Iraqi Voices at Mizna Arab Film Festival Oct 1!

Written on September 22, 2016, by

Excited as ever to be a part of this year’s Mizna Arab Film Festival!

Iraqi Shorts and Iraqi Voices at the Mizna Arab Film Festival on October 1 @ 1:00pm. The 2015 films will be screened as well as a sneak peak of our 2016 film. Q&A with filmmakers after screening. Come out and show your support for Iraqi filmmakers!

Learn more here.




Friends, fellowship, and fried kebbabs

Written on July 28, 2016, by

It’s friendship via food- even better, via fried food. This past Sunday five American women and six Iraqi women came together in the kitchen to cook, eat, and form relationships. Our Iraqi friends taught us how to make delicious fried kebabs and laid out a full spread of vegetable toppings and Iraqi bread. And while the meal was delectable, the company was even better. Despite the language barrier, we discussed food, our differing marriage traditions, memories from Iraq, and our experiences raising a family, going to school, and managing a career. When it was time to go all of the participants exchanged phone numbers and a hope that the dinner would turn into a monthly event.


If you are interested in hosting or attending an Iraqi cooking class in the Twin Cities contact us at

Also, check out the recipes we learned below!

Lamb and Ground Beef Fried Kebabs20160724_154142

1 kilo ground beef
1/2 kilo ground lamb

1 handful of each chopped:
onion (finely chopped)
green pepper

Approximately 1- 1 1/2 cups flour

Two teaspoons of each:
black pepper

salt to taste

Using your hands, thoroughly mix all ingredients. Dip hands in water to keep meat from sticking . Form into patties, logs or balls.

Add lots of oil to pan. Heat it up and when the oil bubbles, put the meat in.

Fry 1-2 minutes per side, or until each side gets brown or as well done as like.

Serve with vegetables and herbs such as: spring onions, sliced onions marinated in sumac, mint, cilantro, parsley, Iraqi pickles (see below!), green peppers, tomatoes!

Wrap in Iraqi bread and enjoy!

Iraqi Pickles

pickling cucumbers
white vinegar
garlic cloves, crushed
kosher salt
ground coriander
curry powder

Put your cucumbers into sterilized mason jars. In a pot, boil white vinegar, garlic cloves, salt, sugar, and other spices. Use about 1 cup vinegar, ¼ cup salt, and ¼ teaspoon sugar per 1 pound of cucumbers.

Feel free to experiment with different spice combinations/quantities, and different kinds of vegetables! You can also stuff your cucumbers with garlic, parsley, onion, and other spices.

Pour the boiled brine over the cucumbers until the jars are full. Seal the jars.

Once the pickles change color they will be ready to eat- this will take approximately one week.



“People far from the fire don’t feel the heat”: An Update from Iraqi Kurdistan

Written on June 22, 2016, by

As we continue to fund hygiene kits for Iraqi IDPs in the Iraqi Kurdistan region we think it is critical to understand the situation in the area. In May, we funded $2,500 worth of hygiene kits that were distributed by the Critical Needs Support Foundation. As people “far from the fire” our hearts, thoughts, and prayers are those “close to the heat”.

Below is a letter written by Cathy Breen who is currently part of a peacemaking team in Iraqi Kurdistan. Cathy is a N.Y City Catholic worker who first went to Iraq in 2002 as part of the Iraq Peace Team, a sub-project of the Voices in the Wilderness.

April 25, 2016

Dear Friends,

It is hard to put my feelings into words. Just the other day we visited a sheikh whom I had met in Fallujah in 2012. He and his family were forced to flee to Kurdistan about two years ago. Fallujah, as you probably know, is being held by ISIS. None of its residents are allowed to leave. People are literally dying of starvation.

We met in the rented apartment of another sheikh who also fled Fallujah with his family. Although he himself is sick with cancer, both he and our sheikh friend welcomed us warmly. The afternoon was balmy and pleasant, the room was airy and light, with cushions on the floor, a couple of plastic chairs and a bed which also served as a sofa. Water was fetched immediately and we were graciously served sweets and tea. In the course of our visit we were joined by yet another sheikh from Ramadi. The U.N. recently reported that the destruction in Ramadi, also in the Anbar region, was the worst they had witnessed in all of Iraq.

Outwardly everything seemed so normal that at first I forgot I was with people now counted among the hundreds of thousands who are internally displaced in Iraq. In the next couple of hours, though, we would hear many tragic stories that would dispel any thought of normalcy.

