AUIS Student Wins AINAC 2016 Corporate Challenge in Jordan

The Arab Innovation Network (AINAC) corporate conference brings together youth from all over the Middle East every year to work together towards innovative and industry-based solutions. In December 2016, AUIS business major Maryam Nabeel attended the AINAC 2016 conference in Amman, Jordan, where she was selected to participate in the AIN Corporate Challenge. With her two Palestinian teammates, Maryam worked on a challenge to design a delivery packaging system for Aramex Logistics. The team were given two days to design and present their solution at AINAC 2016. Maryam's team won the corporate challenge, and were awarded a fully funded corporate internship with Aramex in the country of their choice. The AINAC 2016 conference also featured talks by influencers and sector leaders, business networking opportunities, and workshops for participants, "I got to know a few very well known people in the Middle East, which is always a plus to building up your network," said Maryam, who is now starting up an AINAC Society at AUIS. "A lot of our engineering students would really enjoy the experience," she said, and hopes that the new society will help establish links with AIN and ecounrage more participation from AUIS students at the annual conference.  We wish Maryam all the best with her new internship at Aramex!  Read more about Maryam's experience at AINAC Corporate Challenge in her blog.

AUIS student attends World Youth Conference in India

The World Youth Conference 2016 took place from 12th November – 14th November 2016 in New Delhi, India. The event was hosted by the Republic of India under the aegis of the International Youth Committee (IYC) in collaboration with various public and private sectors. This year’s WYC theme was ‘Youth for Sustainable Development’. WYC 2016 will facilitate a process that strengthens effective youth participation in the planning, implementation and evaluation of various global issues of the world which refers to the process of defining the future global development framework that would succeed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG's) of the United Nation. It brought young delegates from all over the world to exchange views, share experiences on different issues, detect common preoccupations and to develop realistic action plans to rebuild communities that meet the needs and aspirations of young people. The event allowed people to voice their ideas and concerns and make suggestions directly. I was the only delegate and speaker from Kurdistan and Iraq. I had an opportunity to give a speech about the role of Kurds and the Peshmerga for encountering terror and having peace and justice. Also, I was awarded as an International Speaker for having an effective speech. For World Youth Conference 2017, which will be held in Belize on the eastern coast in Central America, I am chosen as a leader and ambassador of International Youth Committee (IYC) in Iraq and Kurdistan in order to choose and arrange a group of youth to participate in this conference. Despite facing some challenges during the program, it was an experience of a lifetime for me because I met hundreds of delegates from across the world. We shared our different ideas, beliefs, perspectives, and opinions regarding the recent issues in the world. I was surprised when I heard some things from the delegates because the way their countries were reflected in the media was different from the reality. I also got to know scholars from different countries, and I invited most of them to visit Kurdistan. They promised to come to Kurdistan if we held any international conference. By attending other presentations, I learned from others and improved my own skills and knowledge about my field. Therefore, The benefits are definitely bigger than the costs for participating at international conferences. The conference had great outcomes for me. I was honored to participate as a Kurd. And I am now responsible to arrange a group of Kurdish youth to participate in the World Youth Conference 2017 in Central America. I am also working with the board of the IYC organization and conference in order to hold the World Youth Conference in Kurdistan in the future. I have a plan to hold international conferences in Kurdistan as much as I can because our youth can benefit greatly from these diverse perspectives.           Watch his interview with Kurdistan24 below. 

Protecting the Past: Towards a Better Future with Cultural Heritage

"The heritage of Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan is of international importance: the region contains thousands of documented and un-documented archaeological sites. Whilst current international attention is focused on conflict damage, Iraq’s heritage is at risk from multiple threats including looting, dam inundation, development, and expanding agriculture. Each year, survey teams discover and record previously unknown sites, both on the ground and using satellite imagery. Many of them are already damaged or threatened," AUIS Professor Tobin Hartnell, Dr. Emma Cunliffe and Dr. Jennie Bradbury from the University of Oxford's EAMENA project on the threats to the cultural heritage of Iraq and the Iraqi Kurdistan. Read full article. 

