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!
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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
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!