How Baghdad’s Youth Movement is Re-Uniting A Divided Society
At first glance, the story behind the Baghdad City of Peace Carnival sounds entirely improbable: a carnival with music, dancing, and colourful balloons in downtown Bagdad? Thousands of young people volunteering their time in hopes of improving their society? The image of the Iraqi capital propagated by the international media is very different. It stands as a symbol of an ongoing war with its grey, bombed-out streets, and walls riddled with bullet holes. Iraqi Qayssar Alwardii tells us about another side of the city. It is a story so full of hope and courage, that it is almost possible to believe in miracles – and that you can accomplish anything with enough enthusiasm and determination.
I first met Qayssar at a conference in the summer of 2016. It was more of an accidental encounter really, just a bit of small talk in the hall. Qayssar is the kind of person who can brighten your day by his mere presence. He smiles as if he would like to hug the whole world, and his enthusiasm and joy in life is contagious. Then he told me where he was from, and I could hardly believe it. How could someone from Bagdad, Iraq be so positive and cheerful?
“I have once been an angry young man with no dreams and no goals.”
Later, he would tell me that he had once been an “angry young man” with no dreams and no goals. “I had nothing in life. I had poor people skills. I had no friends.” That jibes a bit better with the image I have of his hometown: young people growing up with no hope for a better future in a society marred by violence. But Qayssar doesn’t really fit this image at all, at least not the Qayssar standing right in front of me, his face creased in a gigantic grin. It is hard to imagine that this bundle of energy once belonged to the supposed lost generation.
He credits the Baghdad City of Peace Carnival with his transformation. Once a year, on September 21, designated by the UN as World Peace Day, young people organize a giant street Carnival at the heart of the capital, a Carnival of music, dancing, helium balloons and colourful posters. The welcoming, peaceful images it generates fly in the face of all the reports on war and violence.
The Baghdad City of Peace Carnival wants to connect with peace movements around the globe. Please contact Qayssar if you can help him get in touch with youth or peace groups in your country: firstname.lastname@example.org