AUIS Hosts Slemani Film Festival Panel Discussion

  Mr. Farhan Jawhar, head of the Kurdish Cultural Committee, talked about the role of cinema in suppressed nations and emphasized the importance of presenting the Kurdish identity through films. Dr. Jawhar also expressed his concerns over the very weak government support for the cinema industry, and said it was a playing factor in the lack of international and regional recognition for Kurdish cinema. The second panelist, Dr. Adel Yahya, spoke on the importance of conveying messages to the audience through visualizing human emotions. He also highlighted the importance of expressing the Kurdish identity as a way to introduce the nation to the wider audience. Dr. Shawkat Amin, a filmmaker from Kurdistan, mentioned the importance of having a strong cinema industry, and a culture that encourages people to see films at the cinema. This culture, he says, doesn’t exist in the region, and is a reason the country does not have an industry that can get international recognition. The other two panelists were German filmmaker Ruth Olsen and Dr. Shaho Saeed. Olsen spoke about the lack of Kurdish women in the cinema industry, and the importance of diversity in order to get films of different perspectives for the international audience. Dr. Shaho Saeed concluded the panel by talking about the globalization of the Kurdish cinema by becoming a part of the broader cinema industry in Iraq and the Middle East, instead of competing with them. This, he said, will help deliver the message of the Kurdish identity to a wider, international audience. Photos by Hama Advertising. 

International Finance Corporation Hosts Conference at AUIS

  The one-day event hosted interactive sessions on improving corporate governance standards for family firms, as well as innovative small and medium enterprises SMEs and value chain solutions through developing distributors’ management and technical capacities, and management skills through IFC’s Business Edge training. The sessions were attended by private sector enterprises, entrepreneurs, small and medium companies as well as AUIS alumni who own businesses or work in the private sector in Sulaimani. “Iraq is in the midst of a very dire financial crisis: oil revenues have plummeted, and our revenue management system has failed. A new economic development strategy will have to adapt to this new reality,” said Dr. Barham Salih in his opening speech,“We need to find ways of turning challenges into opportunities for investors and entrepreneurs in Iraq.”   IFC has managed to provide skills management training to over 1600 entrepreneurs and supported more than 300 SMEs with corporate governance training in Iraq. The initiative is part of IFC efforts to spur private sector growth in the country by improving SMEs’ management skills, business performance and competitiveness. There are over 1 million micro, small and medium enterprises in Iraq currently, contributing about two-thirds of private sector employment. Recent studies show 80 percent face difficulties in accessing finance and scaling up, with many closing within five years of operations. “Supporting SMEs and fostering sustainable business is a strategic priority for IFC in Iraq, given the current economic challenges,” said Ziad Badr, “Improving the managerial capacity, business performance and competitiveness of smaller Iraqi firms will help boost economic growth and create jobs.” Expanding on the importance of corporate governance, Dr. Amira Agag and Dr. Mohammed Radwan identified the centralization of decision-making, absence of long-term planning, and weak internal monitoring mechanisms, among others, as major challenges observed in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). In the same vein, Sylvia Zulu pointed to some of the impediments to SMEs development in the country. Those include difficult access to financing services, unfavorable business environment, insufficient infrastructure, general instability, and taxation systems. In both cases, IFC also proposed solutions to address to barriers to private sector development, and provide advisory services to help implement those solutions. “AUIS is honored to be partnering with IFC for such an important event. We believe that developing entrepreneurial minds is crucial to economic development, private sector growth in Iraq and the Kurdistan region. AUIS through its commitment to excellence in education, is also contributing. We are building capacity and striving to constantly improve the set of skills available,” commented Dr. Salih on partnering with the IFC for this conference, which is hoped to lead to further collaboration between IFC and AUIS in the future. About IFC IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets. Working with more than 2,000 businesses worldwide, they use their capital, expertise, and influence, to create opportunity where it’s needed most. In FY15, their long-term investments in developing countries rose to nearly $18 billion, helping the private sector play an essential role in the global effort to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity. For more information, visit

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. 

