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International Studies

Social Sciences department hosts KRG official at AUIS

  On Monday, April 8, 2019, the Department of Social Sciences at AUIS hosted a workshop for International Studies students with Zana Kurda, Director of EU Affairs at the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Mission to the EU in Brussels, Belgium.   Mr. Kurda, in addition to his duties with the KRG mission, is a PhD researcher at the Institute for European Studies and in Sulaimani to conduct field research for his dissertation on KRG relations with the EU.   Students were given the opportunity to speak with Mr. Kurda about his academic and work experience, including details on how the KRG conducts its mission in Brussels and relations with EU governments.  

AUIS Establishes First Honor Society for International Studies in the Region

May 2016 - Sulaimani (KRG), Iraq - The Department of Social Sciences is proud to open the first chapter of the official International Studies Honor Society (Sigma Iota Rho) outside of Europe and the Americas. Sigma Iota Rho is based at the Ivy-league University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. The Department of Social Sciences started the process of gaining an official affiliation in May of 2015. Over the last year, International Studies students, under the guidance of Assistant Professor Dr. Tobin Hartnell, have created a constitution and organized plans to promote the benefits of International Studies both on campus and in the community. The AUIS Iraq Chapter of Sigma Iota Rho was officially launched on April 27, 2016, in a small ceremony which was attended by the Chairman of the AUIS Board of Trustees, Dr. Barham Salih and Acting President, Dr. Esther Mulnix, in addition to staff and faculty members. The first members and office-holders were formally inducted into the Society and were awarded with certificates and the official Sigma Iota Rho regalia and materials. The Social Sciences faculty members also gifted the Honor Society with their own room on campus at the launch ceremony. Constitution of the Iraq Chapter of Sigma Iota Rho - AUIS Honor Society for International Relations The members of the new Honor Society will join colleagues from every major city of Europe and the United States in a global network working on international affairs. "Our Honor Society students will be able to reach out to chapters wherever they go and have an instant network to ask questions and get support for their studies," said Professor Hartnell. The Honor Society would like to thank Dr. Frank Plantan, President of Sigma Iota Rho, for his help and support in establishing the AUIS International Honors Society; and Dr. Samuel Helfont, University of Pennsylvania, who kindly hand-delivered the material for the Honor Society as he attended the Sulaimani Forum at AUIS earlier this year.  The AUIS International Studies Honor Society will recognize the best students from the IS major. The Honor Society is open to all students in their second year or above who have a GPA of 3.3 and a GPA in their International Studies major of 3.4. Applicants should register their interest with Dr. Frederick Monsma or Dr. Tobin Hartnell. Find out more about Sigma Iota Rho on their website:

Students Discuss Media and US Presidential Elections with Sam Seder

  On Monday, April 4, 2016, a group of AUIS students had a conversation with Sam Seder, an MSNBC contributor and a political talk radio host, via Skype, concerning the role of the media in the U.S. presidential elections. The media has changed a lot, he said, it used to function purely as a source of information for the people, and was not expected to make a profit. Now, however, “the population is not as educated about important issues, not even issues they care about.” And this, he explained is because the media has an incentive to get higher ratings, and therefore more profit. But when being more specific about this year’s presidential elections, he mentioned that the reason Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner candidate, is getting so much coverage, is because he drives ratings, “he is an incredible showman, and people who want to vote against him are just as compelled to watch”, said Seder. On the democratic side however, he talked about Bernie Sanders, who is not getting nearly enough media coverage compared to his popularity. @SamSeder speaking to #AUIS students of @djenebajalan 's class about #US #media — Sara Bajalan (@SBajalan) April 4, 2016 After Sam Seder’s talk, Dr. Djene Bajalan, AUIS professor who organized this talk for his American History class, opened the discussion to Q&As. Some of these questions were about Sam Seder’s own opinions and expectations for the elections, and others about the extent to which the media is influenced by political affiliations. Sam Seder had questions for the students as well, which also included questions from his live audience. Will be speaking via skype with some college students in Sulaimani, in Iraqi Kurdistan in a few minutes- send me any questions you may have — Sam Seder (@SamSeder) April 4, 2016 These questions ranged from students’ perspective on the American invasion of Iraq in 2003; what life was like in Iraq; women’s rights and if they had improved since 2003; and what students thought of their American-style education at AUIS. The dialogue between Sam Seder and the American History students was very engaging and interesting to say the least and students expressed their interest in participating in such lectures in the future. Story and photos contributed by communications intern Lana Jabbar. 

