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AUIS Appoints New Dean of Faculty and Director of Academic Administration and Accreditation

December 07, 2016 - Sulaimani (KRG), Iraq - The American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) today announced the appointment of Dr. Mazen Bou Khuzam as the new Dean of Faculty and Rachel Laribee Gresk as the Director of Academic Administration and Accreditation. The two positions were created after the Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dr. Esther Mulnix, earlier in the year announced her decision to leave AUIS. Dr. Bou Khuzam, who will take up his position as Dean of Faculty on January 1, 2017, has served at AUIS since 2013 as Assistant Professor and Chair of the Mathematics and Natural Sciences Department. On accepting the new position, he said, “I am truly honored to be appointed as Dean of Faculty at AUIS. During the past three years, my main role as the Chair of the Mathematics and Natural Sciences Department was to focus on quality and excellence in teaching. I now look forward to working with the entire faculty to continue to promote educational excellence in the Kurdistan Region and in all of Iraq."   Dr. Bou Khuzam has taught at the university level for more than thirteen years in the Middle East. He holds a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Cambridge, where he was President of the Cambridge University Middle East Society.   Congratulating Dr. Bou Khuzam on his appointment, AUIS President Bruce Walker Ferguson noted with gratitude the important contributions made to the University by Dr. Mulnix, and his appreciation for the new Dean’s ongoing service to AUIS. “Dr. Mazen embodies much of what is best at AUIS: excellence in teaching and research, dedication to student learning, and productive collaboration with his colleagues. We have admired his work as department chair and look forward to his academic leadership as Dean of Faculty. "   AUIS has also appointed Rachel Laribee Gresk as the new Director of Academic Administration and Accreditation, who will report to the Dean of Faculty. “As a member of the AUIS community since 2009, I am honored to move into this new position. I look forward to continuing to work with our dedicated and hardworking team to make AUIS a premier institution for our students,” said Gresk, who formerly headed the AUIS Academic Preparatory Program where she led the highly acclaimed program to US accreditation, the only such program internationally accredited in Iraq. Mrs. Gresk is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.   A Selection Committee comprised of members of the AUIS Board of Trustees and senior management advised President Ferguson on the appointments.   About The American University of Iraq, Sulaimani Established in 2007 as a not-for-profit institution, AUIS is dedicated to providing a comprehensive liberal arts education for the benefit of young men and women from Iraq, Iraqi Kurdistan, and the wider region. The University seeks to produce graduates of responsible character with the necessary knowledge and skills for professional and national leadership. The academic program, taught in the English language by international faculty, is designed to develop strength in critical thinking, the ability to communicate well, a strong work ethic, good citizenship and personal integrity. The growing student body at AUIS represents the region’s diverse ethnic and religious landscape as the University continues to be the destination of choice of more than 1,600 students. Reflecting Sulaimani’s location at an international crossroads, Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, Ezidis and Christians, live and study together in an open culture fostering diversity and tolerance. Academic freedom is a principle guaranteed in teaching, learning, and research in a manner identical to that found at regionally accredited colleges and universities in the United States. As a non-profit institution for the public good, the University and its assets are not owned by any individual or group of individuals. Visit the AUIS website and connect with us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest information and news. For English language and international media, please contact Mehr Zahra, Director of Communications, at mehr.zahra@auis.edu.krd or 964(0)772-339-9305. For Kurdish and Arabic media requests, please contact Bzhar Boskani, Media and Public Relations Adviser, at bzhar.ali@auis.edu.krd or 964(0)770-152-1893.

