This week, the TED Blog released the exclusive video of TEDxBaghdad organizer Yahay Alabdeli’s speech at TEDxSummit, “Why I organized a TEDx in Baghdad.”

Yahay, an Iraqi refugee, returned to his country for the first time in 34 years to organize a TEDx event in Baghdad.

At TEDxSummit in Doha, Qatar, Yahay told his story.

Inspired by an Arabic poem he heard at a TEDx event in Rotterdam, Alabdeli said, “after 34 years of looking for identity, looking for home, this poem gave me all the answers I had been looking for.”

In his heart, Iraq had always been home, yet the country he saw in the media portrayed a home he could no longer recognize. “Baghdad: a city of killing and bombing? No! This is not my Baghdad,” an emotional Alabdeli protested, “My Baghdad was once a center of Arab learning, a city of peace (Madinat-as-Salam).” That realization spurred Alabdeli to organize the first TEDx event in Baghdad, which he themed, “Making the impossible possible.”

Organizing a TEDx in a European city is more like a conference, Alabdeli explained, but in places like Ramallah, Tripoli, Baghdad—it is more like a dream. “People leave inspired, they laugh and they cry, lives are transformed.”

In the end, more than 650 people attended TEDxBaghdad, including the Prime Minister of Iraq, and Alabdeli found what he had been searching for—a community full of hopes and dreams, and a real will to rebuild Iraq.

“We have shown the world that we are still alive,” he finished, as the audience rose to their feet in a standing ovation for the inspiration, determy’s snation, and passion of one extraordinary individual, living proof of TED’s premise that ideas can indeed change the world.“

TEDxBaghdad's second event just took place on the 22nd of October, soon after their City 2.0 event. Pictures from the event can be found here, and previously on the TEDx blog, a diary from a TEDxBaghdad team member.

I never expected to travel to this part of the world. I never expected to become so involved in the TEDx community. I never expected to have this life. And I am old enough, and not wise—but wise just enough—to appreciate the gifts, fully. The world got a little smaller for me this past two weeks. And I am forever changed by the people and places I experienced. Peace within us translates in every language to peace among us.
Teri Orr, TEDxParkCity organizer, on attending TEDxSummit in Doha, Qatar
But before we dived in and worked on the direction of TEDx going forward, we needed to figure out exactly what TEDx is and why it grew at the rate it did. There was never really one answer to this. I found this fascinating. TED had set out clear guidelines within which TEDx organizers must operate. But that’s all. They had really just set the parameters and then left the community to self-regulate and grow in any direction. You may not think this is of any significance. But imagine being the custodian of TED, potentially the most influential brand in the world and letting it reign free for high-impact over achievers around the globe to run with and drive in whatever direction they believed fit. But it is THIS openness and freedom that has resulted in the impact of TEDx, as each organizer can leverage the brand and attune their event to the relevance of their community. And from this, create true value which fuels the growth of TEDx as their communities and markets keep being inspired and wanting more.
From Justin Beswick, TEDxCapeTown organizer on his experience at TEDxSummit in Doha, Qatar. Read the full post at his blog »>
I went to the event very curious and even excited for having had organized a TEDxYouth at the end of last year. I left as a human more human, with broadened horizons and an enormous extra dose of brilliance in my eyes. Since I have returned to Brazil, many people have asked me how the trip was and, as much as I try to tell the details, I cannot share many of the things that I had felt during the conversations and workshops. No, words are not enough to translate the intensity of these experiences.

André Gravatá, organizer of TEDxJovem@Ibira, on his experience at TEDxSummit.