A former judge, a professor and some Iraqi students originally from Mosul have written their own version of a manifesto for their northern province of Ninawa, after the extremist Islamic State group has been dispatched.
Called “A Road Map for Ninawa and the Elimination of The Impacts of The Islamic State”, the 14-page manifesto includes some fairly radical steps, such as declaring a state of emergency and appointing a military authority to run the province. After this, the writers say, committees would be formed to help govern Ninawa until free and fair elections can be held again. It is all about “warming the population up” to real democracy, the project’s makers explain.
The group also advocate moving away from religion in politics and from Iraq’s standard political quotas, which use sectarian allegiance or ethnicity to decide who will hold senior posts in government.
The writers of the manifesto spoke to NIQASH about why they think a state of emergency is better than an election and how realistic they think their plan actually is.
Please note: The group’s members asked to remain anonymous; they have left Mosul and are currently displaced in various locations in Iraqi Kurdistan yet they still fear for family and friends in the city under the control of Islamic State, or IS, group, and they also have concerns about retaliation by the politicians they criticize in their manifesto. They also believe that it is appropriate that the manifesto’s authors remain unknown because, in keeping with their ideas, they did not wish to associate the road map with any personality, ethnicity or religious group. They say they want all the people of Ninawa to adopt the plan.
After verifying the identities of the creators of the project, NIQASH has decided to respect their wishes given that the interview is more focused on a discussion of ideas, than identities. The manifesto (in Arabic) can be downloaded here.
NIQASH: Why did you decide to publish this manifesto?
Manifesto writers: We need to encourage tolerance and moderation, along with Iraqi nationalism. These have been absent for several decades in Iraq because we were stuck with a dictatorship.
We need to move away from political Islam, extremism, sectarianism, racism and tribal feuds.
NIQASH: But there are many different kinds of plans for the future of Ninawa. What makes yours so different?
Manifesto writers: Because we are academics and legal experts and we have written this plan in an unbiased way. Also, it focuses on realistic goals. This road map contains practical steps to maintain law and order and it anticipates problems that will arise after the IS group is pushed out of Ninawa.
Our road map also depends on Iraqis who have never had a chance to participate in changing the country before but who want to help create something that is free of foreign influence and free from the wishes of failed political parties.
NIQASH: What would you say is the most essential part of your plan?
Manifesto writers: To convince Iraqi politicians that its worthwhile. We know that all of the corrupt politicians of Iraq, and of Ninawa in particular, will object to this plan. But we are depending on the goodwill of the people. If they decide this is a good plan, we believe decision makers will respond.
NIQASH: Some of the ideas in the plan are far from democratic. For example, the imposition of a military authority - some might say, harsh governance was part of what caused Ninawa’s problems in the first place – and the formation of yet more committees. Can you explain?
Manifesto writers: We want to convince decision makers to try a new model. After all, every other model has failed. Nor have they allowed the intellectuals of Iraq to take part in any transformations.
That is why our road map includes practical things, focused on security at first, complete with extra-ordinary steps for a limited time. Then it moves ahead with economic, cultural and social cohesion, and will attempt to get rid of the Islamic State that still lingers in some people’s heads.
Although we believe in democracy, we think that our people have been plagued by dictatorship and fear for decades, and that governance in Iraq was based on racism, quotas and the marginalization of one or other sector of the population.
We think that preparing Iraqis’ minds for democracy, by making them feel free and secure, as well as providing them with the means to make a good living, will eventually guarantee a sound democracy.
NIQASH: Do you believe the people of Ninawa have learned anything from the past two years?
Manifesto writers: We know that many people in Ninawa were fooled by the IS group’s propaganda and by their false ideology. There are many reasons for that, of course.
But we believe there is a new dawn among the people of Ninawa, the displaced in Iraqi Kurdistan and other areas, and those still living in Mosul. They have learned that acceptance of others’ differences is the key to peaceful coexistence.
We hope that these feelings manifest as something real in the future.
This question should also be directed at our politicians. Have they learned from the results of their negligence and corruption?
NIQASH: Have they?
Manifesto writers: Obviously, things changed a lot after June 2014. But Ninawa hadn’t been normal for a long time, since 2003. There were always tensions between local people and local extremist organisations [like Al Qaeda in Iraq, the IS group’s local forerunner] on one hand, and between the people and the central government on the other, a government that humiliated them and accused them of terrorism and jailed them. The local authorities were stuck in the middle.
But now all sides have lost. The IS group’s criminal face has been uncovered and the central government has changed. The provincial government has been shown up as bearing some responsibility, for what happened in Mosul, thanks to its disputes with the central government.
NIQASH: What is your plan for dealing with those locals who may have sided with the IS group, and even those who joined the extremists?
Manifesto writers: We advocate tolerance, as long as it doesn’t contravene the law. The law should be applied equally to everyone but that application should be slow and considered, and not subject to bribes or interference. Each citizen who worked for, or supported, the IS group should be prosecuted.
But we also believe that each case is unique and should be carefully investigated. In fact, we even believe that tribal law could be applied, if this turns out to be the best solution.
We also want to establish counselling centres for families of victims, especially orphans and widows, and to establish a fund to assist these people financially. Priority should be given to the Yazidi people, Shabaks, Turkmen and lower-income Sunnis because they all suffered the most under the extremists.
NIQASH: Has anybody told you this project is a little overambitious - and possibly unrealistic?
Manifesto writers: Of course. It may seem like that, especially considering the history of Ninawa, and even of Iraq. But there is hope. Look at experiences elsewhere in world, in countries like Germany, for example, where extremism and fascism has been eradicated and the country has been unified, in less than seven decades.
We believe in sound ideas, even if it is going to be difficult to implement them. We have stamina and we want to see peaceful change. We want to build a better future for Iraq, for the generations to come.
NIQASH: Do you give any credibility at all to the idea of dividing Iraq up along ethnic and sectarian lines?
Manifesto writers: A unified Iraq is a geopolitical necessity. Dividing it would cause so many problems for the neighbours. It wouldn’t lead to stability. On the contrary. That’s why we support a strong central government, and a country governed by laws and a Constitution that all Iraqis agree upon.
NIQASH: Will you go back to Mosul?
Manifesto writers: Absolutely. We will go back to help re-build the province and to eradicate the terrible ideas spread by the IS group. We see Ninawa as a patient in the intensive care unit – more treatment is needed.