Iraq: For countless people, the name has become synonymous with war, corruption, failed occupations and religious fanaticism. With my Kickstarter project, I am raising money to pursue intensive training in radio production and storytelling, with which I propose to train a group of young Iraqi journalists to help me create a series of podcasts that will paint a picture of several ordinary Iraqis’ life stories and the tough choices they face.
I came to Iraq in January, 2017. Since arriving, I've tried to tell stories that break through the hysterical media narrative about the Islamic State and jihadists, to illustrate how ordinary Iraqis are suffering under the triple pressures of radical Islamist militants, a corrupt and abusive government, and foreign intervention. I have come across characters who have witnessed the darkest moments of existence, but whose experiences can teach us much. To tell these stories with the clarity they require, I've decided to pursue intensive training in storytelling techniques and radio production.
The training comes in the form of the Transom Storytelling Workshop (https://transom.org/about/about-transom/), held in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, from September to November. There, I will learn about everything from using recording gear, finding stories and pitching stories, interviewing, Hindenburg audio editing, writing and voicing for radio, mixing radio pieces/levels, and creating a scene and use of ambient sound. All this with guest trainers and speakers, including Robert Smith from NPR’s Planet Money and Robyn Semien from This American Life.
Then I will return to Iraq late this year and train several young Iraqi journalists, in collaboration with MiCT, a German non-profit organization that implements media development projects in crisis regions, to produce professional and artful podcasts. The journalists in Iraq today are hard pressed to find training in the skills I will receive in the Transom Workshop, and I will pass on my newly-acquired skills to them, and give them practical experience which they can apply to the podcast production.
The project I will produce through these podcasts will tell several stories. The first is the story of a young Iraqi man from the town of Hawija, in northern Iraq, who participated in protests in 2013 which demanded more opportunities and better treatment from the government, only to be shot down by government troops, creating an eventual opening for the Islamic State takeover in 2014. The other story is that of a woman from Mosul, whose husband was executed by the Islamic State in 2014, and who in June lost 11 relatives in an American airstrike. Yet another will tell the story of my friend, a Kurdish journalist and lawyer who struggles to practice his profession while being harassed and condemned by local authorities not pleased with his investigative work.
After these initial characters, I hope to continue the podcasts to cover additional characters, who I'll identify through the course of the work with my Iraqi collaborators.
I'm well-qualified to create such a project because of my already deep and expanding knowledge of the on-the-ground situation in Iraq, my fluency in Arabic, and my trust and familiarity with the characters the podcasts will follow.
Podcasts like mine can serve as one patch on a broader quilt of solidarity and understanding between ordinary people in the US and Iraq, and help to dissolve the ignorance that pushes us to fight. Please join me in making it possible.
Risks and challenges
There are some risks in this project. The first is that upon completion of the training in Massachusetts, I will be unable to immediately access the information and interviews needed to complete the podcasts, which may delay release past February 2018.
It is also possible that visa delays could occur, holding me up for weeks when I need to get into parts of Iraq that require a visa, where some of my characters live. and possible deterioration of situation in Iraq.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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