On the 30th of July a conference was held in Baghdad, facilitated by the Iraqi Communist Party, and attended by around 600 young civil society activists (al-shabaab al-madani) from the city (quite an impressive turnout).
The conference was interesting in that it sheds light on the role of the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) as the primary organisational force behind Iraq’s civil trend. The bulk of members of the prominent civil society groups involved in the reform protest movement – including those in Mustamerroun and Madaniyoun – are affiliated with the ICP. Conferences such as the one held on 30th July indicate that the ICP is keen on fostering the development of civil society in Iraq by promoting fairly autonomous initiatives within the sector.
The agenda for political activism produced by the young people at the conference reflects both this autonomy and the general drift of the ICP away from orthodox Marxist political theory towards a more liberal-secular agenda focused on securing reform and protecting civil rights within the constitutional framework of the Iraqi state. There is, therefore, nothing obviously Marxist about the agenda which emerged from the conference. In fact, in the section dealing explicitly with economic reform, the activists stress the importance of developing Iraq’s private sector.
Aside from the reiteration of the reform agenda (combating corruption, ending ‘sectarian, ethnic and party quotas’, reforming the judiciary) other points of interest include: a call for the civil movement to adopt an open posture vis-à-vis religious authorities and forces in order to strengthen the reform movement; and a call for greater focus on engaging international public opinion, something which could help give Iraqi civil society greater prominence in international discourses which are dominated by issues around sectarianism and political violence.
Below is a full translation of the conference summary:
Conference for the young people of the civil trend in Baghdad under the slogan: ‘The Young Will Not Tire’
30th July, 2016
Six hundred young women and men attended the conference for the young people of the civil trend (al-shabaab al-madani) held the day before yesterday, and which discussed the future of the protest movement and its development and raised the slogan: ‘The Young Will Not Tire!’ The conference was held in the main room of the Palestine hotel in central Baghdad on the invitation of Mustamerroun/the civil trend and marked the passing of a year since the outbreak of protests demanding reforms. The conference concluded with a final statement which included a number of demands and recommendations, and the forming of a broad committee of young people to oversee their implementation.
The conference began with a patriotic song, and then there was a minutes silence to mourn the martyrs of the protest movement and the martyrs of Iraq in general, then there was the talk of preparatory committee convened by the female activist Takbir al-Jabouri in which she confirmed the importance of the conference and its goals in the current stage.
In this address al-Jabouri stated: ‘We, al-shabaab al-madani, are gathered today to institute a new phase in the activity of the civil trend, and the action of peaceful protest, and reform vision, by means to dialogue and cooperation and thence the continuation of efforts and work.’ She added: ‘Our dear country has passed through terrible years, perhaps we were destined for these harsh days because of the failed policies, the narrow vision of those who led Iraq throughout the pervious period. However, thanks to your activism, vitality, and the prudence of your wisdom we can overcome the ordeal, and we are determined to overcome it.
She continued: ‘In this conference we, this group of al-shabaab al-madani, seek dialogue and discussion to put forward all the ideas and visions that have their origin in the development of the protest movement, and raising the demands to satisfy the aspirations of the street, most important of which are eliminating administrative and financial corruption and ending sectarian quotas.’ She concluded by saying: ‘We believe that this conference, with its pure spirit of youth and open, civic awareness, not beholden to anyone and without support from the political class or the state. the group of young men and women who formed the Preparation Committee, and selflessly called for this conference, are from the activists in the movement and civil actions.. and their biggest concern with this initiative is that al-shabaab al-madani have a clear presence and representation in the project of reform and the means of its realisation.’
On the conference fringe, Dr Atheer al-Jasur, a member of the Preparation Committee, said that ‘the conference of the young people of the civil trend was held with the purpose of exchanging visions and conceptions that would enrich the social movement and its estimation.’ He indicated that ‘the conference discussed a draft paper containing a group of visions and suggestions and the young people placed important and useful comments around them.’
He added: ’The attendance of the young people was remarkable, reflecting the clear interaction and the seriousness which the young people carry in discussing the situation of their country and bringing forward ideas for exciting from the political crises with which the country is beset because of the system of sectarian quotas.’
