteer groups and individual activists, have joined together as parts of the Diwaniyah Environment and Peace Forum, allowing them to coordinate their activities and play a role not only in local events but national ones as well. The Diwaniyah Environment and Peace Forum was created last year to promote peace-building and environmental protection and is quickly becoming an effective way to bring together all those residing in Diwaniyah province who are interested in working on these issues.

Following a review of the most important tools needed to plan and manage successful campaigns, the trainees discussed what they saw as the most pressing social problems now facing the province of Diwaniyah with the young trainer, Salman Khairallah, from the secretariat of the Iraqi Social Forum. Together they assessed the impact of these problems and considered the kids of campaigns they might implement to help resolve them.

One of the most prominent issues which arose in the training is that of minorities living in the province. Attendees recognized the need to raise awareness about making space for and accepting all groups in the region so that everyone, no matter what his/her beliefs, ideas and practices can live safely and in peace. The training also discussed the crisis surrounding the scarcity of water in the Badir district of Diwaniyah province; currently, the region is struggling to meet the basic water needs of its inhabitants. The trainees also considered the possibility of opening a cultural street in the province of Diwaniyah, to be a public space for writers, thinkers and activists, and fertile ground for dialogue and the exchange of views and ideas. This street would stand as a kind of extension of the famous al Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad, thus strengthening the ties between cities and celebrating Iraq’s rich literary, intellectual and artistic heritage.

The Iraqi Social Forum has worked hard to spread its experiences to many Iraqi cities, especially those located on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. This training is part of the project: “Paths of Coexistence in Mesopotamia and Middle East” implemented by the Iraqi Social Forum in cooperation with the Information Center for Research and Development and partnership with the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative, and the Italian Organization, Un Ponte Per.. with the support of the Swiss Foundation Fai.