Aid & Development

Activists in Suleimaniyah tackle issue of hate speech in Iraqi society

Iraq

Iraq has suffered from issues of violent sectarianism in its recent history. One of the roots of this issue is hate speech between different ethnic and religious groups in the country. A workshop in Suleimaniyah has been set up to confront the proliferation of hate.

Activists in Suleimaniyah from communities belonging to all of Iraq’s sects, including Yazidis, Christians, Muslims, Sabians, Baha’is, and Kakais, held a workshop to help curb the proliferation of hate speech in the country. All of Iraq’s sects have a common desire to remove the extremist hate message from communities and especially those from religious minorities, who were often the target of ISIS’ hateful rhetoric and actions.

“Hate speech is one of the greatest dangers in Iraqi society,” said one of the activists at the workshop. “Activists have taken it upon themselves to educate the public to limit and stop hate speech, especially on social networking sites.”

The activists identified a number of faith institutions which promote and spread hate. These will now be confronted by the activists in an effort to halt their rhetoric. Clergies belonging to other faith institutions will be used to help stop the hate message being spread by their colleagues in other institutions, as well as by their congregation. “Most of what we will focus on are the clergies who have a way to reach people through religious sermons,” said another of the activists at the workshop.

A separate conference was held in Mosul by city officials, which hosted national and international media organisations. The primary objective of the conference was to establish the role that the media can take in reporting on, and supporting, the reconstruction efforts in post-ISIS Iraq. One of the matters that was raised during the conference was the issue of hate speech that has often passed through media channels without detection. Although media channels were previously aware of these concerns, a more serious effort will now be made to prevent future occurrences.

The long-term elimination of the extremist ideology spread by ISIS in Iraq, as well as the prevention of sectarian violence, which has increased in the country since the 2003 war, is reliant upon initiatives which will prevent the further proliferation of hate speech. The workshop, in which representatives from many of Iraq’s sects came together, is an important example of the type of initiative Iraq requires for future peace.