Noof Assi of Iraq has been selected as the U.S. Department of State’s Alumni Member of the Month for May 2012 in recognition of her leadership in promoting civic engagement among Arab youth through social media. Assi participated in the 2010 Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP) that allowed her to attend the University of Southern Indiana. Prior to her program, she wrote “My goals are to share my experience with my friends and my community and to try to make a change in my life and my community.” As an alumna of the program, she has done just that.
Applying the leadership skills she developed during her exchange, Assi has become one of the most prominent youth activists and social media leaders in Iraq. During the Arab Spring, she organized rallies and gatherings for the youth of Baghdad. She also co-founded Iraqi Streets 4 Change, an organization that works to promote grassroots change in Iraq through civic activism. Finally, after graduating from college last year, Assi became a Project Assistant and Social Media Trainer for the Iraqi Al-Amal Association. In this role, she has been able to share her talents with Iraqi youth and women, training them to employ social media tools for social progress.
Assi has expanded her reach beyond Iraq to become a civic activist and social media leader for youth throughout the Arab world. Using the cross-cultural communication skills she learned during her exchange, as well as her social media expertise, she reaches out to online audiences writing in both English and Arabic on her blog, “Noofeshka: I want to be the change that I want to see.” She participates in social media workshops and conferences throughout the region and was recently chosen to be a member of an Iraqi delegation that toured the United States to engage with civil society leaders in Washington, D.C. and to speak about civil society activism in Iraq.
Despite her full schedule, Assi remains a dedicated member of Iraq’s exchange alumni community. She regularly assists in recruitment presentations for potential future IYLEP participants and also recently presented at an IYLEP Alumni Leadership Development Conference, speaking about civil society activism and social media. Additionally, she worked with alumni colleagues on a project, Sounds for Peace, which compiles and promotes music from Iraqi and American artists. Finally, she is currently seeking support from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund project competition in order to publish a compilation of stories and highlights from her exchange experience that she hopes will increase mutual understanding between Iraq and the United States.
Summing up the personal impact of her exchange experience, Assi stated, “Before, I was always talking about ‘we and them, we and them;’ but when I got the chance to see the world and people my age - how they are living, how they are acting - I realized there is no such thing as ‘we and them.’ It’s all of us. We are all human. We are all trying to do the same things.”