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A Presentation on Queen Puabi and the Royal Tombs of Ur

On May 28, 2015, the Head of Art History at University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Holly Pittman, was invited to AUIS to give a talk on Queen Puabi, one of the most famous queens of Sumer, the oldest civilization of Mesopotamia, and the treasures of the Royal Tombs of Ur. The site was excavated first in the 1920s and has provided one of the greatest collection of artefacts from ancient Sumer. Dr. Pittman has recently been working on a travelling exhibit of the Royal Tombs of Ur in the United States. Queen Puabi’s graves at Ur showcase the immense wealth of the earliest cities of Iraq and also raises questions about the status of women and the role of the afterlife in the ancient Mesopotamia. Puabi's grave is exceptional in that a large number of courtiers, both men and women, were sent to their deaths along with her when she died. It is the most famous case of mass suicide in ancient Mesopotamia. Listen to Dr. Pittman’s lecture in the podcast below.  Dr. Pittman was visiting AUIS as part of a group of American archaeologists currently travelling through the Kurdistan region. She was accompanied by Elizabeth Carter, Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology at UCLA, who has spent many years working in Iran and Iraq and has written an important textbook on Iranian archaeology. The presentation began with Dr. Carter providing a brief introduction to Sumer and Ur. Dr. Pittman then talked in detail about the Royal Tombs of Ur and specifically about the artefacts discovered from Queen Puabi’s graves. The presentation ended with a short talk by Breton Langendorfer, a Ph.D. student of Near Eastern Art History specializing in ancient Assyria. He talked briefly about his dissertation on Assyrian reliefs and how they tell the story of destruction of cities in ancient Assyria. The lecture was arranged by Tobin Hartnell, archaeologist and assistant professor of Social Sciences at AUIS. Check out our Facebook page for photos from the presentation.

The First Tears I Shed

Before I went on stage to perform in front of the audience, I felt that “Noor” was just a name of a girl, and nothing more. Between classes and getting ready for our opening night, I haven't exactly had the time to think about it deeply. However, I realized what an amazing name Noor was, right on the stage, as I was acting. Every single word of the play meant Noor in my mind. Noor means light. Yes, it brings light to every dark corner of my home. As I listened to my fellow cast mates on stage, every single word of the play showed me photos of the past. Usually, they were not pretty photos, and some brought tears to my eyes. It was even hard at times to say my lines. If you could have seen the audience, you would have known that many have lost someone very close to them in a war. I say a war because there have been many of them since the day we were born. However, none of us have had the opportunity to cry for the people we have lost. We, Kurds and Arabs in the Noor cast, are joining hands together to shed light on the life of every single person in our country. We are gathering together to shed our last tears over the sad events our people have experienced.  It is incredible to hear some people crying for war again. The headlines right now tell stories between the KRG and Baghdad, between the PKK and Turkey, and between the whole of Iraq and Iran. The drums of war, believe it or not, are beating again. But during our performance, we did not cry for war. We, the cast, stood together, as Kurds and Arabs, to cry for the innocent sons and daughters that were lost. But it would be selfish to do just that. We also cried for the soldiers, on all sides, who gave their lives. We also cried out against corrupt politicians and greedy businessmen, a warning to everyone who thought someone was evil just because they spoke Kurdish or Arabic or English. We cried for all these things, but most of all, we cried for every Noor in every home, wherever she was. 

My Noor Timeline

Student blog by Mohammad Baheej 2005 The three men who chased me had everything they needed. They had masks, black bags, and the same plastic handcuffs that American soldiers used. The only other thing they needed was me. I wasn’t that intelligent – I was 15, and always just thought about football. But I understood what would happen if they caught me.  The crazy thing was this: I recognized one of the men. He was a friend; in fact he was a neighbor! Once he even visited me when I was sick, and asked me if I needed anything! I wish I had told him, “Yes there is one thing. Please don’t kidnap me, okay?” 2012 I am in rehearsal every day for a play called Noor, by Akbar Ahmed. It happens in Baghdad, and I feel like it’s right in the bazaar (Palestine Street in Baghdad) when I was 15. In the play, the daughter of the family, Noor, is kidnapped. My character, Daoud, is her brother and says, “The neighborhood isn’t the same anymore. Cousins spy on each other. Friends report on friends. Who is there to trust?” In fact, a lot of the time during the play, I don’t trust any other people, not even my own brothers, Ali and Abdullah, or even Noor. At the same time, I trust the other actors completely. This is no little thing. Trust is very complicated in Iraq. Confidence is not widely spread among the Iraqi people. Even if someone is the same ethnicity as you, has the same amount of money, and comes from the same neighborhood, has the same religion, even in that situation, there are still ten thousand reasons not to trust them. Thus, when we practice Noor in a cast of people who are so different, it’s sspecial that we have trust and will protect each other. We practice so many times when everyone else has gone home to get on facebook or sleep. Believe me I will protect my cast against anything. 2005 + 2012 =? By the way, I got away from the three men in 2005. I took off my sandals and ran faster than them. The man I recognized, my “helpful” neighbor, one day picked the wrong guy to kidnap and was killed. This made a lot of sense to people in my community: The more bad things you do, the worse fate you face. But the same is true for good things and good fate. If we deliver a great performance of Noor, what will our good fate be? Will Iraq become completely safe for every family and every Noor in every home? But everybody knows life doesn’t work like that. Still, who knows what is possible?

