With support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID)'s Taafi initiative, Iraqi organisations are working to consolidate peace within communities torn apart by terrorism.
The initiative has supported several projects that aim to promote partnerships and achieve reintegration among the local population, activists told Al-Mashareq.
Sports activities top the list of such projects, they said, with USAID recently sponsoring a number of football tournaments, football being the most popular sport in Iraq.
Mosul City Academy for Football Talents official Musab Salem Thanoun said the Taafi initiative supported a football tournament held by the academy during the holy month of Ramadan.
Sixteen teams took part in the tournament in Mosul between April 7 and 21 -- the first to be held in the city since the expulsion of the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) in 2017.
Muslim, Christian, Shabak and Yazidi footballers competing on the various teams brought the tournament slogan, "Sport brings us together", to life.
Players hailed from across Ninawa province, Thanoun said.
"The tournament's message called for co-existence and amity among the residents of Ninawa, and this was clearly embodied by the rapport and cordiality among the players at the end of every match," he said.
"Strong friendships developed between them and they exchanged phone numbers to communicate with each other and organise matches outside the framework of the championship tournaments," he said.
"There was a sense of ease and harmony even among the fans of those teams," he added, noting that he hopes USAID will continue to support tournaments like this in the future, as well as other larger ones, in open stadiums.
Preserving Iraq's heritage
USAID also helps foster initiatives launched by Iraqi youth to preserve the heritage and historical identity of their cities and strengthen the social fabric in liberated areas.
Among these initiatives is the Mosul Heritage project established two years ago by a group of youth interested in preserving their city's cultural heritage.
Project founder Ayoub Thanoun told Al-Mashareq the Taafi initiative supported their ideas and projects related to preserving and documenting Mosul's heritage.
The most recent of these projects was the furnishing of the Royal Hall at the Mosul Cultural Museum, he said.
As part of another project, 50 volunteers cleaned up Mosul's historic Bashtabiya castle and transformed it into a tourist spot.
In co-operation with the Department of Antiquities and Heritage, the group also organises seminars, conferences and tours for schools, university students and social media influencers, Thanoun said.
The aim is to acquaint the public with archaeological sites and the extensive cultural heritage of Ninawa province and Iraq as a whole.
The group focuses its activities on consolidating ethnic and religious diversity as an integral part of the historical identity of Iraqis, to demonstrate that the terrorists' attempts to spread hatred and division were of no avail, he said.
Relief and humanitarian support
USAID has given considerable attention to voluntary organisations that serve communities affected by terrorism, including the Volunteer with Us foundation.
Volunteer With Us executive director Nizam al-Din Jassim said the foundation, which was established in 2016 and officially registered four years ago, today has 10,000 volunteers active in 13 Iraqi provinces.
The Taafi initiative helped the foundation implement several programmes and campaigns, he said, most recently the "Let your Miswak (tooth cleaning stick) be Iraqi" (meaning buy Iraqi products).
The campaign, which aimed to support national products, involved awareness programmes and the distribution of 50,000 shopping bags bearing the campaign's slogan.
Jassim said other activities included the Warm Winter campaign, during which blankets and heating supplies were distributed to about 2,000 displaced families in camps for internally displaced persons (IDP) in Anbar province.
Some 6,000 IDPs in the Kurdish region and on the edges of Ninawa also received relief supplies and food rations from donors and volunteers.
During Ramadan, the third iteration of the Khair Ahluna (the Benevolence of our People) campaign was launched and included distributing food baskets and providing job opportunities to poor families to empower them economically.
That initiative comes in addition to the repair and construction of homes for widows and orphans in the cities of Saqlawiya and Abu Ghraib, Jassim said.
Volunteer With Us has made huge efforts to restore life to the liberated cities and help their residents readapt to life in their areas of origin, he said.
Efforts included the removal of rubble and rehabilitation of 77 houses in Ninawa, and equipping 15 schools with furniture and stationery.
The foundation has conducted several educational workshops, including on the importance of education and rationing water consumption.