Aya Esmaeel

Produced by: Reem Maghribi
Part of the Curated Collection: Multi-ethnic and -religious cooperation,
Original Interview Length:
Interview Location: Iraq
Production Team:
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Aya Hashim Esmaeel is a media activist. Here, she talks to us about her experience helping implement two workshops with the Minority Women’s Forum in Iraq, one on the role of minority women and the other on the rights of ethnic minority groups. The Forum took place in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic:

“To be honest they played a powerful role in our field, especially that our area has many minority groups. I myself am Turkmen, and my participation in the workshop was about our role as minority women. Though the workshop wasn’t quite enough, we were able to highlight ourselves and present the activities we’ve undertaken in the region.”

 

On her participation in implementing projects based on cooperation and support from those with multiple affiliations:

“Personally, it’s important to me that I highlighted our role as women in this field, and it gave us the chance to make our voices heard. The women in this area are more than capable of offering something to society, even if it’s simple. We have made our mark on the law, and there are women who are working completely in the shadows who have projects and ideas but there’s no one to reach a helping hand out to them. The workshop gave them the opportunity to gather with others of different sects and affiliations, and each one of them was able to present her ideas.”

 

On the social and administrative difficulties she faced, participating in an ethnically diverse project:

“All the problems and difficulties we faced had to do with the logistics of moving from one area to the other. Anyone who wants to enter an area they don’t come from has to get approval from the relevant authorities. The other difficulty at the beginning was the level of trust among all those present, because each group had mistaken ideas about the others, and therefore fear about encountering them.”

 

She adds that the fact of these activities helped dispel that fear, and changed it into a feeling of mutual trust. Then, each participant took that new knowledge of the other and imparted it to the rest of the people in their community, undoing the misconceptions they once had. She goes on to talk about the extent of the impact the project had on her own way of thinking:

“First was sitting down with people I’d never imagined being able to sit down and discuss things so comfortably with before. At the beginning we were quite bigoted toward one another, but we learned the skill of how to accept someone of a different sect or ethnic affiliation.”

 

Finally, she talks about how this experience will change the way she works as a media activist:

“What’s changed is that I now have a goal, which is to bring such trainers or such workshops to our rural areas. I managed also to make my own mind up about things, and to try and transmit what I know to people in these areas, that is, the villages around Tel Kaif. I was able to explain to them that I’d attended these activities and workshops and brought up their problems and people were receptive. And that it’s possible in the future for us to work in partnership with other people from the surrounding areas. This is now my goal. We have many people ready to do their best, but they just don’t have the kind of opportunity I got with this workshop, to help make their voices heard.”