By: Sipa Kurda Saman Ihsan Fuad and Lazha Taha, primary investigators at Kashkul, the center for arts and culture at American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS), have been published in the Global History Dialogues, a part of the Global History Lab at Princeton University. Their research publications, titled “The Old Houses of Slemani from Hopes of Preservation to Heaps of Rubble” and “The Oral History of Local Photojournalism in Kurdistan,” respectively, were the final projects of “A History of the World Since 1300,” a course offered by Princeton at AUIS. Saman, AUIS Business Administration alum (‘19), explained that his research is about the representation of old and ancient houses in Sulaimani, few of which remain in their original condition. Saman was inspired to research and start questioning what happened to the old and ancient houses that are part of Kurdish culture and history, and why they weren’t protected, but instead destroyed and turned into parking lots and buildings. During the course of his research, he did encounter different cases. “I showcase a few recent efforts that offer a glimmer of hope by preserving some houses while at the very least documenting the ones that are bound to be torn down,” Saman said. Saman noted his AUIS education prepared him to take on this research project. “AUIS helped me with writing my research through the courses I took as a student,” he said. “That helped me improve my writing and researching skills, and now I am planning to study a masters in Middle Eastern History.” Lazha, a media studies graduate from the University of Sulaimani and an alumna of AUIS’s English-language preparatory program (APP), explained her publication looks at the future of photojournalism and preservation in Kurdistan. In her research, she focuses on the history of Kurds in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, and the decades of upheaval since the Sykes Picot Agreement in 1918. “Due to the [fact] that Kurds were involved in frequent wars and conflict, they have lost the majority of their archives several times,” she said. Lazha plans to pursue a master’s degree in English Literature. She credits the APP program and her time as a student at AUIS with helping to improve her writing and research skills.
By: Sipa Kurda Brusk Hamarash, a 2017 Information Technology (IT) graduate of American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS), spoke on a webinar titled, “Alumni Experience Sharing,” which is part of the weekly Online Career Development workshop hosted by the Student Services Department, on Wednesday, February 10, 2021 to share with AUIS students about his career, life after graduation, and how his AUIS education helped him succeed. Hamarash now works in the IT department of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), but immediately after graduation, he started his own company despite not being a Business Administration student. “Being a student at AUIS wasn’t about learning technicalities,” he said. “For me it was about culture, mentality, and the environment, which prepares you to be independent and handle our own responsibilities.” While he was still a student at AUIS, he and a group of friends started an IT company called Meta Solutions, which provided software solutions to companies. That helped him have a plan for life after graduation. He emphasized that AUIS made him a better person, saying, “For me, it was about going through a process of changing my personality for the better,” he said. “After I became a student at AUIS, I started to think about my future and how to achieve my goals.” Hamarash also described how he learned to make long-term plans and think about his future, which ultimately taught him to be dependent on himself. “When I started my company, I had to do everything on my own for three years,” he said. “For instance, I had to manage the company, deal with clients, write proposals, prepare presentations…what I learned from AUIS prepared me to be the person I am today.” Hamarash explained that his skills and experiences motivated him to use his AUIS education in the public sector. “Our goal is to make digital services at the heart of the government to bring changes that will improve people’s lives,” he said. “I had the skills and experience, so I needed to use them and prove what I learned at AUIS to serve the community.” Majority of AUIS graduates work in the private sector, however, Hamarash explained how public sector jobs can also have positive impact. “I see a noble purpose in working in the government by providing services that will be appreciated by everyone, because we try to bring full change for Kurdistan and on international level,” he said. Asked whether graduates should start their own businesses or work for the government, Hamarash said, “It depends if you are willing to use your experience and skills in the government to serve the community or you want to start your own business." “We really want to hire new people as long as they are appropriate in using their skills to serve the department and the community,” he said.
Bryar Bajalan, Engineering '18 Meet Bryar Bajalan, Engineering ‘18 and primary investigator at Kashkul, AUIS’s center for arts and culture. Bryar holds a Master of Arts in Middle Eastern Studies with distinction from the University of Exeter and his dissertation titled, “‘I’m fed up with everything old I ‘ve ever known. / Only if you have something new then mention it’: The Emergence and Development of Modern Iraqi Poetry,” has received the University’s Glencairn Balfour-Paul Prize. This prize is awarded to the student presenting the best dissertation in an MA program in the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies of the College of Social Sciences and International Studies. Bryar is currently pursuing his PhD in Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter and is a recipient of Al-Qasimi PhD Studentship from the College of Social Sciences and International Studies. His research will explore how romantic and erotic themes in poetry from Mosul have affected the ways in which people talk about intimate encounters. Bryar is a researcher, translator, and filmmaker. His documentary ‘To the Ends of the Earth,’ focused on nineteenth-century Baghdad poet Jamil al-Zahawi and was premiered at the Translating Poetries Symposium at SOAS in London 2019 and won the Outstanding Achievement Award at the Tagore International Film Festival (TIFF) 2020. His translation work in Arabic and Kurdish has appeared in Ambit, Modern Poetry in Translation, World Literature Today, and on the Poetry Foundation website. His current projects include the translation of poets displaced from Shingal during the Islamic State’s genocide of the Êzîdî and a collection of oral histories in Mosul.
