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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Bozo the Bear and Animal Trafficking in Iraqi Kurdistan

Written by Tebeen Muhamad. From the beginning of life, God has created various creatures, most of which are wild animals. Human beings have categorized them according to their way of living and species. Wild animals, as we can see from the word “wild,” which means “living or growing in natural conditions; not kept in a house or on a farm” (Oxford Dictionary), are beasts that have to be in nature and away from people in order to live wildly. Among the carnivores, we can find a large group of mammals: bears.

Bozo, a small, charming two-and-a-half-month-old Syrian Brown Bear was found by filmmaker, San Saravan, a month ago on the streets of Sulaimani, Iraqi Kurdistan. The origins of Bozo aren’t clear. Bozo was driven to Sulaimani by car from Duhok, although the whereabouts of his parents are unknown. San stumbled upon the young bear tied to a residence in the Sarchinar district of Sulaimani, Iraqi Kurdistan. Disgusted by the small cage and worried about Bozo’s health, San bought the bear in an attempt to prevent additional harm from befalling Bozo. People surmise his family was killed during the attacks to Kurdistan, whereas others argue that his family has brought to Syria as he is a Syrian bear.

Although I’m sure that San meant the best for Bozo, was buying an endangered animal the right choice? If I want to stop animal trafficking, should I purchased trafficked animals? I contend that purchasing trafficked animals will encourage the traffickers to continue business as usual. If we really want to minimize the number of Bozos in Iraq, we should advocate for strict anti-trafficking laws and we should report those that sell and buy endangered animals.

Although finding Bozo’s family is one of the best solutions that we, people having cared about animals and having had sympathy, should do to save Bozo, we have to keep him alive until finding his family. The question is, how can we keep him alive?

Because Bozo is a bear like the other bears around the world, keeping him in a small confined cage might cause him to die. Bears are wild animals, which require hills, forests, mountains and the abundance of nature to thrive. Consequently, the more Bozo is kept in a cramped urban environment, the more we would be responsible for what happens to him.

Many people have been voluntarily working to find solutions and help Bozo; however, nothing, unfortunately, has been found so far. Kurdistan, where there are habitats for diverse animals, has many mountain ranges, but these natural sources have to be protected by both the government and the people. Thus, precious animals like bears cannot randomly be taken to one of the mountains since wild animals might be harmful if people try to hunt them.

“A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite and to act so is immoral” (Leo Tolstoy)

Kurdistan is in the process of development, which means everything is developing including the substandard zoos, which don’t provide adequate housing, food or care for the animals. Yet, the more Kurdistan government abolish “animal hunting,” the more animals, like Bozo would survive.

To conclude, Bozo is a bear and an example of an animal that needs help. Bozo’s plight is not unique but he is simply one data point on an issue of growing concern both nationally and around the world.

Visit to Hiwa Hospital

Written by Karzan Fadhil

Hiwa hospital is a cancer patients hospital established in Iraq-Sulaimani, which includes over four hundred children diagnosed with cancer. The hospital does not only include Kurdish children, but also it has accepted various children from different parts of Iraq with open arms. Today, a group of students from the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) organized a visit to the hospital, and gave the children many gifts. The trip was organized by Jwan Farhad, a student in the undergraduate program at AUIS. During the visit the  students met the children and closely talked with them to make them happy. For most of the students it was the first time to visit the hospital and see their hard circumstance, but ultimately during their discussions with the children’s mothers their eyes filled with tears, and they sympathized with children’s parents.

In the hospital, there were many children diagnosed with cancer at different ages, ranging from one-year-old to their early teens. The AUIS students met a group of approximately 35 children. The children’s mothers complained about the cost of medicines that sometimes there is the lack of medicines, so they have to buy them outside the hospital, and they are too expensive for them because many of them do not have a good financial situation.

Despite the fact that the children are terminally ill, they became happy when they were given the gifts, and their mothers smiled at their optimism, so AUIS students tried to wipe sadness off their faces as much as they could. At the end of our visit, we talked with Kak Nariman, an official at the hospital, about the patients’ conditions. He assured us that a few of them have hopes to be cured, but it is the matter of time. Also, he hoped that our visit would not be the last visit to the hospital. Finally, he expressed his thanks and appreciation towards AUIS students for their visit, and he thanked them for the initiative that they took.

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Doku 5: Filmmaking Workshops

Some of the equipment used during the Doku 5 workshops

In a field trip to the Red Museum, the scene of a group of men and women who were sitting next to one another, circling around a television caught my eyes. Each member was saying his/her opinion while others listened attentively.

From looking at their faces, I knew that they are not all from one ethnic group. When we started talking to them, it became even clearer that Kurds, Arabs, and French were members of this group. Doku 5 is a group of filmmakers who all work together on producing documentary films about thought-provoking issues in Iraq.

Doku 5 participants taking part in the workshops

The word Doku is an abbreviation for Documentary, and the number “5” stands for their fifth project. ARTE television, the C.F.I organization, and Iraqi French Institute help organize and fund the Doku workshops.

They have produced over a dozen short films from their previous four workshops and are well on their way to completing a fifth set of films.  Throughout the course of the workshop, participants sharpen their skills with creating a story, filming, sound, and then finally editing their works in Erbil in September. Doku 5 usually shows its works in a number of European film festivals, ending with a show in Paris, France. After the initial festivals the films also appear on the ARTE television channel.

