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Middle East

A new political and economic settlement for Iraq: Barham Salih/Financial Times

"...dialogue among Iraqis will not succeed without the support of regional powers — Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey — and, most importantly, the US and other global actors including Russia and the EU, who share an interest in eradicating the scourges of terrorism and extremism." Read Dr. Barham Salih's perspective on reforming and resettling Iraq's political and economic crisis - a template that he thinks can go a long way in resolving the problems of the Middle East - for the Financial Times. 

AUIS and Ifpo Host Conference on Living Heritage in the Middle East

The French Institute in the Near East (Ifpo) in collaboration with the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) Department of Social Sciences organized their first conference in the Kurdistan region of Iraq on ‘Conflict and Living Heritage’ with the support of the French Embassy in Baghdad and the Institute français in Paris. The Conference was held at AUIS over the course of two days. The organizing committee included Dr. Geraldine Chaterland of Ifpo-Amman, Dr. Boris James, head of Ifpo-Erbil, Dr. Elizabeth Campbell, assistant professor at AUIS, and Dr. Hassan Nadhem, the UNESCO Chair for the Development of Interreligious Dialogue Studies in the Islamic World at the University of Kufa. View photo gallery of the conference by clicking on image below. The Conference brought together scholars, researchers, and doctoral candidates in the fields of social anthropology and history, intellectual and interreligious studies, archeology and philosophy, art history and architecture, and ethnomusicology from across the Middle East and Western world. Conference participants were asked to consider the interrelatedness of cultural heritage and identity with armed conflict and forced displacement. Popular art, traditions, religious beliefs and rituals, language and oral expression together with architecture are all forms of heritage that suffer in these on-going wars. Speakers answered broad questions about how living heritage, both tangible and intangible, and collective identities are affected by war and under new political authorities. More particularly, they examined and conceptualized the practices and discourses of local actors to highlight the nexus between cultural heritage, identity, armed conflicts, and population displacement in the Middle East, specifically in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan. The main aim of the conference was to shed light on the importance of living heritage. Defined as that which gives a population a sense of collective identity, living heritage in the Middle East, especially in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, has been targeted as a result of the wars currently waged in these countries. Moreover, while most international organizations, governments, and heritage professionals have concentrated their efforts and attention on the damage and destruction of archeological sites and artifacts, this conference aimed at focusing attention on the aspects of living heritage which are being neglected. Panel discussions touched on heritage as a practice of resistance in times of crisis and conflict; on the destruction of heritage as a matrix for identity construction; on the initiatives being taken to safeguard intangible heritage; the roles heritage, identity and memory play in exile; on how built heritage can become contested space; and lastly, on perspectives on the conservation of tangible heritage. View or download the conference program  View event page   Listen to selected talks by participants on our podcast playlist below. 

Renewed Challenges for the Middle East

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. 

Implications of Russia's Role for Iraq and the KRG

On October 13, 2015, the Institute of Regional and International Studies (IRIS) hosted an interesting discussion on Russia's new role in Syria and potential implications for the region, and specifically for Iraq and the Iraqi Kurdistan region.  The speakers included AUIS professors Bilal Wahab and Akeel Abbas, as well as IRIS senior fellow, Ahmed Ali. Students thronged the lecture hall to listen to the panelists' views of Russia's intervention in the Syrian conflict and how it impacts the current dynamics in the region. The engaging discussion ended with a round of interesting and tough questions from the students.    Read the full story on IRIS website.    Listen to the discussion in an AUIS podcast below.   

