Baghdad City of Peace Carnival

Baghdad City of Peace Carnival
One might ask who you are, the answer is, we are a group of Baghdadi youths who are interested in retitling Baghdad as the City of Peace. Annually, we organize a public carnival in Abu Nuwas Street, in the Al Karada district, on accordance with the annual celebration of the International Day of Peace that is held on September 21.

Our carnival has two basic purposes, first to bring Baghdad its title as the City of Peace by showing the world Baghdad’s real face throughout the presentation of the real interests of normal Baghdadi youth including didactic artistic activities. Second thing is to empower youth groups to begin their activities on the one hand, and to support orphans, widows, I.D.P.S., and families in need of any support through fundraising.

Baghdad’s Carnival aims at bringing up a whole generation aware of solidarity among youth and the culture of voluntary work, in an attempt to spread the teamwork mentality in our society.

Moreover, our volunteers vary in their age, and academic specialty. Age, names, and ethnic affiliation are meaningless amongst our team. The real interest is one’s value in a team.

According to what is witnessed in Baghdad City of Peace Carnival, Baghdadi youth volunteers are exploiting almost every second of their leisure time to be involved in the carnival preparations. Whether they have academic or job commitments, volunteers hurry, as soon as they are freed of such commitments, to join the preparations or attend the meetings. Sometimes their jobs begin at 7 A.M. and end about 4 P.M. yet one can see them involved in voluntary work for 7 p.m.

Many of them work in fields way far from their majors, and what is worth mentioning is the fact that most of them work in groups and depend on very little resources yet they come up with great ideas and perfectly finished jobs. Their philosophy of work is complementary rather than a competition based one. In teamwork, experts or highly talented volunteers help newbies to develop their expertise. Open discussions help developing ideas to come up with a mature polished idea.

Teams cooperate with each other to finish one job, each doing his part of the work. Sometimes you can find volunteers from more than four teams working together to finish some work. All exchange expertise and develop theirs as well. Every year, work develops and becomes much better. One might ask why you have so much understanding despite that some of the volunteers are newbies. The answer is very simple, the philosophy of the carnival does not depend on the hierarchy of leadership in which you can find one essential figure and the rest are subordinates, it follows the philosophy of teamwork in which everyone is an essential member of the chain. For more efficiency, there is certain highly expert figures who play the role of mentors rather than leaders. Eventually every bit of work is done in a way that every volunteer would feel proud to be part of the work as whole.

Many of the volunteers have heard about Baghdad City of Peace Carnival either by a friend or over social media, thus many have that first impression of how come peace, celebration and gatherings goes together with the tensioned dangerous circumstances we are living in in Baghdad. Yet most of the many if not all of them have something that stirs their curiosity to have the idea, what is wrong if I attended the first meeting?! They attend the first meeting and end up being volunteers for more than one year. When someone later asks the same persons, many would answer that it was one of their best experiences; others would say that they had this impulse but they were either afraid or too shy to express it aloud and the carnival was their chance to share such ideas. Many answers one would hear but they all share the same idea that is the carnival was something novel and good.

The carnival’s agenda includes live performances of folkloric songs, western songs, and Banned Band covering western world known songs, in addition to volunteers’ didactic plays and short performances, not to mention one of the corners presented in Baghdad City of Peace Carnival that is the paintings gallery. This corner included the exhibition of two types of artworks; the oil colors based paintings, and the coal drawings.

The fund raising part of Baghdad City of Peace Carnival is present by the booths area. It includes some 25 booths. The experience, one can have there, provides the attendees of the carnival with three basic elements, first thing, to have a chance to donate and support an orphan, a widow, or an I.D.P.S. family. The second thing is to support a youth group to either launch or develop their civil society activities, and the third thing is to enjoy some time.

The area includes variety of booths that can be categorized according the nature of their activities as health, photography, kids, souvenirs, awareness, and last but not least handcrafts. Most of the income is dedicated for donations and fund raising.

