RAMADI, Iraq -- Along the banks of the Euphrates River, 400 municipal leaders and local professionals gathered July 7 for the “Promise of the People” conference in Ramadi.
Attendees included both Shiite and Sunni leaders from across various provinces including Baghdad, Salahuddin and Karbala. The Alwani Tribe of Ramadi planned the conference to build cohesiveness and celebrate the unity with coalition and government forces, while denouncing insurgent activities.
“What has happened here is unique and we all recognize the essential role of the tribes and their leadership,” said Maj. Gen. W.E. Gaskin, commanding general for Multi National Force – West. “Here around us is the evidence of the peace and stability that are the rewards of the Iraqi people standing together, standing to eliminate the terrorism and lawlessness,” said Gaskin who commands 34,000 U.S. forces in Al Anbar Province.
As the attendees approached the waterfront, they were greeted by children waving small Iraqi flags. Tents were lined with streamers and signs in support of this historic day, with phrases praising the civic progress being made within the city.
“This conference is about Iraqi’s era and fighting insurgents and standing next to each other against this insurgency, which has demolished infrastructure and killed innocent Iraqis,” said Arif Mukhaibir Sayad Al Alwanee, assistant chairmen to the Ramadi district council.
Among those present were members of the Al Anbar Awakening, which formed in August 2006, by Sunni sheiks who said the group would become a national party. Its platform includes opposition to Al Qaeda and cooperation with the Iraqi government in Baghdad.
The Al Anbar Awakening is the call to all of Iraq to stand up with people from all tribes, and all religions to stop insurgents from causing fear throughout their land. The speeches asked for everyone to join together and bring peace and prosperity to all of Iraq.
Lt. Col. Salah Arak Al Alwani, the Al Jameah Police Station commander, cited the present as the moment for all Iraqi’s to come together. He said, “Catholics, Muslims, Sunnis and Shiites act as one, work as one to rid the country of terror and fear.”
The day was filled with live music, dancing and food. Iraqi Police were holding hands and dancing with Marine and Army generals. Col. Ahmed Hamed Sharqi, the Shaheed Salam Police Station commander, was carried around the field as the crowd chanted and yelled in celebration of their new beginning, and out of thanks for the security the police provided.
“To all the attendees and by the name of God, the merciful God, it’s an honor and gives me great pride to have the sons of Al-Anbar gather here today,” said Ma’Mun Sami Rashid, Al Anbar provincial governor. “We’re here to defend ourselves against insurgents and bring back the honor and pride of the Iraqi people. Anbarians have established this with God’s blessing and have been defending themselves from the insurgents, who wanted to bring shame to our nation.”
At the end of the meeting, the participants issued a statement stating that they have agreed to “stand in one line against the terrorism and defeat it” and work united to return life to normal in the province, to build the governmental institutions and to provide services to the citizens.
“This conference is going to form councils that are going to lead us and advise us to better improvements,” Al Alwanee said. “Everyone is happy with the way this meeting is turning out because it’s going to represent the first results for eliminating this insurgency.”
Coalition forces were also present at the conference and provided exterior security for the event.
“We’ve seen events like this all over the province,” said Brig. Gen. John Allen, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) deputy commanding general. “These are the signals that the people here are beginning to emerge from a period of conflict into a future that has some promise for them. People really do have hope now that we’re emerging … and that the future is wide open to them.”