By JULIA KASSEM Staff Writer
Members and affiliates of the US-Iraqi Youth Institute with a host of community leaders and politicians met at Greenfield Manor on June 5 for the Iraqi American Peace Conference. This year’s theme was ISIS: Terrorism Against Childhood.
Groups of students with the organization, families with children, and political and community leaders from Detroit to Baghdad gathered in the main banquet hall for an evening of discussion, video presentations, dinner, and a closing awards ceremony.
As the atrocities and terror against Iraqi civilians by ISIS were recounted , Iraqi and Iraqi-American leaders sought to bridge perspectives between leaders and politicians in the two countries.
“There is a misunderstanding,” said Iraqi parliament member Ahmad Al-Asadi, who is also a Commander of the Volunteer forces in Iraq and an advisor to the Iraqi government. “A misunderstanding between the world and [our community].”
Also speaking at the Iraqi American Peace Conference was Michigan Congressman John Conyers and absentee Debbie Dingell’s regional director on behalf of the Congresswoman.
The Middle East crisis was also a point of reference in discussing how the community should rectify itself and cultivate a sense of political legitimacy and stability.
Retired Colonel and U.S. Army informant Michael Silverman addressed the crowd from an American vantage point. He characterized the attempt to bring democracy to Iraq as a “political failure” from the moment that America stopped supporting the Iraqi government and people. Silverman otherwise laid out a few points of advice for the crowd on what they should do.
“One: you should vote (in elections) and two: you should organize,” he said.
Silverman also cited fundraising campaigns, such as the establishments of superPACs that would raise Iraqi-American concerns to the legislative level and ensure that Iraqi-American voices are heard and their concerns addressed.
Finally, a speech by Sayed Hassan Qazwini concluded the community leader addresses and discussion before dinner was served. Speaking out against sectarianism and violence, the former Imam emphasized that ISIS’s bloodshed and terror was a political rather than a religious campaign.
“James Foley was not Shia,” Qazwini said. “The Yazidis that were killed were not Shia. Christians who were driven out of their homes were not Shia. And many Sunni tribes who are now being killed by ISIS are not Shia.”
Qazwini further expounded upon the role of geopolitical power by pointing out the hypocrisy demonstrated by certain Middle Eastern and Gulf regimes.
“There are certain governments in the Middle East who probably are saying that they are against ISIS, and they join the coalition against ISIS, and they condemn ISIS, but in reality they are helping ISIS,” Qazwini said.
Regardless of perspective, rhetoric, discourse, or language, the speakers and attendees shared the goal of uniting communities both in and between Iraq and the United States, closing up political, religious, and social fissures that all had cited as the fundamental problem.