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Healing Iraq, Healing the World

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The bloodshed in Iraq is unfolding before our eyes despite countless warnings this would be the outcome of invading the country in 2003.

Replacing Saddam Hussein's brutal regime with an equally but oppositely partisan government, all but encouraging Kurdish secession, and now bringing in Iranian military to advise on the future of the country threatens to guarantee the destruction of Iraq.

If today's uprising is suppressed without addressing its grievances, and without building a government that represents all of the people equally, it will ensure the death of countless innocent people, destabilizing not only Iraq and the region, but the entire world.

My father's family is one of the oldest in Iraq, going back thousands of years, descended from the cardinal Sufi Saint Abdul Qadr Gilani, back through 4th Caliph Ali ibn Abu Talib and Muhammad, a family including prime ministers as well as Iraq's anti-colonial hero Selahuddin Sabbagh.

The people of the region between my grandfathers' home in Nineveh and Damascus, Syria and northern Iran, from which the majority of the monotheistic prophets hailed, remember each and every argument and revolution since Abraham as though it was yesterday, and with good reason. Our families date before Moses, and the disputes run deep.

In the 7th century, the ruthless Ummayad governor Al Hajjaj bin Yusuf al Thaqafi, speaking at Kufa, famously scourged the people stating "Iraq balad al shiqaq wa nifaq," or "Iraq the land of division and hypocrisy," before proceeding to annihilate "infidels" to secure stable, albeit iron-fisted rule. Sound familiar?

But believing that only ruthless partisan leadership can bring relative stability to the country and region will only repeat history and further entrench and globalize the conflict.

The problem in Iraq, Syria, Iran, Palestine/Israel and the entire Middle East, which now threatens to spill over internationally, is not the age-old factionalism. The problem is the lack of leadership worldwide that can transcend the conflict and bring the people together.

For as much as the region bears the burden of divisive history, it carries within it the potential to heal the rift at the core of modern society in a new social and spiritual awakening that unites people across sects, religions, ethnicities, and nations.

This great awakening has been anticipated by every prophet from Isaiah, to Christ, Mohammed, and more recently Martin Luther King, Jr. who recognized that a sustainable peace could only come through social and economic equality which prevents the consolidation of wealth and power which feed upon the division of people and destruction of our environment.

There is a leadership in Iraq, and across the region, that is not only capable of generating this long awaited awakening, but is in fact desperate to do so, if we will only listen to them.

One year ago, on the 10th anniversary of the Iraqi war, I went to Baghdad to meet and interview young women and men at the frontlines of peace and change, using their voices to unite their country in the face of growing division.

I met and worked with Sunni, Shia, and Christian youth, Baghdadi's, Muslawi's, and Kurds, all hoping to heal their country before things got worse.

I met Sajjad Abbas, an artist whose instantly recognizable graffiti can be seen across the city, crying out for peace. I met Ali Al Makhzomy and Ali Amer Taha, who founded Iraqi Culture Day to celebrate an inclusive Iraqi history that unites the country.

I met doctors, professors, and electrical engineers working at the country's major hospitals, universities and power plants, many of them working overtime seven days a week trying to meet needs that are far beyond capacity amidst so much carnage.

From Mohammed Al Daradji, an Oscar nominated film-maker who founded a school teaching film making to urban youth, where I met Aymen Al Amiri, a brilliant young photographer who documented all of our work, to Layla al Shaikley, Ali Ihsan and others who co-founded TEDx Baghdad.

These young visionaries who have grown up at the epicenter of our generation's most destructive conflict, possess an optimism and hope that is fearless and unstoppable.

Together with hundreds of Iraqis, we made a music video in the streets of Baghdad calling on the world to unite and to give birth to such a great awakening.

We believe that if people all over the world put their voices together, we can lift a vision of a better world louder than the bombs of inequality. Will you join us?

Stephan Said
Singer, activist
www.stephansaid.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stephan.said