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IBB Update: Liberty, At All Costs.
We've received an award for our work in the Middle East, take a look at our latest batch of Innovators, and share stories from women inside Afghanistan.
Welcome back to the IBB Update!
We’ve just returned from the Oslo Freedom Forum, where Faisal and the team received the MENA Liberty Award for IBB’s efforts in education and social entrepreneurship. The award was for our development of the most substantial Arabic language multimedia platform, the initiation of an Innovation Hub for enterprising social creators, and the operation of the most extensive clandestine network of girls' schools in Afghanistan. There are no awards in Afghanistan for the girls fighting for education and the women journalists who are speaking out despite Taliban oppression, only the reward of knowing that their quiet, courageous efforts will build a better future for their friends and families, and the security of knowing we will never abandon them.
Faisal has been active on The International Correspondent, contributing insightful articles on subjects from negotiating with the Taliban to preventing refugee crises. This is part of IBB's commitment to addressing issues at their roots rather than treating symptoms. Innovation is another one of our commitments, and we are shining a light on some of our recent Innovation Hub grant recipients with Daya taking strides in making Kurdish language learning accessible and enjoyable, Al Caravan’s aims to mitigate the harsh conditions of Syrian refugees in Lebanon with education and community building, and Lygo, which is breaking traditional norms by employing female taxi drivers, enhancing women's mobility and independence.
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Oslo Freedom Forum & Liberty Award
Our team just returned from Oslo Freedom Forum, a conference by the Human Rights Foundation, which is building a vanguard of activists who've lived under tyrannical regimes and are making it their lives work to fight back against the oppression they lived under. The conference provides a platform for activists worldwide to share stories, strategize, and find mutual understanding. Its theme this year was 'solidarity', pertinent at a time when authoritarian regimes are forming alliances, and the fight for freedom intensifies. Because of ongoing global crises, such as the war in Ukraine, the potential invasion of Taiwan, and the conflict in Sudan, its easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of suffering we still need to address, but the OFF helps to remind us that freedom is worth fighting for, no matter how bleak things may look.
This year, Faisal and the team were honored to receive Atlas Networks MENA Liberty Award for our work in creating the largest Arabic language multimedia platform, establishing an Innovation Hub for social entrepreneurs, and running the most extensive underground girls' school network in Afghanistan. Thank you to our friends at Atlas Network and to all our supporters who have made our efforts possible
I am afraid of the Taliban, but if I accept their ruling on girls’ education and just give up, I will always live in failure. This isn’t the end of our lives, even though for now, the situation for women in Afghanistan gets worse and worse.
The courage and determination shown by the young women of Afghanistan is both heart-wrenching and inspiring, illustrating the resilience of the human spirit. Their narratives underline the importance of initiatives like Ghulam Reza Pazhwak's program, which provides a lifeline for these young women to pursue their dreams of higher education and a future free from oppression. Their fight to access education, a fundamental human right, regardless of their gender, highlights the global community's urgent responsibility to advocate for gender equality in education. It's crucial to support organizations and initiatives aimed at providing educational opportunities for girls and women in countries where their rights are suppressed. As their stories circulate, they serve as a stark reminder that the fight for women's rights and education is far from over. The global community must intensify efforts to assist these brave young women and apply international pressure on the Taliban to respect the rights of women and girls. Ultimately, their stories remind us that education can be a potent tool for change and a beacon of hope, even in the most challenging circumstances.
The International Correspondent
“Rather than siloing immigrants from MENA into what essentially amounts to friendly and livable internment camps, let’s solve the problem at its root. This needs to be done by empowering young people in the region with access to good ideas and with the resources necessary to bring them to fruition to take control of their destinies.”
Faisal has been busy over at The International Correspondent, publishing a series of articles on negotiating with the Taliban, Assad, preventing the next refugee crisis, misinformation, and the similarities between Cubas current political climate and Ukraine. Make sure to give them all a read and subscribe to his Substack, where we publish more diverse writers, interviews, and topics.
“Speakers of Arabic are heirs to great civilizations and they have every right to participate in the same material advances as others by embracing the dignity at the core of self-governance and democratic deliberation.”
Language teacher Nabaz Babajan is bridging the gap in Kurdish language learning for foreigners and Kurds living abroad. With Erbil, Kurdistan's capital, as a hub for foreigners, Babajan offers private Kurdish lessons and creates accessible resources. In addition to this, he's launching an online platform, Daya, supported by an Innovation Hub grant, which will provide free bite-sized Kurdish classes. The goal is to make language learning accessible and fun, fostering a greater understanding of Kurdish culture and facilitating communication. Babajan's work demonstrates how language can bridge cultural divides and promote cross-cultural understanding.
Life for Syrian refugees in eastern Lebanon is grueling, with long workdays, scant pay, and increased risk of exploitation due to their illegal status. Of the 1.5 million refugees in Lebanon, over 80% lack legal residency, limiting their access to basic services like health and education. Recent reports of human rights violations against returnees by the Syrian government make the prospect of returning home terrifying. With Lebanon at its breaking point and a resurgence in anti-Syrian sentiment, many refugees feel trapped with nowhere safe to go. The challenging circumstances have been worsened by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, economic downturn, and the Beirut blast, plunging approximately 90% of Syrian refugee households into extreme poverty. With $36 per month for sustenance and increasing food prices, survival is the prime focus. Consequently, about 30% of refugee children aged 6-17 have never been to school due to high costs and limited availability. Al Caravan, an organization supporting these refugees, plans to provide awareness activities and informal education with help from one of our grants, aiming to foster positive growth and social cohesion among the refugee and local communities.
In Iraq's conservative city, Mosul, female taxi drivers are a novel sight. Traditionally, many families disallowed women from working, but a new service, Lygo, launched by Hesham, is reshaping norms and increasing women's mobility. It caters to the transport needs of women, particularly those seeking education and employment. Due to the absence of ride-hailing services or public transportation, women previously relied on male relatives for travel. Hesham's initiative has been met with high demand, primarily from university students. However, not everyone supports Lygo; some male taxi drivers have responded with hostility, spreading rumors and disrupting services. Despite such challenges, Hesham remains hopeful, with plans to expand the fleet and become the official airport taxi service for women. His efforts are supported by an Innovation Hub grant which has helped fund the creation of the Lygo app.
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