BBQ and Potluck at Minnehaha Park

Written on August 24, 2015, by

Join us for our first Potluck and Barbecue!

Date: September 12, 2015
Time: 4:00-8:00 pm. Food to be served at 5:00.
Location: Minnehaha Regional Park- Pavilion Wabun D

Potlucks are about sharing. We hope to create a shared space for the Iraqi Community in Minnesota and other Minnesotans to partake in sharing each other’s food, company, and stories. Bring a food dish that relates to your background or simply the one you enjoy most! Drinks and halal kabobs to be provided by IARP. Please feel free to bring your instrument as there will be time throughout the night to share music. Activities and games will be provided for children. If you are unable to bring a dish to share, please bring a small donation to cover the evening’s expenses in lieu of a dish.

Please RSVP by September 5th to with the dish you plan to share.

Come play a part in reconciliation, enjoy good food, music, the beautiful Minnehaha views and new friends.

Rising to the Occasion

Written on August 24, 2015, by

In the week of August 8th with temperatures daily rising above 120 degrees Fahrenheit (50 C) and only a few hours of government-supplied electricity per day, Iraqis took to the streets. In several cities across Iraq marchers bore signs decrying the limited electricity, the continued polluted water supply and perhaps most of all, the corruption at many levels of government. Thousands joined in peaceful protests against corruption as well as demanding officials be held accountable for the poor quality of services. The BBC covered this in more detail than US news outlets. Here is an example.

Discontent, anger, and the number of protesters rose alongside temperatures including in our sister city, Najaf. Imam Al-Sistani, religious leader of Shia Muslims, who lives in Najaf and usually stays out of politics, encouraged the present Prime Minister, Mr. Al-Abadi to immediately address corruption with a firm hand. Protesters took to the streets in what is becoming one of the largest protest movements seen in Iraq in years. IARP believes that at this crucial time for Iraq the need for reconciliation work between the people of Iraq and America is more urgent than ever. IARP has many upcoming opportunities that invite your critical support, whether it’s an American who meets Iraqis for the first time at our upcoming barbecue, Iraqi and American children who start a pen pal relationship, or an Iraqi who stays with an American host family for the first time.

We are expanding our commitment and resources toward reconciliation efforts, and hope you will join us.


Photo via Aljazeera

Meet Our New Deputy Director

Written on August 24, 2015, by

4 Quick Questions with Jessy Belt


Earlier this month, IARP welcomed new Deputy Director Jessica Belt. Ms. Belt, a graduate of the University of Minnesota and previous resident of Lebanon, is an Arabic speaker and has experience as a teacher, event organizer and networker across international lines. We asked her a few questions about her new role at IARP.

Q: How did you first get involved in IARP?
A: I came to know of IARP during my year of service with Americorps. I first volunteered to help with an end of the year mailing. Most people might wonder how a tedious evening of envelope stuffing led to further involvement in the organization. However, I was so genuinely impressed by the board members and staff I met and the array of services IARP provides, that I pursued further volunteer opportunities. After several more volunteer experiences and hosting a newly arrived Iraqi refugee family, I became further dedicated to reconciliation between our two countries. I spent the summer as an intern, after which time I left to live and work in Beirut, Lebanon.

Q: What are you looking forward to the most in your new role?
A: What I am looking forward to most is meeting all the different people involved in IARP. From the very beginning, I have been impressed by the small yet extremely dedicated IARP community and their commitment to creating an environment for dialogue, education, peace and understanding.

Q: What are you enjoying most so far?
A: As a past volunteer and intern, I am enjoying being more hands on and involved in all the different IARP programs. IARP is unique in its breadth of services for a small organization and its close partnership with an Iraqi NGO and Iraqi leadership. I am honored to play a more substantial role in the organization.

Q: Why IARP?
A: I am a firm believer that through meaningful conversations and understanding between peoples – face to face or through the arts – peace, mutual respect and friendship can be realized. Why IARP? Because they facilitate these interactions that are so vital in realizing reconciliation.

