Al Anbar, 30 December 2021 (TDI): A former ISIL prison has been transformed to bring joy and support to young people.

In what has been seen as a timely Christmas gift by some, UNFPA, the Iraqi Ministry of Youth and Sports, and the Governorate of Al Anbar re-opened the Al Ramadi Youth Safe Space on December 25th.

The Iraqi young generation and UNFPA have created a great symphony to change the pain into hope and joy. In 2014, ISIL seized the building from the Ministry of Youth.

Unfortunately, it was severely damaged during the war. Since it served as a prison for the ISIL terror network in Iraq, the UN sexual and reproductive health agency and partners have converted it into a welcoming space for young people.

A grandiose Iraqi ceremony marked the opening of the new facility. The conversion and reopening of a space that was once associated with sorrow and pain has been transformed into a space of hope and strength.

At an event kicking off a new start for the revamped building, the Governor of Al Anbar, Ali Farhan Al-Dulaimi, thanked UNFPA for its commitment to the region’s young people.

During an interview with the UNFPA Representative in Iraq, Rita Columbia highlighted the importance of empowering youth and engaging them in community life.

She said she was enormously proud of the young volunteers who made their dreams come true by dreaming big and establishing them as a reality.

Through their determination and the support of UNFPA Canada, the Anbar Directorate of Youth and Sports, this center became a welcoming and truly youth-friendly place.

Among those who attended the inaugural ceremony were Salem Al-Zamanan, Ambassador of Kuwait to Iraq; representatives of the Ministry of Youth and Sport of Iraq; representatives of the Anbar Directorate of Youth and Sports; and young people and civil society representatives.

Youth participates in the service of other youth. The Youth Safe Space offers leadership and peacebuilding. Before the war, the building had been a place where Al Anbar youths could make friends and learn new skills in music, the arts, and science.

After liberation, young people in those territories decided to return the building to its original use and transform it into a youth-friendly space.

The process was led by young volunteers who made decisions on making the place more accessible to all youth in the surrounding communities, including the most vulnerable.

UNFPA first supported the rehabilitation of two peace-building rooms in 2018 by supporting young people.

UNFPA completed the renovation of the Youth Safe Space with support from Canada, the Al Anbar Governor, and the United Iraqi Medical Society for Relief and Development (UIMS).

Those were enormous signs of a promising future for Iraq, thanks to the younger generation and UN efforts.