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IBB Update: Freedom on All Fronts
Our latest program wins an award while the House of Wisdom hits a new level. Meanwhile or efforts to empower innovation and end censorship continue.
Welcome Back to the IBB Update!
We're thrilled to share the exciting news of IBB's recent triumph in the inaugural Smart Bet Competition. Our 'Open for Business in Kurdistan' initiative, bolstered by a new $50,000 award from Atlas Network, promises to breathe new life into Iraq's Kurdistan region with streamlined business registration and progressive legal reforms.
Our commitment to knowledge and leadership flourishes through the House of Wisdom 2.0 project, which has significantly influenced the MENA region by translating a wide variety of content and investing in the potential of over 100 emerging leaders over this past year. On the ground, the entrepreneurial spirit is strong with local heroes like Kamaran Safar's Kurdwears, Jaafar Alsaadi's XO Center, and Ali Elmadanie's Jummarts, who have been instrumental in driving both economic and cultural growth amidst challenging circumstances.
Furthermore, the Yolo Art Center stands as a sanctuary of culture and connectivity for refugees in Istanbul, symbolizing the unyielding human spirit. In stark contrast, the international acclaim of "Attack on Titan" reminds us of the ongoing battle for artistic freedom, as its suppression by the Chinese Communist Party throws into sharp relief the value of the expression liberties we strive to defend. Join us as we delve into these stories of courage, creativity, and change.
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IBB wins the first Smart Bet Competition
We're proud to share the triumph of our "Open for Business in Kurdistan" initiative, which has garnered a $50,000 award from the Atlas Network competition. This accolade will accelerate our efforts to revolutionize the startup environment in Iraq's Kurdistan region over the coming two years. Our project centers on deploying a one-stop business registration site to streamline the process to under 24 hours, amplifying our message through a robust social media campaign to reach one million views and enacting pivotal legal changes with the Kurdish Parliament's cooperation. This collaboration with Atlas Network is a cornerstone in fostering an era of entrepreneurial vigor in Kurdistan and setting a precedent for economic innovation across the Middle East.
House of Wisdom 2.0
Our translation efforts at the House of Wisdom 2.0 have reached millions across the MENA region this past year, bringing a wealth of knowledge in various forms, such as books, magazines, and videos. We have made a significant impact on the lives of countless individuals and helped them develop their powers of language and critical thinking. Additionally, we have empowered over 100 emerging leaders in the Middle East with grants aimed at fostering innovation and leadership.
Kamaran Safar, a petroleum engineer who opened the first leather workshop in Kurdistan's Duhok, has found success with his handmade leather goods, popular among the city's youth. Despite challenges with sourcing materials and a difficult regulatory environment, Safar persists with his brand Kurdwears, aiming to inspire other Kurdish entrepreneurs and use business as a vehicle for social change. The region has seen a startup boom, influenced by an influx of diverse cultures during recent conflicts, but is at a crossroads due to bureaucratic hurdles and a reliance on the oil sector. Efforts are underway to modernize business regulations and support startups, with initiatives like a one-stop registration website and financial aid aiming to transform Kurdistan into a hub for free enterprise in the Middle East.
Jaafar Alsaadi launched XO Center in Baghdad in 2022, a digital printing platform designed to support Iraqi artists and designers by selling their work online, offering a new avenue for talent in a region with few similar opportunities. XO Center quickly gained traction after receiving support from an Innovation Hub grant, helping over 50 local artists develop their brands and secure jobs in a market ripe for digital art and design despite high youth unemployment rates. Alsaadi's business model allows artists to retain rights to their work while earning a commission, though he faces challenges such as high material costs and inconsistent quality from suppliers. Looking forward, XO Center plans to establish a physical space to showcase Iraqi creativity, contributing to a positive cultural identity and inspiring other startups, as part of a broader entrepreneurial movement to revitalize Iraq's economy.
Ali Elmadanie, who leads the arts organization Jummarts in Basra, orchestrates public performances of music and theater to reignite the city’s cultural life and support local artists in a conservative environment that has largely forgotten its rich artistic heritage. Despite Basra’s history as a cultural hub, current perceptions are overshadowed by oil wealth, corruption, and poverty, with the arts suffering in a climate of conflict and intimidation by powerful militias. Elmadanie’s efforts, boosted by an Innovation Hub grant, aim to restore Basra’s legacy as an arts center, promoting inclusivity and harmony in a society fractured by wars and ethnic divisions. By teaching traditional Iraqi instruments and performing publicly, Jummarts seeks not only to preserve these art forms but also to change the narrative of Basra from one of conflict to one of creativity and hope.
Yolo Art Center
Bayan Agha and her business partner Jihad Bakr saw the potential to transform a 200-year-old house in Istanbul into the Yolo Art Center, a cultural hub for refugees and locals to engage with Arab arts, using their savings to make it a reality. Despite the challenges faced by refugees in Turkey, including restricted freedoms and the threat of deportation, the Yolo Art Center strives to provide a safe and welcoming environment for the expression of culture and community. Seven months after its inception, despite bureaucratic and financial hurdles, the center is becoming the sanctuary Agha envisioned, buoyed by moments of support like a timely grant from Ideas Beyond Borders. The Yolo Art Center is growing into a place of unity and creativity, offering a wide range of cultural activities and becoming a second home for those who share Agha's vision of a community space that transcends cultural divides.
End Banned Books
Attack on Freedom
The manga and anime phenomenon "Attack on Titan" ended its television run amidst global acclaim, but its reception in China was marred by censorship, with the CCP banning the anime due to its violent content and potential political undertones. The series struck a particular chord with pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong, who used its imagery and narrative to symbolize their struggle against mainland China's encroaching control, drawing the ire of Chinese authorities. These actions reflect the CCP's broader efforts to suppress media that may inspire dissent or reflect unfavorably on its policies, as seen in the importation charges against a Hong Kong man for children's books depicting resistance to tyranny. This censorship exemplifies the ongoing battle for freedom of expression in regions under China's influence, with "Attack on Titan" serving as both a cultural touchstone and a beacon for challenging authoritarianism.
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