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June 8, 2022

President Nechirvan Barzani joins SPARK’s Peace Through Moderation conference

President Nechirvan Barzani of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq took part in SPARK’s Peace Through Moderation conference in Erbil, highlighting the importance of preventing youth radicalisation and violent extremism. 

Supported by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the EU, the conference welcomed policymakers, ministers, parliament members, diplomats, NGOs, university professors, campaigners, youth – and the President of the Kurdistan Region, Nechirvan Barzani.

The conference is part of SPARK’s Networks of Change (NoC) which aims to prevent and counter youth radicalisation and violent extremism through the help of Kurdish youth, parents, teachers and professors in Halabja, Sulaymaniyah and Erbil. In line with the project goals, the panels in the conference discussed the drivers of radicalisation, solutions for prevention, security, new partnerships, and the role of youth themselves.

The value of peace: words from the President

SPARK’s esteemed guest, President Nechirvan Barzani of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, delivered a keynote speech where he highlighted the significant role of moderation and youth in peace-building. Noting the instability and conflicts in Iraq’s past, he stated how it extends to neighbouring countries and wider regions.

He drew his attention to the gravity of moderation: “To overcome this deadlock, all parties must return to moderation and to all the concepts that come together under the umbrella of moderation which are: dialogue, understanding, solidarity, mutual acceptance, respect for the rights of all and consideration of the interests of the state. Moderation can break down mental barriers, wash away hatred, revenge and destruction, and open the door to peace and stability.” He underlined that there is a “need to understand each other. We need to be moderate in our thoughts. Moderation can prevent extremism, violence, and hatred.”

President Nechirvan Barzani delivering his speech in the Peace Through Moderation conference © 2022, SPARK

Maaike Keizer, the Acting Consul General of the Netherlands in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, affirmed the importance of investing in the youth. “We need the youth to contribute to stability, and we need to give them the opportunity to grow and trust in the future. The goal is to prevent youth extremism,” she said. Raheil Aziz, KRI representative for SPARK, reinforced this idea once again by arguing that “to achieve peace and stability for our generation, we need to focus on the young people.” Stating SPARK’s support for young people, he said: “It is now time to give a more important role to youth in the region, which will lead to peace and a healthy society in the region.” He invited the President and the Kurdish government to join this mission and work together on this.

Panels and presentations

Along with the speeches, the conference included three panels. In the discourse of radicalisation and its vulnerability to violent extremism, Professor Dlawer Ala’Aldeen, Mr. Saji Prelis and the politician Mr. Abubakir Karwani were invited with Mr. Peter Knoope as the moderator.

The second panel covered collaborations for sustainable peace and inclusive security, with the chairman of the Iraq National Committee on preventing violent extremism, Mr. Ali Abdullah Abedeiri, Mr. Fulco van Deventer, and senior legal advisor at the Ministry of Justice, Dr. Krmanj Othman, as moderated by Dr. Kamaran Palani, a long time collaborator of SPARK.

The third brought together a professor from Halabja University, Dr. Hashim Omer Ahmad, an entrepreneur and former NoC campaigner, Huda Hassan, and a teacher and influencer, Kani Dler Kaify who shared their stories with the audience, under guidance of the moderator Areen Ibrahim, about working with youth and addressing issues of radicalisation and violent extremism.

Professor Dlawer Ala'Aldeen, Mr. Saji Prelis and Mr. Abubakir Karwani during the first panel session at the Peace through Moderation conference by SPARK © 2022, SPARK
Mr. Ali Abdullah Abedeiri, Mr. Fulco van Deventer and Dr. Krmanj Othman during the second panel session at the Peace through Moderation conference by SPARK © 2022, SPARK
Dr. Hashim Omer Ahmad, Huda Hassan and Kani Dler Kaify during the third panel session at the Peace through Moderation conference by SPARK © 2022, SPARK
Dr. Hashim Omer Ahmad, Huda Hassan and Kani Dler Kaify during the third panel session at the Peace through Moderation conference by SPARK © 2022, SPARK
Erina Muhammed presents the Wara Dang (Speak Up) campaign by the Networks of Change programme by SPARK © 2022, SPARK.

A presentation from the campaigners of Wara Dang (Speak Up) as part of NoC took place, with Erina Muhammed proposing the goal of the project. “Our aim is to reduce the number of immigration among youngsters and encourage them to vote and be part of the political process – which is their right. Additionally, we want to ensure that our young people make change through their own voices in society, offline and online activities; for trying to make sure that the private sector provides more job opportunities to young people and benefit from their skills for themselves and the country; and also, to build a bridge between youngsters and government,” she said.