Musawat: Engaging Youth from Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon on Freedom of Religion and Belief 

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Musawat is a regional project implemented by PAX and partners in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. 

The project aims to engage young women and men to address discrimination on the basis of religion and beliefs occurring within the social, legal and political spheres as well as on social media. It also aims to promote key concepts and tools such as dialogue, citizenship and equal rights among people regardless of religion, gender, belief, and ethnicity. The project is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine are home to diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds. However, in many cases, these communities do not really live together, on the contrary, each in their own communities. Members of other groups often have limited knowledge of the other groups’ beliefs, traditions and culture. This is especially the case with smaller minority groups about whom little is generally known by others. This segregation and lack of interaction creates room for stereotypes and discrimination towards 'us and them'. It also leaves little room for diverse opinions and different ways of living within groups, which often leads to women and youth facing obstacles to express themselves and take on leading roles within communities.

The young women and men enrolled in the program will promote freedom of religion and belief and seek to bridge social divides. They will engage with their local and religious authorities and raise concerns towards laws and policies that lead to discrimination on the basis of religion, belief or gender. Monitoring and campaigns on social media will contribute to ensuring more constructive exchange and dialogue takes place among youth on the internet. 

Examples of activities implemented in 2020 as part of the project:

  • In Palestine, a “Freedom of Speech, Expression, and Publication” workshop implemented by our partner the Palestinian Centre for Peace and Democracy (PCPD) in the province of Topas; the workshop brought Palestinian women from different backgrounds to share inputs and discuss the current challenges and obstacles that Palestinian youth and women face.
  • In Lebanon, the “We paint for Musawat” art fair was conducted in Tyre by our partner Tiro Association of Arts: the fair exhibited 40 paintings that tackled themes of equality, women rights, and feminism.
  • In Iraq, a 6 days summer camp was implemented in the town of Shaqlawa, in Northern Iraq. The 6 days camp hosted 22 Iraqi participants originating from 18 provinces, representing from the diverse religious and ethnic groups. The youth benefited from intensive training in gender analysis in conflict, cyber security, and further discussed avenues of discrimination in Iraq. They also enjoyed field trips to ancient shrines/churches.

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