At a conference held last Friday in the Iraqi city of Erbil, some 300 activists and tribal leaders expressed their support for normalizing relations with the Jewish state, and for engaging in outreach to the Jewish Diaspora. Sahar Karim al-Ta’i, a high-ranking official in the Iraqi government and a key figure at the conference, spoke about the issue with Lazar Berman:
“I was raised in a family that instilled in us the principle of freedom of expression and freedom of conscience, that we should say what we feel and what we believe,” [Ta’i] said.
Ta’i insisted that she was not afraid of any consequences for her personal safety. “It is precisely because of these elements—terrorism, violence—that [it is] necessary to take a decisive step,” she stressed. “My family was not altogether relaxed about [my endorsing peace with Israel]; they worried about me. There are dangers to expressing these kinds of ideas. Yet nonetheless this is my conviction and this is my decision.”
“We can live under the repression of terrorism or we can die with courage,” she said.
Ta’i believes that her advocacy, and that of her colleagues in the Erbil conference, will ultimately influence Iraqi policy. . . . And if Iraq’s leaders do not act, Ta’i is ready to keep the pressure on. “We will bring [about peace] through public activism [and will persist] until that result is achieved,” she said.
Muqtada al-Sadr, one of Iraq’s most influential Shiite clerics, promptly condemned this “Zionist terrorist” conference. Yesterday, a court in Baghdad issued a warrant for Ta’i’s arrest, while the government called for the detention of all the attendees.