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Hilary F. White - 781-276-9631 hilary.white@CPA-IQ.ORG

Democracy Building in South Central Iraq

Hilla, Babil Province, Iraq. The Coalition Provisional Authority has awarded more than $916,700 (1.56 billion Iraq Dinars *) in contracts for four Tribal Democracy Centers. The Tribal Democracy Centers will provide a place for sheikhs, tribal leaders, and others to discuss relevant issues and to learn about democracy.

During a recent Democracy Training session at the Hilla University for Humanitarian, Scientific and Religious Studies, sheikhs explained,

"For 35 years we didn't know about democracy, now we want to learn about democracy."

Sheikhs and tribal leaders will be able to use the Tribal Democracy Centers to engage in dialogues on how they can participate in a free, democratic Iraq. The money awarded will create Tribal Democracy Centers in Diwaniyah, Najaf, and Karbala, as well as a Regional Tribal Democracy Center in Hilla. The CPA intends to fund other Tribal Democracy Centers in Al Kut, Ramadi, and Hilla. Seized from the former regime assets, the money is now being used for the Iraqi people.

The Coalition Provisional Authority continues to work on other democracy building initiatives throughout the South Central Region. Over 700 sheikhs and tribal leaders helped open Farmers' Unions in Diwaniyah and Karbala. The Farmers' Unions provide an opportunity for tribal leaders to gather, to learn about modern farming techniques, and to promote democratic principles. Additional Farmers' Unions will open throughout the South Central Region. During the opening of the Karbala Farmers' Union, the sheiks discussed democracy, saying:

"Our prophets preached democracy, now we have a chance to realize it."

"Farming is our future. No longer will we wait in line to turn in our harvest in return for seeds and fertilizer. We can buy our own supplies and sell our product in a free market. We must learn how to participate in this free market and build our future on it, the future of our children, and the future of Iraq."

Sheikhs and tribal leaders from all over Iraq also attended a month long series on Democracy Training at the Hilla University for Humanitarian, Scientific and Religious Studies. Sayyed Qizwini, Director of the University, and the Coalition Provisional Authority helped organize the Democracy Training, which was taught by USAID-RTI. Topics included freedom of the press, freedom to gather, respect for minority beliefs, freedom of religion, voting systems, courts, and democratic models of government.

Learning about freedom and responsibility in a democratic society are essential as Iraqis move toward a sovereign government. CPA South-Central will continue to work with the Iraqi people on democracy initiatives that give them opportunities to participate in a free, democratic Iraq.

* Assuming $1 equal 1,700 Iraqi Dinars.