Preserving Iraq's Cultural Heritage

The symposium convened three sessions to consider cultural heritage from different perspectives. The first session convened the leading managers of cultural heritage in Iraq and Kurdistan Region. Gyorgy Busztin, special appointee of UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq opened by calling for Iraqis and Kurds to celebrate their cultural heritage. Iqbal Kadhim Aajeel conveyed news of last month’s opening of the Nasriyah Museum, which houses many precious objects from the oldest civilizations of the south. Mala Awat, Head of the Erbil Directorate of Antiquities, highlighted the unique cultural heritage of Kurdistan Region including the Erbil citadel. Hashim Hama Abdullah, head of the Sulaimani Museum, recounted how it was the first major museum to reopen after the 1991 war; the project was made possible with the support of then Prime Minister Dr. Barham Salih and former Iraqi President Mam Jalal Talabani. Finally, AUIS professor Marie Labrosse spoke about her work translating and publishing Kurdish poetry, and the importance of digitizing all forms of cultural heritage, especially manuscripts, as a way to ensure their preservation for future generations. At the present time, Iraq and the Kurdistan’s cultural heritage is under threat of annihilation from ISIS; the second session convened to discuss cultural heritage in a time of crisis. Ahmed Kamil Muhammad, Director of the Iraqi National Museum, emphasized the Iraqi Museum’s reopening was an important alternative to ISIS’s program of destruction. In questions, he emphasized how secure the new museum is, making it almost impossible to loot. Muayyad Said Damirji, the former Director of the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, emphasized that we had been through war and crisis together before, and that it was the heroic actions of dedicated individuals that helped protect the museums through those times. Bilal Wahab, a professor at AUIS, described how the sale of antiquities represented ISIS’s second best source of revenue and how terror networks like ISIS often worked hand-in-hand with criminal networks to profit off of chaos. Finally, Axel Plathe, the director of UNESCO Iraq, talked about how UNESCO works together with local institutions to fund dozens of cultural initiatives across Iraq and Kurdistan Region. With the value and threats to cultural heritage identified, it was time to discuss what cultural professionals could do to protect and promote cultural heritage as part of a prosperous future for the region. Tobin Hartnell described how it was cheaper and more effective to in-source talent to universities like AUIS to train the next generation of cultural professionals. Kozad Ahmed, Head of Archaeology at the University of Sulaimani described his vision of building the capacity of Kurdistan region to manage its own cultural heritage. Simone Muhl, a professor from Ludwig-Maximilian-Universitat in Munich, described how rich the Kurdistan region is in terms of its cultural heritage, so the government urgently needs to assess which sites are in danger and excavate the most important before they are destroyed by construction. Jessica Giraud, head of the French Mission to Sulaimani Province, described how remote sensing can document hidden traces of past sites to provide a better picture of Kurdistan’s complex past. Finally, Mustafa Ahmed of the Institut Francais du Proche Orient (IFPO) in Erbil described the situation in Syria, where cultural heritage is being systematically erased as part of the civil war there. The AUIS cultural heritage symposium is unique in Sulaimani Province; it represents the best chance to bring the community together to discuss our strategies for the future protection and promotion of culture in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region. As a sign of how important this issue is to the future of Iraq, the symposium was attended by several leading public figures of the region, such as Dr. Barham Salih, the founder and chairman of AUIS, Ms. Hero Ibrahim Ahmed Talabani, Mazhari Khaliqi, Jamal Baban, Izzedin Mustafa, and Ahmed Jalal. Leading figures in cultural heritage were also in the audience: Dr. Abdullah Khorsheed, Director of the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage (IICAH) and Dara Al-Yaqoobi, Head of the High Commission for the Erbil Citadel. We are building on the success of this symposium to create an annual series at AUIS dealing with cultural heritage. I hope you can join us at AUIS for next year’s symposium. For more information on how to be involved, please contact Dr. Hartnell at [email protected] or Christine van den Toorn, the Director of IRIS, at [email protected]  Article by Dr. Tobin Hartnell, Department of Social Sciences, American University of Iraq, Sulaimani. 

