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Baghdad was a hub of art, science & ideas. Inspire that attitude again by sharing hackerspaces with Iraq.
Created by

Bilal Ghalib

671 backers pledged $29,471 to help bring this project to life.

Exactly 1.5 Years Ago You Supported an Idea

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A year and a half and a day. 546 days since Tuesday September 18 2012. That was a Tuesday and we had just embarked on our journey to help a small group of hopeful young Iraqi's start a physical community space to inspire and create within. I'm really happy to introduce you all to Fikra Space!

360 view of the space, Jeff, Ahmed and Nael!
360 view of the space, Jeff, Ahmed and Nael!

Murtadha Al-Tameemi was one of the first people who started collaborating with Fikra Space early on. He was also in Baghdad a week ago when I was visiting and the first event we ran was a Dream Circle workshop. The Dream Circle is a program where people share their dreams,  steps they want to take to actualize those dreams and their perceived challenges. I was flying in from Erbil in the north but really excited to join them for their events that evening. 

When I first started coming to Baghdad I was really afraid to leave the airport without my family coming to the intermediate checkpoint between the city and the airport. Now when I come into Iraq, I reached out to Fikra Space and Ahmed came to pick me up and we were able to roll directly to Firka Space for the Dream Circle Workshop

Just landed in time for the event. The organizing crew smiles hello!
Just landed in time for the event. The organizing crew smiles hello!

It was beautiful to see so many positive people connecting and sharing their hopes for their lives. Here's some pictures of what people came up with:

Murtadha encouraging people to share their feelings freely with their partners keeping a neutral face
Murtadha encouraging people to share their feelings freely with their partners keeping a neutral face
Ali wants to be a professional photographer and author :)
Ali wants to be a professional photographer and author :)
Niyaf wants to cure diabetes in Iraq with stem cell treatments :)
Niyaf wants to cure diabetes in Iraq with stem cell treatments :)
Nawres wants to be the father of the 3D animation industry in Iraq
Nawres wants to be the father of the 3D animation industry in Iraq

Nawares was an awesome guy, we really connected and he's got this awesome project where he's made a glove that can control 3DSMax animations: https://vine.co/v/MqQm9EwHqW1

That was just day one. Fikra Space has two events every week, thursday build nights and friday events. Their next event is a book club event they're calling Read More on the 21st :). One of the things that excites me most is that this is the second generation of leadership at Fikra Space, that's a good sign for a sustainable positive community. 

Before I came to Baghdad I was in Erbil working with NGO's from the South of Iraq which has seen cancer rates spike 1000 fold since the 1990's. This is due to the shelling of the country with depleted uranium which was used to help bullets penetrate concrete. This time during my trip to Iraq I convinced Sean Bonner to loan me an open source geiger counter developed in collaboration with the Tokyo Hackerspace called the Safecast

I had a lot of fun bringing it on the flight and noticing how much more radiation we're exposed to when we're flying: 800 CPM VS ~20 CPM on the ground:

The Safecast doesn't look scary on an airplane
The Safecast doesn't look scary on an airplane

We decided to set up an event to investigate if there's still potential hazards in Baghdad training the crew at Fikra Space for a future event with http://iccpo-iraq.org/ Children of Cancer Human Organization in the south of Iraq. The ICCPO is in Basra and is headed by a passionate man named Laith, his son got cancer when he was young and 4 years later successfully completed his treatment. Laith is a fireball who is working hard to give other children the chance his son had. He has set up training programs for parents with children with cancer and has brought in enough funds to provide treatment to many children who wouldn't have been able to afford treatment.

Laith's new project is an open data project to shed light on the undeniable connections between the presence of radiation from depleted uranium and the spike in cancer rates. He wishes to do this by cross correlating radiation data with surveys about where people live, where they go to school, when they got cancer, if they survived and so on. 