After ISIS: Politics, Deal-Making, and the Struggle for Iraq’s Future

On July 21, 2016, the Middle East Program of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC  and the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) organized a panel discussion on the political and social challenges for Iraq after the defeat of the so called Islamic State (ISIS). The dynamics of the intra-Kurdish politics and Baghdad-KRG relations, challenges of governance and rehabilitation in liberated areas, poor state of the oil economy, as well as the possibilities of new political deals and power sharing were discussed at the event. The speakers on the panel included AUIS faculty and board members.  What about Mosul? Mina al Oraibi, member of the AUIS Board of Trustees and senior fellow at the Institute of State Effectiveness, discussed the humanitarian angle of the conflict, beyond counter-terrorism considerations. Oraibi, originally from Mosul herself, stressed the strategic importance of the city for Iraq, ISIS, the U.S., as well as the neighboring region. She argued that finding solutions to the political crisis will be key to ensuring lasting military success and a peaceful future of the city and its inhabitants. Highlighting the importance of strengthening state-civil society relations and citizenship, she claimed: “It is not only the Yezidis, Turkmen, Christians as minorities who are underrepresented; the Iraqi government has been failing to represent and support all of its citizens.” Oraibi also talked about the tribal links between Kurds and Arabs within the province. Building trust and reorganizing communities, Oraibi argued, is the most important factor for the long term success of the Mosul liberation operation. The other strategic dynamic is the relationship between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Baghdad, and the composition and co-ordination of the military forces to retake Mosul. Regional dynamics also play into strategic planning for the Mosul operations, Oraibi stated, referring to Syria, Turkey, and Iran. Most directly, the unravelling of the war against ISIS within Iraq heavily impacts the crisis in Syria. Turkey also has historical ties to Mosul, and President Erdogan has expressed his government’s will to play a role in the liberation operation, perhaps to deflect from Turkey’s own internal problems. There is also the Iranian component, whereby some active and effective militias within Iraq are supported and guided by Tehran. Oraibi stressed the importance of reconstruction and humanitarian support following the liberation of Mosul for returning communities, “In the first hundred days there should be immediate support for the stabilization and the long-term recovery of the city. Ensuring security, creating jobs, and rebuilding trust between communities will be essential post-ISIS.”   Identity Conflicts and Narratives AUIS Professor Akeel Abbas, speaking next, presented a new narrative for the conflict. “It was a dramatic moment for the Shi’a political elite in Iraq when Mosul fell under ISIS control: an exclusively Shi’a-led Iraq would collapse.” Abbas argued that a compromise could arise out of the acknowledgement by political elite that the pre-ISIS model is no longer possible for Iraq. He also however warned that, when it comes to the actual details of the new political arrangement, “nothing concrete is currently being seriously discussed.” Abbas also shed light on the ethno-sectarian divisions within Iraq. He brought a new perspective to the discussion, saying, “the primary conflict that has organized Iraq’s political and cultural life throughout history is the urban-rural divide. It has not been the Sunni versus Shi’a divide.” This Iraqi Sunni-Shi’a dichotomy currently prevailing in discourse and analysis is in fact, according to him, a constructed concept that started to surface in the late 1950s in Islamist parties’ political literature. Following the fall of Saddam Hussein, during the aftermath of sanction years that saw the rise of religious rhetoric in mainstream politics, two forms of identities in Iraq emerged: the Iraqi identity, and the religious identity. Abbas argued, “when the debate is removed from the Sunni-Shia narrative setting, and framed in terms of state-citizen relations, one finds a different kind of dynamic; there is a lot more understanding and sympathy among Iraqis than public discourse would lead to think.” Kurdistan and post-ISIS Iraq AUIS Professor Bilal Wahab mainly focused on the role of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) and the dynamics of Kurdish politics in the conflict. He shed light on the economic aspect of the conflict, which he argued does not get enough attention. “Post-ISIS stability and reconciliation requires economic reforms: reducing the grip of the government on the economy, justice in oil revenue sharing schemes, and the translation of oil wealth into sustainable economic development.” The KRG followed the Gulf countries model of heavy public sector employment supported by oil revenue, argued Wahab, which seriously hindered private sector growth. “It is difficult for the private sector to hire locals. The majority of the companies hire international and imported labor because there is a higher incentive for the locals to work for the government.”  