AUIS Students Organize “Smile” Fundraiser for Refugees and IDPs

AUIS students organize a fundraiser for refugees
  The idea was initiated by Abdullah Mohammed Wajeeh and Nawfal Sattar Mohammed, two Academic Preparatory Program (APP) students in level 2, who were quickly joined by Hayas Ismail in level 3 and later by Zhiwar Jawhar Rasul in the Undergraduate program. They were supported by APP Instructor, Chris Guajardo, in organizing and setting up the activities. Both Abdullah and Nawfal had participated in the service learning project in the Fall, and wanted to continue and do something similar to give back to the community this semester. “I think that the event that these students created will really change the way in which fundraising is done here at AUIS,” said Guajardo, “They have set a new bar and provided fresh ideas for helping those who are most in need.” In three days, the students managed to raise $2,694.00 for the refugee camps. Over the course of three days, the students organized several interesting activities and events to raise the funds. Creative art pieces, photographs and handicrafts made by AUIS students were put on sale. A group of young and talented artists, The Iraqi Touch, participated by donating their art pieces for auction at the fundraiser. There were other fun activities like music, a cook-off, and hand painting. One of the highlights of the event was a guest lecture from renowned Kurdish artist, Ismail Khayat, who also donated prints of his artwork for the fundraiser. “I am extremely proud and amazed by what these students were able to accomplish. They put in weeks of planning, organizing, and networking, and it was all done under their already very busy schedules and workloads in APP and Undergraduate programs. These students have shown once again how creative, dedicated, and capable they truly are,” added Guajardo. Following the success of the fundraiser, the students are already thinking about making this an annual event at the University. The organizers would like to thank the AUIS community for their continued support, and in particular, the following people who helped and contributed to the event. Mr. Ismail Khayat, who contributed his artwork, time, and all printing of the photographs that were sold during the three days of the event for free as a donation. Masti Khalil and Saya Ahmad, organizers of the cook-off. Sanya Rzgar for her contributing art and craft work. The Iraqi Touch group for donating their artwork. All the photographers who contributed their work: Korak Agha, Rawand Taha, Hogr Hadi, Nvar Kawan, Hayas Ismail, Zhiwar Jawhar Rasul, Danyar Jalal, Rawand Ali, and all who volunteered their time. Mr. Oliver Keels, director of Student Services, and the Communications Office for their support.  See more photos of the event on our facebook page. 

AUIS Academic Preparatory Program Awarded International Accreditation

AUIS Academic Preparatory Program
April, 2015 - The American University in Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) is proud that the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation (CEA) has granted the University’s Academic Preparatory Program (APP) a five year accreditation, from April 2015 to April 2020. CEA is recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education as a national accrediting agency for English language programs and institutions in the U.S. APP Director Rachel Laribee has been leading the accreditation process since 2012. She emphasized that “For APP, the news for accreditation was wonderful. But the real gift of accreditation was the process that we have gone through the past three years, to make sure our program really is giving the quality instruction that we say we are giving.” She continued, “I hope our students realize that this process is for them. So that when they decide to come to AUIS, they are enrolling in a program that not only strives to follow best practices, but works to deliver quality instruction.” APP operates with a high level of quality, with an approved program of study, qualified instructors, adequate resources, and approved recruitment and admissions policies. And through the hard work of the APP staff and instructors, APP has acquired public recognition with this accreditation which indicates that it fully meets US and international standards set by the US Department of Education. “For APP students, accreditation ensures that they receive a high standard of education. This also gives them a competitive advantage in jobs requiring English skills,” explained Laribee. “For AUIS, this represents a first step towards accreditation for the university as a whole. University accreditation is important for the acceptance and transfers of credits earned, and is a prerequisite for many graduate programs.” Talking about some of the trials they faced during the accreditation process, Laribee said, “The main challenges we faced were finding the time to write the self-study and to formalize all of our policies and procedures, while still having to run the day to day functions. During this time, our program also doubled in size, so it was quite challenging to get everything finished within a few years.” Although she was leading the process, Laribee acknowledges the hard work of the APP staff and instructors in ensuring accreditation for the program. “Without the work of all APP teachers, this could not have been done. Stacie Long was a great help in writing the self-study, and along with the program’s Deputy Director, Katherine Yaw, all APP Faculty - those currently here and those who have since left- were a huge part of the process,” she said. The Interim President of AUIS, Dr. Esther E. Mulnix, was delighted to hear of the accreditation. She stated: “AUIS strives to implement its mission and live its vision to deliver quality education at every level. The community of trustees, faculty, staff, and students have all come together to obtain the accreditation of the English Program that APP delivers.” The Director of Enrollment Paul Craft added, “AUIS focuses on quality. APP’s accreditation by CEA certifies that our program is equal in quality to English language programs in the US, Europe or the Gulf States. Students can get a high quality education at Iraqi tuition rates and without leaving Iraq, the KRG or Sulaimani!” For further information about this accreditation, please contact CEA, 801 North Fairfax Street, Suite 402A, Alexandria, VA 22314, (703) 665-3400,


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