About chrisdebruyn

A few of my major passions are development work, photography and teaching. I am happy to have a forum whereby I can communicate my opinions on major issues with others.

Arab Youth Climate Movement

Written by Karzan Fadhil. The Arab Youth Climate Movement (AYCM) Workshop was a seven-day workshop organized for the first time in Cairo, Egypt at the Wadi Environmental Science Centre. It was organized by IndyAct partnered with 350, GCCA, DEMENA, and CAN. The aim of the workshop was to empower participants to be influential climate movement leaders in the Arab region and to build their capacities by teaching them new strategies to effectively involve in the climate movements. At the workshop, we learned how to both assemble local grassroots movements and raise awareness of the local residents about climate change and its devastating impacts in their countries.
AYCM outsideIt was a selective workshop that 20 climate leaders were accepted out of a pool of 500 applicants in the Middle East and Northern Africa based on their extensive experience in the environment and climate change movements. Arab Youth Climate Movement (AYCM) was launched by the 20 climate leaders prior to the UNFCCC COP18 Doha negotiations, and it was established to create a wide movement to solve climate change crisis throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
During the workshop there were many knowledgeable facilitators from different countries,
 such as U.S, UK, Lebanon, and including Egypt who are strongly engaged in the climate
 environmental movements. Also, it is worth mentioning that diversity was one of the strengths of the workshop that most of the environmental activists and climate leaders had come from different countries, such as Iraq, UAE, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Mauritania, Algeria, Oman, Jordan, Palestine, and Bahrain.
Karzan Fadhil in front of the Pyramids in EgyptAlthough many people in Iraq applied to the workshop, I was the only candidate chosen to
 attend. I participated as a student at The American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) and as a Development Club member. Eventually, Arab Youth Climate Movement (AYCM) was launched and the participants were selected as the National Coordinators of (AYCM) for their countries, and the workshop culminated with giving the participants certificates for their accomplishment to continue their role as the National Coordinators in their countries. Now my role as the National Coordinator of AYCM for Iraq is to bring youths together from different parts of Iraq and establish AYCM Iraq, which will take a powerful and a crucial role in the climate movements and mobilizing communities in the Arab region and outside, so those people who are interested in working and collaborating with AYCM are more than welcome to join us by filling out the online application.
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UNAMI meeting

AUIS‘ Development Club members met today with staff from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) about collaborating in the near future on ways to address developmental issues.

We discussed a lecture series on a number of relevant issues including women’s right, water rights etc involving branches of the UN, civil society groups and AUIS students.

Environmental March in Iraq

Participants marching through Sulaimani's Azadi Park

I dropped a grimy styrofoam cup into the burlap sack around my shoulder and took stock of what was going on all around me. Dozens of bikers were chatting as they slowly pedaled past me on my left side. A handful of local artists were holding banners and mock-hangman nooses nailed to 2-meter-long slats of wood ahead of me. A few children holding bamboo shoots scampered beside their parents as they picked up empty water bottles and cigarette butts off of Sulaimani’s main street, and surrounding the entire 200-person-strong entourage was a perimeter of stern-faced police officers marching in formation. A smirk slowly spread to an ear-to-ear smile as I saw with my own eyes the most meaningful experience of my two years in Iraq take place.

Dozens of participants rode bikes to demonstrate easy alternatives to fossil fuels

Climate Action Day Iraq was just one of hundreds of grassroots demonstrations that took place on September 24th, 2011. The umbrella organization which made the demonstration possible was 350.org, named after the upper limit ppm (parts per million) of CO2 in the atmosphere, past which the effects climate change becomes increasingly difficult to reverse, 350. Since co-founding AUI-S’ Development Club in March, I have been able to meet and work with dozens of local NGOs in Sulaimani working towards making their community a better place. When I floated the idea about an environmental march in Sulaimani out to my contacts in Suli-based NGOs, the response was encouraging; Nature Iraq, Development Now, Sulyon, Mercy Corps, and the Green Environment Group were committed to seeing this project take place.

Many of the participants held banners and slogans promoting environmental protection.

I’ll spare you accounts of the mind-numbingly inefficient trips back and forth from the governor’s office to the special police headquarters as organizers and I prepared official permission for the event. According to Nabil Musa, one of the organizers for Climate Action Day and a staff member of Nature Iraq, the process for getting approval for a demonstration has become much more difficult following the heated public anti-government demonstrations earlier this year. In preparation for the event, Nabil, Azar Othman from Sulyon and I scouted the bazaar in search of sponsors for the event. We were able to use dozens of planks of wood thanks to donations from local woodworkers. Local bike shops granted us reduced prices for renting 35 bikes for the day. Not only that but Zara Supermarket not only donated use of its garbage truck but also subsidized bamboo plants which we purchased for Climate Action Day Iraq participants.

