A chapter written by Dr. Choman Hardi, AUIS Assistant Professor and Founder and Director of the Center of Gender and Development Studies, titled “The Women’s Movement in Kurdistan-Iraq” has been published in “The Cambridge History of the Kurds” (April 2021). In it, Dr. Hardi explains how the history of women’s activism in Iraqi Kurdistan is closely intertwined with the history of political resistance. In the 1950s, she cites, women mobilized against political oppression and later joined the struggle in various capacities, however few women played leadership roles in the resistance. The chapter further elaborates on changes in 1992, when civil society organizations, including women’s rights organizations, proliferated. This growth in the 1990s and 2000s, she argues, combined with the end of the four-year Kurdish civil war in 1998, led to the formation of collaborative networks and umbrella organizations. Now, Dr. Hardi says, it is possible to speak of a women’s movement that, despite its internal shortcomings and outside obstacles, has been able to bring about change in the region. The chapter builds on two earlier studies by Dr. Hardi about the women’s movement in Kurdistan. This piece highlights the achievements and limitations, and focuses on what to do next to overcome perceived stagnation.
The Academic Preparatory Program (APP) at American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS), in collaboration with the University of Sulaimani, hosted a teacher-centered webinar titled "Online Teaching in Undergraduate Studies: Community, Equity, and Self-Guided Learning" on April 15 and 17, 2021. The webinar was a first-time collaboration between the two universities to tackle the current issues of online learning and teaching, with a strong focus on building an online community. Over two days, 80-100 active participants set goals for themselves as online teachers, and used the event to appeal for greater support from other stakeholders (institutions and society). On the first day, the webinar kicked off by highlighting trends and challenges observed from both universities during the Covid Pandemic to discuss solutions for the future of technology in the KRG education system. On the second day, teachers from both universities took on various training sessions on how to conduct successful online classes and to promote equity among students. The project was successfully executed by David Courtney, M.A. (APP Faculty), Zimkitha Mpatheni, M.A. (Deputy Director for APP), Dr. Shilan Ali Hamasur, Ph.D. (Faculty), and Ms. Fatimah Jalal Tahir, M.A. (Faculty and Teacher Quality Assurance Manager).
American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) Lecturer Mrs. Yalda Razmahang has been awarded the Mesopotamian Fellowship of the Committee on Mesopotamian Civilization (the Baghdad Committee) by the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) organization for the 2021-2022 academic year. The fellowship will support Mrs. Razmahang’s proposed work in Iraq, “Assessing Cultural Heritage in Post-Conflict Iraq: The Case of Assur,” which investigates the role that ideology plays in the destruction of cultural heritage. Her initial research measured different communities’ attachment to the world heritage site of Assur and showed that locals in post-ISIS regions are an underappreciated source of protection for cultural heritage. “Their attachment to the Assur suggests that cultural monuments can serve as bridges to unite people of different ethnic backgrounds,” Mrs. Razmahang said. The next round of research will investigate how local women and youth can become more involved in the protection of their own heritage in the future. Mrs. Razmahang has been a lecturer in the social sciences department at AUIS since 2018. She completed her second MA in Archaeology and History from Lyon 2 University, where she digitized ancient sculptures to study prehistoric gender relations in the Near East. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Archaeology at Lyon 2.
Dr. Hemin Latif, Chair of the Information Technology department at AUIS, announced September 13, 2018 his department had welcomed two new staff members to the team for the fall 2018 semester. The IT department was one of the first academic departments established at AUIS and offers a variety of classes on information technology and new technological innovation. With state-of-the-art facilities, ambitious students and eager learners are equipped with tools to succeed both inside and outside the classroom. Engaged, qualified faculty and staff add even more value to the academic experience. “The addition of these new staff members, Ms. Shene Jalil Jamal and Mr. Mohammed Dler, will help ensure the department excels, fulfills all needs and expectations, and provides excellent services to the AUIS community, especially to IT students,” Dr. Latif said. Ms. Jalil holds an MSc. Degree in Software Systems and Internet Technology from the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom. She also holds a B.Sc. in Computer Science from the University of Sulaimani. Ms. Jalil has over six years experience teaching at different universities in the region. Her academic interests include software development and web technologies. She will serve as an adjunct lecturer in the IT Department, teaching the Computer Science and IT Applications class this semester. Mr. Dler is a recent IT graduate from AUIS and will serve in the capacity of IT Lab Assistant. Mr. Dler previously worked at AUIS as an APP Language Coordinator. He is excited to come back to AUIS and is eager to help the department succeed. “I am confident this department will continue on the path towards growth and expansion,” Dr. Latif said. “Ms. Shene and Mr. Mohammed are going to play a valuable role in the future plans for the department.”
On October 14, 2017, Dr. Atheer Matroud, assistant professor of Information Technology at AUIS, along with some faculty members of other Iraqi universities, conducted a seminar titled “Sober Scientific Research and Publication in International Journals” organized by The House of Wisdom, in Baghdad. The House of Wisdom is an intellectual and scientific establishment that deals with scholarly research and academic studies. The purpose of the seminar was to establish the best method for writing effective research papers. The audience was introduced to software tools for writing, referencing, and checking for plagiarism. They also addressed problems concerning academic writing in Iraq. During the seminar, Dr. Matroud prioritized the impact of plagiarism, whether done intentionally or unintentionally, citing examples. Unintentional plagiarism is when you accidentally fail to cite your sources correctly, which is still counted as plagiarism and is not acceptable. Dr. Matroud stressed that any form of plagiarism can lead to serious legal implications as well as destroyed reputation or even the loss of a career. The seminar was well attended and organized, with representation from many universities in Iraq. The audience also enjoyed listening to new methods and approaches for writing academic research papers. Some members of public universities also requested to host similar seminars at their institutions. Commenting on the seminar, Dr. Hemin Latif, chair of the IT department at AUIS, said, “Our faculty members at AUIS bring a lot of international expertise that the higher education sector in the country can, and must, benefit from. Dr. Matroud’s seminar is a very good step toward bridging the expertise gap between AUIS and other national institutions.” Commenting on the quality of research and academic writing at AUIS, Dr. Matroud said: “I have found that at AUIS we are way ahead in training our students, especially, on the topic of writing and plagiarism.” Article by IT Department Communications Intern, Mr. Aran Kamaran.
On October 4, 2017, Dr. Hemin Latif, assistant professor and chair of the Information Technology Department at AUIS, gave a workshop and guest lecture on Creative Coding and Computing to the participants of an Android bootcamp organized by Re: coded, a non-governmental organization in Erbil. The purpose of the workshop was to show how the Creative Coding and Computing course offered at AUIS differs from traditional programming courses in its design, delivery, and impact. Dr. Latif shared the reasons why introductory programming courses fail to give a strong education in coding and computing to a generic audience. He mentioned how this course resolves major problems of traditional programming courses and the problems that cause most students to drop out from these courses. He also discussed creativity as a concept that is required for everyone, and especially for programmers. At the end of the workshop, many participants were inspired by the benefits that the course could bring. Mr. Allan Saleh, a participant, said, “Dr. Hemin's speech reminded me of how creativity has a huge impact on what I want to achieve. Definitely a wake-up call to innovation.” Mr. Mustafa Alfaisal, another attendant, commented, “I hope every college includes this creative course in their curriculum.” Currently, AUIS is the only university in the region that offers this course and there is great student demand for it. Hopefully, more unique courses like Creative Coding and Computing will be offered in AUIS that could become supportive for learning and developing the ideas about, and beyond, the main regular courses and curriculum. Article by IT Department Communications Intern, Mr. Aran Kamaran
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.
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.