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Thanksgiving in Tikrit

November 24, 2016
Plain English Version
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Iraqi soldiers raise their weapons as they cheer on the outskirts of the city of Tikrit as they prepare to launch a military operation to take control of the city from ISIS on March 10, 2015.

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. Americans have a lot for which to be grateful. There are no wars going on here. We are past an ugly election for president. No one got hurt during the campaign. There is no disorder in the streets. The U.S. is calm. It is remarkable.

Something is happening in Iraq. Something is happening that may have lessons for the world.

Background. Tikrit is an Iraqi city. The Islamic State (IS) took over the town in June 2014. Their forces killed 1,700 people. People call the event the Camp Speicher massacre. Iraqi soldiers defending the town dropped their weapons and fled.

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Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi tours the city of Tikrit after it was retaken.

The Islamic State fighters are Sunni. Shiites run Iraq. Sunnis and Shiites are both Muslim sects. They live together until trouble starts. Then they become blood enemies.

Iraq forces drove the IS out of Tikrit in April 2015. The winning fighters were from Shite militias. Some Sunni forces fought with them as well. Then came the question. After the victory, could the tribal forces come together?

There were criminal acts done by all the parties. Would the returning Sunni families believe Shite forces would protect them?

The key word was “reconciliation.” The key question was how to do it.

Peace groups formed a team. The goal of the team was “conflict resolution.” If they could get past tribal hostilities and religious differences, there was a chance. The decision was to focus on individual criminals. The solution was to punish the people who did the killings at Camp Speicher. It was helpful, but not enough.

The peace group then brought in tribes that were not involved in the fighting. But had influence on those who had. It was tense. Meetings with the families of victims were difficult.

This was the breakthrough. Shiite and Sunni leaders found some ways to move forward. The Tikrit Sunni tribal leaders of the Camp Speicher massacre would make amends. And they would do so in a public way. They denounced the Speicher massacre on television. They said they would identify the men in their tribe who were part of the massacre.

The event helped convince Shiites and Sunnis that is was possible to live together in peace.

Now the big job is to get the Sunni families to move back to Tikrit and make them feel safe. It is going on now.

In this corner of the world, this resolution is something for which to be thankful. It may add to a sense that it is possible to solve problems, even large national problems.

Source: The Christian Science Monitor November 22, 2016

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