Arabs, Turkmens, Kurds and other ethnic and religious groups gathered to showcase their culture at the Saladin University in Erbil.
The festival was hosted by the Salahuddin University located in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish Region of Iraq (KRI). The KRI has been known to be a more accommodating region for the plethora of ethno-religious groups that live in the north of Iraq. It has also been a safe haven for persecuted minorities who escaped the marauding ISIS gangs over the past few years.
This was the fourth such festival at the Faculty of Education at the Salahuddin University that brought together students from Arab, Kurdish, Turkmen and other backgrounds to showcase their culture and foster an environment of tolerance, appreciation and peaceful co-existence.
President of the Salahuddin University, Dr Ahmad Dizzeyi, emphasised the need to focus on immaterial values and aspects of life as a means to foster a peaceful and productive educational and communal space:
“This [festival] is not organised for financial reasons. Its purpose is to help the students focus on issues of interest to the community and education.”
Urban spaces in the KRI have allowed for the inter-mingling between people of a variety of cultural backgrounds. Different ethno-religious groups have been known to live peacefully side by side as they are exposed to one another in a cooperative setting. Inter-sectarian disputes are more common in rural areas where there is less economic and educational cooperation and where there are deep-rooted land disputes that are ongoing.
Erbil has hosted a number of festivals in the recent past focusing on educational initiatives. For instance, the city hosted an International Book Festival at the start of April 2019. It was the 14th such International Book Fair in Erbil. This one attracted over 300 different publishers from around the world. Seminars were also held on the topic of peaceful inter-communal coexistence, which brought together a variety of Iraqi officials and religious clerics.