He estimates that about 75 percent of KRI labor is employed by the government, and a large portion of the budget goes into paying for those salaries. Wahab also expanded on the central role of oil revenue in the KRG’s economic development strategy. The KRG has been producing more than half a million barrels per day, and this production is expected to increase in the future. A memorandum of understanding has recently been signed between the KRG and the Iranian government for the construction of a second pipeline, through which crude oil will be flowing eastward to feed Iranian refineries. Wahab concluded his discussion with comments on alleged land grabs by Kurdish forces (Peshmerga) following the liberation of some areas from ISIS, adjacent to the KRI. The Kurds currently have de facto control over Kirkuk and its oil fields, but the city’s de jure status has yet to be determined. These situations lead to more instability and tension, which at times result in violence, among the different factions present on the ground. The big question is: how will the different political groups negotiate and settle the question of “disputed areas,” once ISIS is defeated? Localized Conflict and Iraq’s Disputed Areas IRIS Director Christine van den Toorn discussed some of the local dynamics and drivers of conflict in areas liberated from ISIS, highlighting the importance of political deal-making at the grassroots level. Social cohesion and community reconciliation will be crucial, as the work of organizations such as USIP and UNDP has recently shown, for communities to return to the liberated areas. Most importantly, she emphasized the ways through which intra-community dynamics can drive “local conflict” and impact prospects for reconciliation. She mentioned the intra-Kurdish power struggles in the disputed areas of Diyala, Sinjar, and Tuz Khurmatu, that has led to constant challenging of local authorities, in a manner that is counter-productive to stabilization. Similar patterns can also be observed among Shi’a militias, who have different allegiances and try to assert themselves as legitimate governing powers where they control territory. Van den Toorn also touched upon inter-tribal dynamics within the broader Sunni community in Iraq. Who should return, and who should authorize that return? Such contentious questions have created serious local tensions in Salahaddin, Anbar, and Diyala, for example. Finally, addressing the case of Sinjar, she discussed the danger of a security and political vacuum, which has in this instance been filled by local forces that challenge the state authority.  Foreign forces, she claimed, also fuel local conflicts in critical ways, and that is tangible in Sinjar, where both the PKK and Iran are exerting influence. Foreign actors pushing for a particular political agenda can complicate deal-making on ground between local communities. She concluded by arguing that political compromise, to be achieved through dialogue at the local level, is the best way to avoid the resurgence of violence in post-ISIS areas. Given the multitude of security actors and political groups active in the country, bottom-up, grassroot-supported agreements including cooperative efforts for stabilization and reconstruction seem to be the most effective tools in the short run. The panel was moderated by Henri Barkey, member of the AUIS Board of Trustees and director of the Wilson Center's Middle East Program.  Speakers: Akeel Abbas Professor, American University of Iraq, Sulaimani Mina al Oraibi Senior Fellow, Institute of State Effectiveness Member, AUIS Board of Trustees   Christine van den Toorn Director, Institute of Regional and International Studies American University of Iraq, Sulaimani Bilal Wahab Professor, International Studies, American University of Iraq, Sulaimani Director, Center for Development and Natural Resources   Moderator Henri J. Barkey Director, Middle East Program, Wilson Center Member, AUIS Board of Trustees View event on Wilson Center's website.   