Our first event exploring radiation in Baghdad was a lot of fun. We got a crew together and hopped into Ahmed's Chrysler and spent the day driving to various places we suspected might have depleted uranium including some old abandoned military zones in the outskirts of Baghdad:

Ahmed preparing the route for the day :)
Ahmed preparing the route for the day :)
Baghdad street view, this poster says "together we will defeat terrorists" it is a political ad for the current prime ministers campaign in the upcoming elections
Baghdad street view, this poster says "together we will defeat terrorists" it is a political ad for the current prime ministers campaign in the upcoming elections
Keeping the Safecast out of the case made it seem more innocuous :) #protip
Keeping the Safecast out of the case made it seem more innocuous :) #protip
Here the crew is investigating the radiation levels near some abandoned military vehicles from the most recent war. The trash here measured at near 50 CPM which is a bit higher than other places, but it's not too bad.
Here the crew is investigating the radiation levels near some abandoned military vehicles from the most recent war. The trash here measured at near 50 CPM which is a bit higher than other places, but it's not too bad.

Safecast provides an easy way to upload and visualize this data. You can check the path we took and the readings we took on this map here.

Safecast Baghdad Tour Data
Safecast Baghdad Tour Data

The growth of Fikra Space from a small handful of people to a group of 3,000 friends online and weekly meetings has been a wonderful surprise. But what's really beautiful is the feeling of community I have when I come to Baghdad. If you wanted to visit Iraq but felt trapped outside I'm confident to connect you to a group of trustworthy and amazing people. City still isn't safe. But these people are great. This started an interest in me to organize a festival in Baghdad with them in a few months :)

I'd like to thank you all for your support again and apologize to anyone who hasn't received a KS reward I sincerely apologize, I don't have a home base for operations anymore, the road is my home. Thanks for the reminders! As I'm really excited to complete Rawaya Wa Badaya.

Double hugs everyone! We've got some interesting projects in the works related to carbomb violence and compassion and a potential art, security and activism event in Baghdad. Connect if you'd like more info!

Salam from some afkar! ;D
Salam from some afkar! ;D

+BG

Fikra Space making moves in Baghdad!

Dear superstar backers! 

June

In June the awesome guys at Fikra Space helped co-organize Baghdad's first Startup Weekend! It was a great event that brought out tons of people to think about starting their own initiatives and brought mentors in from Baghdad, Beirut, Seattle, Toronto and beyond to coach and give training.... In Baghdad! I think that's marvelous! Murtadha from GEMSI was there and has this awesome write-up about the event. Please check it out: http://www.gemsi.org/2013/07/startup-weekend-baghdad/

July

In July we will debut the movie about the build out of Lamba Labs - the hackerspace in Beirut at http://Republika.io with the Share Foundation. I'm really excited to have a Lamba Labs Founder and member Marc Farra join me in presenting this movie. The movie will describe some of the challenges Beirut faces and how hackerspaces can help in their solutions. Afterwards we'll have a QA with me and Marc. If you're in Croatia, I urge you to join us!

August

This is where I ask for your help. Twice. In early August I will be heading out to Baghdad to work on my cousin's prosthetic leg. Here's the progress I've made so far on GIT: 

https://github.com/bilalghalib/DIYProstheticLeg

I've made a 3d model of my cousins leg and I've 3d printed the positive. If someone could help me make a model of the prosthetic itself. You'll see the dimensions in the GIT repository, I'd like an exact clone with the exception of being 1.5cm taller. Thanks!

I'm planning on making a leg with a socket attached that conforms to his leg precisely and with Smooth-on prosthetic grade silicone rubber. Download the repo here as a zip or fork it at the source. 

Hope to hear from you soon. And here's where I ask for your help again. I don't really want to push out a whole new campaign, but these videos, and prosthetics projects cost money. Your tax deductible donation really helps as we help inspire and connect these collaborative community spaces. Thanks again all!

Newsletter coming out soon! Any designers interested in helping the content have a better vehicle of transmission? 

Double hugs all!

+BG

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Show Your Support for Baghdad Start Up Weekend!

First I'd like to say hello to the worlds most beautiful people. Thanks for your support and patience. Now I'm proud to say that one of GEMSI's collaborators is in Baghdad right now organizing with Fikra Space and other wonderful people Baghdad's first Start Up Weekend! http://startupweekend.com for more information on this weekend long challenge to build something awesome. 