AUIS Prepares Us to Become Global Citizens

Dina Dara Meran, Class of 2014
Four years ago when I graduated from high school, I applied to many universities in Iraq and abroad. I remember being so hesitant about deciding where to go. I also wanted to experience living away from home in a different city and making new friends other than knowing my family’s friends in Erbil. After some weeks, I remember receiving a text from AUIS saying I was accepted. It was late at night, and I ran to my dad excitedly with the news. It was obvious by then that my choice would be AUIS, and I have never regretted that. At AUIS, I did not only learn about international studies theories, Plato’s Republic, economics, world history, physics or journalism; I also had the chance to practice them through internships and activities on campus. AUIS strikes a good balance between theory and practice. AUIS is truly unique in a sense there is always so much going on at campus. There is always an interesting guest lecture, an event organized by a student club, a debate, a match, and all of these helped me grow and opened up so many doors. My best times at AUIS were spent taking part in the activities by the student clubs, especially the AUIS student newspaper,Voice. I enjoyed the bittersweet moments and the teamwork while publishing the newspaper.  I learned to network and make connections at AUIS. My internship experiences during the last four years with the Iraq Oil Report publication, General Consulate of the Republic of Turkey in Erbil, Development Iraq, International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the Institute of Regional & International Studies (IRIS) were arranged through AUIS. You always find an AUIS staff member, professor, administrator, or alumnus ready to help - whether it is for a class or a job you need to find, or a personal problem. It was at AUIS that I learned how to give to others, without expecting to receive anything back, especially through volunteer work. And I am proud to say that AUIS taught me the true meaning of citizenship and how to engage with my society. At the same time, just like any other American liberal arts institution, it prepared me to be a global citizen where I can understand the complexity of issues in the world as well.    It was also because of the education I received in AUIS that I could go to the oldest graduate school of international relations in the United States.  Today as I sit in the class, I can make arguments and contribute to the discussions just like any other graduate student. AUIS prepared me well in those four years for graduate school in the United States because of its liberal arts style education. Are you an AUIS alumnus? Do you want to share your share your AUIS journey too? Send it to [email protected] along with one or more good resolution photos. It shouldn’t be more than 500 words, and the email message should be clearly labeled ‘AUIS Alumni Stories’. We would love to hear from you!  

Me, AUIS, and Beyond.

