Ammar Zakri, programmes manager for Sanad Iraq, speaks at the conference. (photo: Sanad Iraq)
When Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi announced that pro-government forces had been victorious against the extremist group known as the Islamic State, locals in the city of Mosul, one of the extremists’ bases in Iraq, knew the battle was only just beginning.
While this fight will be long and difficult, the people of Mosul are also heartened to know that members of the international community want to help. Yet there is still much to worry about, especially when it comes to social cohesion.
In Mosul community division has been particularly devastating.
In April of this year, a conference named “Mosul Talks” hoped to address some of those concerns. Organized by CFI, the French government’s media development organization, together with German media development organization, MiCT (disclaimer: NIQASH is one of MiCT’s projects in Iraq), the aim of the conference was to discuss the city’s upcoming needs.
Several seminars were held in the city of Mosul and one concluding session was held in Erbil, in the semi-autonomous northern region of Iraqi Kurdistan. Media and civil society organisations needed to play a role in helping bring the Mosul communities back together, the French Consul General in Erbil, Dominique Mas, said during his opening remarks at the Erbil event.
Other participants and attendees then presented some of the issues they believe will be important in Mosul in the near future, including education needs and transitional justice. Most attendees agreed that it would take a long time for Iraq’s second-largest city to recover, simply because it had been under the control of the Islamic State, or IS, group for around three years.
Mosul University lecturer, Irada al-Jibouri, told NIQASH that she thought it was time for Iraqis to move beyond categorising themselves and their neighbours according to religion or ethnicity. This way of thinking has caused many problems in Iraq since 2003, she argues.
Additionally there are now conflicts within groups that were formally unified, she added. In Mosul community division has been particularly devastating as it was once a city of several million, many of whom came from those different categories but managed to live alongside one another in relative peace.
Ammar Zakri, programmes manager for Sanad Iraq, a peace building organisation, who attended the conference, said it would take a long time to reconcile the different sectors of Mosul society. He and his colleagues believe that there needs to be better use made of social and mainstream media to achieve those objectives. They also said that it was becoming more important to make Iraqis aware of the concept of citizenship.