[Produced by Emi NAKANO, Assistant of the Iraq Project, June 1st, 2017]
The diverse ethnic groups such as Arab, Kurds, Turkmen, and Assyrian used to live together in harmony in Kirkuk prefecture located in the northeastern part of Iraq. Under the Hussein regime in 1980s, however, “Arabization” was carried out to immigrate Arabic inhabitants from outside and expel non-Arabic inhabitants, partly because of the rich oil resources. As a result, the tension among ethnic groups increased, and the security in this area was deteriorated.
A local Iraqi NGO, INSAN, which means “human being” in Arabic, has been carrying out activity mainly in Kirkuk from 2008 in order to relive the tension between people and take peaceful local society back to people.
JVC started “Peace Workshop to Create with Children” in Kirkuk in collaboration with INSAN. As children there go to schools classified by ethnic groups, the opportunity to meet and talk to children of different ethnic groups is limited. In order to make a place for interaction, we asked the principals of schools for collaboration in choosing children from 8 to 12 years old, who showed interest in participation. We also obtained the collaboration of elderly people and representatives (like municipal chairmen) as well as religious leaders in each district. Because the security deteriorated and explosions happened frequently, it was necessary to prepare a bus to pick up the children.
The workshop took place about twice a week for the period of around 3 weeks. 30 to 60 children took part in each session. The staffs of INSAN who had expertise in building peace and human rights organized the entire workshop. Art specialists proceeded with each session. The children drew paintings or made artworks on the theme of peace and human rights. They sang songs or performed a short play on the above theme, and exchanged opinions after watching videos. On the last day we invited the local people and conducted a recital.
At the beginning there were people in the region who were suspicious and against these activities, but the number of people who wanted to join and the number of sympathizers increased after each session. The workshop took place 5 times till 2012, and about 240 children participated in total. Although the workshop was well accepted by people and expected to continue, it has been suspended because of the lack of funds.
The attack by the Islamic State intensified when INSAN and JVC were planning to restart the Peace Workshop in 2014. Many people were forced to evacuate inside or outside Iraq. INSAN and JVC conducted emergency aid for the people who evacuated to Kirkuk to supply with goods such as food and blanket.
We have started a new activity “Peace Yard” in 2015 by making use of our experience accumulated in the Peace Workshop. In addition to the activities of creating artworks and discussing about peace that were previously implemented in the Peace Workshop, we also provided medical care by a psychiatrist to children who suffered from trauma of war and fighting. We have already performed the Peace Yard three times. Each session was held for about 3 weeks, and approximately 170 children aged from 5 to 14 years old participated. The next program is scheduled in August 2017.
*Here is the report of Peace Yard 2015 (in Japanese).