Conflict and Living Heritage in the Middle East

Conflict and Living Heritage in the Middle East:   Researching the Politics of Cultural Heritage and Identities in Times of War and Displacement The Social Sciences Department at AUIS, in collaboration with the Institue français du Proche-Orient (ifpo), is hosting a two-day conference to discuss the conflict and living heritage in the Middle East on May 10-11, 2016.  View or download the conference program Read more about the conference View photo gallery About the Conference:  Cultural heritage is central to the wars currently being waged in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen. The international media and organizations, together with governments and heritage professionals – including academics – have looked at the issue mostly from the perspective of damages to archaeological property or sites and artefacts with a highly emblematic global value, at times framed as 'universal.' The local meaning of such heritage is generally disregarded, and so are other aspects of affected populations' living heritage that give them a sense of collective identities. Yet local knowledge and know-hows, popular arts, crafts and traditions, religious beliefs and rituals, language and oral expressions, together with religious and vernacular architecture are all forms of heritage that suffer in the on-going wars. In many instances, this living heritage is deliberately targeted by parties striving to perform cultural cleansing. What then happens to living heritage and collective identities in areas affected by war and under new political authorities? What about the heritage and identities of the millions who have been displaced as a result of the recent conflicts in the region? More generally, what can an examination and conceptualization of the practices and discourses of local actors reveal about the nexus between cultural heritage, identities, armed conflicts and population displacement in the Middle East  yesterday and today? The proposed topic calls for considering on-going and recent situations together with more ancient ones such as – but not limited to – the Armenian, Kurdish, Palestinian, or Lebanese cases, and for a comparative perspective. The following themes will form the core of the discussions: Theme 1: Heritage and Conflict In conflict situations, cultural heritage tends to become a contested area where relations of domination and violence are expressed, and where competing groups strive to assert legitimacy. This is manifested through unequal control over space (within urban areas, or on emblematic sites and monuments), and the often brutal removal of cultural attributes or markers attached to collective identities (regional, ethnic, religious, gendered, etc.). Questions will be asked about how civilian populations, on the one hand, and political and military actors, on the other, engage through practices, discourses and representations with various forms of living heritage during and immediately after conflict. Discourses, representations, and practices will be considered to understand the role of heritage as a vehicle for violence between groups, or conversely as a medium to de-escalate conflict and reach comprise. Theme 2: Heritage and Displacement More often than not, people displaced by conflict experience violence (usually in gendered ways), a break-up of social ties, and a radical separation from their place of origin. Such situations can also brutally severe people's bonds with their tangible and intangible heritage, particularly when such heritage is targeted by warring parties. The interrelation between heritage and displacement opens up questions as regards the implications of the loss of identity reference points, the transformation and redefinition of heritage in exile, and the role heritage plays in the (re)construction of collective memory and cultural identity among refugees. Such issues call for an examination in different contexts and time-frames: in transient or liminal places and states (such as refugee camps, border or transit areas), and when exile endures near or far from the homeland. An important question relates to how experiences of exile become incorporated into new heritage discourses that serve as bases for collective memories and identities. Conference Program: View or download the program of the conference below.   

Ezidis Beyond ISIS: Gender, Genocide, Displacement and Return

   February 11, 2016    - The AUIS Center for Gender and Development Studies (CGDS) and the Institute of Regional and International Studies (IRIS) hosted a conference to discuss the future of the Ezidi community in Iraq. The conference brought together Ezidi survivors of ISIS atrocities, agencies working to document these atrocities, practitioners providing services to survivors, academics working in the field, and relevant international experts to create an in depth understanding of - and generate action on - one of 21st century’s worst crimes against humanity. Related article: Yezidis vs ISIS at the ICC by Timothy Waters who attended as one of the speakers at the conference.  The panel discussions at the conference focused on four main areas of the conflict: documentation for a genocide case, trauma and recovery for the victims, as well as efforts at reconstruction and reconciliation for the displaced Ezidi community. Click on the links below for details of the speakers, and a summary of each panel discussion in English, Kurdish and Arabic languages. Panel 1: Documentation and the Genocide Case - watch the discussion Panel 2: Trauma and Recovery - watch the discussion Panel 3: Beyond Victimhood: Reconstruction and Return - watch the discussion Panel 4: Beyond Victimhood: Reconciliation and Return - watch the discussion  The conference opened with welcoming remarks from Christine van den Toorn, director IRIS, and Dr. Choman Hardi, chair of AUIS English department and founding director of CGDS. Dr. Hardi formally announced the launch of CGDS at the conference, saying, "It is an honor to launch the Center for Gender and Development Studies (CGDS) in this important conference. We firmly believe that the knowledge produced in academic institutions needs to be disseminated within the relevant communities, using different outreach strategies. A holistic approach to tackling gender inequality is essential." She continued to say that gender activism is most effective when informed by feminist knowledge. "Normative change in gender relations can only happen when feminist knowledge has been produced and shared. This is why we believe that academic work and activism should be more firmly connected. Activists need to know more about theoretical issues and academics should be more involved in activism." The Center hopes to amplify women's voice and agency nationally and within their communities as a means of social and economic development and promote gender informed practices in professional and humanitarian contexts. Read the text or watch the video of Dr. Hardi's opening speech.    The conference began with a keynote speech by Monique Villa, CEO Thomsan Reuters Foundation and founder of TrustLaw and Trust Women. Villa highlighted that violence against women and girls remains the most widespread human rights violation in the world. She called the atrocities committed by Daesh against the Ezidi community genocide and war crimes, and stressed that documentation of accurate and fair testimonies of survivors and victims are key to prosecution of the criminals. In order to respond to the threat of Daesh, it is crucial that the voices of the women are heard and heard now, said Villa, and journalism is a key weapon to fight the Daesh narrative. Read more about her opening speech here, or watch video of her talk.    The conference also featured photo exhibitions: Life in Khanke Camp by Ezidi women photojournalists and Continued Tragedy by Soran Naqishbandy.    During the conference, AUIS recognized the efforts of Kurdish activists who have been working tirelessly to rescue the Ezidi women and children captured by ISIS and in bringing the plight of the Ezidi community to the international platform to mobilize efforts for reconstruction. Awards were presented to Khalil Asef, Amina Hassan, and Osman Darwish for rescuing women from ISIS captivity. Another award was presented to Nadiya Murad, an Ezidi survivor, who gave her testimony at the UN Security Council in December 2015, and who has now been nominated for the Nobel Prize. The award was received on Murad's behalf by Amed Shingaly, a correspondent for Kurdsat, who has been covering events in Sinjar since the beginning of the conflict. Watch the award presentation in the video.   Nadia Murad receives an award by #AUIS, delivered to her by @ShingalyAhmed #Ezidi #Yazidis #TwitterKurds — AUIS (@AUIS_NEWS) February 20, 2016 The conference was covered widely by the local media and some international outlets. You can find articles, news reports, and video coverage of the conference by various media outlets here. View or download photos of the conference on our Flickr page below.  View or download the full conference program in English, Kurdish and Arabic languages below.  

