Discover more from Ideas Beyond Borders
IBB Update: Triumphs, Transitions, and Tribulations
Faisal Return's to the Rubin Report, Atlas Network's Smart Bet on IBB, Kurdistan's Entrepreneurial Rise, and the Undying Spirit in Afghanistan and Mauritania.
Welcome back to the IBB Update!
The last two weeks have been especially busy with Faisal making his return to Dave Rubin’s show, detailing his migration journey from Iraq to the U.S. and the essentiality of preserving the essence of American freedoms. Meanwhile, we have received a Smart Bet award and grant from our friends at Atlas Network, targeting an entrepreneurial revolution in Kurdistan. However, not all news is rosy. Afghanistan's once thriving media environment faces suppression post the 2021 Taliban takeover, although courageous journalists relentlessly persevere behind the scenes. Shining as a beacon of hope, Ahmad Jawid Karimyan is pivoting Afghan street children's futures from bleak streets to enlightening classrooms. Simultaneously, in the shadows of Mauritania's restrictive society, Welid Ellhaje's clandestine efforts champion progressive ideas. Lastly, against all odds, Afghan women, led by trailblazers like Sohaila, are harnessing the power of coding, navigating the challenges introduced by the Taliban's ascension, and reimagining their futures.
80% of every dollar we receive goes directly towards supporting our programs, including Substack subscriptions!
Faisal on The Rubin Report
Last week, Faisal was interviewed by Dave Rubin on The Rubin Report, where they discussed Faisal's journey from Iraq to the U.S. and his deep appreciation for American freedoms. They explored Faisal's endeavors to promote freedom in the Middle East, his concerns about individuals taking their liberties for granted, and the present situation in Iraq. Additionally, they discussed the waning influence of secular humanism, the necessity for capitalism and coexistence, and the importance of ensuring religion remains separate from the state. Faisal also conveyed his concerns regarding the increasing polarization in U.S. politics. Make sure to give it a watch!
Atlas Network Award: Smart Bets
We were among the accomplished recipients of the Atlas Network grant for our transformative "Open for Business in Kurdistan" project. This two-year initiative in Iraq’s Kurdistan region aims to revolutionize the start-up scene by introducing a one-stop registration website, enabling entrepreneurs to register their businesses within a day. Furthermore, the project will spearhead a vast social media campaign targeting one million views to encourage business registration and will advocate for pro-business legal reforms through the regional Parliament. The Smart Bet award is only given to organizations that can overdeliver on both results and transparency, so we are very thankful for our friends at Atlas Network who have placed their faith in us!
Taliban Abuses Worsen
Ahmad Mansoor Ramizy, the head of our Voice of Science program and one of our valued Innovation Hub members, has written a new article for The International Correspondent detailing how, in August 2021, as the Taliban approached Kabul, Afghanistan's media landscape faced a profound shift. Historically, Afghanistan's media underwent cycles of restriction and freedom, with significant progress in the post-9/11 era. By 2019, the country boasted around 200 active TV channels, reflecting a diversified and open media environment. However, the 2021 Taliban resurgence posed new threats, leading many journalists to evacuate.
The contemporary Taliban, while retaining traditionalist practices, has adeptly adopted modern technology for propaganda purposes, heavily censoring and influencing various platforms. Yet, despite the risks, brave journalists within the country persist in highlighting the group's oppressive actions. International support for these journalists is crucial, ensuring the world remains accurately informed about the realities in Afghanistan.
Schooling for Street Children in Afghanistan
Ahmad Jawid Karimyan, once a street child in Kabul, has transformed into a beacon of hope for many Afghan children. Recognizing the dire circumstances that force children into labor and keep them away from education, he founded Hero Junior Academy in 2022. This initiative, nestled in Kabul, aims to provide street children with a chance at learning. Despite their initial reluctance, the promise of a nourishing breakfast drew many to the academy. With one of our Innovation Hub grants, the curriculum now includes Maths, English, and Dari.
Karimyan’s commitment isn’t limited to the capital. In Ghorband, a district deprived of educational resources for over half a century, he established a library. This facility, the first in 50 years, now houses 1,500 books and has become an oasis of knowledge for the community, including women who face restrictions in public spaces.
Guided by personal experiences and the scars of Afghanistan's socio-economic challenges, especially post the Taliban’s 2021 takeover, Karimyan’s efforts are not just about education but about reshaping destinies. Through his endeavors, children who once saw their future confined to the streets now dare to dream bigger.
Free Speech In Secret
In Mauritania, challenging societal norms is not only controversial but perilous, risking ostracization and even physical harm. Welid Ellhaje, a 24-year-old activist, knows this firsthand. Five years ago, a larger project he was involved in was suppressed by the government, and its participants faced severe societal backlash. Undeterred, Ellhaje and his team have since re-strategized, advocating for secular and liberal ideals in a more subtle manner. Under the veil of anonymity, they’ve initiated an online magazine that delves into scientific exploration, critical thinking, social justice, and more. Moreover, they have international guest speakers introduce fresh perspectives to Mauritanian youth, who largely remain sheltered due to the nation's deep-seated tribal traditions.
Mauritania's restrictive environment stems from its closed societal nature. Challenges to the status quo can lead to severe repercussions like community exclusion, job loss, incarceration, or even physical harm. “Politics is part of the tribal system. You blend in or you’re kicked out,” Ellhaje asserts. To ensure the safety of his debate group, with funding from our Innovation Hub grant, Ellhaje has secured a private space for their meetings, facilitating open discussion without the threat of external eavesdropping.
While Ellhaje acknowledges that immediate change seems unlikely, he believes that sowing the seeds of free thought in today's youth could eventually usher in a transformative era for Mauritania, creating an environment that's more receptive to diverse ideas and progressive change.
Afghan Women Are Still Learning To Code
Sohaila, a young woman from Afghanistan, deeply appreciates coding's fusion of creativity and logic. Originally, she hadn’t envisioned a career in this field. However, the Taliban's seizure of power in 2021, which drastically altered life for Afghan women by barring them from secondary education, universities, and most jobs, made her pivot her goals. Consequently, she joined Kick-Start, an initiative offering free tech boot camps for Afghan women, subsequently securing a position at the renowned Microverse boot camp, which offers online roles in web development.
Several Kick-Start graduates, like *Yalda and *Zahra, have found new hope and direction through the program. Yalda, forced to abandon her university education by the Taliban, now aspires to be a full-stack developer, seeking to solve societal issues through coding. Zahra, who had already been studying coding before the Taliban’s decree, remains passionate about the tech world. Despite the unexpected turn in her life's path, she is keen on pursuing a career in computer science, especially as a developer, and later delving deeper into Artificial Intelligence.
All of IBB’s programs are supported by our valued donors. To receive new posts and support our work, please consider becoming a free or paid subscriber. Paid subscriptions go directly towards funding our Innovation Hub grantees.