Staff blog by Shad Rashed (IT team) and Ahmed Ali (IRIS Fellow) Something quite extraordinary happened this year on the campus of the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS). It has to do with the school’s soccer team, the Eagles, and the example it set for social harmony and athletic dominance. The Kurdistan Region and Iraq are by no means new to soccer. The reality is the complete opposite. Soccer is the daily obsession of millions here. Games between the global powerhouses of Barcelona and Real Madrid, known as the Classico, can bring life in Sulaimani to a grinding halt. The outcome of those games does not only determine your mood for the week, it also earns the winning team’s fans unending bragging rights. We speak out of experience. One of us is a Real Madrid fan and the other is a Barcelona fan. In this context, a group of AUIS students from different ethnic backgrounds joined forces every week with a common purpose and one commitment: win games and get better regardless of the country’s tense political situation and lack of ethnic reconciliation. The AUIS Eagles this year were about diversity and leadership. The players hailed from different areas and places big and small. They were from Sulaimani, Erbil, Dohuk, Baghdad, Mosul, Hillah, Kirkuk, Halabja, and Chamchmal. Elsewhere in the region, this productive diversity is difficult to assemble once, let alone consistently and over a long period of time. The players came from different academic backgrounds as well. Most were from the AUIS undergraduate program but we had younger players from the AUIS Academic Preparatory Program (APP). You could not notice that difference on the field. In every practice and every game, our players showed us that diversity can deliver. Their athletic talents are abundant. The difference-makers were the leadership potential, competitive spirit, and selfless winning desire. Any coach would dream to have one of these attributes characterize their players. Our job was easy because our players exhibited all of these. Throughout the season, the players organized the games themselves, picked each other up when injured, and took it upon themselves to improve. By the end of the season, all we had to do was put the lineup together and sit back to watch the players become a cohesive unit on the field. Illustrating this chemistry is our end of the season streak of four consecutive wins. We are proud and commend the players’ maturity. Our gratitude goes to them for their efforts and open-mindedness. We are certain the team will be back even stronger next year to maintain Eagle Pride. We would like to thank our supporters who attended games and supported the Eagles. We invite them to come back next season to be loud and proud fans. The Eagles have great potential in the making. This is going to be clear in the years ahead not only on the soccer field. It will be evident in any professional field the players choose after they graduate as well. This is certainly due to the AUIS education and the values it instills in its students. Importantly, though, it has to do with our players’ personal tolerant worldviews. Shad Rashed and Ahmed Ali are the coaches of the AUIS soccer team. They would like to thank Oliver Keels and Mina Bassam from the Student Services Department for their support throughout the season.
Ahmed Ali, senior fellow at the American University's Institute of Regional and International Studies reviews the immense challenges facing Iraqi Kurdistan, Iraq and the Middle East as we gear up for hosting the fourth annual Sulaimani Forum on March 16-17, 2016. The annual Forum aims to convene prominent leaders, intellectuals and practitioners to the cultural hub of Sulaimani, Iraq to engage in meaningful dialogue and tackle the most complex issues facing the region. "One hundred years after the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement, there are serious questions about the current political structure of the Middle East. There are challenges of figuring out identities and governance systems. The old guard in Egypt, Yemen, and Tunisia has changed. The new leaders are yet to succeed in setting an agreeable collective direction for their countries. Syria is staring into the abyss of its status as a nation-state. It has become a base for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and it witnesses ongoing violence. This new regional order places Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan at a crossroads that is familiar yet is uncharted territory. Mosul is still under ISIS control, both the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and federal Iraq are in dire financial shape, and the distrust among all communities is at a peak. With these ongoing developments, the Institute of Regional and International Studies (IRIS) at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) is holding its fourth Sulaimani Forum in March of this year. This year’s Forum takes on extra significance given the 100 year anniversary of Sykes-Picot and it will seek to cover the myriad of national and regional challenges..." Read full article. More about the upcoming Sulaimani Forum.
AUIS Institute of Regional and International Studies Senior Fellow, Ahmed Ali, talks to Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC) about the flooding in Baghdad, the ongoing fight against ISIS, new challenges for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s reforms, the political crisis in Iraqi Kurdistan, and other key developments. Listen to the interactive talk in the Enabling Peace podcast below. Follow Ahmed Ali on Twitter @IraqShamel. Photo credit: EPIC