Iraqi and Afghan youth are motivated by a desire to promote peace
The Department for Communications of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs is carrying out projects that encourage young people in Iraq and Afghanistan to promote peace and reconciliation. Hundreds of young people express their interest in participating in peace work through the projects annually. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs launched the Support Afghanistan Livelihoods and Mobility project called Salam in 2019 and commissioned Måndag to implement the project.
In the course of the project, youth can take part in multi-day workshops. In these workshops, they learn and exchange ideas about various ways of building peace through communication and the media. This year, the workshops focused on storytelling and constructive dialogue, among other things.
“Representatives of the young generation have a firm belief in building a new kind of Iraq. Although the participants came from different parts of the country and from different backgrounds, they share the same vision. They formed a close-knit group that continues its work all year round, together with the young participants who attended the previous course,” says Arto Sivonen, who mentored the workshop and was responsible for the practical implementation of the project.
A total of 12 people, both men and women, were selected for the group from among more than 500 applicants. Participants in the workshop in Erbil, Iraq, came from different parts of the country. Finland’s Ambassador to Baghdad, Matti Lassila, paid a visit to the workshop.
“In Iraq, ambassadors and other important people are usually accompanied by security officials, and they try to make themselves look important. The young people in the workshop were surprised to see that the Finnish Ambassador arrived alone, discussed with them and listened to and spent time with them,” says Mustafa Abdulameer, who coordinates the Salam project in Iraq.
“By the age of 22 years, I have witnessed two disastrous wars that affected society, causing economic crises, racism and corruption. However, when looking at young people of my age, I believe that one day we will rebuild our home country to what it was at one time,” says Sarah, an Iraqi woman who participated in the workshop.
Finland suspended the project in Afghanistan in the autumn
In Afghanistan, the aim was to organise the workshop in Kabul as before. The plan had to be suspended in autumn 2021 due to the Taliban’s takeover. According to Shakiba Adil, who coordinates the workshop in Afghanistan, young people are highly motivated to promote peace in the country.
“The over 700 applications that we received this year was a record number in Afghanistan. The participants were looking forward to the start of the workshop. We had prepared everything, selected the participants, reserved hotels, transport, facilities, schedules and so on, but everything was put on hold in August. The most important thing is safety and security,” says Adili from Måndag.
Alternative implementation methods are currently being sought for the project in Afghanistan. In Iraq, the project is progressing more or less according to the original plan. The projects are expected to continue until 2023.