Iraqi youths stand up to scourge of sectarianism

Iraqi youths stand up to scourge of sectarianism
3 min read
27 April, 2015
Feature: A group of young Iraqis have started a campaign to rid Iraq of sectarianism, which has fuelled violence in the country for more than a decade.
Iraqis have protested against sectarianism, but the killings persist [AFP]
Young activists from across Iraq have started a campaign to end sectarianism in the country - Ish: enough sectarian talk, we want to live in peace.

Using social media to engage in the campaign, they have just finished a final rebranding of the group.

They say that the name Ish means "be quiet" in the Iraqi-Arabic dialect and highlights the need for silencing those who espouse sectarian ideas.

Graphic designers have come up with a logo for the campaign, while activists in the group have been spreading the word by messaging details about Ish to friends and relatives. The idea is beginning to take off.

"Young Iraqis understood the real threat posed by sectarianism, and the tragedies, disasters and violence that it causes, which is never-ending," said Omar Uthman al-Jabouri, one of the group's founders. 

"We decided to launch this campaign to fight all forms of sectarianism."

Sectarianism boiled to the surface following the US-led invasion of Iraq, which overthrown a Sunni-dominated regime led by Saddam Hussein.

After years of persecution, the majority Shia population seized the initiative and took control of the country through democratic elections, but scars had not healed.

     We decided to launch this campaign to fight all forms of sectarianism.

Sunni and Shia death squads kidnapped, murdered and bombed one another.

However it was civilians who were left the victims of the fighting, and up to a million Iraqis lost their lives after a decade of fighting.

Peace now

Ali Abbas al-Karbali, a media represenative, says that it is why it is up to young Iraqis to tackle the evils of sectarianism.

"Young Iraqis realised that they alone are responsible for their country and this forced all of them to take decisive steps for the benefit of Iraq and its people to fight against all forms of sectarianism," said Ali Abbas al-Karbalai, a media representative.

Writer Hanna Saliyuh believes that sectarianism has torn apart the social fabric of Iraq. "We have resorted to taking a lead role, especially after our political leaders failed us, so we launched this campaign."

The campaign has brought together Iraqis not just different sectarian groups, but also social backgrounds.

Some of the most vocal supporters are figures from Iraq's art scene.

Aazad Howsar says that the campaign has brought a ray of hope for all Iraqis who are against sectarianism.

"We all dream of a safe Iraq from Zakho to al-Faw – one that is free of the sectarianism, hatred, and spite, the seeds of which were sown by sectarian politicians in Iraqi society."

The launch of the campaign is a demonstration of the intelligence of young Iraqis, says journalist Madhar al-Salahi.

"Their clear outlook for the future, and their strong desire to lead the country after the elders abandoned it."

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.