With respect to the preparations for the conference, al-Jasor made clear that: ‘The coordination of Mustamerroun and the civil trend invited al-shabaab al-madani to hold a conference to discuss the social movement, and in accordance with this invitation a group was formed from amongst the young people to be the Preparation Committee that worked for a month to arrange the conference.
A member of the Preparation Committee explained that ‘the invitations had been open to all the young civil society activists participating in the movement, and they were not monopolized by any particular group, we therefore achieved positive presence and engagement.’
For her part, the colleague of al-Jasor in the Preparation Committee, Takbir al-Jabori, said that ‘the conference was held exclusively by the efforts of the youth, and discussed a paper containing 6 key elements, first of which was the objectives of the movement, the achievements and means which will achieve the goals in addition to the risks and challenges which the movement faces.’
She added: ‘The discussion revolved around the 6 points with transparency and efficiency and the ideas and proposals of the young people here were substantial and reflected their significant level of awareness.’
She indicated that: ‘The conference took a good path by forming a team to administer the dialogue, another team to write the recommendations, and a third to organise conference issues. In the end there was a committee for writing the recommendations and summarising the views of the young people and their discussions, which produced a number of points contained in the concluding statement and voted on by participants in the conference.
Al-Jabouri confirmed that 600 young men and women attended the conference from all different parts of Baghdad.
The concluding statement of the conference of al-shabaab al-madani
The conference of al-shabab al-madani was held on Friday 29 July 2016 in the conference room of the Palestine hotel in the event of the passing of a year since the launch of the protests demanding services and political reform, with the participation of around 600 young men and women from Baghdad.
At the conference, participants discussed a draft paper, prepared by the Preparation Committee, about the direction of the protest movement and its future, and hence about the actions of the civil trend and their impact on the Iraqi reality.
After extensive and diverse discussions on the part of the young people, the conference ended by presenting a set of points and recommendations which were then voted on by attendees. These were as follows:
- The necessity of continuing the popular peaceful protests and diversifying the forms of protest until their objectives are realised.
- Working to form regional coordination, and also on the basis of professional and sectoral skills in Baghdad to strengthen the civil protest movement.
- Confirming support for all activities and initiatives both civil and community based, that are educational and logistical, and taking advantage of social media to coordinate, disseminate information, and support actions.
- Al-Shabaab al-madani call for holding conferences and seminars to discuss the situation of young people and their political, social, and educational. Following from this there should be a young people’s national conference incorporating all the provinces.
- To work to support the demands of the students and develop student actions which include the realisation of their legitimate aspirations.
- Form a legal team charged with monitoring constitutional and legal violations, and challenging laws which contravene freedom of expression, freedom of press, and which contribute to the restriction of general freedom.
- Opening up to religious authorities, forces, and national and social figures in order to support the reform movement.
- Engaging international organisations and the international community in dialogue, and directing the gaze of global opinion towards Iraq and the demands of a wide array of groups from amongst the people.
- Al-shabaab al-madani confirm the importance agreeing on the priorities from amongst the demands that are raised by the protest movement, according to a clear and well thought out vision, these include:
- Ending the sectarian and ethnic quotas in all the institutions of state so that these can perform their duties in accordance with the law.
- Holding the corrupt failures to account and uncovering the fate of the looted funds from the public budget.
- Demanding that there be a clear national strategy for tacking poverty and unemployment and finding a solution to the outputs of colleges and institutes.
- Dealing with the economic crisis by diversifying the sources of national income and activating industry, agriculture, and supporting the private sector.
- Demanding the amending of the election law, and the law for the High Representative for the Independence of Elections to ensure its removal from sectarian and party quotas.
- Insisting on the demand to reform the Iraqi judiciary to secure its independence and integrity, and activating the role of the public prosecutor.
- Removing military and security institutions from sectarian and party quotas, and undertaking serious efforts to limit weapons to the hands of the state.
- Legislating to criminalise sectarianism and racism and holding those to account who spread hatred and discrimination amongst the people.
- Reducing the salaries of the three heads [Prime Minster, President, and Speaker of Parliament], ministers, deputies, and those with special ranks by implementing a new financial scale that takes the view of the people into consideration.
The Conference of al-Shabaab al-Madani
26 July 2016