Murtadha has been reaching out to show Iraqi's that their endeavors for creativity, entrepreneurship and hope is supported by people from outside and I thought who better to ask than you magnificent souls! Here's Murtadha's email about how you can help:

"Hello wonderful friends,

You might already know this, but I’m helping plan the first Start Up Weekend Baghdad. We are putting together a compilation of short video clips given to us from people from all over the world, saying some encouraging and motivating words to Startup Weekend Baghdad participants. We would compile all your clips and show them at the beginning of the weekend to kick it off with lots of energy and motivation. We would greatly appreciate it if you could help us with this, and take a few minutes of your day to record a clip that’s a few seconds long. Once recorded, you can place your video file in this Google Drive folder:

https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0Byk4GRUcv297ei1hOWR5clNrMGc&usp=sharing

If Google Drive is too confusing, please send us your video file to baghdad@startupweekend.org :)

Please use this convention for naming your file: YourName-YourCity. It’d be great if you can send your video by 9:00PM UTC (GMT) on Wednesday (June 26) to leave enough time for editing (I know, super short notice, but it'd mean the world if you can help).

Thank you in advance for helping us deliver an awesome event to the Baghdadi community.

With love,
Murtadha"

Don't worry if you got this late and your timing is off. It'll be OK, just means more work for our habibi's over there ;D! Thanks for all of your support everyone and I'm excited to say there's been some gears turning here at GEMSI for new work!

+BG

Murtadha's Fikra Space Experience: Educating, Community Building, & Focused on Kindness

Last month, Murtadha went to Baghdad for a week's worth of events and workshops. It's wonderful to see the Baghdad team carrying on with their mission, to create a place where people can form communities and share. Murtadha's post speaks both to some of their current challenges and also what makes him hopeful about the hackerspace and about Baghdad. His emphasis on kindness with his actions really speaks to me and I'm really happy to share this post of his experiences with you:

"Ever since I first left Iraq in 2007, I’ve been wanting to go back and contribute something to the community. Through the help of GEMSI, a few weeks ago I finally had the chance to make a dedicated trip with the intention of doing some good work in Baghdad. GEMSI is the Global Entrepreneurship and Maker Space Initiative, an organization started by Bilal Ghalib when he started aspiring to bring maker culture to the Middle East. This trip was intended to carry on the work GEMSI had begun in Lebanon and Iraq a few months ago..."

Continue reading this article on the GEMSI blog!

Follow GEMSI on facebook

Follow Fikra Space on facebook

PS. If you were wondering if we still need funds, YES! We are still taking donations and our work is not done. This work is primarily funded by supporters like you. Thanks again for allowing ridiculous to happen in the world. We love you.

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CNN article on Baghdad Hackerspace

Hello people who are the reason that any of this is possible!

I'm really pleased to share with you this article that CNN has recently put out after interviewing me and a few of the other core members of Fikra Space in Baghdad – CNN article. It's great to see that there are people who really understand the importance of having a space like this in the region and who are willing to write positive framed news articles about hackerspaces in the Middle East.

The crew in Baghdad was excited by having the press cover their initiatives and they have been emboldened to keep pushing and moving. Who knows... maybe this will attract new members who read the article!

As for me, I will be going to Baghdad in about 1.5 weeks to do some follow up work and I've been trying to raise a bit of funds to cover flights for Murtadha, an Iraqi living in Canada who is on the GEMSI team, to join me. Murtadha was the first person in Baghdad to collaborate with local doctors to create a much needed hand held open source heart rate monitor and embodies the spirit of initiative and resourceful problem solving. If you've been liking the work that we've been doing and are interested in continuing helping out please consider donating to help fly Murtada to Baghdad for 10 days so he can share his inspiring story and run some programs!

I hope you're all well and l can't wait until Fikra Space and Lamba Labs are solid, financially stable, and kicking out teleportation devices and flying solar powered cars!

HUGS!
+BG