Erbil, 20 November 2015 – The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the UNESCO Office for Iraq, in collaboration with the Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq jointly organised a conference on Protection of Diversity and Prevention of Incitement on Thursday in Erbil in observation of International Day for Tolerance.
Participants included the Kurdistan Region Minister of Education, Dr. Pishtiwan Sadiq, members of the Kurdistan Region’s parliament, civil society and religious leaders, as well as other dignitaries. Participants underlined the importance of peaceful co-existence, emphasising that the Kurdistan Region of Iraq is a model of tolerance. They also recommended that steps be taken to prohibit hate-speech that incites violence.
In his speech, the Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (DSRSG), Mr. Gyorgy Busztin, congratulated the Iraqi people for the Sinjar victory and lauded the Kurdistan Region of Iraq for its tolerance and solidarity in providing a safe haven for millions of minority community members and IDPs - Arabs, Christians, Yezidis and others, who have suffered displacement and oppression at the hands of terrorists.
“This day reminds us that intolerance is at the roots of the current challenges and catastrophes Iraq is facing”, said DSRSG Busztin. “I am fully confident that the spirit of tolerance of the Kurdish people will prevail and contribute to overcoming all current challenges. It will be proven that all those who have been trying to divide the people are mistaken. This spirit will lead to solving internal challenges within the Kurdistan Region of Iraq on the foundations of mutual respect, trust and constructive dialogue”, Mr. Busztin added.
Speaking on behalf of UNESCO, Ms. May Shaer said “For tolerance to prevail, we need just and impartial legislation rooted in the principles of human rights, prominent among them the cultural rights. We need to set-up legislative frameworks that entrench the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions of all components of society”. “As we witnessed the barbaric acts of cultural cleansing in Iraq, we must safeguard this country’s unique heritage of diversity and tolerance – to prepare the ground for reconciliation and to preserve heritage of universal significance”, added Ms. Shaer.
Participants underlined the importance of legal provisions to celebrate diversity, protect minorities and create a culture of peaceful co-existence and tolerance. They further stressed the role of education in learning to live together through the revision of curricula and better training of teachers and religious leaders. This conference came a few days after a similar one organised in Baghdad.
Twenty years ago, on 16 November 1995, the Member States of UNESCO adopted the “Declaration of Principles on Tolerance”, solemnly proclaiming 16 November International Day for Tolerance.