Children participating in a peace workshop

Program Background

In 2009, we have started working together with a local partner organization, INSAN, to support the community in Kirkuk City. We focused on a Children’s Peace Workshop, where children can learn about peaceful coexistence while interacting across ethnic and religious barriers. Since 2015, we have been accepting refugee children and implementing Peace Yard that includes care for children who are mentally injured. The number of children who participated reached 730 in total. The project, however, was terminated after the program review of JVC due to our limited finances and the difficulty of entering the site for security reasons.

“The armed conflicts with the extremist organization, ISIS, have an enormous impact on people, especially on children. The situation is severe due to the decline of international interest, unstable domestic politics, COVID-19, and so on, but we will continue giving support.” (A message from Aari Jabari, the representative of INSAN)

Outline of the Activities

In Iraq, due to the spread of COVID-19, the restriction on going out intermittently continued from March 2020, but it was lifted in the middle of September. For two months from September 15th, we conducted Peace Yard activities to provide children who were mentally injured and traumatized in conflicts with a place to stay and learn about mental care and peaceful coexistence. We reduced the number of participants to about half the conventional one and adopted infection prevention measures such as wearing masks and keeping social distance. Thirty-six children aged 6 to 13 participated (12 Arabs, 18 Kurdish, 6 Turkish; 17 girls, 19 boys). We conveyed knowledge and countermeasures about COVID-19. In addition, to look back on our activities of the past 10 years, we conducted (1) interview surveys of the local people and the parents of past participants, and (2) video production to record past activities and to widely covey the concept of peacebuilding.

Observed Changes

Security was poor and a feeling of being trapped spread due to the restriction on going out. We, therefore, provided children with an environment where they could spend time at their ease. They gradually recovered their mental stability and self-affirmation, and we could see their smiles. Because of the mental care program, the conditions of children who were restless and did not show interest in the surroundings improved.

Schools in Iraq are classified into ethnic groups. Children of different ethnic origins have few opportunities to meet. In Peace Yard, children from various backgrounds get to know, share their experiences, and deepen mutual understandings. “Buds of coexistence” that transcend ethnic and cultural differences are emerging. There have been some cases where children who participated in this program engage in peace activities after they grow up.

We also informed the parents of the children and local people of the basic way of thinking about conflict resolution and peacebuilding and spread the idea about coexistence. People of different ethnic groups, denominations, and birthplaces usually had no opportunities to get to know each other. But now, they can meet each other, establish new relationships, and start discussions toward coexistence.

An activity to become a genie

Making a “Peace Tree” together

Our Partner Organization

INSAN Iraqi Society (INSAN)

INSAN is an Iraqi organization working since 2003 in Kirkuk. Diverse ethnic groups live there, and conflicting feelings are strong among them due to historical backgrounds and interest in oil resources. INSAN implements activities to ease tensions among residents, foster peace, and support internally displaced persons.

* The activities in Iraq finished at the end of March 2021. We truly appreciate those who have supported the projects for many years.

[Source: JVC Annual Report 2020]

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