“We have lost everything,” our sheikh friend said. “We are like babies just being born. We lost schools, universities, houses, bridges, hospitals, markets. All gone. People in the U.S. need to know what their government did to the Iraqi people. All this pain, destruction and hurt.”

Our host told of a woman who had no breast milk to feed her baby as she herself was starving. However, she had a goat and, for a while, she was able to give this milk to her baby son. Then the goat died. At this point in the story, the Iraqi woman translating for me was unable to continue. Overcome by sorrow, she began crying and left the room to collect herself. I learned later that this mother searched desperately for someone to give her baby to in order to save his life.

After a lengthy open discussion, we were invited to join the sheikh’s wife, watching children with other women of the family in a second room. Again a very warm welcome belied an all-too-grim reality. This dear woman’s mother, sister and daughter are all currently trapped in Fallujah, and with ten children in their collective care. On occasion she is able to reach them by phone. The women in Fallujah weep to her across the line. They are reduced to eating grass.

“We can do nothing to save them!” the sheikh’s wife said. “The government doesn’t help! We don’t know how this is possible!” It was incomprehensible to me -I find myself simply unable to imagine this family’s pain. “We have a saying,” she said. “People far away from the fire, don’t get burned. They don’t feel the heat.” Across that phone line, and waiting for the next call, she feels it.

As we stood to take our leave, we embraced and kissed one another. One by one, I took the sweet faces into my hands. They thanked us for the visit. Photos were taken to remember each other by, and I recorded all of the names of their loved ones in Fallujah so they will not be forgotten. I would write these names here, and include the photo for those who read this, but I am fearful to do so. Their situation is already so precarious.

It was early the next day-that is, yesterday morning-that my driver and I left for Dahuk, about three hours northwest of Erbil. The road to Dahuk is dotted with many Yezidi, Christian and Kurdish villages. My driver and his family are themselves internally displaced from one of the villages surrounding Mosel, and our trip would take us close to his village. Actually we entertained the thought of visiting there, but the fear of random explosions and directed ISIS attacks caused us to decide against this visit.

The family that was to host me in Dahuk are Christians from the same village as my driver. They lost a house to ISIS in Mosul in 2008 when they fled after priests were murdered in their church. They had lived there for twenty years. They fled to a village called Teleskuf where they would live for another 6 years until ISIS took this village as well. Now it is a ghost town with only the Peshmerga there.

We passed the area of the Mosul dam and later with my host family we looked together at a map marking the whereabouts of ISIS. “We all know where ISIS (Da’ash) is”, they told me. And lines were drawn on the map to show me their current locations. They were only kilometers away.

In Dahuk we visited with some Yazidis in an unfinished building where they are living. After a word of welcome we were given water, juice and sweets in a ceremonious manner, so typical of the graciousness in the Middle East. An elderly gentleman shared the terrible story of one of his granddaughters, who had been away from the area at the time of the horrific massacre in August of 2014 and the siege of Sinjar mountain. When she returned and learned of the brutality her people had suffered, she found it unbearable and took her life. How does one respond to such pain?

Seated on the mat next to this sorrowing grandfather was a young Yazidi man who is studying in the university. Together with other young Yazidis they plan to reach out to about 5,000 children on the mountain with the hope of educating them. I shared the story of my friends, the Afghan Peace Volunteers in Kabul, and the fruits they are reaping from their literacy program with street children.

Also in Dahuk we were able to visit with several internally displaced families living side by side in a church hall. Excited little children led me to the curtains which act as their front doors.



And then they drew back the curtains to reveal their living quarters.


The families behind the curtains like these, in camps or in unfinished buildings and compounds, have for the time a desperately welcomed measure of security. But they have lost everything they owned. The family I stayed with had fled here with only the clothes on their backs. Fourteen people in a car!

Because they are in Kurdistan which is officially still part of Iraq, they have no refugee status and are not eligible for resettlement. They are what is called IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons). They would have to go to Turkey, Lebanon or Jordan and register there as refugees. They would find themselves, however, at the bottom of the pile. And they have no money with which to sustain themselves.

The husband and father of my host family has a mother and several sisters in the United States. His wife has family in Canada, Germany and the U.S. They must feel the heat from here as few others in a comfortable West, author of so much of this region’s suffering, ever can. “What can we do?” my hosts ask. “We want a future for our children.”

It is hard to put my feelings into words. “People far from the fire don’t feel the heat.” Here in Kurdistan I am closer to the fire as I watch good people getting burnt.

