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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 pic.twitter.com/vT5WoDSQPH — 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. 

Battle of Empires Champion Edition

    A special edition of Battle of Empires will attempt to decide which civilization achieved the best social, political, economic and strategic outcomes in history. Teams will use words, instead of swords, to decide. Each team will present their empire in the best light and their opponent in the worst light. An expert panel made up of Dr. Frederick Monsma and Dr. Tobin Hartnell from the Department of Social Sciences and Thomas Shaughnessy from the English Department will vote the winner in each round until there is only one team standing. Who will triumph? Will it be the Persians, the Romans or a yet unknown challenger?   If you think you can put together a team of six first year students to defeat the class champions, then join the battle by emailing tobin.hartnell@auis.edu.krd before 5:00 PM today! You will need the attached form to prepare for the challenge.   

Symposium on the Origins of Kurdish Civilization

  In the last five years there have been a tremendous amount of new discoveries relating to the earliest history of the Kurdish highlands. In a symposium organized by the AUIS Center of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (CACHE) on October 28, 2015, local and international guest speakers discussed some of these latest discoveries. The symposium brought together scholars from the US, Portugal, Belgium and the Kurdistan region of Iraq. The panel included: Dr. Tobin Hartnell, director of AUIS Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Center Dr. Hashim Hama Abdullah, director of Sulaimani Museum Dr. Kozad Ahmed, director of Archaeology at University of Sulaimani Steve Renette, AUIS Archaeology/CACHE Fellow, University of Pennsylvania André Tomé, Universidade di Coimbra Dr.Kozad opened the symposium with a presentation on the historical evidence of the earliest states in the region of Kurdistan. You can listen to his talk in the AUIS podcast below.  The highlight of the discussion was a talk on the latest discovery of the Tablet V of the Epic of Gilgamesh by Dr. Hama. The tablet has been acquired by the Sulaimani Museum and is on display there. André Tomé talked about the exciting findings from their excavation at the historical site of Kani Shaei near Sulaimani. He explained that the discoveries are related to different periods, including Ubaid, Uruk, early Bronze Age, Hellenistic period, and the Islamic period. Steve Renette then discussed some of the pottery and grave findings from the excavation site. The Portuguese team hope to continue their excavation project next year. You can find out out more about the Kani Shaei Archaeological Project on their website.  Podcasts of talks by all speakers will be posted here soon. Contributed by Shatoo Diyar Bakir - Communications student volunteer 

The Origins of Civilization in the Kurdish Highlands

  In the last five years, there have been a tremendous amount of new discoveries relating to the earliest history of the Kurdish highlands. This symposium will bring together scholars from the US, Portugal, Belgium, and Kurdistan to talk about the earliest civilizations in the region. Highlights include Dr. Hashim Hama Abdulllah, director of Sulaimani Museum, who will present the newly discovered Gilgamesh tablet;  Dr. Kozad Ahmed (University of Sulaimani) will discuss the earliest historical evidence for states in the region, whilst Steve Renette (University of Pennsylvania) and Andre Tome (Universadad de Coimbra, Portugal) will talk about evidence for social complexity in prehistory. Please join us at 3:30 for a short reception, where you can meet the speakers informally, before the symposium begins at 4:00 PM.   The event is hosted by the AUIS Center for Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (CACHE).     The event is open to the AUIS community. Outside guests can attend by invitation only.   

