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09/21/2017

A village after liberation from the armed groups

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The photo shows the entrance of a village in the Nineveh Plain near Mosul.

In this village, Sunnis and Shiites live together. They are both Muslims, but their beliefs and doctrines differ from each other.

When the armed groups invaded the village in 2014, one of the two sects fled, while the other remained. The sect who remained in the village thought that the armed groups shared the same beliefs with them, but, in fact, the armed groups had pretended to have the same faith as them.

After the village was liberated from the armed groups by the Iraqi army, JEN initiated several projects in cooperation with UNICEF. One of them is hygiene promotion where the village volunteers convey what they have learned to the other villagers.

The JEN staff and the hygiene promotion volunteers were often faced with difficulties in having members of both sects participate in the activities.

When the activities first started, people from both sects said that there was nothing wrong between them and they were living peacefully together, and indeed it seemed so. After being liberated from the armed groups, the leaders of the village were very pleased that the village had regained peace and the people were now free to start a new life.

However, as the project got on its way and the volunteers and villagers began to trust our staff, the volunteers revealed the prejudices in the village.

Although the people of the two sects were neighbors, they did not visit each other’s homes when they participated in hygiene promotion and other activities.

Those in the minority sect in the village believed that people from the majority sect had assisted the armed groups because when the armed groups invaded the village they did not flee.

The minority sect has formed a militia and has put the village under its control. For this reason, people from the majority sect do not have the power to urge those in the minority sect to participate in activities such as hygiene promotion sessions.

Under these circumstances, JEN, as a humanitarian organization, decided to provide children from both sects with an opportunity to spend time together in the village so as not to worsen prejudices between the two sects.

Our staff planned a hygiene promotion event for saving water on August 28. On the day of the event, more than 125 children gathered on the beautiful open lawns.

Children from both sects enjoyed games and other activities and received sweets and gifts prepared by JEN and UNICEF. After the event, the children held each other’s hands as they went home.

On the next day, we were so glad to see the children coming back together to the open lawns, expecting to join the same event again. Unlike their parents, they have no negative feelings towards each other, nor do they care about what their parents say or think at home.

The children gave us hope that someday people from both sects would overcome each other’s differences and live amicably together.

[Hygiene promotion volunteers carrying out an event]
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September 21, 2017 in Iraq |