Warmest greetings,

Cathy Breen

Meet our summer intern: Emily Crnkovich

Written on June 6, 2016, by

Hello! My name is Emily Crnkovich and I am a rising senior at Macalester college studying Linguistics and English Literature. On campus I am involved in an organization called MacHOPE (Macalester Helping Open Peaceful Exchange), which focuses on peace-building education and spreading knowledge about post-conflict societies. It is through MacHOPE that I was introduced to the work of IARP, and I am so happy to have the opportunity to work with this organization on its mission of peace-building and communication. Other things about me: I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, I just wrapped up a semester studying in Hyderabad, India, and on Macalester’s campus I am also involved in club volleyball, debate, and student theater.

Iraq at the Festival of Nations 2016

Written on May 19, 2016, by

Festival of Nations recap by IARP intern Jackie Myer.

As visitors entered the exhibit area, they to the festival were drawn to the beautiful blue replica of the Gate of Ishtar, the former eighth gate to the inner city of Babylon. The gate was originally constructed in 575 BC by the order of King Nebuchadnezzar II, and was considered to be one of the original Seven Wonders of the World. The other side of the exhibit was decorated with a replica of shanasheel, an element of traditional Arab architecture. The projecting windows frequently used in houses and palaces to provide privacy are typically made from wood lattice, and the design attracted attention from visitors to the Festival who wanted to know more about the origins of the design. As visitors walked inside, they were able to see beautiful carpets and pillows, multiple tea sets, and various other decorations from local Iraqis. Children in particular were attracted to the large blue gate, and were often lined up outside the entrance waiting to get inside to receive a stamp in their passport and their name written in Arabic.

It was enjoyable to work at the exhibit with local Iraqis and listen to them tell stories and answer questions from children about Iraq, as well as laughing with them as I made (frequent) mistakes while attempting to speak Arabic. The Iraqis were eager to share the side of Iraq that is not usually portrayed on the news. When asked what they knew about Iraq, most children responded by saying, “there’s a war there, right?” but typically did not know anything else about the country. At the exhibit, we were able to teach them about Iraqi culture, typical foods in Iraq, and the Arabic language, as well as explaining the rich history of Iraq, which was often prompted by questions about the Gate of Ishtar. As people increasingly only hear about Iraq in the context of conflict, this opportunity to share the other side of Iraq with the community was invaluable and I hope that it opened their eyes to a richer, more complicated picture of Iraq than what they hear on the news.


325 Hygiene Kits for Iraqi IDPs

Written on May 2, 2016, by

Hygiene kits and dignity for Iraqi IDPs


We have appreciated and been humbled by your commitment over the years to insure clean water in Najaf schools. We are shifting our Water for Peace financial support toward what seems to be more urgent needs.

IARP will partner with the Critical Needs Support Foundation (CNSF) to provide 325 hygiene packages to vulnerable Iraqi families, widows, and orphans living in IDP camps. We are challenging ourselves to fund the kits by May 15. Please join us as we kick off this new urgent project!

CNSF: CNSF is a small Iraqi non-governmental organization. CNSF provides critical support and delivers hope to people most in need, without bias. Projects include delivering food and water supplies to various IDP camps, maintaining a safe house for women previously captured by ISIS, running the New Life Project which teaches men and women new skills so they are able to search for employment or start their own small businesses. Learn more here.

Hygiene project: The protracted humanitarian crisis in Iraq is causing displaced families and individuals to face increased hardship and debt as they struggle to afford essential items to survive. Food is often prioritized over basic hygiene items. Without support, this negatively impacts public health and the dignity of displaced peoples. CNSF aims to provide hygiene kits and education to 325 vulnerable displaced families and individuals, including widows and orphans.

With your support, IARP will provide funding for 325 hygiene kits to vulnerable displaced families and individuals, including widows and orphans in Zakho, Sheihan, and Baadra.

Each hygiene kit costs $17 and contains the following:


-Nail scissors
-Feminine hygiene products
-Small towel
-3 toothbrushes
-Wet wipes
-Cotton swabs
-Hand sanitizer
-First-aid kit
-Laundry and dishwashing powder
-Large box for storage
-Possibly diapers

Would you consider partnering with us and fund a hygiene kit for only $17?