We have a lot of work to do! As violence in Iraq intensifies, now more than ever we have a need for Americans and Iraqis to build bridges of friendship and mutual respect. Through our programming, IARP works to amplify unheard voices to rise above mainstream media to dispel misconceptions of Iraqis and the greater Middle East. I look forward to partnering with you as we build bridges of friendship and grow our mission of reconciliation.

Please feel free to contact me at 763-710-0427,, or visit me in our office on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Thank you again for such a warm welcome to IARP!

Sister City Conference | July 16-18 Minneapolis

Written on July 3, 2015, by

Please join us at the Opening Ceremony for Sister Cities International 59th Annual Conference, Bridging Generations For Peace. This event will take place at Peavey Plaza (10th Street at Nicollet Mall) on Friday, July 17th at 10:00 AM.

This ceremony is free and open to the public to enjoy.

The Opening Ceremony includes a parade of flags representing 120 cities, the singing of our National Anthem by Alyssa Herick, and remarks from Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, Sister Cities Internationals President and CEO, Mary D. Kane and other special guests.

More info about the conference:

Watch the video below! Can you spot Kathy McKay and Sami Rasouli?

Iraq Shines at The Festival of Nations

Written on June 8, 2015, by

Event Recap by Sarah Kanan

In the 70s, millions of visitors would come to Babylon (currently known as Hila, Iraq) to visit the famous Gate of Ishtar, named as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The Gate of Ishtar is a symbol of Iraq history and a cultural symbol of pride and beauty for all Iraqis around the world, making it a perfect choice for artist Sari Abdullah to introduce visitors to the exhibit at the Festival of Nations.

As you enter the Festival, visitors and children stop at the information desk and purchase a passport that serves as their key to the 45 countries represented in the 2015 Festival of Nations. Two countries down from the main entrance, visitors are welcomed by a tall, majestic blue and gold gate serving as the gate to the city of Babylon (currently Iraq). Visitors would walk in and see a variety of artistic, colorful displays including folklore paintings on walls, brass carved pieces of tea sets, finjans, decorative plates, palm trees, painted rocks, paper currencies, packaged food, and Iraqi folk music surrounding a small room, accompanied by a slideshow of Iraq from a perspective not seen before by many visitors. They were joined by Sarah (myself) dressed in a blue Iraqi gown and Sari, Ali, Jamal and Faisal dressed in Iraqi modern and cultural costume. (Pictured above: Sarah, Sari and Ali).

Children would come by to hear stories about Iraq, including the story behind the Gate of Ishtar, learn more about Iraqi food, currency, art and music and leave with a stamp on their passports. We also offered dates. Iraq’s participation in the Festival of Nations was perfect timing given the situation in Iraq today. There is another side to Iraq that many have not seen…it’s a beautiful place with beautiful culture, a vast history, ordinary people and a positive aspect that shows art, food, music and a happier/safer/more optimistic picture than what many see in the media and picture in their mind. Sari Abdullah chose to recreate the Gate of Ishtar because it is an artistic symbol of Iraq’s history, Iraq’s beauty and pride. It illustrates only a fraction of the riches in the country, and as the entrance to Babylon, visitors are taken into a different world within the exhibit through the art, food, music and Iraqi people presented at the festival.

This was the first year Iraq has been represented in this deceased old St. Paul festival, and as an added accomplishment, the booth was awarded “Best Exhibit”!

We’d like to extend a big thank you to all the volunteers who helped make this event a success.


Click any image to view larger. All images by Sarah Kanan.













IARP 2014 Annual Report | Thank You 2014 Donors!

Written on April 25, 2015, by

Screen shot 2015-04-24 at 9.35.57 PM

IARP is pleased to share our 2014 Annual Report. To download the full report, click here:


We would like to recognize and sincerely thank our 2014 donors. We are grateful for your support!

