Aram Jamal Sabir

Aram Jamal Sabir, Sulaimaniyah

Executive Director

Kurdish Institute for Elections

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

"I can't tell you exactly when I started to believe in non-violence - sometime during all the wars and violence 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 non-violence, and educated himself. He saw documentary films about the subject, including one called, "A Force More Powerful". He showed the films to others and taught others 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 non-violent. It doesn't mean there's no conflict. Non-violence 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 non-violence is that with violence, both parties lose," he explained. "With non-violence 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. Non-violence 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 non-violence 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 non-violence 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 for a different way of using power - that people in authority wouldn't see themselves as better than others.