Civil Peace Service / Special Initiative on displacement: Working through the past – for a peaceful future
Project title: Civil Peace Service / Special Initiative on displacement: Dealing with the past as a basis for reconstruction in Iraq
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Overall term: 2017 to 2019
Sections of the population in Northern Iraq have suffered as a result of the Saddam Hussein dictatorship, three Gulf Wars and serious violations of human rights.
The extreme violence experienced is often accompanied by severe trauma and deep-rooted mistrust. Moreover, relationships between different sections of the population are marred by prejudices and resentment. That makes it difficult for them to engage on an equal footing or in constructive talks. Following the advance of the terrorist organisation Islamic State (IS), conditions have deteriorated dramatically since summer 2014. IS has killed countless Yazidis and displaced Christians and other minorities from their traditional territories. In total, more than three million Iraqis fled, most of them to the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan. Although IS’s territorial control was destroyed in 2017, forcing it to go underground, the organisation continues to carry out terrorist attacks
Politically motivated conflicts between ethnic and religious groups continue unabated in Iraq. The majority of refugees have yet to return to their homes. Against the advice of its supporters, the Kurdish leadership held a referendum in September 2017 both in the autonomous region and in the Peshmerga-controlled territories; most Kurds voted unambiguously in favour of independence, while minority groups mostly abstained. In response, the Government of Iraq forced Peshmerga militants out of the oil-rich region around Kirkuk in particular. While the international community is urging the parties to engage in dialogue, the governments in Baghdad and Erbil have rejected negotiations for the time being. One consequence of this development is that, after years of recovery, the economy in Kurdistan has stagnated due to the loss of oil revenue.
However, peaceful social development in Iraq is only possible if the hostile groups talk to one another. Dealing with violations of human rights is part of this process. In order to cement the foundations for a continuous process of reconciliation, it is necessary to deal with the past from legal, political, and psychosocial perspectives, using the media.
The population of Iraq is coming to terms with the country’s violent past. Crimes are being worked through at a political and psychosocial level, including the media. A special focus is set on dealing with crimes committed by IS against the Yazidis.
The safety of displaced people is being guaranteed and they are returning to their traditional territories. The diverse religious, ethnic and political groups within the population live together peacefully with mutual respect. A remembrance culture compatible with peace is being created to prevent conflicts in future.
Through the experts of the Civil Peace Service (CPS), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH supports partners at government level and in civil society, including the „Commission for Investigation and Gathering Evidence“.
The latter was convened by the Government of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq with the approval of the Government of Iraq in Baghdad. It investigates and documents crimes in accordance with international standards and supports victims, taking into consideration gender and the trauma experienced: trauma-tised survivors and family members of victims receive individual counselling and support. In addition, supervision is provided for counsellors. Thanks to the dialogue and mediation measures, refugees can return to their homes and contribute to reconstruction.