An average Sunday in Baghdad, Iraq. Imagine yourself going to school or work for that matter. But then suddenly an unusual image catches your eye, it’s a registration desk of TEDxBaghdad. They look so interesting and professional you wonder what it’s all about. Then suddenly this loud noise!
A car bomb just went off, you stop for a second before continuing. TEDxBaghdad you have not heard of them before so you decide to go and ask one of the people as the desk. They kindly answer your questions and you are intrigued. Next time you must register and be there!
This story could have easily been a story of one of the students or teachers at the Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad. On Sunday 8 April one of the rooms at the university set the stage for the streaming event of TEDxChange. It was not the first streaming event organized by TEDxBaghdad, but it was the first time at the Al-Mustansiriya University. And even though TEDxBaghdad has now more than 10,000 likes on Facebook there are still a whole lot of people who have never heard of TEDxBaghdad.
While setting up the registration desk in the early morning many teachers and students came to ask questions. Around 9 o’clock attendees were slowly but surely coming in. A guest list with over 300 registrants was proof of the enthusiasm of the people to join the streaming event. Unfortunately the car bomb caused delays because of enhanced checkpoint controls and that on top of the usually crowded Sunday roads.
Eventually the room filled up with 300 guests, it was a mixture of students, teachers, doctors, and local NGO personnel. Even big TV news channels (Al-Arabiya, Al-Sumaria and Afaq) showed up to report on the event, which was broadcasted later on in the evening on TV.
The event was opened with a short presentation about TED, TEDx and the dream of Yahya AlAbdeli the chairman of TEDxBaghdad. For some this was the first time and they were intrigued. When they were shown the TEDxBaghdad talk of Manhal Al-Habbobi some became very emotional and tears were flowing. It made the people proud and excited to see one of their own on a TEDx stage with such amazing ideas. Then the streaming started and even though the English language caused some people to leave, many stayed and during the breaks some nice discussions came up. One of the volunteers took the stage to break down the basics of the talks and sparked some discussion about how such ideas could be implemented in Iraq.
The young children (Revolutionary Optimists) thought everyone a valuable lesson of perseverance and making the best out of a dire situation. As the second session of the stream continued the audience again got inspired by the talks, for example Theo Sowa’s talk reminded the audience that war is not the only thing that Iraq has. She sparked the conscience that it is important to show the world the good that is in Iraq, because there is a lot of that and the outside knows nothing about it.
While the second session was taking place it was also time for the other important part of the event and that was the opportunity for local voices to record their idea worth spreading. Twenty people who registered to be a speaker were invited to record a short video. Their ideas will eventually be put online for a contest where everyone can vote for them and they have a chance to be on stage of TEDxBaghdad in October.
Back in the streaming room the final talks were being shown and when the end came near the biggest surprise surfaced. The audience did not want to leave! They wanted to see and hear more and so they watched several other TEDxBaghdad talks. If there is any bigger reward than this, I am not sure what it’s supposed to be. But I think people wanting to stay longer shows how excited and inspired they were. It was not the only compliment that we got, but also the many people that were truly amazed by the work and attitude of the volunteers who made this event what it was.
All our team members are volunteers and even though they have a busy school, work or personal life they dedicate much of their time, heart and soul to TEDxBaghdad. The idea that Iraqi ideas are worth spreading and that by working together Iraq is able to be back on its feet again seems not an unreachable goal anymore. Change is happening as we speak, and we truly hope that our events and with our team we will be adding to positive change in Iraq and the World.
More photos of the event please check here
by Andra Iacob