Celebrating Iraqi culture: Diversity is strength in the Ninewa Plains
Located on the banks of the Tigris River, the Ninewa Plains is a region of Iraq that is exceptionally rich in culture thanks to its multi-faith communities. On June 6, 2021, UNDP held a festival celebrating strength in diversity that brought together community leaders and members of various ethnic and religious groups from the region in celebration in Bartella in partnership with Al-Tahreer Association for Development and Wasel Tasel Organization. The event is part of UNDP Iraq’s Social Cohesion Programme activities, which work to empower local community leaders with skills in community outreach, conflict resolution, design and implementation of community initiatives, to ensure these influential members of society are well equipped to facilitate peace and co-existence. The programme covers the governorates of Ninewa, Anbar, Salah al-Din, Diyala and Kirkuk thanks to generous support from the Government of Denmark.
Maryam, from Baghdida, Hamdaniya district, belongs to a folk ensemble for Syriac costumes and folk dances. Maryam has participated in several festivals and community events at the governorate and national level to shed light on the fashion culture of Baghdida. Maryam says, “This opportunity is very important in order to highlight our historical and cultural identity, and to get to know the cultures present in Ninewa Governorate and Iraq.”
Ninos, a plastic artist from Baghdida, Hamdania district, has worked on rebuilding the symbols of civilization destroyed by ISIS, and uses sculpture and painting in his artwork. Through painting, Ninos expresses that the Assyrian civilization survives with the efforts of the people of Ninewa, despite all previous attempts to destroy it. Ninos says, “Through our paintings, we were able to convey a message that Ninewa is a city of diversity, civilization and history.”
Rafal 15, from Al Kafaat, Mosul, brought her paintings to the celebration. Rafal says, “We must all unite at this stage and maintain this cohesion and paint our city with art to remove the effects of war.”
Sahar, who works in handicrafts and decorates halls, weddings and events, says, “Today’s event is a safe space for women to participate in building a peaceful society.”
Shatat, from Bashiqa district, says, “For fifty years I have lived among my family and brothers, and nothing can differentiate between this love that binds us and that brings us together. I participated in this festival to show people that we are one and that neither ISIS nor war will divide us.”
Suzan and Ashwaq from Bahzani presented famous food dishes from Bahzani. Suzan says, “This was a beautiful opportunity for us to participate with our brothers and sisters from all parts of Ninewa and promote this diversity that enriches our country and governorate.”
Ashwaq adds, “There are some dishes that can only be found in Bashiqa. Through our participation, we shed light on these foods and explained how these historical dishes are made in Bashiqa.”
Azhar, a 22-year-old community activist from Tal Al-Laban village, Al-Hamdaniya district, works in the field of promoting peace and community cohesion as the technical director of the Center for Democracy Organizations. Azhar says, “At this stage, we must all unite for one unified Iraq, in order to remove the effects of the war, contribute to the recovery of Ninewa, and promote peace forever.”
In 2020, UNDP Iraq launched a dedicated five-year Social Cohesion Programme to promote stronger, peaceful, and more cohesive communities in all areas of Iraq.