Albuquerque Mennonite
Monica Allen
Amazon Smile
Chris Babcock
Teresa Barrett
Elizabeth & Forrest Bentley
Bill Berneking
David Bicking
John and Marie Braun
Beverly Caruso
Winston Cavert
Steve & Christine Clemens
Cory Doan
Virginia Druhe
Anne Dykstra
Robert Edelstein
Nick & Nancy Eltgroth
Catherine Fasy
Federal Group LLC
Barbara Gerten
M. Giese
Ken & Mary Gleason
Jeff & Karin Grosscup
Philip & Joan Haan
Walt Handschin
Michelle Harris
Kate Havelin
Nancy Hensel
Fletcher & Joan Hinds
Aaron Hughes
Barbara Huning
Mary Hunt
Nausheena Hussain
Jeremy Iggers & Carol Bouska
Susu Jeffrey
Robert Johnson
Deborah Kalin
Thomas Lange
Joanna Lees
Daniel Leisen & Andi Kuenning
David Logsdon
Chuck & Bertha Lutz
Laurie Lykken
Joyce Lyon
Polly Mann
Lotti Matkovits
Marsha McDonald & Amos Rosenbloom
Kathy McKay
Christopher Meyer & Ruth Adix
Network for Good – Google
Luanne Nyberg
Patricia Owen
Rodney Olsen
Joseph Palen
Angelo Percich
Paul Perkal
Theresa Pick
Karen Osborne Pope
Jane Powers
Mark & Linda Raderstorf
Pat & Narmin Ralston
Ann Ricketts
Carroll & Ann Rock
Shylan Rose
Michael Rozumalski
Phil Runkel
Carole Rydberg
Deborah Schuster
Kathleen Seestadt
Lynn Shoemaker
Linda Slabon
St. Augustine’s Catholic Church
Terre Sullivan
Hannah Summerfelt
Joyce Traver
Larry Valley
John (Skip) Valusek
Robert Wedl
Lorraine Welch
Luke Wilcox
Carol Witte
Catherine Yamoor

***for any changes or omissions, please contact***

IARP at the Festival of Nations | April 30

Written on April 20, 2015, by


EXCLUSIVELY!! And for the first time at the Minnesota Festival of nations… Iraq will be represented amongst global cultures and languages.

Please join us in celebrating Iraqi culture and art at the Saint Paul RiverCentre between April 30th and May3rd, 2015.

We will be providing additional information on the exact location of our booth within the EXHIBIT section of the festival.

IARP is very excited and looks forward to seeing you all there!!

More details here:

Celebrate 10 Years of Traveling Canvas: April 16

Written on April 15, 2015, by


Pictured here… one of the most memorable pieces from the IARP Iraqi art collection, “Portrait of a Young Iraqi Woman” by Ali Ghassan. 10 years ago, a project was initiated by a group of volunteers to carry Iraqi artworks, rolled and folded, in suitcases from Najaf to Minneapolis. The canvases were stretched and unstretched, showing wear as they traveled. They served as a connection point for Iraqis and Minnesotans in the midst of war and confusion. Despite its humble beginnings, the project initiated IARP’s Iraqi Art Project program, a platform which went on to provide opportunities for the development of major exhibitions, touring exhibitions, video projects and cross-cultural dialogues.

We would like to invite you to join us for a special evening celebrating 10 years of the traveling canvases, cultural exchange, art and stories…


Date: Thursday, April 16
Time: 6pm-8pm

Location: IARP Office. 416 E. Hennepin Ave, Suite 116, Minneapolis 55414

Join us for conversation and refreshments. Browse the art collection and visit the IARP office. Art works will be available for purchase. Hear stories and memories of the art project’s beginnings from the original volunteers. Remarks from Sami Rasouli.
Please RSVP via email. Guests are welcome:


