Enhance Understanding

Making that happen through advocacy, podcasting, research and publications.

Iraqi girls at camp near Baghdad

Three Ways Your Support Can Save Lives and Help Iraq

We are one world. Iraq is us and we are Iraq. The world heritage of the land between two rivers is interwoven into the very fabric of who we are — from humanity’s early quest for meaning (the Epic of Gilgamesh) to our pursuit of knowledge (Ibn al-Haythem‘s embrace of the scientific method). Likewise, our spirit of 1776 can also be found in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square and in the desire of every Iraqi to form a more perfect union. Kicking off with #GivingTuesdayNow, a global day of giving and unity, and continuing throughout the month of May, we invite you

Read More »


The COVID-19 pandemic is hitting Iraq at a particularly bad time. The country has just begun to ramp up testing for the highly contagious virus, and the 1,031 confirmed cases and 64 deaths to date may only be the tip of an iceberg yet to reveal itself. These figures may also be far from accurate.  Several Iraqi health professionals believe that the number of cases could be as high as 9,000. The combined effect of a developing financial crisis, woefully inadequate health care infrastructure, lagging government response and poor information and community response place the country at huge risk from

Read More »

#38: Social Media and Iraq’s Protest Movement

The nonviolent struggle for democratic reforms in Iraq is now well into its fifth month of sustained protests against the government. We talk with Hayder Hamzoz, founder of INSM (Iraqi Network for Social Media), a network of Iraqi bloggers and citizens journalists. Hayder shares his perspective on how the protests work and the critical role that social media activists are playing on both the physical and digital front lines of Iraq’s protest movement.

Read More »


Three times per year, EPIC welcomes a new cohort of interns – young professionals seeking to add practical experience to their academic backgrounds in humanitarian affairs, international relations, security studies, political science, public relations, and beyond. We are grateful for their contributions to our research, action, and advocacy, and for the opportunity to connect them to Iraq and its people. Please join us in welcoming our Spring 2020 interns: Hannah and Kara! From left to Right, Hannah Vagnoni and Kara Kelawan Hannah Vagnoni plans to receive her BA in International Studies-Political Science with an emphasis on Human Rights. She was

Read More »

The real cost of US-Iran escalation in Iraq

Originally published by the Middle East Institute – January 27, 2020 As an Iraqi American who lived through the 1991 Gulf War and 2003 U.S.-led invasion to bring about regime change, I have witnessed firsthand how U.S. wars in the region can break out when Baghdad and Washington fail to understand each other’s intentions and motives. This is, unfortunately, another one of those moments. By choosing to assassinate Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, the United States made a major mistake. Based on a poor understanding of internal conditions in Iraq and an overestimation of the utility of a high-value- target

Read More »
Iraq protests

EXPLAINER: The Impact of U.S.-Iran Hostilities on Iraqi Aspirations for Sovereignty, Peace and Democratic Reform

With the U.S. targeted killing of Iranian Quds Force Commander Qassim Soleimani and U.S.-Iran confrontations on Iraqi soil, we are closely following fast moving events that carry very serious risks to people we care about, and for the future of peace and democratic reform in Iraq. WHAT WE KNOW Inside Iraq, Soleimani was a powerful agent of Iran’s malign influence in and increasing dominance over Iraqi politics. He orchestrated the violent crackdown against Iraq’s pro-democracy protesters, killing hundreds and wounding tens of thousands. At the same time, his assassination may have occurred at the worst possible moment. Iraq is currently

Read More »
Displaced families near Mosul

Help make 2020 a better year for Iraq!

Iraq is at a crossroads. One path leads to the hopeful, democratic vision of Iraq’s youthful majority as we’ve seen expressed by mass rallies in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square and across Iraq. The other path leads to the continued violence, dysfunction, and corruption of autocratic rule. And now, at this fateful hour, the belligerent actions of President Trump and Tehran’s hardliners threaten to turn Iraq into a battlefield of their own zero-sum game, shortchanging the Iraqi people from a genuine opportunity to determine their own future. From Washington DC to Baghdad, the challenges that we face in 2020 are greater than

Read More »
Soccer Salam delivery to a child in Sharya

Colorado 5th Grader and Classmates Rally Support for Soccer Salam

  Earlier this year, EPIC received an email from Jacquelyn Thomas of Lakewood, Colorado. Jacquelyn is the mother of an extraordinary girl named Vanicia (who’s now 11 years old). Her mom wrote: “My daughter [is] raising funds for kids in Iraq. We would like to donate the money raised to Soccer Salam.” Vanicia became motivated to help kids in Iraq by the stories of her father, William Thomas. A U.S. Army veteran, William shared fond memories with her daughter about the children that he met during his service in Iraq. Like all children, Vanicia had a lot of questions, and

Read More »
Iraqi Shabaki Leader

Iraq’s Shabaks and the Search for Land Rights and Representation

Interview with Mr. Hussein al-Shabaki, member of the Free Shabak Movement This is the third in a series of interviews we had with representatives of various minority communities in Ninewa. More interviews will be published in the coming weeks. As part of EPIC’s work on Safe Return, a USAID project designed to enable the safe and sustainable return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their homes in Ninewa, we recently had the pleasure of meeting with Mr. Hussein al-Shabaki, a prominent figure in Iraq’s Shabaki community, and a leading member of the Free Shabak Movement (Tayyar Ahrar al-Shabak). To many

Read More »


Tahrir Square in Baghdad, the heart of the Iraqi anti-government movement is covered in creative displays of protest art, culture, and community. Tahrir Square in Baghdad sits at the heart of the Iraqi anti-government protest movement that has swept through Iraq for the past two months. Amid increasingly violent responses from security forces, demonstrators have turned Tahrir Square into a moving celebration of community, culture, and art as they continue to call for government reform. As of today, Iraq’s Independent High Commission for Human Rights cited 460 deaths with at least 17,000 injured, and 3,000 permanently disabled as a result

Read More »

From Baghdad to EPIC’s Board Presidency

By Zeena Abdul-Rahman, EPIC Board President  Veteran EPIC Board Member Bilal Wahab snaps a selfie at EPIC’s April 2019 Board Retreat. Behind Bilal from left-to-right: EPIC Executive Director Erik Gustafson and Board members Taif Jany, Hussein Al-Baya (Treasurer), Dennis Eóghan Clancey, Zeena Abdul-Rahman (President), Sören Südhof, Kate Phillips-Barrasso (Vice President), Yasmeen Alamiri, and David Slater. The concussion of the blast shook our car, rattling the car doors on their hinges. It was the morning of August 7, 2003, and I was just a 19-year-old college kid at the time. Our family’s driver, Mansour, was taking me to class. A minute

Read More »

Five Years after ISIS: The Yazidis’ Quest for Justice and Recovery

Interview with Ido Babasheikh, Former Member of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq Parliament and former adviser to the president of Iraq. This is the second of a series of interviews we had with representatives of various minority communities in Ninewa that will be published in the following weeks. In July, EPIC traveled to Iraq and visited Erbil and Ninewa provinces as part of our work on Safe Return, a USAID project designed to enable the safe and sustainable return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their homes in Ninewa. While in Erbil, we had the pleasure of meeting with Mr.

Read More »