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Iraq Transition

Iraq ads promote united nation

From CNN Arab Affairs Senior Editor Octavia Nasr

SPECIAL REPORT
• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide

(CNN) -- Amid television ads being shown in Iraq promoting candidates in the nation's January 30 election are those of a different kind -- ones promoting a united Iraqi nation.

One of the ads, run by a group calling itself the Future Iraq Assembly, shows three armed groups of people -- Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis -- marching toward a crossroad.

Their angry faces and the banners they hold speak of hatred, anger and a history of conflict and discord. Then, in slow motion, little boys emerge from the back, push the adults away, run toward each other and warmly hug.

As an emotional Arabic tune plays, the men look down in shame, drop their weapons and greet one another under the Iraqi flag

The ad ends with the message, "Divided We Won't Conquer."

Advertisements similar to this have been running on broadcast outlets for several months and are posted on the Internet as well.

In addition to their Western look and feel, they carry Western messages such as freedom, tolerance and inclusion.

Powerful, slickly produced, and delivered primarily with music and images, they send the message that Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis are all Iraqis and in order to succeed, one has to leave animosity behind, embrace the future and give the young generation a chance at a better life.

The nature of the group producing the ads is unclear.

While the Future Iraq Assembly claims to be "comprised of a number of scholars, businesspersons, and activists who share a common and firm belief in freedom and progress for all Iraqi people," there is no indication whether it is made up of Iraqis.

The group's Web site says it is "the watchful eye over Iraqi Interests." Nowhere on the site does the group name its members, founders or financiers.

In response to a CNN request for an interview, the group sent an e-mail announcing a future news conference "to introduce the assembly and its goals."

Al-Arabiya, a Saudi-owned news channel based in the Emirate of Dubai has been running the ads frequently for several months. It declined to give clear answers to questions about who is producing them and how much it is costing to air them.

It did say, however, that they are paid ads.

The ad series is an interesting element in what has proven to be an active campaign period.

Posters of candidates fill the streets of Baghdad and other major cities these days, and candidates are taking advantage of the print and broadcast media to send out their messages.

On the Internet people discuss the elections and chat about the candidates -- sometimes poking fun at them. They react to what they see on their screens, in the papers and on the streets where they live.

For a country that had one president for more than three decades, the people seem comfortable with the concept of elections and campaigning.

In one other examples of the ads being run by Future Iraq Assembly a man holding the hand of a little boy walks down what looks like an Iraq neighborhood as the voice says, "The worst I ever felt was not having hope. Now I have my hope back and finally I can live."


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