US travel ban harms Iraqi entrepreneurs

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For an Iraqi makerspace founder, the repercussions of President Trump’s executive order to put a ban on travelers from seven countries, including Syria and Iraq, are halting progress in building bridges between his country and others, and educating the young.

Nawres Arif, founder of the Basra makerspace Science Camp, says the ban will directly affect four trips they have planned over the next six months. All of these trips are entrepreneurship exchanges or around how to use technology for peace.

“We try to build a bridge between countries and between people. We try to invite people every time to travel to Iraq. This kind of ban will affect our work badly because it is the opposite of what we’re trying to do,” he said.

In March a Science Camp member was supposed to go on a three-week entrepreneurship exchange with the International Visitor Leadership Program.

In May a Science Camp group is supposed to visit the US Institute of Peace in Washington DC for an intensive entrepreneurship mentoring program.

And in July, Arif wanted to enter an Iraqi high school team into the First Global Robot of Peace competition in Washington DC.

These trips are all now uncertain.

And because the Iraq parliament has put in place a reciprocal ban on US citizens, a series of events on how to use technology for peace, run throughout Iraq by the US Peacetech Lab in April, is also at risk.

He says there will be a psychological toll as well.

Arif is one of Iraqi entrepreneurship’s biggest supporters. He built Science Camp in the driveway of his family home to give young men and women a space to make things - it will be inundated in a few weeks when university students begin arriving to start their graduation projects. A new metal working workshop has just been completed and they’re starting on a wood workshop for the “wood artists” among them.

And he has been working for years on sending Iraqis out into the world and inviting foreigners home to break down cultural barriers.

Feature image via First Global.

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