PART I One year ago I was a senior at AUIS getting ready for my finals, finishing my research paper on the status of business under the Kurdistan Regional Government, pondering about my life after graduation, and thinking that hopefully our graduation ceremony will be grand enough to make my parents proud and see the fruit of all the investment and trust they had in me. Now, I am in Syracuse, New York about to finish my Master’s degree in Public Administration. The weather is gorgeous. Spring just started about fifteen days ago; we had snow from late December until mid-April. The trees are getting green again. The flowers are blossoming with fascinating colors. The sky is clear blue with pure clouds scattered above us. The air is not too hot; it is not too cold. It is just perfect. I study at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Administration, Syracuse University. The ranking of universities in the U.S came out two weeks ago, and my school got ranked No.1 for my field again. We are all happy about it. My second semester just ended and the results of my classes were no lower than the best and brightest students of the school. I thoroughly enjoyed every single class I have taken here. I don’t take any credit for my success. Every step I go further humbles me and makes me to try harder in the next step. Every further step I take I think about all the people and things that have helped me to get where I am now. I write this article not to say things about myself but as a person who has studied at AUIS and looks at the school as one of few things that prepared me to be here. It is a story that should resonate with many of my AUIS friends. I write this article because I think my friends at AUIS need to hear an outsider perspective of their school. An outsider who studied at AUIS for four and a half years. An outsider whom, when they still ask him “where do you to school,” really wants to say “the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani.” I want to tell you a bit about my background before going to AUIS. I had a humble background. I had to work during the summer and winter throughout my childhood until I got to AUIS, just like many of my friends at AUIS. My father used to be a farmer. I want to tell you one of the few words of advice he ever gave me. When I was growing up he was telling me “Son, we are all farmers in this world. You have to work hard to have a good season. You have to be patient because crops don’t bear fruits earlier. If you cheat and try to have shortcut you will have bad crops. When storms destroy your farm, and don’t forget next year will always come. And son, never let people discourage you from being a good and honest farmer.” That is one piece of advice I will never forget in my life, and I try to live up to it every single day. I didn’t care much about education until I was sixteen. When I cared I cared about it just like a farmer who cares about his crops because they are his only means of survival. Education was never a step for life; it was life, or it was to get to the life I pursue. I graduated from high school with high grades. I was thinking about what and where to study to get to my goals. I chose AUIS. The school gave me full scholarship. I didn’t know any English. I was put in level two of EWPLE, now APP. Simple, because they didn’t have level one. I was the lowest performing student in the class in level two. I put more effort more than any students in the class for the following semesters. This is what I do, when I realize I am the low-performing person in a group. I don’t give up but, rather, try harder. AUIS was a small university with fewer than fifty students. Going there was the riskiest move I had taken in my life up to that point. Some people were saying it is a fake university. I know it seems funny to hear that now, but some were saying it is only for rich people; some were saying it will be closed by the government, and many people around me were saying I don’t know English and going there is a suicide for you. But I was convinced AUIS was the key that would open some of the doors to my goals. I took that risk because I had big goals for myself.  Part II My AUIS time was not all rosy. I had difficult times. I had times of frustration. There were times I was wondering what on earth I was doing there. There were times I thought nothing would work out for me, just like when a farmer has a bad season. I was criticizing the school for any wrong doing and injustice I thought was occurring. There were classes I never wanted to attend, and there were classes I thought I should not take. And throughout my time we had dorm problems. This one sentence doesn’t do justice to all the suffering the early AUIS students went through who stayed in dorms. But isn’t it how life is, too?! I never realized what I got from AUIS until I started my master’s degree at Syracuse University in New York. The AUIS core classes in math, statistics, religion, world history, literature, and fine arts were all extremely beneficial for me both when I took GRE exam -- an exam you have to take to get to graduate schools in the United States--and when I was having discussions from people all over the world, and people with different faiths, ideas, ideologies, and cultures. I always had something to talk about with those people because I studied a bit about them at AUIS and did more reading myself. I have made numerous friends this way. When I started my master’s degree I never felt I was studying in a different system. I never felt I was behind any other students in the school. I had classmates from Harvard and other top universities in the U.S. I was wishing I could be back at AUIS and thank my professors and instructors one by one in person. I met some of the in the U.S and I hugged them while thanking them for all they have done for me. In my time here I didn’t have to study extra hours like many other international students. Instead I   went skiing, hiking, swimming, played soccer, am travelling the country, can improve my Farsi and Arabic with Arab and Persian friends, and, of course, still read a lot of books of my personal interest. I have had good times here because I sometimes needed less time to study for a class than most American students. I think this has to do a lot with my time at AUIS. Part III If you are an AUIS students now and reading this, I am sure you have many complaints, many things that discourage you from working harder. I am sure you feel like AUIS never meets your expectations. I know you had a lot of expectations; I did too. Did AUIS meet all my expectations? No! But I think Harvard University also wouldn’t have met all my expectations, either. When I was at AUIS there were some students who didn’t try because they were not happy with the classes they were taking, some of their professors, their classmates, and many more things. Many of my friends and I tried to choose another path. We tried to work hard; we tried to change things by actions; we set long-term goals, and we tried to be patient with the small obstacles that would come our way. We knew a wise man’s saying that only the fools expect good things to happen overnight. Now, I am an AUIS alumnus, and if you ask me if I could go back in time would I choose the best university in the US over AUIS to do my undergraduate studies, my answer would be absolutely NO. I say no because I know the good friends I made at AUIS. These are friends who will remain in my heart forever. Friends I spent four and a half years of my life with and would be willing to spend the rest of my life with. Friends who opened my heart to love my country more, to love human beings more, and opened my eyes to see the beauty of the world. Friends I wholeheartedly believe will change the future of my country for the better. And right now my former roommate, Ramyar Faris, is an AUIS alumnus and studies IT in the iSchool, which is ranked among top 10 schools in the US for IT. I say NO because I think I had professors who had the same standard of teaching as professors in the best US universities. I can say that because I have had now professors from Harvard and other top universities teach me. I can say it because my current university is ranked No.1 for my field in the US. I say NO because AUIS opened my mind and gave me a global perspective to everything that is happening around me. What you can get out of AUIS all depends on you, your goals, your ambition, and the people around you. You can choose to be like a lazy farmer who doesn’t care about crops and is fine with bad crops. You can always find reasons for your failures. But you can choose to be overcome difficulties. You can look at the difficulties and challenges as ways to prepare you for the world outside of AUIS. Trust me; I never regret the times I had to stay up all night reading books and then wake up early to go to AUIS. I stayed late night studying with my friends. We woke up early and went to class together. And sometimes we slept in boring classes together, or I should say we took turns to sleep in class. We had fun together; If one of us had a difficult time we were all there for each other. The sense of community and being having friends I have seen at AUIS I have never seen in any other universities in the U.S. I thought we had a wonderful graduation at AUIS. My parents were really proud to see their son is one of the top students at the best university in the country. That was the point they knew I had been doing well at AUIS in terms academic performance. When I was at AUIS my dad was only telling me be good to my friends, and my mom was saying she doesn’t care how many degrees I have, and she only wanted me to be a better human being. I hope you also never look at AUIS just as a place of prestige and boast about it among people. I hope you don’t look at a degree from AUIS just as a way to a better life. I think a door to a better life is yourself, your potential, how much you work for them. AUIS can be a good key for that door, but remember a key doesn’t open a rusty door. I hope you are happy that you are at AUIS. I am happy I am an AUIS alumnus. If it is not clear what you will do after AUIS don’t worry about it. Just do your best and trust yourself that whatever come after AUIS you will do well in it. I didn’t know I was going to this school until fifteen days before my graduation at AUIS. If you are an AUIS student and want to be in touch with me you can do so through my email: [email protected] I would love to hear from you.