The Viral Effect

Written on April 6, 2015, by

The Iraqi Voices project was initiated and executed in the hopes that the stories would be shared and widely viewed. We enjoyed quite a bit of local exposure with the project, but a couple of weeks ago a surprise effect occurred online, Sarah Kanan’s 3 minute film for Iraqi Voices. “Torn Between” went VIRAL! A large website in Baghdad and a US-Iraq site both picked up the video and the response was immense. The film was viewed in one weekend by over 50,000 people. Sarah was overwhelmed by the outpouring of comments and emotions. Below, she translates and shares with us some of her favorite comments from online viewers:

عاشت ايدج على هذا الفيلم المعبر والمؤثر نتمنى لك العوده لموطنك الأصلي رغم كل الجراحات والدموع والماساة يبقى الوطن عزيز وهو يجمعنا ويغمرنا بمحبته

Bless your soul for this expressive and influential film. I wish you return to your original country of origin despite all the pain and tears and tragedies, Iraq remains dear in our heartsit embraces us with love and keeps us together.


ساره تعالي بعد ميتحسن الوضع لان ماريد هذا الجمال الي راسمته ببالج عن الوطن والحب يتلاشه

Sarah, Come back to Iraq when the conditions improve because I dont want this beautiful picture youve drawn in your head about your home country and love to be destroyed.

كلامها عين العقل والفلم جميل. وماكو احد ميحب وطنه. لكن الظروف هي الي جبرته ان يترك وطنه ويعيش بالغربة. لان في العراق كثير من الظروف الي تجبر الشخص ان يترك وطنه ويتغرب ليعيش بأمان وسلام

Her words and the Film are very reasonable and legitthere is no one that doesnt love their country of origin. However the circumstances are what forced us to leave the homeland and live in exile because in Iraq many of the conditions force the person to leave their motherland and fine refuge in a foreign place in order to live in safety and peace.


فهموني أهلي وآني صغيرة..أن الوطن أم…وكيف اترك أمي وهي مريضه ينهش بيه المرض..أبقى اعالجه واعيش بحضنها اﻻ ان يشاء ربي وتتعافى..والي طلع وهاجر معذور.. ناس تهددو وحاربوهم برزقهم..لكن الي عايش ومحد يمه ليش يعوف أمه..؟

When I was little, my parents taught me that your country of origin is like a motherand how can I leave my mother when she is sick and being eroded by illnessI stay to treat her and live her chest and pray to god that she gets better.and the ones that left are excusedsome were threatened and were attacked for their welfare. But those that lived in Iraq and were not attacked or threatenedwhy did they leave their mother?


حلو حلو طريقة نقله ﻷحساسه النفسي وصراحته مع ذاته… فلم قصير لكن بي معاني كبيرة ..

Beautiful the way she expressed her psychological emotion and her sense of franknessa very short film with very big meanings.

الفيلم جميل جدا من حيث التصوير والاخراج ، و ساره كانت فنانة رائعة جسدت الفكرة وادت الرسالة التي تريد ابلاغها من خلال الفيلم حول الغربة والاغتراب ، مايطرحه الفيلم لا يمثل مشكلة ساره فقط ،، انا ايضا عراقي و اعيش في العراق و احمل ثقافتين ايضا ، ثقافة المجتمع العراقي و ثقافة حالمة تولدت في ذهني من خلال قراءتي مفادها ان المجتمعات الغربية تمثل حياة وردية واعدة بمزيد من الحرية . لذا انا ايضا اشعر بالاغتراب حتى وان كنت اعيش في بلدي ، لاني لا املك اي فرصة كي اطرح ارائي بخصوص موضوعات كالدين والسياسة و الحرية الفردية وحقوق المراة فهذه الامور خطوط حمراء غير مسموح بتناولها ومناقشتها في العراق لذا اجد نفسي مغتربا في بلدي ومجتمعي . المشكلة الاكبر هي ان ساره اذا عادت للعراق ربما ستعيش اغترابا اقسى وامر وستعاني كونها تحمل ثقافة غربية مكتسبة ،سارة تحلم بان تعود للعيش في عراق امن ، لكن العراق ليس امنا ، انه بلد تمزقه الصراعات ، وستفتقد ساره فسحة الحرية التي كانت تتمتع بها في اميركا ، في النهاية سارة تعاني ، والكثيرون يعانون مثل سارة ، سارة تحلم ونحن نحلم ، و لابد لنا ان نحلم لان الاحلام تبقى على الامل حيا في النفوس ، والحياة غير ممكنة بدون احلام

