"This is the voice of the majority of Iraqis. We will ignore those who feed of our misery. We are the people. This is our position." With these words, Hayder Muhsin, a young resident of the Iraqi city of Najaf encouraged his peers to take part in a humanitarian campaign launched by youth and civil society groups from Najaf, Karbala and Basra.
The campaign aims to visit the towns in Diyala province that have witnessed sectarian attacks by militias in the past week. "We have launched this campaign to combat sectarianism and to send a strong message of condemnation against all forms of sectarian and ethnic violence," Muhsin told The New Arab.
"We are tired and we want to live in peace. It's enough that we have one Daesh and we don't need another," he added referring to the Islamic State group (IS) by its Arabic acronym. Muhsin said that the campaign enjoys the support of many Iraqis who feel the same way. Mohammad Hassan, one of the activists taking part in the campaign said the main purpose was to convey a message of love and peace.
"If we manage to raise one dinar or thousands of dinars, the main objective is to send a message of love and peace," said Hassan. "We want to convey that the militias that attacked Diyala do not represent us in the same way that IS does not represent Sunnis and the PKK does not represent Kurds," he added referring to the Kurdistan Workers' Party that is listed as a terrorist group by the US and EU.
Hassan said that they intend to go to Diyala to help residents rebuild what militias had destroyed and to console the victims of sectarian violence. The young man believes that Iraqi youths should take the initiative to correct the failings of politicians who have divided Iraqi society along sectarian and ethnic lines.
Militiamen last week carried out a number of apparent reprisal attacks following a double suicide bombing Monday in the town of Muqdadiyah in Diyala province, about 60 miles (90 kilometres) north of Baghdad. Residents have since reported attacks on Sunni mosques and business. Two Iraqi journalists were killed near the provincial capital Tuesday.
The attacks were strongly condemned by Iraq's political and religious leaders including the country's top Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. "This is the voice of the majority of the Iraqi people, which we rely on for a secure future," said Mohammad al-Qaysi a Diyala MP. "It is great to see such initiative because they are like water to a fire.
At the same time we hope the government and political in parties support such campaigns. We also hope the media focuses on these initiatives instead of the focusing on divisive rhetoric," added al-Qaysi.
According to al-Qaysi who is a member of the government's civil society network, Diyala is scheduled to receive a number of "peace convoys" carrying humanitarian aid and volunteers who will help residents rebuild properties that were destroyed.