AUIS Hosts First Annual Iraq Cultural Heritage Symposium

The Department of Social Sciences and the Institute of Regional and International Studies (IRIS) at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS), organized the first annual Iraq Cultural Heritage Symposium on April 26, 2015. The symposium, “Iraqi Cultural Heritage in Crisis: Strategies for the Future”, brought together prominent scholars, policy makers, government officials, cultural professionals, and journalists from the Kurdistan Region, Iraq, and beyond to discuss the complex and pressing issues relating to cultural heritage in the region. The Symposium addressed vital issues pertaining to preservation and management of Iraq’s cultural heritage in three different panels. The discussions were moderated by Tobin Hartnell, an archaeologist and professor of social sciences at AUIS. Panel 1: From Mesopotamia to Iraq: Valuing the Past for Iraq’s Future The speakers in the first panel spoke about the importance and value of cultural heritage and why it is important to safeguard and preserve it. They included: Gyorgy Busztin, Deputy-Secretary of UN Assistance Mission Iraq (UNAMI) - Building a Positive Future through Cultural Heritage Mala Awat, Director of the Erbil Directorate of Antiquities - Cultural Heritage in the KRG Hashem Hama Abdullah, Director of the Sulaimani Museum - Restoring the Museum and Future Projects Iqbal Kadhim Aajeel, Director of the Nasriyah Museum - Provincial Museums and Cultural Heritage: A Closer Look at Nasriyah Museum Marie Labrosse, Lecturer, AUIS - Preserving Archives against a Future of Conflict The discussion was followed by a musical performance by internationally renowned Kurdish musician and daf (frame drum) player, Hajar Zahawy. Panel 2: Destruction and Sale of Iraqi and Kurdish Civilization The second panel focused on the destruction of important heritage sites by the Islamic State (ISIS), as well as the smuggling and looting of antiquities in Iraq and Kurdistan. The speakers included: Axel Plathe, Director of UNESCO, Iraq - UNESCO’s Mission to Protect Cultural Heritage in Iraq Ahmad Kamel Mohammed, Director of Iraqi Museum in Baghdad - The Significance of Reopening the Iraqi Museum Bilal Wahab, Assistant Professor, AUIS - Funding ISIS with the Illicit Trade in Antiquities Muayad Said Damerji, Former Director of Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage - Managing Cultural Heritage during Sanctions Panel 3: The Future of Cultural Heritage Management in Iraq The final discussion focused on the future of the cultural heritage in Iraq. Speakers talked about government policies, training and international support for preserving and managing cultural heritage in the region. Experts presented examples of cultural heritage restoration in the Kurdistan Region using the latest methods and technology. AUIS Professor, Tobin Hartnell, also discussed the opening of an Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Center at AUIS in the future, one dedicated to training and educating local cultural heritage management professionals. The speakers on the third panel at the symposium included: Simone Mühl, Assistant Professor, Ludwig-Maxilimian-Universität - Rescue Excavations and Cultural Heritage Management Jessica Giraud, Research Fellow, Institut Français Proche Orient, Head of French Mission to Sulaimani - The Potential of Remote Sensing in Cultural Heritage Management Tobin Hartnell, Assistant Professor, AUIS - The Future of Archaeology at AUIS Kozad Ahmed, Head of Archaeology at University of Sulaimani - Investigating the History of Ancient Kurdistan Mustafa Ahmed, Research Fellow, Institut Français Proche Orient - Syrian Culture in Crisis The conference was held at a pivotal time, as ISIS is systematically destroying the cultural heritage of northern Iraq. However, the recent openings of the Baghdad and Nasriyah Museums highlight the positive role cultural heritage can play as an alternative to the extremist narrative. As cultural heritage management requires local, regional, national, and international collaboration to be successful; this symposium hopes to provide a regular platform for addressing these issues and build ever-closer collaboration between the most important stakeholders around the region and the world. The event was sponsored by Vinci, an architecture and interior design company in Sulaimani. See more photos of the event on our facebook page.

Ifpo Conducts Archaeology Workshops for AUIS Students

The workshops were arranged by Dr. Tobin Hartnell, assistant professor of Social Sciences at AUIS. The workshops came about as ifpo and AUIS are discussing the framework for future collaboration and cooperation between the two institutes on archeological work in the region. The workshops were led by Dr. Jessica Giraud, research fellow and resident archaeologist at Ifpo and Cécile Verdellet, also a ceramics archaeologist at Ifpo. Dr. Giraud delivered the first training workshop on May 2nd on the “principles of landscape archaeology”. She explained in great detail the concept of landscape archaeology and how it adds value to historical research. The students also learned about geographic coordinate systems and how to locate specific areas using modern GPS systems. It was a very useful exercise since most AUIS students do not use maps in their daily lives, but are now familiar with how maps are produced and how coordinate systems work. Cécile Verdellet led the second workshop on ceramics and pottery analysis on May 9th. It was an all-day training session on how archaeologists select and use particular pieces of pottery or ceramics to gain valuable insight about the past. They also learned about the special properties of clay that make it one of the most valuable artistic mediums of the pre-modern world. Students learned about how specialists would collect clay, shape vessels, fire vessels, and what ancient residents would use these vessels for. The third and final workshop was a field a trip to the Ranya Plain on May 16th to study landscape archaeology. Dr. Giraud used different historical sites and structures to explain and teach how archaeologists see and document landscapes for research purposes. The students also collected and reviewed samples of pottery and ceramics from some of the historical sites. Dr. Giraud was a very good guide and the site she chose systematically dealt with different issues of landscape archaeology to provide valuable lessons in archaeological survey. Overall, the workshops served as an excellent introduction to archaeological survey and training for the students. AUIS now aims to explore the possibility of running a more sustainable and systematic training program with Ifpo, Erbil to create a strong foundation for archaeological fieldwork in the region. See photos of the workshops on our facebook page. A full report of the workshops can be viewed online here.   

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 tobin.hartnell@auis.edu.krd or Christine van den Toorn, the Director of IRIS, at iris@auis.edu.krd.  Article by Dr. Tobin Hartnell, Department of Social Sciences, American University of Iraq, Sulaimani. 
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