Why we need to Counter Hate Speech in Iraq?
In the beginning, the management and organization of ideas and activities regarding confronting hate speech is considered within the project of the independent media organization and with the support of the International Minorities Group Organization, with this image, this size and space, a matter of great importance that did not happen to be carried out by a civil non-governmental organization in previous years to the best of our knowledge in the Kurdistan region or The rest of Iraq.
The project and its implementation at this stage, after the military elimination of ISIS, is an important and influential space to confront extremism and the sources of extremism and to identify and diagnose the motives of extremism. And crimes against humanity against the rest of the religious components of Christians, Turkmen, Shiite networks, Baha'i, Kakai and Zoroastrianism. These minorities feel that extremism is based on hatred or that hate speech is one of the paths of religious extremism against minorities.
Why is this project important and why should it continue?
Hence the importance of this project, which is the first of its kind because it stands on a large area and hypothesis, which is to diagnose and determine the paths of hate speech on social media and those affected by it by all the religious, national and sectarian components of Iraqi youth.
The paths of hate speech have begun to spread again, especially with every conflict between ethnic, sectarian, or nationalist parties in Iraq. As a result, minorities are the largest and most affected victims, as we have reached to them during the last period of the project.
One of our project participants - Imad Qusay Abbas, a network activist and director of the Eye of Minorities Center in Mosul - described “I think that the implementation of this project came at the right time."
Imad, who has been working in this field for four years, said: This type of project is important because the terrorist ideology and extremism still remain in the minds of thousands of young people - and because the targeting of minorities continues and because their marginalization continues and hate speeches are directed against them as well.
Religious minorities are among the main victims of hate speech in Iraq. According to IMOK's trainings, consultations and surveys across Iraq in 2019-2020, the majority of victims of online / offline hate speech are from religious minorities, then women and people with special disabilities. This indicates that religious minorities are the most vulnerable group with regard to the use of hate speech.
When asked whether hate speech is a precursor to more serious crimes and real violence against minorities, the majority of people who attended IMOK counseling, training, and surveys reported that hate speech, whether online or offline hate speech leads to real violence, wars, conflicts and even attempts at justice. On minorities such as Yazidis and Christians.
We have seen that during the ISIS invasion of Iraq these minorities were subjected to genocide attempts. We also found in our endeavors that the main perpetrators of hate speech are using social media platforms, and that political parties and religious leaders are fanning and fueling sectarianism.
Hate speech is often politically directed against people with diverse ethnic or religious backgrounds. More than eighty percent of the participants in the organization's activities reported that they themselves or anyone they knew had become a victim of hate speech.
People involved in our counseling training, surveys and training sessions demand that those who use hate speech most often not be held accountable for their divisive actions, and that more efforts must be made to combat and combat hate speech. Respondents argue that there are various ways to do this such as raising awareness about the issue, holding platforms accountable for it, and that there should be better laws and legislation to curb hate speech. However, they argue that there is a blurring boundary between hate speech and freedom of expression.
They also demand that the government be able to track down these perpetrators and punish them for their actions. They also argue that survivors and victims of hate speech should be supported and at this level the Iraqi central government and local decision-makers cannot do it alone. They need the support of the international community, including donors and NGOs, who need to advocate for reducing and curbing hate speech.
It has also been noted in our work that many Iraqis feel that lawmakers and members of the National Council need to be trained and raise their awareness on this issue. This is because they are the people who make laws and the country's laws and constitution should protect the rights of religious minorities, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.