Diyala Provincial Government Building, Ba’qubah, Iraq — Local government leaders, sheiks, clerics, former Baathists, and other Diyala Province residents gathered here Jan. 18 to attend Peace Day – an event aimed at quelling violence in the province and encouraging participation the upcoming elections.
The event, hosted by Diyala Governor Dr. Abdullah Hassan Rashid al-Jburi drew a crowd of about 150. On hand were 32nd Iraqi Army Brigade Commander Brig. Gen. Ha’ad Ibrahim Ali Mohammad Al Timimi, Diyala Police Chief, Col. Adel Muhlan Ghidan, Provincial Joint Coordination Center President, Brig. Gen. Tahseen Tawfiq Jassen Al Haialy and Diyala Province Military Advisory Committee President, Mohammad Hamad Al Obaydi, who were available to field questions from attendees.
In hopes of separating them from hardened terrorists, local insurgents were encouraged to attend and were offered an opportunity to apply for amnesty for all crimes except murder. About 50 took advantage of the opportunity and signed pledges of non-violence.
Al Haialy read a Fatwa – a religious order – during the meeting signed by the Religious Leaders of Diyala – a group of Sunni religious leaders – which reversed their position on upcoming elections, okaying Sunni participation in upcoming Diyala elections.
3rd Brigade Combat Team Commander Col. Dana J.H. Pittard also attended the event and addressed the gathering.
“Sign the forms, talk to Iraqi Security Forces, and then be peaceful. That is all that is being asked of you,” he said. “We are temporary guests in your great country and we will leave when all is secure or when we are asked.”
The event ended on a positive note when Pittard, as a symbol of good will, extended a peace offering in the form of a handshake to a local sheik with whom Multi-National Forces have had strained relations. The sheik accepted and pledged to work together toward peace in Diyala.