Berzy Bahzad Omer, Information Technology ‘15 Berzy Bahzad Omer is an IT graduate from American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS), finishing in the top 10 of his graduating class and third in his department. A Sulaimani native, he joined the academic IT department as a lab assistant before deciding to pursue a master’s degree in Advanced Computer Networks at the University of Derby in the United Kingdom. Berzy finished at the top of his class at Derby and attributed his AUIS education as a contributor to his success. “AUIS was a major factor behind my success in both my professional and academic endeavors,” he said. “The liberal arts-style of education at AUIS taught me the skills required to construct a well-written thesis as well as how to solve problems resourcefully.” “Above all,” he noted, “I consider myself lucky to have had the chance to study at AUIS.” Going forward, Berzy looks forward to applying the skills he has gained in his academic and professional experiences at AUIS and in the UK to further his career.
Dashne Abdulkareem Abdulghafour, Business ‘14 Dashne Abdulkareem graduated from American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) with a bachelors in Business Administration in 2014. She is currently a Fulbright Scholar pursuing an MBA at Portland State University’s School of Business in Portland, Oregon in the United States. “The quality of education at AUIS helped me find different opportunities in my academic journey,” Dashne said. She credits the liberal arts education offered at AUIS for broadening her perspective on her personal and professional life. “[Studying at AUIS] helped me learn how to identify alternatives and solutions to any obstacles that I may face,” she added. “And learning amongst diverse groups of students at AUIS allowed me to better understand different viewpoints and come up with approaches to different goals.” For Dashne, the AUIS journey hasn’t ended. “From the start, in our English lectures, to our other many courses and programs, AUIS equipped me with the tools to head out into the world and achieve my goals, one after the other.”
Name: Meeran Sarwar Hometown: Sulaimani AUIS Graduation Date: 2014 Major: Business Administration Meeran Sarwar is a co-founder and manager of City Gym, which opened in Sulaimani in 2015. How and when did you decide to start your own business? It had always been a dream and goal of mine, since I was 12 years old, to open a gym. I’ve always been passionate about working out. After graduating from AUIS, I went to Lebanon and worked in the auditing department of Bank Audi. It was a great experience and I learned a lot about customer service. I came back to Sulaimani and decided to use what I learned to start a new, unique gym experience for people here. What challenges did you face in setting up City Gym? The first challenge we faced was in setting up a mixed-gender gym in Kurdistan. It was the first one that had women and men working out together, side-by-side. It was very difficult in the beginning. We had to convince our friends, people in our social circles, to come and join. It was hard to even convince guys to join because they were used to working out in certain environments. The market segment was also small, since not everyone was into going to the gym and working out. Pricing was also a challenge. People who did go to the gym were used to paying less for memberships, but we were providing quality, experienced staff, a hygienic environment, professional equipment, and more. We also focused on customer service. Our goal wasn’t to only make money, but to help people reach their fitness goals in a fun way. My goal has always been to get people to reach their full potential; and our motto at City Gym is “It’s a lifestyle” and we really believe that. Who supported you? Our biggest supporters have been our family, our managing team, and our loyal clients. Our clients are loyal because we really focus on customer service. We’ve created a comfortable place for people to work out. My experience as a business officer with an organization called Mercy Corps also helped me. There, I helped establish 24 different small businesses with our beneficiaries. This helped me deal with our new City Gym location in a more efficient way, both fiscally and managerigially. How did your family and friends feel about you starting your own business? I’m a risk taker and my family were unbelievably supportive, and they still are. They were afraid in the beginning but saw how hard we worked to make it a reality. And actually, I would say seventy percent of my friends and peers were more afraid for us because the risks were so high. What has been the best part and the most challenging part? The best part is and has always been that we are a leader in the fitness industry here. We were the first to make this new idea a reality. The financial crisis in recent years was also a very serious challenge for us. At first people, were willing to pay $80 a month for gym memberships, but it was also the first cost to get cut for a lot of people, even for our most serious or loyal clients. We managed to survive even though our target market was shrinking each month, but we focused on giving the best quality through it all. The financial crisis actually did us a favor. People lived in their comfort zones before then and all of a sudden, we were forced to push ourselves more, work harder, and come up with creative ideas. How did your AUIS education prepare you to build a career as an entrepreneur? AUIS gave me the basic foundation that helped me to expand my way of thinking regarding business and entrepreneurship, but also developing myself to create a unique entrepreneurial project. My advice for anyone who wants to start their own business is to not be afraid to take risks, but to be informed about and be knowledgeable about the industry you want to go into. Think outside the box, go beyond imitating existing businesses. Pull yourself out of your comfort zone.
The AUIS Alumni Association's board held a poetry reading at Soho Cafe in Sulaimani on November 24. The reading featured AUIS professor Dr. Choman Hardi reading from her recent book translation, "Butterfly Valley," by Sherko Bekas. Dr. Hardi also read some of her original poetry. After the reading, Dr. Hardi and the attending alumni discussed poetry, the art of translation, and culture in Kurdistan. Around 15 alumni attended the event.