Very nice movie in terms of photography and directing, and Sarah was a wonderful artist embodied the idea and portrayed the message she wanted to communicate about alienation and estrangement, the issue presented in the film is not her issue alone, I am also an Iraqi and live in Iraq and carry two cultures.a culture of the Iraqi community and dreamy culture created in my mind through observation of the Western societies which represent a rosy and promising life with more freedom. So I also feel alienated even though I live in my country, because I do not have any opportunity to voice my opinions about topics like religion and politics and individual freedom and women’s rights.such things are red lines that cannot be discussed in Iraq, so I find myself as an expats in my own society and country. The bigger problem is that if Sarah returned to Iraq, she will probably live a much bitter alienation and will suffer because she carries a Western culture acquired over time. Sarah dreams of returning to live in a secure Iraq, but Iraq is not safe, it’s a country torn by conflict, and she will lose her basic freedom which she is enjoying in Americaand at the end Sarah still suffersand many suffer like Sarah, Sarah dreams and we dream, and we must be dream because dreams keep the hope alive in our soul for a better future, and life is not possible without dreams.

ربي يعودكم لدياركم ان شاء الله ينتصر العراق ويكون احلى واحسن من اي وقت وتتصافى القلوب

May God return you to your homes. God willing Iraq will triumph and become sweeter and better than ever and all of the hearts will become pure and unite regardless of differences.

الغربة احساس هذا كمامة لابس وانت وردة تشتم من شايف

You know when you smell a rose and youre wearing a muzzlethats what it feels like to live in alienations.

وكفني وعرسي مولدي العراق

جنه بالعراق كل مرض مابينه بس وصلنه للغربه طلعت علينه الأمراض

Iraq is my birth and my wedding and my shroud. When we were in Iraq we were free of illnesses, and the moment we arrived to exile all kinds of illness began showing.

IARP Celebrates the Art Program’s Ten-Year Anniversary at the Susan Hensel Gallery!

Written on March 9, 2015, by


IARP celebrates the art programs ten-year anniversary at the Susan Hensel Gallery!

Just kitty-corner from the famous Matts bar in South Minneapolis, the Susan Hensel Window Gallery will be presenting art works from IARPs collection of paintings by Karbala and Najaf artists for the month of March.

Working artist, Susan Hensel, known for her practice in combining feminism, community and craft, has set up shop at the corner of 34th and Cedar. Since its opening in 2013, the gallery has hosted five to six exhibits each year bringing art, beauty and a sense of place to the community. It is our great honor to be a presenting here this year!

You will notice that the artworks on display are un-stretched and unframed. The decision to present them in this way was made in order to tell a story about the paintings that first came to IARP and began the Iraqi Art Project ten years ago.

Since 2005 trained, professional artists have sent their work to IARP in hopes of gaining exposure in the United States and communicating what it means to be Iraqi. Over the years these artists have been shown in over fifty galleries and public spaces. IARPs art program has grown and now includes a documentary video series, a bookmaking program and has developed several curated exhibits that have toured the country. As we approach the ten-year mark since the Iraqi Art Program began we believe that it is only appropriate to highlight some of these paintings and to take a look back upon our humble beginnings. Today we invite you to enjoy a sampling from our collection.

See these works for yourself!

March 5th until April15th.

Susan Hensel Gallery. 3441 Cedar Avenue South 55407.