Basic education on how to use the items in the hygiene kit can help reduce the chance of infectious diseases being spread in camps, especially diseases of the skin and those specific to women. This simple, but important course will include:

-Explanation of the importance of hygiene and its advantages, including a small notebook containing pictures
-Dental hygiene information
-Wound treatment
-Feminine hygiene

We are challenging ourselves to fund the kits by May 15. Please join us as we kick off this new urgent project!

Donate here.

Please note that we are partnering with CNSF to fund this hygiene project. No donations will fund any other CNSF programs.

Connecting with the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq

Written on March 19, 2016, by

Soon after listening to an NPR radio interview with National Youth Orchestra of Iraq (NYOI) founder Zuhal Sultan, I found an e-mail in my inbox. A local Minneapolis resident, connected to Luthiers Without Borders, was interested in donating bows and some strings to the Youth Orchestra, if we could arrange it.

The organization I work for, the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project, is a non-profit based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Our mission is to promote reconciliation between the people of the United States and Iraq in response to the devastation that has affected Iraqi families, society, and culture. We work toward our mission of reconciliation through the arts, education, cultural and professional exchange, and support for peacemakers in Iraq.

After many weeks of trying to find the right person to contact through Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail leads, I finally got a hold of Majd Al-Azzawi, Chairperson and ProjectManager of NYOI.

He told me a little more about the orchestra and of its hopeful beginnings and current struggles to stay functioning in the current climate of Iraq.

The National Youth Orchestra of Iraq is the brainchild of Zuhal Sultan, a young pianist from Baghdad who founded the orchestra in 2009 when she was just 17 years old. She now lives in Scotland and is studying law. The orchestra is comprised of 45 musicians from different parts of Iraq who have to audition each year. The orchestra has performed concerts in Iraq, Germany, Scotland, and England. In 2013, NYOI became a registered NGO in Iraq. However, starting that same year they faced cancelled concerts in the US and France due to visa denials after the rise of ISIS in many cities across Iraq. They have been unable to leave the country for concerts since.

Currently, in addition to a 4-week workshop for musicians and annual concerts, NYOI plans to hold music workshops for children in schools and orphanages in Basra.

Despite the talent and dedication of the young musicians, many do not have the funds for instruments and NYOI is struggling to provide the necessary instruments and parts to these musicians due to lack of funding.

In addition to bows, Majd let me know that the orchestra was in need of the following:

  • Sets of strings for violin, violaand cello
  • Rosin for the same instruments
  • Bow hair
  • Reeds for oboe, bassoon and clarinet
  • Pads for the woodwinds
  • Oils and slide creams for brasses
  • Full-size violins

If you can provide any of the above or would like more information, please contact IARP Deputy Director Jessica Belt at or 763-710-0427. Any additional donations will be given to NYOI to support programming. You can send a check or donate at If donating online, please send an email noting the donation amount and purpose. All donations are tax deductible.

Learn more about NYOI at:

Learn more about IARP at:

Listen to the original NPR piece here:



Thank You to our 2015 Donors!

Written on March 7, 2016, by


Download IARP’s 2015 Annual Report HERE—-> IARP_2015_Report

Another year has passed and as always we finish the year with gratitude to the individuals, organizations, foundations, and businesses that have supported our programs and events in 2015. Thank you for your generosity and encouragement.


