Maryam al Khawaja – journalist and Head of Foreign Relations for Bahrain Center for Human Rights

not get world’s attention – have to use social media to keep in world’s eye

world media stop covering – follow Twittr and find out what really going on

“Youth always reach for the impossible”

older used to regime (can’t change)

not about economics, it’s about dignity

mind shift – ‘it’s about fear’

“Once the fear barrier is broken, there’s no going back.”

“We refuse to be slaves…versus citizens with human rights.”

‘I’ve been said to be a CIA agent, a Moussad agent… there are a lot of gov’ts out there that owe me a lot of money and they need to pay’

even media covering/trying to help, identifying conflict as sectarian vs. oppressed and oppressor

nothing to do with religion/ethnicity, but loyalist (to government) or not


thought after crackdown, one move of the gov’t that keep people home, but next day even larger protests

put trust and confidence in youth – willing to go to the front lines and fight for what they want

“We’re the ones who started this and we’re still here.”

“When you exclude anybody anywhere, you radicalize them. When you include them, they’re forced to be part of the process.”


Brett Pierce, Co-Executive Producer and former Sesame Workshop Producer

Value of curriculum-based entertainment and impact:

‘mother’ – Sesame Street (most researched): higher scores on numeracy & literacy, read more, value more academic achievement, sophisticated social skills, value diversity -> foundation

dev. process – right content producers, target audience, entertainment producers -> robust product

meet w/Iraqi youth workers

‘what is the need?’ ‘what’s going on on the ground?’, 2009 (youth: neglected, damaged, fearful of political parties, ‘policeman embedded in their own soul’)

goal: give the kids a voice (marginalized, not heard)

decide against top-down, bottoms-up (not just user-generated content – structure)

structure to unleash voice (guide)

“I am a person now. I have my own self-existence.” (female)

ask gov’t: ‘What have you done for me?’

something inside that can’t express -> expression

energy is from the kids themselves

On gender relations:

pushing envelope with gender relations

away from parents – first time gender mixes

Marsha Williams on summative research of Salam Shabab

summative research – examine if goals met, id&refine elements that help meet goals or not, which audience segments most receptive to content&outcomes, make smarter and more strategic decisions about programm development

curriculum goals <-USIP&Iraqi partners


examine attitudes & perceptions: self-awareness/esteem/expression, personal resp. and decision-making, understanding of community, self-efficacy and power to creat change, citizenship (rights&resp.), diversity & common humanity

assess series’ appeal

Research outline:


paper surveys (pre), post-viewing focus groups (13)

75 Iraqi youth from 6 provinces (3 w/o teams rep)

ages 13-19, gender equal


7.78 (lots of 8/9/10, males generally rate slightly more)

Key Drivers of Appeal:

teens from different provinces, sects & rel. groups all working together/cooperate (top) [change idea groups hate each other, illustrate unity]

message [promotes peace, brotherhood & coexistence, freedom/democracy]

the challenges (engaging)

[rally behind teams vs. sects, etc., opportunities to be creative and think – engage viewers to join in]

Featuring the U.S. premiere of “Salam Shabab” (Peace Youth), the first peacebuilding reality TV series for Iraqi youth

Webcast: This event will be webcast live beginning at 4pm EST on January 25, 2012 at viewers will be able to engage panelists and each other through live chat and Twitter discussions (hashtag: #salamshabab)

Young people throughout the Middle East and North Africa are having their own unique experiences driving social change and revolution in their countries. Meanwhile, Iraqi youth look ahead to their roles as leaders in the midst of continuing political crisis and violence. This event will explore what connects and divides Iraqi youth from others across the region.  

A panel of three dynamic young cultural leaders and activists from across the Middle East, cyberactivist Maryam al Khawajafrom the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, renowned Syrian blogger Rami Nakhla aka Malath Aumran, and pop music icon Hassan al Faluji of the Iraqi pop band UTN1 will discuss the role of youth in peacebuilding in the region.  Their discussion will be moderated by Adel Iskandar, professor of Arab media at Georgetown University.

In Iraq, “Salam Shabab” is the very first peacebuilding television program depicting the real life story of Iraqi youth. The series showcases not only a population that is often marginalized, but also the powerful desire and capacity of Iraqi youth to bring peace to their communities. The afternoon will feature an exclusive screening of one episode from Season 1 of Salam Shabab, currently airing in Iraq on Al Iraqiya and throughout the region on Space Power.

A question and answer session with the show’s producers will follow the screening. The evening will conclude with a live performance by Iraqi pop band UTN1.


4:00-4:15pm | Welcome Remarks
Manal Omar, Director of Iraq, Iran, and North Africa Programs

4:15-4:20 | Introduction 

Tara Sonenshine, Executive Vice President

4:20-4:40 | Keynote
Jabir Habeb, Iraqi Ambassador to the United States

4:40-4:50 | Screening Introduction

  • Hayder Hamzoz, youth blogger in Baghdad and Salam Shabab Street Team Leader.  
  • Theo DolanModerator
    USIP Senior Program Officer
    Media, Conflict and Peacebuilding Center of Innovation

4:50-5:25 | Film Screening 
“Salam Shabab,” Episode 9: Final Round

5:25-5:40 | Remarks
Marsha Williams, President of Harvest Research Group LLC, presents key research results

5:40-6:10 | Production Q+A

  • Hussam Hadi, Producer
  • Brett Pierce, Co-Executive Producer and former Sesame Workshop Producer
  • Afrah Mahdi, USIP Media Program Specialist in Baghdad
  • Theo DolanModerator
    USIP Senior Program Officer

6:10-6:50 | Panel Discussion: Youth and the Arab Spring

  • Maryam Al Khawaja, Head of Foreign Relations at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights
  • Hassan al Faluji, lead singer for Iraq pop band UTN1
  • Rami Nakhla (Malath Aumran), Syrian Activist/Blogger and Spokesperson for the Local Coordination Committees of Syria
  • Adel IskandarModerator
    Adjunct Professor
    Georgetown University Center for Contemporary Arab Studiesand Communication, Culture and Technology