*This story was written by Irene Gibson, who interned with IARP in the summer of 2013. The story exemplifies the personal ties and friendships between Americans and Iraqis that IARP supports.
Recently I had the pleasure of visiting Shayma and her beautiful family, refugees from Iraq who recently arrived in Minnesota.
Shayma opened the door to the house even before I could knock. Greeting me with hugs and kisses, she eagerly introduced me to her husband, Mohammed, and oldest daughter, Ayat (16). Shayma proudly showed me around the house, and Doha (8) and Malik (6) showed me their letter books and homework. Malik brought me a small pumpkin, placed it in the fridge, and explained in detail exactly how she was going to cook it later. Eventually Shayma, Mohammad, and the oldest brother Hussein (17) sat with me to drink tea and discuss life in Minnesota.
When I tell people I visited a household of Iraqi refugees, most think of the differences: clothes, food, language. But this family wasn’t foreign to me; the familiar chaos of family life and the feeling of a home were unmistakable. Shayma attempted the impossible task of wrangling her children. Mohammed talked about looking for a job as a mechanic. Hussein worried about learning a new language in school. Ayat watched over the little ones. Ali (8) wanted to impress everyone with new words he had learned. Malik bounced around crazily and loved the extra attention. This family shared the joys of daily life, the ordinary triumphs and trials found in every family.
And yet despite the commonalities between this family and my own, I also felt the difficulties of everyday life. Children struggling in school, parents working to understand supermarkets, and other small aspects of life I often take for granted. Upon my departure Shayma made me promise I would return – largely out of kindness and caring, but also, I sensed, out of a small desperation.
Shayma had mentioned earlier that being a refugee in the US was difficult, and I empathized. Living in a new country can often be lonely and overwhelming, and so I promised to return as soon as I could. We share a great deal already. It will be my pleasure to spend more time with this family and to nurture the ties of friendship and a sense of belonging in this new place they now call home.
For the past several months, filmmaker Nathan Fisher and IARP have worked with Iraqi refugees in Minnesota to help them produce videos telling their stories. The guiding principle has been to allow the Iraqis to tell their own stories and to focus on what they want to tell Americans.
The films will be featured at the upcoming Mizna Arab Film Festival in Minnesota. Watch for more information to come.
Excerpt from story, “Iraqi refugees cope with horrors of war in Minnesota filmmaker’s new project” by Nikki Tundel / MPR News (full story available here):
IARP endorses the following event…. TRACKS IN THE SNOW. Read more here via Star Tribune.
From the Islamic Resource Group:
It’s not often that we get to learn about the journeys of people from diverse backgrounds. It’s not often that we get to walk in the shoes of our neighbors, and reflect about the growth of our community in a meaningful way.
Tracks in the Snow provides a glimpse into the lives of one of the least known and rapidly expanding populations in America and in Minnesota – the Muslim community. Join us to gain a deeper insight into the true lives of Muslims Minnesotans as narrated by themselves.
Most importantly, join us to create a conversation. Let the exhibit inform your perceptions and tell us what you think! Tracks in the Snow is a way for us to come together and redefine the narrative about Minnesota Muslims by beginning an authentic dialogue and continuing the journey.
Carondelet Event and Retreat Center
1890 Randolph Ave, St Paul, MN 55105
The show runs from August 25 to September 22 at the Carondelet Center in St. Paul.
Free to visitors. For hours and more information, click here.
September 18, 7:00 – 8:00 PM
Every year we look forward to the annual Sister Cities Day! Mark your calendar, save the date and bring the family to Sister Cities Day on Sunday, July 20th, at the Nicollet Island Pavilion.
Free ice cream social, youth international performers Songs of Hope, multicultural performances by the Sister Cities and kids activities. All for free as part of the Minneapolis Aquatennial Celebration.
All 10 Sister City Groups will be in attendance, including IARP! Come say hi at our booth.
Thank you to everyone who joined us for the annual celebration cruise! The rain held off and mist came off the river at sunset, we danced on the upper deck to Arabic music… a wonderful time was had by all. Nine film makers and their families were introduced to the sold out crowd of 85 guests and Suaad Allami spoke for a few minutes about her work promoting woman’s rights in Iraq. Until next year!
IARP would like to share the following link, information via The New York Times of interest: non-partisan, informative pictures/maps.
By Tricia Khutoretsky, IARP Curator
In early May, I took an overnight trip to Kimballton, Iowa on behalf of the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project to install a special exhibit for the New Century Art Guild. NCAG is a 501c(3) non-profit organization that promotes the growth of artistic culture and development of art-related careers in the Midwest, especially those of military veterans wishing to make new careers in visual art. The organization supports three buildings that feature over 4000 square feet of studio and gallery space located on the Main Street of Kimballton, Iowa.
From IARP Executive Director Kathy McKay’s article in the May 2014 Reconciliation Report newsletter:
The work of reconciliation takes many forms. Fostering connections between civilians in the US and civilians in Iraq is one of the ways at IARP that we work toward better understanding between the people of our two countries.
It is through the collective effort of volunteers, interns, contract employees, Board members, donors and email readers from both countries that opinions change, new ideas form, positive curiosities are aroused, and friends are made.
“Prophets, Patriarchs, and People of Promise: Jesus”
On Sunday, April 27, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. the Muslim Christian Dialogue Series will discuss the life of Jesus as situated in both Islam and Christianity. Local leaders presenting and moderating are Owais Bayunus, interfaith program director for the Islamic Center of Minnesota, and Dan Collison, Senior Pastor of First Covenant Church, Minneapolis. Both have extensive experience and involvement in their local and religious communities. RSVP here.
Date: April 27, 2014
Time: 2:00 p.m.
Location: Islamic Center of Minnesota, Fridley, MN
The Muslim Christian Dialogue series has provided a peaceful space for various faiths to participate in monthly discussions in the Twin Cities for 25 years. For more information about this event and others, please visit their site or call 612-870-3600.
By Kathy McKay, Executive Director
This article was originally requested by Friends for a Nonviolent World, a Minnesota state-wide peace and justice organization, and also is appearing in FNVW’s Nonviolent Times Newsletter, Winter 2014.
In 2012, during the most active months of the Arab Spring in the Middle East, as protests swept across the countries of Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, and Yemen, so also were Iraqi activists marching in Baghdad. Each Friday, after prayer, they were not marching to overthrow their relatively new, duly elected government. They were marching to hold their elected officials more accountable and their focus was threefold:
1. To repair and replace the electrical grid to provide constant reliable power.
2. To repair the water treatment plants and delivery systems to provide accessible clean water.
3. To root out government corruption at all levels, especially in Baghdad.
The basic tenets of a civil society are to be found in a democracy to which people are entitled, one respectful of its citizens and responsible for their safety. This democracy should include orderly services, a well-maintained infrastructure and public education for all. These expectations are universal.
The Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki has not met these demands. While citizens of Najaf report more hours of electricity available during the day, there has been no significant improvement in the availability of clean water to households.