IRAQ: Aram Jamal Sabir, Kurdish Institute for Elections Director


20 July 2010
IRAQ: Aram Jamal Sabir, Kurdish Institute for Elections Director


Aram Jamal Sabir was glad to be interrupted from his work as Executive  Director of the Kurdish Institute for Elections to talk with CPT Iraq about  his passion for nonviolence. He began to participate in nonviolence  trainings in 2004. He now teaches others about the topic.

"I can't tell you exactly when I started to believe in nonviolence - sometime during all the wars here," he said. "In the university I felt that violence could be used against the enemy. With time I saw that violence didn't change the situation."

Aram tried working with groups promoting nonviolence, and educated himself. He saw documentary films about the subject, including "A Force More Powerful". He showed the films to others and taught what he had learned.

"In this part of Kurdistan there is so much violence," he said. "People try to fix their political problems through violence. Violence produces death and violence. Humans are not like animals - they can be nonviolent. It doesn't mean there's no conflict. Nonviolence is for fixing our problems. We can work through issues in our society."

At the annual day of awareness of violence against women, Aram joined with others in a public action. While other groups celebrated, Aram's group covered their mouths with tape. There is still too much violence against women, and it's not time to celebrate, or speak of accomplishments.

"The difference between violence and nonviolence is that with violence, both parties lose," he explained. "With nonviolence both parties win. You can persuade your enemy to believe in it. We aren't against people, but against situations. In any person there is some humanity. Nonviolence tries to develop the 'bad' part of a person along more human lines."

Aram paraphrases a quote by Gandhi: "It doesn't take courage to befriend people who like us. It takes courage to befriend people who don't like us."

Aram believes that it is most important to have nonviolence programs in the education system. That brings it into children's lives, which will bring it into the culture in the future. At the last elections there emerged an opposition group that doesn't want to use violence. Aram believes that nonviolence is growing in the culture. He feels there's an unwritten agreement between all political parties that violence will not lead to success. Now only the authorities use violence. Aram's dream is that people in authority might start exploring different ways of using power, and not see themselves as better than others.