Arab Youth Climate Movement

The Arab Youth Climate Movement (AYCM) Workshop was a seven day workshop organized for the first time in Cairo, Egypt at the Wadi Environmental Science Centre. It was organized by IndyAct partnered with 350.org, GCCA, DEMENA, and CAN. The aim of the workshop was to empower participants to be influential climate movement leaders in the Arab region and to build their capacities by teaching them new strategies to effectively involve in the climate movements. At the conference, we learned how to both assemble local grassroots movements and raise awareness of the local residents about climate change in their countries. It was a selective workshop that 20 applicants were accepted out of a pool of 500 applicants in the Middle East and Northern Africa based on their extensive experience in the environment and climate change movements.  Arab Youth Climate Movement (AYCM) was launched prior to the UNFCCC COP18 Doha negotiations, and it was established to create a wide movement to solve climate change crisis throughout the Middle East and North Africa. During the workshop there were many knowledgeable facilitators from different countries, such as U.S, UK, Lebanon, and including Egypt who are strongly engaged in the climate environmental movements. Also, it is worth mentioning that diversity was one of the strengths of the workshop that most of the environmental activists had come from different countries, such as Iraq, UAE, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Mauritania, Algeria, Oman, Jordan, Palestine, and Bahrain. Although many people in Iraq applied to the workshop, I was the only candidate chosen to attend. I participated as a student at The American University of Iraq-Sulaimani (AUIS) and as a Development Club member. Eventually, Arab Youth Climate Movement (AYCM) was launched and the participants were selected as the National Coordinators of (AYCM) for their countries, and the workshop culminated with giving the participants certificates for their accomplishment to continue their role as the National Coordinators in their countries. Now my role as the National Coordinator of AYCM in Iraq is to bring youths together from different parts of Iraq and establish AYCM Iraq, which will take a powerful and a crucial role in the climate movements and mobilizing communities in the Arab region and outside, so those people who are interested in working and collaborating with AYCM are more than welcome to join us by filling out the online application.

Five Days in the Dead Sea...!

 It was March 1st when I headed to the Erbil International Airport to fly to Jordan to attend a conference there. The Middle East Partnership Initiative Alumni Professional Conference was held in the Marriott Hotel in the Dead Sea in Jordan from March 1-5, 2012. The conference lasted for five days. The event was a reunion for about 90 students in the Middle East and North African countries who participated in the MEPI Undergraduate Leadership program in the U.S. during the summer 2011. All the students who submitted their project that they were doing in their countries and communities were invited to the conference. Peshawa Ahmed and I as the two AUIS students, who were the summer 2011 participants of the MEPI program, were invited to the conference. We presented our poster presentation about the Business Plan Competition that we are currently managing at AUIS.  It was great honor for us to introduce ourselves as the two AUIS students. A large number of participants were really eager to understand about our project within AUIS and asked us about AUIS and our project. It is worth mentioning that we learned a lot from the conference since we were not the only two students who presented poster presentations. Each participant had his own poster presentation and talked about his or her project that he or she was doing. It was great to see how enthusiastic those young leaders were while they were talking about their projects. I, personally, was so encouraged to do whatever I could do within my community after I attended that conference by the great passion and effort that each participant shared with us during the conference. I used to have one idea and one method to apply that idea into practice to my country. However, the conference taught me to have several strategies to implement my ideas to practice. Any poster presentation I observed taught me a different way to build my team work, create my project plan, and implement my project. Beside the poster presentations, we had several lectures that were presented during the conference. The lectures were all provided to update the participants with the new ideas and projects to bring positive changes in their communities. We were introduced to the way that the famous leaders like Martin Luther King struggled to change the world. We were taught how to benefit and learn from such great leaders and apply the knowledge we achieve from them to change our societies for better. Beside the academic activities, it was great to meet with all the MEPI participants again. It was great to sit with each of them and talk about the current situation that is going on in several countries in the Middle East and North Africa. It was an amazing time to listen and to share the experience that each of us had in our countries. More to the point, it was just a great and unforgettable time to have lunch and dinner in the Marriott Hotel that served us with a great food. I still taste Masnaf, the most special and famous Jordanian food. Moreover, it was just an amazing feeling to experience the great whether of the Dead Sea and walk into the Dead Sea. Last but not least, through the five days of the conference, I got the opportunity to meet with new students whom I have not been able to see during the summer. I met with so many potential future leaders who will be absolutely great resources to learn from them how can I be an active civil servant for my community. Furthermore, the conference introduced me many other MEPI alumni who participated in the MEPI program in the past. I learnt a lot from them since each of them attended the conference and shared their great project that each of them provided to their communities. I left the program with a spirit that there was no way for me to not have a project for my community from that moment on. The conference really encouraged me to do whatever I can do to help my community and people have better life. 
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