All posts by Daniel Young


The U.S. presidential election is tomorrow and though many Americans will exercise their democratic right to vote, voter turnout rates may remain lower than in other parts of the world with only 50% of citizens of some states going to the polls. Today we find inspiration from the people of Iraq where voter turnouts are high and voting is a celebratory event where families come together.

In the 2005 general election 75% of Iraqis voted, and in the 2009 regional elections in the Kurdish region of Iraq, the  Independent High Electoral Commission estimated a 78.5% turnout. Even though turnout dropped to only 60% in 2010, it was still on par with the total U.S. voter turnout in 2008. The 2008 U.S. election had been hailed as a record turnout, while this was Iraq’s second election ever after 7 years of war. A vital part of democracy is not taking the power and responsibility to vote for granted.

read more

Our Questions on Iraq for Tonight’s Foreign Policy Debate

The final U.S. Presidential debate between President Obama and his challenger Mitt Romney is scheduled to air LIVE tonight at 9PM EST and foreign policy tops the agenda!

Although largely overshadowed by Syria’s civil war and other global challenges, the future of U.S. policy on Iraq falls squarely among the most important questions facing the next President of the United States.

While the U.S. war removed Saddam Hussein from power, it was done at enormous cost. In Iraq, the war brought 9 years of unrest, political violence, and occupation, resulting in more than 100,000 civilian deaths and displacing millions from their homes. For the United States, 4,487 U.S. service members gave their lives in Iraq and tens of thousands of U.S. service members have returned home with serious physical and psychological injuries. The war has also cost the U.S. in excess of $1 trillion, and many would argue, set back U.S. interests in the region.

Despite those costs and the ending of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq, the country’s transition to a stable democracy is far from complete. Nor has the violent conflict ended. While overall violence has dramatically fallen since the peak of Iraq’s 2005-2008 civil war, political violence continues to kill innocent civilians alongside almost daily attacks on Iraqi security forces, political leaders, and government offices.

It is therefore important for both of the candidates to demonstrate a clear understanding of how dynamic the situation in Iraq has been over the past ten years, including the

“Meanwhile, in Iraq…” Vice Presidential Debate

Here in the EPIC office we have been paying close attention to the election debates. With three down and only one to go, Iraq has come up in a substantive way only once. Most recently during the vice presidential debates, Democratic candidate Joe Biden squared off with the Republican candidate Paul Ryan. Let’s look back to see if their discussion has any foreshadowing of the final debate on foreign policy next week.

The conversation turned to Iraq with Biden defending the President’s campaign promise to withdrawal American troops:

On Iraq, the president said he would end the war. Governor Romney said that wa

“Meanwhile, in Iraq…”

Election Day 2012 is drawing  closer here in the United States and this month showcases the presidential debates. These debates are meant to display the two distinct views and policies of the candidates. Iraq did not come up during the domestic policy debate, but it did during the VP debate and could be raised again during the “Town Hall” style debate and the foreign policy debate.

Iraq has largely vanished from both the media and the campaign trail outside of the occasional soundbite from President Obama concerning the final withdrawal of forces in December of 2011. Nestled  between Syria and Iran,  Iraq is still of great importance to  US policy and the global community. While much of the American media has turned to focus on the presidential race in the US, what has been happening in Iraq?   A story coming out of Iraq is the ongoing political turmoil along ever increasing sectarian lines. This is a macro view of the ongoing fragile nature of Iraq’s democracy. Institutions remain weak and politicians seek to take advantage of both US troop withdrawals and sectarian spill over from Syria and other uprisings into the region. This political maneuvering could be seen as simply local politics leading up to the 2014 parliamentary elections. But, a 

Iraq in their Stories: Meet Two of the 2012 MacArthur “Genius” Fellows

Every year the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation gives out $500,000 “no-strings-attached” grants, commonly known as “genius grants”, to a small group of people. These Fellows are described as demonstrating “creativity, originality, and potential to make important contributions in the future.”  Two of the 23 MacArthur Fellows for 2012 have been recognized for their first hand storytelling in Iraq.

The first is documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras. Her recent works have been part of a trilogy documenting post 9/11 America. It was her 2006 Oscar nominated film on Iraq called My Country, My Country, that really caught our attention. She sought not just to document the Iraq War, but to portray the Iraqi perspective of what was happening. In 2005, she traveled without a film crew to Adhamiyah, a suburb of Baghdad, where she  lived for the next 8 months. The film chronicled the months leading up to Iraq’s first elections in January 2005. The film focused on Dr. Riyadh, a Sunni political candidate from the Iraqi Islamic Party, and his family. [quote align=”right” width=”50%”]“I anticipated that the film would focus on the U.S. presence in Iraq, … But I quickly realized I couldn’t tell a meaningful story from that perspective only. I needed to have an Iraqi perspective.”[/quote]

The film highlights contradictions between how American media was typically portraying Iraq, particularly the elections, and how the Iraqis were experiencing it. It was this latter part  that lead EPIC to interview her

Final Hours to Picture Change with PHOTOVOICE IRAQ!

We are over 75% of the way there! Haven’t donated yet? Want to tell a friend but are not sure what to say?

Here are our Top Ten Reasons you should help us reach our goal by midnight tonight!

Top Ten Reasons to Donate to Photovoice:

#10: The photos from PICTURING CHANGE will help us understand the needs of young people in Iraq.

#9: Everytime you donate, the EPIC HQ wildly rejoices! 

#8: Because 60% of Iraqis are under the age of 25 and will be impacted tremendously, with your help.

#7: Supporting this project will help EPIC reach its long term goal of bringing a summer youth leadership institution to Iraq.

read more

Foundations for the Future

Growing up in the New York metro area the events of 9/11 certainly shaped my generation. Less than two years after 9/11 I was finishing high school and preparing to start college unsure of what to study. In the middle of all these events, the United States began the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

My name is Daniel Young, a fall EPIC  intern. Starting college just as the war began, combined with a heated presidential election, hooked me on politics. My studies have continued into graduate school with coursework  focused on development, conflict, and democratization during the Arab Spring. It was in these classes that I began to fully appreciate the need for an organization like EPIC and the great work it does for Iraqis.

read more