The Nahrein Network


Spotlight On... Meyihar Kathem

17 August 2022


What is your role and what does it involve?

I am a senior researcher at UCL’s History Department, working for the Nahrein Network. The Nahrein Network was previously an AHRC-GCRF funded programme and has now been extended for ten years by private gift money.

The Nahrein Network supports Iraq’s cultural heritage, working closely with archaeologists, heritage experts and academics. It focuses on scholarships (to the UK institutions) and offers research grants, which support Iraqi academics to conduct their own research about the cultural heritage.

In addition to management responsibilities, I also produce research about the politics of heritage in Iraq and work on how political groups (and political systems) exploit cultural heritage to reshape society.  

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

 I joined UCL in December 2017. I completed my PhD at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in 2016. That research looked at the formation of the Iraqi NGO Sector during and after the US-UK occupation of the country. I have worked in the NGO sector and international development since 2003.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

Im very proud to be part of the Nahrein Network, which is supporting Iraqi academia and heritage organisations to address Iraq’s cultural heritage challenges. Most recently, I was proud to have co-authored a research paper on Heritage Predation for Chatham House, which looks at how cultural heritage is exploited for political purposes in Iraq. The paper can be read here

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list

I am currently working on developing AcademIQ, a project which supports Iraqi academics to strengthen their academic writing and publishing skills. The programme was borne out of a British Academy grant titled ‘Iraq Writing Workshops’ in 2019 which was implemented with the support of UK academics. AcademIQ is designed to increase the quantity and quality of research in Iraq particularly with a view to elevate Iraqi voices through training workshops, online courses, mentorship and other forms of support over the next few years.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

One of my favourite books is the Prophet by Khalil Jibran. Some of my favourite films include Carlito’s WayScarfaceThe GodfatherThe 7th Voyage of SinbadBetty BlueBitter Moon and The English Patient.

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

I don’t have a favourite joke as life is in large part a journey that lends itself to comedy.

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

Cleopatra, Hammurabi, Nebuchadnezar II, Malcom X, Alexander the Great, al Mutanabbi and Mohammed Ali (the boxer).

What advice would you give your younger self?

Try to spend more time with awe-inspiring people and read more literature.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

That I would like to be a novelist one day.

What is your favourite place?  

Somewhere green, close to a river, lake or the sea and preferably culturally rich.

Nahrein Network