ASSIRIYAH, Iraq -- Sunni and Shia tribal sheiks, local government leaders, senior Iraqi Army officials and local Iraqi Police officials from throughout the Taji area, met here Dec. 6 at the prayer town hall to continue reconciliation efforts and celebrate the "awakening"-a term used to describe a turning away from sectarianism and violence.

More than 200 attendees from the villages of Hor Al Bosh, Sheik Ahmer, Shat Al Taji, Falahat and other areas dined as they discussed issues affecting their villages and ways in which they can improve the quality of life for the people living there.

"They decided to have a Sawa or lunch to bring both Sunni and Shia tribal leaders together for solidarity," said Anchorage, Alaska native Capt. Martin Wohlgemuth, commander for Troop D, 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment which is attached to the 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment. "This is a continued extension of the Sunni and Shia partnership which has truly spread to every corner of North Taji."

"As the security situation continues to improve, Sunnis are able to travel to mainly Shia areas and the Shia can go to Sunni areas. In many cases, these are places they have never been before or never dared to go before," added Wohlgemuth, whose troops patrol in Assiriyah. "They are only able to do this because of reconciliation and forgiveness. This is a continued sign of progress."

Some local villagers also attended the meeting and had the opportunity to meet with some of the local leaders and area tribal sheiks.

"This is a very good sign and there's lots of good representation here. We will continue to say no to sectarianism and yes to reconciliation," said Tariq Daee Al Teaa, a local man invited to the meeting. "The terrorists have tried to take our happiness from us by attempting to kill and kidnap our children and that's rubbish. We must try to work toward good things to end violence and by doing this, we can eventually become the best country in the Arab world."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16