The Green Music and Arts Festival in Sulaimani, Iraq

Although the Green Music and Arts Festival was on the 20th of April, our work in the Development Club started weeks before that. We began by sharing what each of us had in mind for the games that we needed to build for the festival. Our ideas had to be simple but at the same time they had to be creative.

We all had amazing ideas. The games had to be made from recycled materials to fit with the environmental theme, so we looked around campus for spare wood, cardboard, and plastic. We built the games, painted them and the results were perfect. Mr. Kevin practiced some songs with his Guitar Club students and they translated some verses of the song “Imagine” by John Lennon into Kurdish.

On the festival’s day, we started the preparations early in the morning, and it was lots of fun to prepare for it. We even played some games during the preparations. Azadi Park, where the festival was held, was a really beautiful place, and it was an ideal spot for students and teachers alike to gather and enjoy their time.

There were three hosts for the festival including myself, and the performances were presented by the hosts in English, Kurdish, and Arabic to enhance the ability of the audience to culturally relate to the performances and make a sense of cultural unity among the people. During the festival there was an elocution contest among the students of the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani. They each presented the same environmentally themed Kurdish poem that was translated into English. It was a really creative event overall, and it showed the students’ talents from different aspects.

One of the things I really enjoyed was drawing the American, Kurdish, and Iraqi flags on children’s faces and on adult’s faces too. It highlighted the cultural unity that brought us all together for one cause: helping our environment.

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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.

Green Environment Group

Written by Karzan Fadhil.  A few weeks ago, AUIS’ Development Club met with a grassroots environment-focused organization based in Sulaimani, the Green Environment Group (GEG). We chatted with the group leader Amanj Saeed about the organization and  some of its recent projects intended to spread awareness about some environmental issues that affect Iraq, such as climate change, global warming, pollution, etc.

Amanj Saeed giving a short presentation about the state of the environment in Iraq

There are roughly 30 members in this active, grassroots organization. Many of the members are young adults, and some of their strengths are their ability to communicate and their passion for environmental protection. This group is an offshoot of the Mercy Corps-funded Global Citizens’ Corps (GCC) program. The GEG focuses on environmental education in Iraq, and hopes to increase the green areas and make its community a healthier, better place. One of GEG’s most successful projects involved visiting eight primary schools to tell students about the threats of the environment in Northern Iraq. They explained for the students about many environmental topics, such as: trash art, global days, earth hour, environmental education activities, etc. In total, roughly three hundred students participated in this project.

A presentation given by GEG at Azadi park during Climate Actin Day

The most recent project the GEG was involved in was Climate Action Day, a march through the Iraqi city of Sulaimani, during which participants picked up garbage and raised awareness about the importance of environmental protection. Amanj Saeed gave a presentation at the end of the march in Sulaimani’s Azadi Park.

The GEG makes good use of social media as tools to help group members communicate and spread messages about their projects with community members. Feel free to pay a visit to their Facebook page. Hopefully the GEG will be able to continue its meaningful work on mobilizing communities to be aware of issues and take action towards improving the environment in Iraq.

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.