Highlights from Day One of the Week of Nonviolence
(October 13, 2008)
The La’Onf Iraqi Nonviolence Group initiated its third annual Week of Nonviolence on Saturday, October 11, 2008. This network of more than 100 Iraqi civil society organizations has come together to call for the rebuilding of Iraq through nonviolence. This year, La’Onf is focusing on the power of the electoral process.
“Ballot boxes are our best salvation from violence and occupation.”
And La’Onf’s members are working to eliminate violence during the upcoming provincial elections, scheduled to take place before the end of January 2009.
Below is a summary of the highlights of Day One of the Week of Nonviolence. Please forward this report to your network and post it to your website.
In Al-Sadr City, Ard Al-Rafeden and Women Rights convened a conference attended by Baghdad human rights activists with a particular emphasis on the participation of women. Conference organizers introduced La’Onf to the community and focused dialogue on preventing electoral violence. One conference attendee stated that al-Sadr City is completely forgotten; that no one thinks about their reality of increasing violence and deteriorating security. Attendees thanked La’Onf’s Baghdad group for expressing commitment and interest in al-Sadr and for the introduction to nonviolence.
As a result of the assassination on Thursday (October 9) of Saleh al-Ugaili, an Iraqi member of Parliament from Moktada al-Sadr’s political movement, La’Onf organizers in Baghdad met with Sadr City leaders to discuss ways to prevent an escalation of the violence and further bloodshed. They have called for a prompt and impartial investigation to identify and bring to justice the perpetrators of Saleh al-Ugaili’s murder.
Babil’s La’Onf members, in cooperation with the National Center for the Rehabilitation of Young People and the Office of International Aid in Babylon, conducted a festival in the Cultivating Peace Hall (Shatt al-Hilla). The festival was organized with the significant leadership of young people and included arts projects for children and the reading of poetry with one of the poets being only 10 years old. La’Onf presenters talked about the role of civil society in partnership with government agencies, religious institutions, and cultural, social and educational organizations to spread nonviolence throughout the governorate. Two sixth graders performed an operetta telling the story of how Iraqis can face violence and maintain the unity of their country. La’Onf members also distributed posters in Jabla in Northern Babil.
La’Onf participants distributed and hung posters in Albdir, approximately 30 miles away from the city center.
La’Onf member organizations, including the Relief and Development Organization and Defense of Iraqi Deportees Association, distributed posters on nonviolence in the city of Jalula, including public areas, schools, government offices, and residential neighborhoods.
Azadi radio station interviewed La’Onf representatives who discussed the principles of nonviolence and described activities planned across Iraq during the 2008 Week of Nonviolence.
La’Onf members convened a conference attended by representatives of civil society, academia and political parties. The conference opened with a song of peace and love, and rejection of all violence in Iraq, performed by the Cultural Knowledge Foundation. The La’Onf coordinator in Karbala then introduced the goals and activities of La’Onf followed by a courageous presentation by Mr. Yahya Najjar, a journalist in Karbala. Mr. Najjar appealed to the media to exercise strict neutrality in reporting on the elections and candidates. He asked the community to reject violence, sectarianism and all forms of terrorism, marginalization, racial discrimination, and political and social oppression. He added that the road in front of journalists is “planted with brambles,” recognizing that they are being targeted and that “journalism has become a profession of martyrs.” However he emphasized the journalists’ “love for life and for painting hope with their free writings.”
Mr. Hussein Amery of the Independent Electoral Commission in Iraq also spoke about the need for civil society, government institutions and the media to work together to ensure the appropriate level of integrity, transparency and impartiality of the electoral process. He concluded his remarks by thanking the conference participants and La’Onf for promoting a culture of nonviolence as a path to political, social and economic change in Iraq. At the end of the conference, participants formed a board to send letters to the political parties in support of the government’s role in conducting the provincial elections. And they also appealed to the Iraqi army and police to maintain their professionalism in protecting all citizens’ free and equal participation in the elections.
La’Onf participants hung posters in public areas, schools and government service and administrative offices. They also met with 40 organizations from Iraqi civil society. In Haweja, Iraqi police interfered with attempts to hang the posters, and two participants were arrested for two hours before being released. Unknown armed forces also interfered with participants in Reyad but members of Al-Sahwa Men were able to de-escalate tensions at the location, and no one was hurt.
La’Onf participants focused on engaging political parties by distributing booklets on preventing electoral violence and introducing nonviolence principles to party offices. Among the parties that were contacted are: National Democratic Congress, WEFAQ National Democratic Movement, Islamic Call Movement, Iraqi Communist Party, Islamic Higher Board, and Kurdistan Democratic Party.
NASRIA (De Qar)
La’Onf participants began the week by distributing posters in every district in the province.
La’Onf organized a youth soccer match whose players wore uniforms with the slogan: “Nonviolence is our Choice.” Along with sports fans, those in attendance included: the Aalam District Director, Red Crescent Director of Salahuddin, and Aalam District Police Chief, as well as members of the Aalam Club Administrative Board and civil society organizations. The match prompted discussions among the attendees about the meaning of nonviolence and La’Onf’s planned activities in the area. Participants expressed their appreciation for La’Onf’s work and several new people volunteered to work for La’Onf.
Updates in Arabic, Kurdish and English are on the La’Onf website at www.laonf.net.
Photographs from Iraq (as well as from people across the United States who support nonviolence in Iraq) can be seen on the La’Onf Solidarity Flickr Photo Gallery. http://www.flickr.com/photos/laonfsolidarity/
Photos, video and media updates can also be found at the Peaceful Tomorrows website beginning TUESDAY, OCTOBER 14. http://peacefultomorrows.org/