Community leaders from the Nineveh Plains gathered in the town of Qaraqosh to participate in a conference aimed at rebuilding trust between the different communities in the region.
A conference titled “Building Bridges Between Communities in the Nineveh Plains” was held in the town of Qaraqosh near the city of Mosul. Attended by the representatives of ethnic and religious communities of the Nineveh Province, the conference aimed to heal the rift that formed between the communities in the region in the wake of ISIS’ emergence in 2014.
The Nineveh Plains were hit particularly hard following the rise of ISIS. The region, which was the epicenter of the militants’ power, was also one of the most diverse regions in Iraq and home to many communities such as Turkmen, Shabaks, Assyrians, Chaldeans and Yazidis. Every single one of these communities were targeted by the militants, subject to mass killings, displacement and forced conversions. The events that took place in 2014 shattered what little trust there was between the Sunni Arab population – due to the group favoring this demographic – and the remaining population of Nineveh.
Even before then, however, trust between different communities was in short supply. In addition to tensions between minorities and the Sunni Arab population, many minorities in Nineveh viewed each others as adversaries too. Tensions between Shabaks and Christians or Turkmen and Yazidis, for instance, was a recurring problem.
Thus, one of the goals of this conference was to restore trust between different minorities who have all been victims of ISIS militants, as well as restoring trust with those Sunni and Shia Arabs who have stood against ISIS in a bid to foster a sense of a united Nineveh. Many of the attendees here express that the makeup of the Nineveh Plains is a microcosm of the wider Iraqi society and achieving peace here is the key to achieving sustainable peace across the country.
In addition to seminars, the conference also featured an art exhibition from local and regional artists, as well as exhibitions displaying the traditional costumes and musics of local communities.
Women were particularly well represented in the event, with many of them keen to ensure that the methodical and horrific violence targeted at women during the years of ISIS rule cannot happen again.
Events like these are a positive development towards reducing mistrust between local communities in Nineveh, allowing them to live together rather than exist in the same region but live separate lives. These grassroots efforts, however, need to be backed by reconstruction and provision of services across the region in order to prevent extremist groups from exploiting the lack of services and economic opportunities to gain support.