“Overly Welcome” campaign for young people of Anbar breaks the barriers between Iraqis

When a bus carrying more than 35 people from southern Iraq went to the western city of Anbar, most of the families recommended that their children not be allowed to name their provinces for fear of being targeted. However, after the arrival to Anbar, the young people to changed their attitude completely.

The youth of Anbar received their guests from the cities of the south with the words “Jathir el-Hala”, a rural term that means to be “overly welcomed”. This phrase became the name of a campaign launched by the youth to receive their guests from southern Iraq.

The phrase may have no linguistic meaning in the language dictionaries because it has went viral in local writing to Anbar province to the digital media space and social networking sites, after activists launched it to become the slogan of a youth campaign aimed at breaking the barriers of fear and spreading the spirit of tranquility among the people of the same homeland.

The idea of ​​the campaign was discussed during a friendly meeting of some friends after a training workshop in the capital Baghdad, when some activists expressed their desire to visit Anbar province and learn about its features and history to be the first stop in a series of visits and meetings seeking to identify all the Iraqi provinces and convey the realistic picture.

“A year and a half ago, we planned to carry out a youth activity that aims at and contributes to the removal of distortions regarding the picture of real Anbar, as a result of media intimidation and agendas that always seek to spread the spirit of division, and fear,” said Tarek Abdul Karim, 25, a local resident of Falluja and a member of the campaign.

Another activist said “This initiative may be a little bit late, but it is a first step towards extending the bonds of love and trust among the people of the same country and a continuous invitation to exchange visits among the people and this campaign plants the seed of love and people all over the provinces of Iraq will reap its fruits.”

The activists divided the members of this campaign into two groups in the city of Falluja, consisting of (12) activists and the second in the city of Ramadi, including about (25) activists, to receive more than (35) guests from the provinces of Baghdad and Babylon, Karbala, Diyala and DhiQar for two days. These people were wandering throughout the province of Anbar, welcoming guests on the most prominent offices, and the guests received greetings from the people and elders of Anbar, who competed for hospitality.

The route of the guests was not limited to the scenes of destruction and devastation caused by the control of the terrorist groups. It was also a sign of the efforts of the local people of the province and the security and administrative forces that contributed to the restoration of normalcy to the city.

“You can not mention that you are from the province of Karbala” This phrase was the only condition for the parents of a young man called Maitham after he managed to convince them to go to Anbar province.

“The news of our going to Anbar province was not good news for our families,” says Maytham Hadi, 25 year old, who tells us about his failure to allow his parents to come to the city. “What we have seen here is not like what the media is conveying to us, which encouraged me to mention without fear that I am coming from Karbala”.

Maitham also added that “I am very confident that my friends who decided not to continue the journey and retreated in the early minutes of the buses will feel remorse or regret because they did not see the joyous atmosphere and hospitality that we saw. It was a happy and exciting carnival” he said.

Distribution of Coffee during one of the festivals

Ous al-Fahd, a 29-year-old resident of Ramadi, said: “We have conscious youth who are trying to paint a bright and optimistic picture of our province, especially after it has been distorted by political agendas and terrorist operations.” Also added that “Today, I am faced with two achievements, no less important than the other. The first is that my city has been able to change the negative outlook that I have embraced, and the second is that the people of my city have met on one goal: to show the true image of our province.”

The campaign is the beginning of a generation of young people of Anbar who reject terrorism and seek to give a clear picture of the peaceful coexistence of Iraqi youth regardless of their religious, ethnic and or sectarian identity. Other youth are seeking to launch similar campaigns in the city.

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