Iraq to Be Reborn as Art & Science Hub Through Baghdad Hackerspace

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A young leader is bringing his passion for collaboration to create a hackerspace in Baghdad this October.  Bilal Ghalib, an expat who is returning to Iraq from the U.S. to host the Baghdad maker space, has a passion for bringing people together to solve complex societal problems through simple collaboration.

Ghalib is currently a maker advocate consultant with Autodeska leader in 3D design, engineering, and entertainment software, helping professionals to imagine and design a better world.

Labeling himself “lead instigator” on the initiative’s website reveals clearly Ghalib's passionate and ambitious personality.

His project, GEMSI, or the Global Entrepreneurship and Maker Space Initiative, has already successfully led maker/hackerspaces in Cairo and Beirut over the last year. Their website defines a hackerspace, or maker space, as “empowering spaces within which individuals use the space, tools, and the community to build things they are passionate about…local repositories of science, technology, engineering, math, and arts.”

Now the team is bringing their passion and unique skills to the communities of Baghdad. By raising money on Kickstarter, GEMSI was able to raise $8,169, more than $1,000 over their target amount, and successfully run a maker space in Cairo in conjunction with Maker Fair Africa, leaving a permanent mark on the Egyptian hackerspace. They are hoping to continue that momentum going into Baghdad.

“A thousand years ago, Baghdad was a hub of science, technology, art and philosophy and it can be that again,” Ghalib pronounces in his inspiring kickstarter video pitch.

After participating in TEDxBaghdad this past April and running several workshops, Ghalib saw the untapped passion and excitement of Iraqis to solve the issues that affect them daily. The team at GEMSI seeks to spread their successes in Cairo and Beirut through two hackerspaces to be hosted in Baghdad. With a goal of $27,500 for the events in Baghdad, GEMSI has a view to create a lasting impact by bringing life to the hackerspace community in Iraq.

The first event, Riwaya wa Bidaya (Stories and Beginning) on October 5th, will include a livestream conference to “draw out stories of engagement and courage… to gather stories and showcase the creative talent of community members as they come across challenges in their neighborhoods and cities.”

At their second event, Amal wa Amal (Work and Hope) on October 18th-19th, “We will invite local artists to run workshops on their crafts as well as run skillshares that promote the idea that everyone has something valuable to share.” The event will build off of the stories collected at Riwaya wa Bidaya.

Leading up to these events in Baghdad, GEMSI is hosting a competition, the Baghdad Story Challenge, to creatively share stories of service to the community and turning that service into action. One such story can be seen in the comic featured on their website. 

Ghalib explains that, “The challenges that Iraq faces are vast, but the solutions to those challenges are already inside the country.” GEMSI aims to enable new hackerspaces to find innovative solutions to pressing issues through a unique and inventive space designed for collaboration.

In his pitch, Ghalib explains that there are over 700 of these grassroots community spaces throughout the world, and very few of them are in the Middle East.

Seeking to change this reality, GEMSI is working to “foster a culture of innovation, creativity, problem solving, sharing and making,” as their website details.

Empowering hackers and makers through this initiative redefines community discussion and brainstorming into a proactive process to foster real change. With an inspiring message of creative brainstorming and problem-solving, GEMSI’s hackerspaces have the potential to transform the region from the ground up.

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