Peace Ambassadors for Iraq (PAFI), in partnership with the Center for American Studies, hosted the first day of the Iraq Crisis Conference on April 19th to bring international attention to the dire situation faced by the Iraqi people.
The two-day conference, which was opened with a speech by Undersecretary to Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Vincenzo Amendola, calls for global urgency in recognizing and addressing a host of pressing issues in Iraq.
PAFI President Sheik Jamal al-Dhari began the conference by highlighting the state of emergency in his native country, and insisting that the terrorist threats in Iraq have indeed evolved into a transnational crisis. From Paris and Brussels to Istanbul and Baghdad, the radicalism and violence once limited to Iraq now endanger people of the Middle East and West alike.
The consequences of the advance by extremist groups like Daesh range from death and destruction to economic ruin, desolate poverty, and mass exoduses resulting in unprecedented international migrations. It has become clear, Sheik al-Dhari says, that in order to combat these radicals, a broader and more engaging strategy must be implemented. Security is a crucial aspect of this strategy and is undoubtedly a useful tool in preventing and eliminating certain threats. However, what is equally critical in winning the fight against terrorism is a systemic effort to root out the causes of terrorism.
Iraq inherited a deeply sectarian and divisive government in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion. Sheik al-Dhari reports that today, Iraqi society is highly fragmented and disunified because of a broken political system that urges Shia or Sunni loyalty and rewards religious intolerance. Groups like Daesh have been successful in exploiting these political fault lines and turning them into catalysts of the bloody civil war in Iraq.
Through no choosing of their own, Iraqi’s are now forced to live under allegiance to Iranian-backed militias, ISIS terrorists, or a government incapable of protecting them from either. The promises of inclusive, representative governance have been engulfed by a corrupt administration that squandered the resources of the people and turned them against one another to remain immune from the consequences.
Reports of success on the battlefield by government forces are harmful distortions
of the truth. So-called “victories” in once great cities like Ramadi come at the price of uninhabitable destruction, death, and ruin. The people of Fallujah starve and suffer at the hands of their own government, who has imposed a lethal siege on the city. In the name of defeating terrorism, Baghdad has enraged its citizens with reckless campaigns that disregard its people’s basic rights. Sheik al-Dhari notes that tactics like these multiply Daesh recruits, legitimize their horrifying ideology and propel popular loyalty to terrorist thugs that promise protection.
The first day of the Iraq Crisis conference was complemented by an Iraqi cultural panel that demonstrated the rich history and beautiful heritage of Iraq, with a keynote speech by former Minister of Culture Francesco Rutelli.
Daesh militants plunder and profit from the decimation of Iraq’s precious national treasures. Sheik al-Dhari says it is essential to inform the international community that Daesh employs cultural terrorism as a means to erase history and entrench sectarian hatred. By destroying the cultural bonds that remind Iraqi’s of a shared past based on mutual respect and peaceful coexistence, they strive to divide the country.
PAFI believes it is essential to remember and retell the cultural story of Iraq, so as to continue the legacy under threat by destructive forces and remind Iraq of the future it can achieve united against them as one nation.
Speakers on the first day of this conference included: Lia Quartapelle (member of Foreign Affairs Committee, Chamber of Deputies) Valeria Talbot (Head of the Mediterranean and Middle East Program, ISPI) Nicola Latorre (President of Defense Committee Senate) Joe Lauria (Foreign Affairs Correspondent, Wall Street Journal), Ugo Tramballi (Journalist, Sole 24 Ore), Francesco Rutelli (Former Minister of Cultural Heritage), Davide Nadal (La Sapienza University), Hilary Link (Dean, Temple University, Rome), Nino Merola (Italian Cooperation Agency), Jeff Cody (Getty Conservation Institute), and Valerio De Luca, Secretary General, Diplomatia