AUIS Panel Discussion on Future of Iraq at Wilson Center

After ISIS: Politics, Deal-Making, and the Struggle for Iraq’s Future As the Islamic State (ISIS) is rolled back and defeated in Iraq and Syria, the fight for Iraq’s political future will begin. On both a local and national level, a new political deal between the country’s parties and communities will be necessary to keep the country together. Liberated territories will need to be secured by forces acceptable to locals, populations will need to return, and towns must be rebuilt. In addition, intra-Kurdish politics and Baghdad-Erbil relations will need a new framework—whether the Kurds decide to stay or go. Underlying these dynamics is the poor state of the post-oil price decline economy of the Kurdish region. Read full discussion here.  Speakers: Akeel Abbas Professor, American University of Iraq, Sulaimani Mina al Oraibi Senior Fellow, Institute of State Effectiveness Member, AUIS Board of Trustees   Christine van den Toorn Director, Institute of Regional and International Studies American University of Iraq, Sulaimani Bilal Wahab Professor, International Studies, American University of Iraq, Sulaimani Director, Center for Development and Natural Resources   Moderator Henri J. Barkey Director, Middle East Program, Wilson Center Member, AUIS Board of Trustees View event on Wilson Center's website. 

AUIS Professor Shortlisted for the Prestigious Forward Prize for Poetry

Dr. Choman Hardi, professor and chair of English department at AUIS and founding director of the Center for Gender and Development Studies (CGDS), has been shortlisted for the 2016 Forward prize for best poetry collection. Dr. Hardi, nominated for her poetry collection, Considering the Women, is one of five international poets who have been shortlisted for best poetry collection prize. The winner of the £15,000 prize will be awarded at a ceremony at the Royal Festival Hall on September 20, 2016. The Forward Prizes are awards for poetry, presented annually at a ceremony in London with the aim of celebrating excellence in poetry and increasing its audience, raising poetry's profile and linking poetry to people. Hardi’s nominated collection, Considering the Women, is her second collection of poetry in English. The book addresses women’s struggle in a belligerent patriarchal community and as survivors of mass violence. At the heart of this collection lies a sequence of poems, Anfal, which tells the story of the Anfal genocide from the point of view of survivors. The sequence starts with the voice of the researcher, asking questions. Nine women, an old man and a boy narrate their Anfal stories to the inquisitive researcher whose focus and questions radically change by the time they are finished. These poems are formed by Hardi’s post doctoral research about gender and genocide which was published by Routledge in 2011. Dr. Hardi in her recent interview with the Forward Prizes explains the idea behind her book, “Considering the Women took a long time to write. It is shaped by various personal and political concerns. Over the years gender inequality has become a prominent issue for me, especially how violent conflict consolidates gender inequality and how violence trickles down into personal relationships. I have also been interested in history and the voices that are marginalised by the mainstream narratives that inform it.” She also points out that a major force behind writing this collection was “to reclaim victims of violence from the abyss they fall into, where they are no longer seen as individuals with hopes and dreams, they are no longer human but merely nameless victims, a black spot in our history.” The poems “give voice to the survivors whose stories are continually exploited, edited, and shaped by others to suit different purposes and objectives.” The back cover of the book introduces Hardi's collection, “Knowledge has a noxious effect in this book, destroying the poet's earlier optimistic sense of self and replacing it with a darker identity where she is ready for 'all the good people in the world to disappoint her'. Choman Hardi's second collection in English ends with a new beginning found in new love and in taking time off from the journey of traumatic discovery to enjoy the small, ordinary things of life.”  Choman Hardi was born in Sulaimani and lived in Iraq and Iran before seeking asylum in the UK in 1993. She was educated in the universities of Oxford, London and Kent. Her post-doctoral research about women survivors of genocide in Kurdistan-Iraq resulted in a book, Gendered Experiences of Genocide: Anfal Survivors in Kurdistan-Iraq (Ashgate, 2011), which was chosen by the Yankee Book Peddler as a UK Core Title. Hardi has published collections of poetry in Kurdish and English. Her first English collection, Life for Us, was published by Bloodaxe Books in 2004. Four poems from this collection are now part of GCSE English curriculum, being studied by 15 and 16 year old students of English literature in England and Wales. Her latest English collection, Considering the Women (Bloodaxe Books, 2015), was also given a Recommendation by the Poetry Book Society. Read more. The Forward Prizes for Poetry are the most coveted awards for poetry published in Britain and Ireland: they have played an key role in bringing contemporary poetry to the attention of the wider public for quarter of a century. They were set up in 1992 by philanthropist William Sieghart to celebrate excellence in poetry and increase its audience, and are awarded to published poets for work in print in the last year. The three prizes – £15,000 for Best Collection, £5,000 for Best First Collection and £1,000 for Best Single Poem – are unique in honouring both the work of established poets and the debuts of brilliant unknowns. Past Forward Prizes winners include Claudia Rankine, Thom Gunn, Seamus Heaney, Alice Oswald, Ted Hughes, Carol Ann Duffy and Kathleen Jamie. Read more. Related links: Considering the Women, (Bloodaxe, 2015) A review of the book by Martyn Crucifix Forward Arts Foundation in conversation with Choman Hardi News articles about the shortlist in English: Forward prizes reveal shortlists of poems from 'the age of migration': The Guardian Kurdish woman nominated for England poetry award: Kurdistan 24 Prominent Iraqi Kurdish woman Choman Hardi nominated for England poetry award: EKurd Daily Kurdish news articles: Awene Xendan Chawder News

Depicting Victims, Heroines, and Pawns in the Syrian Uprising

Lecture by Dr. Edith Szanto Dr. Szanto, assistant professor at AUIS, will be giving a talk on gendered images of the recent Syrian uprising in the media.  During the onslaught of the Islamic Caliphate on Kobani, media outlets across the globe broadcast pictures of brave and often unveiled Kurdish women fighting ISIS, a quintessentially male force of destruction.  The images of women fighting Islamist male aggressors aroused outrage, admiration, and pity among observers everywhere.  But had all Kurdish fighters been male or had ISIS included female fighters, viewers might have reacted differently.  In order to examine some of the most widely disseminated gendered pictures and videos of the Syrian Uprising in the media, this article draws on Mohja Kahf’s three categories which typify how Muslim and/or Arab women are perceived by the Anglophone reading public.  The first is victims, the second escapees, and the third are pawns of patriarchy and male power.  While this typology helps in examining gendered images of the Syria Uprising, it also obscures, as this article shows, socio-economic realities on the ground.    
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