It was inspiring to see so many groups of people work together on a project like this. Many of the development club students I had been working with for months took ownership of the issue of climate change in Iraq. A number of my students help prepare the banners and paint t-shirts before the event at Sulyon’s office. Amanj Saeed, the leader of the Green Environment Group wrote much of the initial proposal, which helped many of the organizations explain and fund the project through donors. Local and international media came out to film the event and interview participants, which were able to spread the message of environmental protection to many millions of viewers nationwide.

Have you been involved in this project? Please feel free to rate this project using the stars below and leave specific comments so that projects like this one can become more meaningful over time.

Climate Action Day Proposal


Location: Suliamani, Iraq Purpose: Awareness of Climate change/ Environmental Protection Date: 24 September 2011 Description: Green environment group, Development Now, Sulyon Group , Iraq nature, Iraq upper Tigers Water keeper are organizing the project climate day action in Sulaimani city. Climate … Continue reading

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Photo: Chris De Bruyn

Development Now will be partnering in the near future with the San Francisco-based  nonprofit organization NetSquared, focused on the intersection of technology and social impact. NetSquared is a subsidiary of TechSoup and has been operating since 2005. We are hoping to organize monthly gatherings open to anyone in the Sulaimani region interested in making their community a better place using technological tools. Development Now is the first NetSquared organizer in Iraq although there are:

  •  Organizers on 6 continents
  •  83 NetSquared groups in 64 countries
  • 170 organizers around the world

Feel free to spread the word! Our first NetSquared event is open to anyone in the Sulaimani area that wants to use technology to help its community and is scheduled for the beginning of October, 2011.

Development Club

Development Club A group of students studying at the American University of Iraq- Sulaimani (AUI-S) formed Development Club in March 2011. Since its onset, Development Club members have been visiting local NGOs, meeting with community members and analyzing issues related sustainable development in Sulaimani, Iraqi Kurdistan.

 These hard-working volunteers are committed to assessing developmental projects, summarizing what they observe, peer-editing and finally posting their findings on this website. We hope to publish excerpts of their findings in both Kurdish and Arabic in the near future. Without the dedication and courage of these students, this website wouldn’t be possible.

Development Club members on top of a tank at Sulaimani's Red Museum

A special thanks to Development Club members:

  • Ali Adnan
  • Ari Hammed
  • Awan Ahmed
  • Chawan Mohammed
  • Dastan Sabah
  • Dlpak Ali
  • Hawkar Rafiq
  • Karzan Fadhil
  • Mariam Khalid
  • Mina Bassam
  • Noor Al Janabi

Photography auction: Raising funds for Iraqi artists

Chris De Bruyn with members of Sulyon

Last year I met with Dr. Nicole Watts, a political science professor at San Francisco State University, in a café in the Northern Iraqi city of Sulaimani. We looked through a collection of photographs I’ve taken over the past few years and after a few cups of coffee we decided to pursue a photography exhibition in California. Over the following six or seven months we solidified the theme of ‘Constructing Kurdistan’, got in touch with a handful of people at U.C. Berkeley and made all of the necessary preparations for the show.

straightening the photos for the exhibition

A few weeks prior to flying to CA for the exhibition, I stopped by another café in Suli and once again, conversations over a steaming cup of joe fanned the flames for another big project. Along with Leah, the Athletic Director of AUI-S, and Tanya Mewmaw’s help, the three of us decided to organize a photography auction of the ‘Constructing Kurdistan’ photos right here in Kurdistan, and give all of the proceeds a worthy local organization, Sulyon.

Sulyon is a group of Iraqi artists that is doing some wonderful things. I was first introduced to the group of young artists  when I stumbled upon a street theater performance they put on this past October. The performance dealt with issues of tolerance and racism and was one of the most interesting things I’ve seen since coming to Iraq. The group consists of roughly 45 members, the majority of which are students or recent graduates of visual and theater arts from Iraqi universities in Sulaimani.

Tim Mewmaw helps auction the photos

On February 4th Leah, Tanya and I held our breath and had the auction. Staff and faculty from AUI-S and NGOs based in Sulaimani as well as local community members were in attendance. The auction lasted approximately two hours and it raised over $3,000 for Sulyon. I’m looking forward to checking in with them soon to see what projects they have planned for the money.

Have you been involved in this project? Please feel free to rate this project using the stars below and leave specific comments so that projects like this one can become more meaningful over time.