What is interesting and fascinating about this group is that each member has his/her own idea, but in making that idea become a film, all the other members participate and spend time and energy to bring it to life through the use cameras, microphones, and other filmmaking equipment. despite the success of the project there have been some criticisms about the efficiency of funds and the prerequisites of participants to be conversational in French or English.

Development club students interviewing an Iranian Doku 5 participant who plans to document his journey to U.K. without a passport

Group work usually facilitates success in a project, especially when each member of the group shares information, listens to, and more importantly trusts, one another. A Kurdish proverb says “what is hard to be accomplished alone, is easy to achieve when cooperating with one another.” Given the success of the past five Doku workshops, I am hopeful that one day my grandchildren will be writing an article about Doku 100.

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Conference Calls Bridging Worlds

Four Iraqi university students during the teleconference with American students.

Sixty Iraqi students collected in a conference room, eyes glued to a TV that showed about forty American students smiling back.  After a brief introduction from both sides, students bravely shuffled forward to sit in a chair fitted with a microphone and a webcam with their peers surrounding them.  Students’ hesitation turned to confidence as the conversation progressed.  The questions morphed from the innocuous “What do you do on the weekends?” and “Why are Americans always smiling?” to the contentious “Do you ever feel physically threatened?” and “Why does the American government like controlling the whole world?”.  Thought provoking answers fell on fascinated ears from both ends.  As it turned out, both sides shared similar interests and difficulties.  Almost everyone enjoyed going to the movies and hanging out with friends and almost everybody faced too much homework and hard economic times.  After an hour and a half of meaningful exchange, my Iraqi students exited the conference room beaming on account of the bridge they had just constructed linking the two worlds.

The teleconferences were held via skype and projected onto a screen.

The idea started as a small pen pal exchange and quickly evolved into a full teleconference.  Students exchanged questions before hand, setting the basis from which a fantastic cross-cultural conversation blossomed.  Using the first conference as a stepping stone, I organized another one albeit with a more intimate atmosphere.

Four waving Iraqi students sat in a row facing a webcam and a microphone.  On the other end four American students waved back.  Based on information exchanged before the call, they traded probing questions about problems facing their societies.   The protests sweeping the Middle East including Iraq were of particular interest to both sides.  Identifying the corruption that runs like rain through Iraq, one student emphasized “before the war, we had one lion: Saddam.  Now we have many lions”.  Discrimination, corruption, and economic issues were highlights.  Of course, with the American students being in Cleveland, my Iraqi students were curious as to how a river could catch on fire.  Though we all had a good laugh about that one, it was a sad reminder about the pollution problems that both societies face.  As the conversation pushed on, superficial differences melted away, and students again realized that the similarities outweighed the differences.  After an hour and a half, everybody was all smiles; another bridge had been erected.

Out of focus students realize that there is much more that brings them together than that drives them apart.

The most recent teleconference involved about twenty of my Iraqi students and five American students.  Though politics made a brief appearance, they mostly wanted to escape to the land of pop culture.  Excited students listed American TV shows they loved (24, Prison Break, Lost) and exchanged their opinions on pop icons.  Sadly, only one American student knew some Arabic pop culture (none knew any Kurdish pop culture) but the others replied that they were eager to learn.  At the end of the teleconference, everyone was enthusiastic about continuing the conversation.  The American students set up a Facebook group and invited the Iraqi students to join.  They have since traded numerous messages back and forth.

This Fall I am planning a more intricate teleconference with Development Now members discussing sustainable development issues and conflict resolution in Iraq with masters students in America.  I hope it will be as successful as the other teleconferences have been bridging worlds.

Iraqi students and their English instructor

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منظمة الوادي (Wadi-Arabic)


اركان احمد  2011/7/2      وهي منظمة المانية تعمل في اقليم كوردستان بشمال العراق, و تعنى بحل المشاكل التي تواجهها المرأة في اقليم كوردستان منذ منتصف التسعينات, وهدفها دعم وحماية حقوق المرأة و كذلك تقليل العنف التي تواجهها في المجتمع الكوردي. … Continue reading

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Wadi Organization

Chatting with staff at Wadi’s office in Sulaimaniyah

Written by Karzan Fadhil. June 18, 2011.

Wadi is a German-based organization  in Northern Iraq’s Kurdish region.  This organization has been working on ways to solve problems faced by women  in the region of Kurdistan since the mid 90’s.  Its aim is to support and protect women’s rights as well as reduce the violence faced by women in Kurdish society.  Wadi aims to reduce the violence against women and help enable them to find employment in addition to advocating for women’s rights.

Many of Wadi's projects take place near Halabja, the site of the horrific chemical bombings in 1988.

For instance, wadi organization has a radio station in Halabja that has many useful programs for women. It spreads many helpful programs related to women’s problems.  Also, it has dealt with many problems faced by women through dialogue or through legal systems.  In summary, wadi is a non-governmental organization that has a strong and an obvious effect in our society in finding solutions for women’s problems including support for domestic violence, awareness of the dangers of honor killing and advocacy for women’s rights.

Dastan taking notes about Wadi's projects

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