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Episode 1: In Baghdad, Iraq

Just after the 10th anniversary of the Iraqi war in 2013, borderless went to Baghdad with host, Stephan Said, to meet and interview young women and men at the frontlines of peace and change, using their voices to unite their country in the face of growing division. Sectarianism was at a fever pitch; it was the build up just before ISIS invaded.

A generation working for change was waiting to be heard, if only the world could hear them. borderless worked with Sunni, Shia, and Christian youth, Baghdadi’s, Muslawi’s, and Kurds, all hoping to heal their country before things got worse.

We met Sajjad Abbas, an artist, whose instantly recognizable graffiti can be seen across the city, crying out for peace. We met Ali Al Makhzomy and Ali Amer Taha, who founded Iraqi Culture Day to celebrate an inclusive Iraqi history that unites the country.

We met doctors, professors, and electrical engineers working at the country’s major hospitals, universities and power plants, many of them working overtime 7 days a week trying to meet needs that are far beyond capacity amidst so much carnage.

Mohammed Al Daradji, an Oscar nominated film-maker, founded a school, Iraqi Independent Film Center, with award-winning cinematographer Duraid Munajim, where they teach film making to urban youth. We met Ayman Al Amiri there; a brilliant young photographer who documented all of our work. We came across Layla al Shaikley, Ali Ihsan and others who co-founded TEDx Baghdad. Stephan met out young musicians of the band, Quartet n Jazz, who are as passionate about change as they are about playing music within the restrictive environment of the city.

On a hot day in which bombings closed numerous checkpoints, Stephan enjoyed the serenity of a youth orchestra’s rehearsal in Mansour. Cellist and conductor Karim Wasfi, known to some as the “Maestro of Baghdad,” spoke with Stephan about their mutual dreams to use music as an instrument of peace, and got into an impromptu jam – Karim on cello, Stephan on violin, for the young players.

These young visionaries who have grown up at the epicenter of our generation’s most destructive conflict, possess an optimism and hope that is fearless and unstoppable.

Hoping to preempt the escalating violence before it reached today’s proportions, these youth and hundreds of other Iraqi’s joined Stephan to make a music video, “Love, Make The World Go Round,” in the streets of Baghdad calling on the world to unite and to give birth to such a great awakening. Our aim was as simple as it is defiantly bold: to lift a vision of a better world for which we all can stand together louder than the bombs of inequality, and forge a path toward a more equitable society in which sustainable peace is possible.

As we teeter at the edge of catastrophe, we must choose whether we listen to those who continue to divide us, or those who want change.

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