Young Iraqis bridging the sectarian divide

Image: A Kullina Muwatatinin flash mob taking place in a shopping mall in Erbil in May 2014 © PAX

April 16, 2015

Despite the sectarian divides that cut across Iraqi society, there are also voices who come with a message of tolerance and peace. Those forces which plead for an inclusive society come amongst others from young people who are inspired by the PAX programme ‘We are all citizens’.

The programme had been going since 2012. According to Thirsa de Vries from PAX: “It was needed now more than ever because of rising sectarian tensions and violence because of ISIS and the enormous pressure on young Iraqis to join militias.” She has information from first hand of mothers who see their sons join militias thinking they are going to do something ‘good’ for their country.
Journalist Louise Redvers who works for IRIN spoke to some of the 25 ambassadors of peace of ‘We are all citizens’.

Rasha al-Samarai (30) had to flee as ISIS had swallowed up the city of Tikrit last year. Not knowing when she will return home, al-Samarai is determined to tackle the sectarianism that is wrecking her country. “I believe in treating people as humans no matter what religion or nationality. Youth can play a major role in eliminating sectarianism and racism by supporting each other. Hand in hand, it is our responsibility to educate people to live peacefully.”

Zuhair Lazgeen (26), a Yazidi, who visited the Netherlands last year, said he believed past failures to tackle discrimination against Iraq’s minorities paved the way for IS. “As Yazidis, we have faced a lot of discrimination and in recent years it had been getting worse. For me, I see that as the early symptoms of the current situation because if you don’t stop discrimination, it grows into something bigger and can become violent.”

You can read the full interview on Young Iraqis bridging the sectarian divide

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