• Tribal sheiks, Iraqi Security Force leaders and government officials dine together and talk about reconciliation during an "Awakening" meeting in Assiriyah, Iraq Dec. 6.

    Tribal sheiks, Iraqi Security Force leaders and...

    Tribal sheiks, Iraqi Security Force leaders and government officials dine together and talk about reconciliation during an "Awakening" meeting in Assiriyah, Iraq Dec. 6.

  • After dining, a tribal sheik (right) pauses to count his prayer beads while looking around at the gathering of his fellow sheiks during a reconciliation meeting Dec. 6 in Assiriyah, Iraq.

    After dining, a tribal sheik (right) pauses to...

    After dining, a tribal sheik (right) pauses to count his prayer beads while looking around at the gathering of his fellow sheiks during a reconciliation meeting Dec. 6 in Assiriyah, Iraq.

  • A tribal sheik (left) peals a banana as his fellow tribal sheiks from both Sunni and Shia sects dine during a reconciliation meeting in Assiriyah, Iraq Dec. 6.

    A tribal sheik (left) peals a banana as his...

    A tribal sheik (left) peals a banana as his fellow tribal sheiks from both Sunni and Shia sects dine during a reconciliation meeting in Assiriyah, Iraq Dec. 6.

  • An Iraqi boy riding his bicycle looks toward a sign that reads "no to sectarianism, yes to reconciliation" in the village of Assiriyah, Iraq Dec. 6. While the boy rode his bike, tribal leaders, senior leaders from the Iraqi Security Forces and local government officials from throughout the Taji area of Iraq held a reconciliation meeting.

    An Iraqi boy riding his bicycle looks toward a...

    An Iraqi boy riding his bicycle looks toward a sign that reads "no to sectarianism, yes to reconciliation" in the village of Assiriyah, Iraq Dec. 6. While the boy rode his bike, tribal leaders, senior leaders from the Iraqi Security Forces and local...

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 December 14th, 2007 at 16:46