Catherine Abbott
Ellen Abbot & Gerald Krause
Philip & Kathleen Adam
Jameelah Hasoon and Jamal Al Samarai
Amel Al-Sammarai and Mohammed Al Azzawi
Mary Jean Babcock
Jessica Belt
Richard and Cathleen Bernard
William Berneking
David Bicking
Pepperwolf and Tom Bottolene
Briana Bradley
John & Marie Braun
Jay Broeker
Beverly Caruso
Steve & Christine Clemens
Arthur Dorland
Vicky Douglas
Anne Dykstra
Mary E. Crowley and Robert H. Edelstein
Katherine and Rich Fournier
Ann Galloway
Barbara and Donald Gerten
Mark Giese
Richard Klupper and Diane Glynn
Richard Gournier
Jeff Grosscup and Karin Grosscup
Joan & Philip Haan
John Hancock
Walt Handschin
Lynne Hardey
David Harris
Erin Hart
Kate Havelin
Nancy Hensel
Sheila Hoffman
Mark & Margaret Hottinger
Mary Hunt
Nausheena Hussain
Susu Jeffrey
Robert and Joycelyn Johnson
Dorothy Jung
Noah Keeseker
Louann Lanning
Joanna Lees
Jade Lehrer
Daniel Leisen & Andi Kuenning
Sharon Lewandowski
Chuck Lutz
Sharon Lyon
Joyce Lyon
Sarah Martin
John and Connie Marty
Lotti Matkovits
David & Jeanie Mayes
Kathy McKay
David Moseman
Salam Murtada and Vanessa Cornett-Murtada
Ihab & Rita Murtada
Sayrah Namaste
Al and Anne Nettles
Luanne Nyberg
Sita Ohanessian
Betty Olsen
Rodney Olsen
Karen Osborne Pope
Patricia Owen
Angelo and Mary Percich
Paul Perkal
Theresa Pick
Jane Powers
June Prange
Mark Raderstorf and Linda Armstrong
Judy Reinehr
Ann Ricketts
Carroll and Ann Rock
Mike Rollin
Patrick & Narmin Rolston
Phil Runkel
Carole Rydberg
Carolyn Rose Schurr
Mohammed Selims’s Class
Amy Shebeck
Lynn Shoemaker
Rev. David Smith
Chris Steffen
William Stoeri and Sue Johnston
Judy Summersby
Karen Svien
Lawrence Valley
AnnMarie Vennerstrom
Robert & Kathleen Wedl
Lorriane Welch
Luke Wilcox
Rev. Greg Wilcox
Deborah Wuerffel and Jake Kirchgessner
Catherine Yamoor
Fatima Zeidan

All donors from Network for Good Google

Organizations and Foundations:
Medtronic Preschool
Mennonite Foundation
Minnesota State Arts Board
Ohanessian Endowment Fund for Justice and Peace Studies of the Minneapolis Foundation
Pilgrim Lutheran Church, St. Paul
St. Augustines Catholic Church

If you or your organization is not listed here or is misspelled please contact

Introducing our new spring intern!

Written on January 28, 2016, by

A short introduction from IARP’s spring intern.

Hello! My name is Jackie Meyer, and I am extremely excited to be interning with IARP in the coming months. I grew up in a small town in South Dakota, and I am in my final semester at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, majoring in Global Studies with concentrations in the Middle East and human rights and justice, and will hopefully be pursuing graduate study in international human rights next fall. I have been studying Arabic for three years, including ten weeks spent in Fez, Morocco this past summer, and I recently completed my undergraduate thesis on the Islamic State and recruitment in the United States. I am particularly interested in collateral damage during war and how transnational perceptions of populations are subsequently affected, so I am thrilled to be involved in the IARP’s mission of cultural exchange and rebuilding of relationships between the United States and Iraq.

2016-01-26 at 11.42.21 AM

A recap: Iraqi Voices 2015 Premiere

Written on January 8, 2016, by

On December 7th 2015, 140 community members came to Macalester College’s Ruth Stricker Dayton Student Center to view three new films in our Iraqi Voices series.

The films highlight the anti-corruption protests and demands for basic services occurring weekly in cities across Iraq, along with the dangers that middle-class Iraqi professionals continue to face as they attempt to rebuild their country. The directors included video footage of thousands marching in both Najaf and Baghdad each Friday, displaying a passion for justice and the yearning to reclaim Iraq for its people.

The directors and filmmakers answered questions both on the panel discussion following the films and afterwards at an informal reception. The Iraqi filmmakers gave audience members perspectives and facts we do not get from our American media.

Students, older activists, workers, parents and young children, Iraqis and a variety of other Minnesotans came to hear the culmination of Iraqi Voices III, the third year of documentary filmmaking by local Iraqis under the mentorship of Nathan Fisher, professional documentary filmmaker. These documentary shorts will be available on our website soon.

Films from Iraqi Voices I and II are online here.

Opportunities to support the development of the Iraqi Voices Program:

If you attended the premiere event, we would love your feedback to help improve the Iraqi Voices events in the future. Please click here to participate in a quick online feedback survey.

If you are interested in viewing the 2015 videos online and providing feedback for evaluation purposes, please contact


Photo by Zane Spang  2015 Photo by Zane Spang  2015 Photo by Zane Spang  2015 Photo by Zane Spang  2015 Photo by Zane Spang  2015 Photo by Zane Spang  2015 Photo by Zane Spang  2015 Photo by Zane Spang  2015 Photo by Zane Spang  2015 Photo by Zane Spang  2015 Photo by Zane Spang  2015 Photo by Zane Spang  2015 Photo by Zane Spang  2015 Photo by Zane Spang  2015 Photo by Zane Spang  2015