Coalition Provisional Authority
South Central Region
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 21, 2004
DEMOCRACY BUILDING IN SOUTH CENTRAL IRAQ
Hilla, Babil Province, Iraq. On Wednesday, more than 1,500 people from South Central Iraq attended a democracy discussion by Dr. Larry Diamond at the Hilla University for Humanitarian, Scientific and Religious Studies.
The tribal leaders, sheikhs, community leaders, and women came from Hilla, Najaf, Karbala, Diwaniyah, Al Kut, and Ramadi to hear Dr. Diamond discuss the basics of democracy. He described four elements of a democracy: how to choose leaders, how citizens participate in a democracy, rights in a democracy, and the rule of law.
A specialist on democratic development, Dr. Diamond serves as co-director of the National Endowment for Democracy's International Forum for Democratic Studies. Dr. Diamond is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and recently wrote Islam and Democracy in the Middle East.
Sayeed Farqat Al-Husseiny Al-Qizwini, Director of the Hilla University for Humanitarian, Scientific and Religious Studies, hosted the democracy lecture and said:
"We were torn from the inside, and we were destroyed politically, economically, and socially. Let us unite our word. Let us put love and friendship between us again. Let us each have the freedom to express ourselves, but let us respect each other. Let us not turn on each other, and let us not create another dictator that will oppress us. Together we can build a new free and democratic Iraq...we must respect women based on religious law and humanitarian law. We must let her practice her righteous role in society."
In November, Sayeed Qizwini organized a month long democracy series for sheikhs and tribal leaders from all over Iraq. Taught by USAID, the topics included freedom of the press, freedom to gather, respect for minority beliefs, freedom of religion, voting systems, courts, and democratic models of government. During the training, the sheikhs explained:
"For 35 years we didn't know about democracy, now we want to learn about democracy."
Sayeed Qizwini and the Coalition Provisional Authority continue to work together on other democracy building initiatives throughout the South Central Region. They are in the process of starting Tribal Democracy Centers, which will provide a place for sheikhs, tribal leaders, women, and community leaders to discuss relevant issues and to learn about democracy.
Furthermore, 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 soon 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."
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.