In Iraq, formal education has become a gateway for youth determined to see their country recover from decades of conflict and live together in peace. Forty-four students from Anbar, Baghdad and Mosul Universities joined the first cohort to complete a Post-Graduate Diploma in Peace and Conflict Studies in late 2019, integrating a variety of academic disciplines to demonstrate their commitment to a united Iraq.

“Because of what we’ve experienced, it’s important to invest in peace studies,” says Dr Abdu Jabar, Director of the Postgraduate Studies Department at the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. “We believe that educated individuals become messengers in their communities, to spread a culture of peace.”

Over a two-year period, UNDP, local NGO, Iraqi al Amal and the University of Innsbruck (Austria) supported academics from Baghdad, Tikrit, Anbar, Basra, Karbala, Kufa and Mosul Universities to develop the first national curriculum of Peace and Conflict Studies. Endorsed by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, the class of 2020 will be the first to cement Peace and Conflict as a critical field of study for a nationally owned and led recovery in Iraq.

“This curriculum has an Iraqi fingerprint, reflecting the Iraqi identity, extracted from and reflecting the realities of Iraqi society; not from outside or imitating any other places,” Professor Arif Salih, from the Faculty of Law at Anbar University.

Living together in peace is about accepting differences, while choosing to listen to others, recognize and respect them, in order to live together with understanding in an inclusive society. These students from Baghdad University shared their own messages of peace to mark International Day of Living Together in Peace.

 

‘Be the change you want to see in the world’

 

Sara wants to be a fieldworker after graduating. She hopes to contribute to critical research on peace and conflict in Iraq.

 

‘Find the misunderstanding’

 

Aaljaleel seeks to better understand what causes conflict and tension in different communities. “I want to build a ‘bridge’ that will help us all to reconnect.”

 

‘We only live once.

Let’s live happily.’

 

Doa’a is a police officer. “I want to continue serving my community as a law enforcement officer. But I hope that with new knowledge about how to engage with different ideas of peace and conflict, I will be better-equipped to prevent issues like domestic violence.”

 

‘Seek for what you want seriously. Nothing is impossible.’

 

Fatin is an engineer working with the Ministry of Water and a civil activist fighting for children’s rights. “I would like to learn how I can build peace in the human mind from early childhood, especially given Iraq’s history of external and internal war. We need to raise people who believe in peace and want to build peace in their homeland, and if they can, in the whole world.”

 

‘Peace comes through blessing only.’

 

“What attracted me to study peace and conflict is that the goal is purely humanitarian. It aims to turn negative conflict in to positive and constructive conflict – which is what we need in Iraq,” says Maitham. “I want to explore peacebuilding as a qualified researcher. This work is vital to inform the design of effective social cohesion activities that will contribute to sustainable peace.”

 

‘Live with love.’

 

Rawa is a lawyer. “Building on the skills I learnt in the faculty of law – mediation and dispute resolution, I want this new understanding of peace and conflict to make me a better and more evolved lawyer. So, I can do better for the people I serve.”

 

‘To have or to be.’

 

Israa hopes to work in development. “By embodying peace, I hope to share positive messages more widely. If you have something, you can just give it away once. But, if you embody something, you can give it time and time again.”

 

‘I accept others.’

 

Hoda is currently working as a lawyer. “I want to become a trainer, teaching young people about peacebuilding and the values of diversity and inclusion in today’s modern social fabric.”

 

‘Making life.’

 

Hayder wants to be a researcher. “I want to help determine and address the key causes of community conflict in Iraq. I want to help improve the lives of Iraqis and establish sustainable peace.”

 

‘Smile when you can.’

 

“I found that there is a great connection between art, design and peacebuilding, so this course combines my passion and ambition to help others and find creative solutions,” explains Raghda. “I want people to see what a peaceful Iraq might look like.”

 

‘We plant peace and harvest a homeland.’

 

Nabaa sees the potential in young people as changemakers. “I want to become a researcher and teach others how to spread messages of peace – like a plant that will grow.”

 

‘Peace.’

[Arabic Cuniform]

 

 “Peacebuilding is a new field in Iraq. For many people, success is limited to medical and engineering professions – and that’s just not me,” explains Myan. “In studying peacebuilding, I am challenging society – and their traditional ideas and opinions,” she continues. “I am an activist. I want my messages of peace to be heard and to positively influence the community. For that, I have to first understand how best to communicate.”

About Peace Education in Iraq

 

The course curriculum was developed between 2017-2019, through successful collaboration between UNDP, Iraqi al Amal, The University of Innsbruck and the Iraqi Universities Consortium for Peace Studies, with generous funding support from Germany’s Ministry for Economic Cooperation through KfW and the Government of Japan.

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