Displacement and Suffering: From Anfal to ISIS

The dialogue was organized and moderated by Edith Szanto, assistant professor of religion and history at AUIS, and included three speakers: Fazil Moradi, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology and lecturer at the University of Halle in Germany; Hawar Moradi, a medical doctor, specializing in psychiatry and currently working as a volunteer at refugee camps throughout Kurdistan; and Choman Hardi, AUIS faculty member, poet, and researcher in gender and violence studies. Hawar Moradi began the panel discussion by pointing out that displacement is not only physical, but also psychological. At various Ezidi camps, he has been seeing 300 to 400 patients daily. Ezidis have been and continue to be deprived of their way of living, and they will carry trauma with them for the rest of their lives. They come with physical illnesses, but most of them are also in dire need of psychological support. Hardi said that in addition to dealing with trauma, survivors also often feel isolated from the rest of society. Women are more vulnerable, especially if they have experienced physical or sexual abuse, and remain at risk of violence even in refugee camps. It is also not easy for them to talk about sexual abuse and rape as they are often stigmatized. This disconnection and erosion of trust in the wider community makes them feel betrayed, unprotected, and more isolated. Fazil Moradi has been visiting Ezidi communities and those taking refuge in camps, unfinished buildings, parks, school buildings, and gas stations around Kurdistan. These survivors carry memories of acts of genocide and displacement and these memories take on lives of their own. An Ezidi survivor “carries total loss and an absence of a life once lived, including family and community history, language, memories of home and socialization.” He emphasized the “impossibility and untranslatability of experiences of acts of genocide. Therefore Ezidis cannot be seen as usual refugees.” Replying to a question on how Ezidis survive their current situation, Hawar Moradi said that it is extremely difficult to articulate the reality and experience of their displacement. And, he reiterated that the experiences of women and children are different from those of men. While men are more often killed on the spot, women are left with a tragedy. Every instance of displacement constitutes suffering, and that is all that remains as a form of survival. In describing the social and intellectual context of acts of extermination, Fazil Moradi referred to “genocide ideology.” He explained that genocide is not only something physical, but also psychological. People can be eliminated without being killed; the historical existence of Ezidis is a clear example. Hardi added that genocide never happens in a vacuum. There is always already an ideology which permits the victimization of a group of people. The Islamic State’s genocidal attacks against Ezidis were drawing on a preexistent ideology, which mobilized local accomplices. Fazil Moradi argued that Iraq has totally marginalized the need for dealing with claims of justice, reparations, and reconciliation. He added that the Iraqi state has failed in configuring an independent legal system and political accountability: “it is a decomposed state and unless you have an accountable state, Ezidis remain vulnerable to experiencing further genocidal attacks.” Fazil Moradi extended the argument and stated that there is no effective effort in dealing with the magnitude of violence in post Ba’ath Iraq. He critiqued the normalization of the Ezidi experience, which he thinks perpetuates their extermination: “It should not be normal to see Ezidis survivors of genocidal attacks living in unfinished buildings.” Hardi explained that people in countries with a history of repeated violence are desensitized. Over time, violent images become ineffective because people want to forget traumatic memories. This “compassion fatigue” isolates survivors and normalizes their suffering.  Fazil Moradi argued that Iraq has totally marginalized the need for dealing with claims of justice, reparations, and reconciliation. He added that the Iraqi state has failed in configuring an independent legal system and political accountability: “It is a decomposed state and unless you have an accountable state, Ezidis remain vulnerable to experiencing further genocidal attacks.” Fazil Moradi extended the argument and stated that there is no effective effort in dealing with the magnitude of violence in post Ba’ath Iraq. He critiqued the normalization of the Ezidi experience, which he thinks perpetuates their extermination: “It should not be normal to see Ezidis survivors of genocidal attacks living in unfinished buildings.” Hardi explained that people in countries with a history of repeated violence are desensitized. Over time, violent images become ineffective because people want to forget traumatic memories. This “compassion fatigue” isolates survivors and normalizes their suffering.
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