Mansour: I’m involved because everyone needs a home, needs to have their needs met, and because I don’t want these things (violence) to happen to me. In nonviolence struggles you’re not weak, you’re not a coward, and you don’t have a safe life. If I believe in this, it’s because I believe nonviolence is a strong strategy. It’s the language of all people. Personally, I will limit my goal that: to be able, me or my friends and comrades, to practice our nonviolent ideology in the field: how, where, by what, with whom. The most important: to have the ability. Which ability? Physical, materialistic, financial, spiritually. The experts, the human beings and resources that are available for this.
Allah: I’m a lawyer. I study law because I love it, and I’m proud that I study such a field. This is related to my family being in Israeli prisons and seeing them behind bars. I studies once what took place in France and that formula: freedom, brotherhood and equality. When I define what is nonviolence, because of my belief, it’s: the right of struggle for every individual in any society, to reach equality and their political, social and economic rights, taking into consideration the law, the legal way, to reach these targets, and by respecting the dignity of human being, and the health of the other, and his right of his own bodily safety and his life. What I wish to achieve from this seminar: to develop my understanding of nonviolence, understanding the other, networking with other individuals working in organizations or as individuals, and to be part of a network.
Roger: I chose nonviolence a long time ago, in 1986, 87. I’ve been convinced for a long time, because I read a book on nonviolence. I saw the book and I was totally convinced. It’s on two different levels. The first level of conviction is on the ethical level, for ethical reasons. The second level is the efficiency. But even though that level does not exist, it is more than other means of struggle. For me the priority is the ethical level, but I’m also convinced that, if it’s well practiced, it’s more efficient and very important. Why I say ‘well practiced’ is because my first action was with a group of friends to do some things and it was horrible because we did not know strategy. It was a failure. I’m convinced of this and I’ve been working with it a very long time. What I expect from this: if I can have good contact with one person and we can elaborate a good project, if we can elaborate something that will be beneficial for one of our countries, it’s good. I heard many things now, many arguments, that really helped me to develop some ideas, from people who are living a certain struggle. I was thinking about it theoretically but really there are good arguments. I have new arguments from people who live it. This can help me because we are facing the same adversaries. The overall goal is to have a network with everybody, but I will be very happy if even with one person we can elaborate something.
Simona: My experience is very different because first I’m ‘international’, I’m a foreigner. My experience is attached to the Iraqi situation. I’ve been there myself: work, struggle and everything. After 2003 and 2004 I lived in a war context. Even if I’d had experience in Kosovo it was not the same. It was completely different from what I lived in Iraq. In Iraq I lived in an occupied country. I was in Baghdad the entire time, facing difficulties coming from Iraqi soldiers. For the first time in my life we were dealing with situations we didn’t know: work according to new rules coming from outside, with the war continuing, the violence increasing, and then they started kidnapping internationals. I never though in my life I would be kidnapped. Even if kidnapping was becoming something normal. I was sure that as a humanitarian worker I could receive the support of people because of humanitarian work, nobody would touch me. Then it happened and I became more notorious in the world. This changed a lot my life, and I now start to build my experience in something else, trying to focus my work in the human rights issues, on conflict resolution and peacebuilding. This is the personal and professional life. At the same time I’m still working with Un Ponte Per, because I still feel that I’m responsible, at the international level, at the Iraqi level, because I am privileged that I know the situation, I know the context of the war and the country. Today I believe in civil society. The problem is that the civil society is sick. The system of the civil society is not working. I believe that if we together – because I believe in collective work, because it’s important – identify the methodology, the tools, the techniques that we can develop in a country, then we can solve the problem and have an impact on the situation. I see that there is a lot of will, especially from the Iraqis, but day to day they are facing personal problems. The divisions are now inside the families and all around them. Families are divided because of sectarian violence. Somehow there are a lot of organizations that are working to repair the damage, to make an opposition to this violence. In my opinion I believe in the role of civil society. What I expect from this seminar is, at least, to be really practical in what we can do, not just to stay at the theoretical level, and to exchange synergies between people, experience, and identify some methodologies that we can apply even if the contexts are different in the Middle East and Arab countries.
Sami: I’ve become convinced that nonviolence is a way of life. It’s a real choice you make. It’s complete. The thing that made me really discover this, on the political level, is when the Israelis deported my uncle because he was engaged in nonviolence. Because he was also a US citizen they made it as if they wanted to send him back to America, but they also destroyed his papers. For me it was a question: why are they afraid of nonviolence? For me it was not necessarily to need an answer, but to live the question in my life. To live the question of seeking the power of nonviolence. I believe that nonviolence should not be a struggle just at the local level, just in specific conflicts at different areas. We need to promote nonviolence at the global level, and at the regional level, and I believe we can really make a huge change, if we commit. I believe that 30 people committed to any cause around the world can change. I want us to build that commitment, to build the network, work together, build the trust together, have a clear vision.