First Seminar on E-Government, its Theories and Practices

Students and instructors from AUIS and Sulaimani University crowded the lecture hall to listen to Dr. Farzad Sanati and Ala Barzinji speak on the theories and practices of E-Government. Dr. Sanati, who has published widely on the subject, is an assistant professor at AUIS, at the Department of Information Technology, with many years of experience working on E-Government projects in Australia. Ala Barzinji is a doctoral candidate researching E-Government at Stockholm University with a focus on cyber crime and social network analysis of terrorist groups. She is currently teaching Information Security at the University of Sulaimani. The two hour seminar introduced the audience to the concept of E-Government and the prerequisites for its implementation before enumerating the obstacles facing such a project in the KRG. Dr. Sanati began the seminar by defining E-Government, that it is not simply the digitization of the government’s processes but rather the government’s use of information technology to deliver services to its citizens. He stressed the need for research and planning before undertaking such large projects, saying “The more we research, the more we practice, the more we plan, the better we are prepared and the better we implement our goals.” He highlighted the many dimensions of the governance of a project like E-Government, all of which begins not with computerization but in the halls of parliament where the leadership must provide a legal framework to regulate and standardize the process; or else, he warned, the government will face the very chaos it intended to counter. For any E-Government project to succeed, he went on, the government must undergo organizational change and reinvent itself, it must socially engineer digital literacy among its citizens, and finally it must have the people with the technological knowhow to put the network in place and maintain it. He emphasized that success is dependent upon a government’s institutional capacity, its geographical reach, the digital literacy of its citizens, and the ability to train resources; without any of which an E-Government project is doomed to failure. Ala Barzinji tackled the issue of E-Government’s implementation in the KRG and why the time has come for replacing the traditional paper system with a new E-Government system. Security, she pointed out, is the first and foremost problem needing to be solved. Furthermore, she covered the serious challenges facing the KRG, from corruption to a lack of technocrat employees, to masked unemployment and bureaucracy.There are simply too many employees in the government sector, she said, and this leads to corruption as people try to avoid bureaucracy through recourse to nepotism and bribery. It is no surprise, she continued, that in these conditions Iraq was listed as one of the most corrupt countries in the world in 2010-2011. She emphasized the need for the government to provide a private and secure way to access E-Services and its need to ensure “authentication, authorization, confidentiality, integrity and availability.” The seminar struck a chord with the audience, many of whom expressed a profound interest in realising the implementation of E-Government in Kurdistan and wished to discuss in detail the ways a society can move towards an E-Government. Most attendees questioned the panelist about the ways E-Government can be applied to the KRG and the consequences this may have on society, such as mass unemployment. To this, Dr. Sanati responded that the creation of new technology, while leading to unemployment compels the workforce to upgrade their skills. The discussion that followed expounded not only on the difficulties of planning and implementing E-Government, but also the positive aspects concerning its design and creation in a place like the KRG.
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