This post was written by Sophia Sithole, a Political Science and Mathematics student at SFU as well as a member of the Ethiopian and Zimbabwean diaspora in Vancouver.
Despite going through many changes in the past several years, Iraq is still a place of civil unrest and turmoil. While some leave to escape the chaos, many go back in hope of bringing about change through peace and reconciliation. Kawa Jabary is one of these individuals. Born in the Kurdish region of Northern Iraq, he was forced to flee to Turkey as a result of his political activities and eventually settled in Canada as a political refugee. Between work and school, he organizes symposia and workshops with the Metro Vancouver Iraqi diaspora to promote peace in Iraq. Kawa often makes trips back to the Kurdish region of Iraq to support peaceful actions as an alternative to the violent demonstrations, which prevail in the country.
After witnessing civilian unrest during his most recent trip, Kawa shared his view on the problems in Iraq: They are not only rooted in the regime, but are also the result of a political culture of violence. While speaking with local activists he proposed using non-violent action to bring about greater international support. However, even when the authorities were willing to listen, many protesters were skeptical about non-violent negotiations – many believe the only way to make sustainable changes is through forcefully removing local authorities from power. Kawa disagrees; he believes the path to change is through reforms such as political decentralization and constitutional reform. He says, “reforms are more important than simply changing the regime, since you cannot have real changes unless the country is ready”.
Since political expression through violence is deeply ingrained in the culture, Kawa believes that one must influence the culture itself. “You have to influence the culture and in place of violence you need to introduce a culture of tolerance and encourage people to participate in the political system, to gradually consider themselves as equal citizens”. Simply put, it is not a case of changing a regime, but of finding ways to develop an environment of tolerance that supersedes differences. Kawa also believes that to bring about a sense of civic nationalism, the cycle of instability needs to be recognized and the mentality has to be changed. But to change the mentality, the political culture must first be reformed.
Kawa Jabary will be speaking at “Human Insecurity and Peacebuilding: Diaspora Perspectives and Roles”, a public dialogue at the SFU Wosk Centre for Dialogue on July 13. Register here.