Iraq’s Kurdish and Arab Women Send Strong Signal of National Reconciliation

Iraqi women exchange visit 26 March 2013: The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) together with the Martyrs Foundation’s Basra branch organized a four day visit, between 23 to 26 March, of eight women from Iraqi Kurdistan to Basra. Participants of this event are survivors of the Anfal Campaign, the bombardment of Halabja and other crimes committed by the former regime.

As part of the visit, the participants met representatives of the local authorities, visited different historic monuments and paid tribute to the victims of the Shi’ite insurgency of 1999 at the Martyrs Monument in Basra City. This event followed the visit organized by the ICMP in June 2012 for 14 women from Basra to the Kurdish region.

Iraqi women exchange visit Mrs. Fatima Saaid Qadir from Halabja participated in the return visit to Basra. As she explained, this is her first trip to the region. “We are all from the same country, and we all have the same religion. There is no difference between Arabs and Kurds,” said Mrs. Qadir.

Addressing the participants, representative of the Martyrs Foundation Mr. Nasir Sha’alan stated that the crimes committed in Iraq “attacked every form of life”. ”The regime scared the land of Iraq with mass graves and dried the fertile landscape of the Marshes to repeat their crimes of Anfal and Halabja. We need all your voices to be strong and loud against the killings and destruction.”

“This gathering sends out a strong signal of reconciliation”, said Sinje Stoyke, the ICMP’s Civil Society Initiatives Program Coordinator. “Getting to know each other again, paying respect to each other’s suffering and overcoming distrust and hatred might only be the very first step on a long road ahead, but it is the most important step towards peace and reconciliation in any country facing the legacy of atrocities.”

Iraqi women exchange visit The Governor of Basra Dr. Khalaf Abdulsamad warmly welcomed the group and expressed his appreciation to the work of the ICMP in Iraq.

“I would like to thank the ICMP and the Martyrs Foundation for their outstanding efforts to implement this meeting in Basra between the martyrs families from the Kurdistan region and the South of Iraq which is the first of its kind. Brothers and sisters, we should aim for the goal the martyrs sacrificed their lives for standing against injustice and achieving justice,” said Dr. Khalaf.

On the closing day of the event, the participants named their newly formed inter-regional network ‘The Arc of Life Organization’. ICMP will continue to assist them to maintain and widen the fledgling network of affected women across Iraq.

As part of its mandate, ICMP works with civil society organizations, encourages public involvement in its activities, and contributes to the development of appropriate expressions of commemoration and tribute to the missing.