For Immediate Release
A Force for Peace Emerges from Within Iraq
"Week of Non-Violence" Activities To Take Place Throughout Iraq, October 11-16
IRAQ - LaOnf, Arabic for "No Violence," is a
coalition of Iraqi civil society organizations which is working to
bring peace to Iraq through nonviolent actions that gain and amplify
popular support among Iraqis of all religious and ethnic backgrounds.
The coalition's hopeful message is being acted on in all of Iraq's18
governorates (provinces) during a "Week of Nonviolence," October 11-16.
The week will see locally-organized activities created to spread
support for LaOnf's goals: ending sectarian violence and foreign
occupation, and promoting transparent and accountable governance.
The message of this Week -- it is the third annual Week of Nonviolence
for LaOnf since its inception in 2006 -- focuses on how the upcoming
elections in the governorates can be made safe, free and inclusive of
all of Iraq's peoples, so that the nation's civil society can function
effectively and democratically. Provincial elections are scheduled to
be held by January 31, 2009, according to the compromise legislation
passed by the Iraqi Parliament earlier this month.
LaOnf has called for the elections to consist of an open list of
individual candidates rather than having political parties as the only
voting options, as was the case in the last election. The importance of
personal safety at the polls is paramount, and LaOnf specifies that
polls should be guarded by Iraqi police, with the Iraqi Army as
back-up, to maintain neutrality at the polls and allow everyone to vote
regardless of sectarian, ethnic or religious affiliation or gender.
Iraqi militias and US troops must be kept away from polling places,
LaOnf says, to ensure fair and open elections.
LaOnf is also calling on the candidates to fully explain to the voters
each of their programs for rebuilding the country's infrastructure,
their plans for creating employment, as well as explaining their
positions on the rights of women, the right of free speech, and how a
culture of nonviolence can be promoted in Iraq.
In all governorates of Iraq, democratically elected LaOnf coordinators
have organized myriad activities to bring these goals to their fellow
citizens. From Anbar to Basra and Kurdistan to Muthanna, most of the
Week's activities are to be substantive: they include conferences and
workshops, youth soccer games, radio and television programs, community
meetings, some aimed specifically at youth and women, cultural
festivals, distribution of posters and literature, art exhibitions,
visits to religious figures, meetings with provincial governors and
other officials, and visits with party officials and clan chiefs.
Others are symbolic: in Kirkuk and Erbil, community participants will
release flocks of doves to signal their hopes for a peaceful
future. Rapid growth has marked the organization's membership in the
two years since its inception, and over 100 groups have joined. With
no barriers to membership other than an acceptance of their basic
tenets concerning nonviolence, members are Sunni, Shia, Kurd, Turkman,
Christian, and include both men and women in the membership and
Since its founding in 2006 by a few individuals, LaOnf's influence has
spread from Baghdad throughout all the governorates, where they conduct
nonviolence training sessions and workshops on a continuing basis and
distribute literature and posters. Specific campaigns have targeted
problem areas. One such campaign against life-like war toys began by
trading soccer balls for toy guns, and then expanded to lobbying
efforts. In too many instances soldiers shot and killed children
carrying life-like toy weapons. LaOnf's campaign has now resulted in
legislation banning the sale of war toys in Muthanna. LaOnf activists
hope to see national legislation passed in the near future.
LaOnf's activities take place in an atmosphere of constant strife,
often threatening the activities and the lives of members on a daily
basis. To aid them in their mission, September Eleventh Families for
Peaceful Tomorrows has undertaken to broadcast LaOnf's story to
Americans. Peaceful Tomorrows, founded by family members of 9/11
victims, seeks just and effective nonviolent responses to violence, and
works with people similarly affected by violence throughout the world.