Healthy food and health awareness section includes a number of booths that serve diet food, green apple, fruits, water, barbeques, milkshakes, date-based sweets, oriental foods, and Baghdadi served bakeries and tea. This corner has one basic aim besides fund raising; it provides attendees with healthy foods and certain advices regarding healthcare and edible healthy foods. This corner also included two other teams, a team doing dental exams, giving advices about dental care and selling toothpastes and toothbrushes, and a team doing a survey about certain health basic information such as blood pressure. IFMSA* Iraq mainly runs the corner and the funds raised for each activity of this section does not pass the 6 Euros limit.

The photography and cyber corner includes booths doing instant photography, Baghdadi folkloric themed photos, a photo booth totally made by the volunteers, a photographic gallery, and a Facebook-themed business cards booth.

The Kids corner includes the shaping balloons booth and kids’ games area, not to mention booths specialized for kids. This corner is both an entertaining and fund raising corner. Kids enjoy there both playing and the culture of donating for other causes. The 2014 carnival witnessed a great participation from Offre Joie group.
The souvenirs corner includes the T-shirts, rubber bracelets, mugs and pens with the Carnival logo on it, besides the handmade accessories, in addition to Peace-sign-decals and stickers. This corner gives the attendees the chance to have something material as a souvenir and the prices does not pass the 5 Euros limit.

The awareness corner includes two basic sections, the reading section usually run by “I am Iraqi, I read” campaign, and the anti-sexual-harassment group. Moreover, it may include the booth where you can write your negative traits and seal them into a glassy box. The amounts of funds depend on the prices of books.

The Handcrafts corner includes the multiple activities of team Handcrafts, such activities include facial drawings and coloring, personal sketches and caricatures, homemade cupcakes and cookies, spray paint arts. One can enjoy such experiences for prices ranging between 0.5 and 4 Euros with the remark that most if not all of the income is dedicated for donation.

As a newly launched carnival with its very limited resources, Baghdad City of Peace Carnival managed to draw the attention of overseas activists who, in one way or another, tried to be part of the carnival and succeeded in that. It is still a very limited experience yet it is supportive and means a lot for the volunteers of the carnival.

Before talking about this experience, one needs to know what reasons hinders such activists to participate in Baghdad City of Peace Carnival. The most obvious reason is the unstable security circumstances storming the country. Non-Iraqi activists finds it scary to go in the middle of Baghdad to participate activities in a public carnival. Many other reasons may include the considerably high costs of transportation in addition to the highly strict measurements in Iraqi airports.

Now we go to the experience. Baghdad City of Peace Carnival 2012 witnessed the presence of Annett from Holland. She participated in the carnival and went on stage to tell the attendees the story of her friend. This experience was important and supportive and it urged many Iraqi volunteers to take part and participate in 2013 carnival.

2014 Carnival witnessed the participation of four Danish activists who are part of What’s Up Baghdad documentary movie. They took part in Baghdad’s Carnival when they recorded a video and shared it with Baghdad City of Peace Carnival volunteers. The video conveyed a supportive message calling Iraqi youths to be involved in voluntary work more and more, they intend to join the volunteers in 2015.

Moreover, Jeremy Gilley, the English actor, filmmaker, and cofounder of the nonprofit organization Peace One Day, tweeted “Great to see #PeaceDay celebrated in Iraq with a peace carnival. A poignant demonstration of the power of the day” commenting about the BBC’s article covering Baghdad City of Peace Carnival. Not to mention, Richard Cowley’s photo embedded Facebook post about our friend Aysar, one of the Carnival’s pioneer activist, who was injured in a car-bomb attack downtown Baghdad.

Recently, Baghdad City of Peace Carnival and International Peace Youth Group (IPYG) are now collaborating for Peace and the Carnival is now an official affiliate to IPYG.

The 2015 Baghdad City of Peace Carnival is intended to be an empowering carnival for the other Iraqi youth campaigns in the other Iraqi provinces. It is a step forward following the Carnival philosophy of bringing up a generation fully aware of the importance of the teamwork and voluntary activities. This can be one-step toward the international volunteering project.

The team also aims at holding small events every two months to both fundraise and mobilize more youth to participate in the process of fundraising. Moreover, our team is looking forward for exchanging expertise and experience domestically or internationally following the policy of world cooperation, and exchanging experiences for better results. 

By: Mohammed Nihad – Social Media team.

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