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 Project Manager 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, viola and 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. Augustine’s 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

Connecting over food: Our first Cooking Class

Written on December 21, 2015, by

In November, eight women gathered for IARP’s first Iraqi cooking class. Many of us were meeting for the first time, but there seemed to be an instant sense of camaraderie, connecting over food and reconciliation. Our Iraqi cook, Azhar, was a gracious teacher and a wonderful cook. On our list of Iraqi dishes to learn were Kibbeh bi Riz (Rice Kibbeh), a mixture of rice and potatoes stuffed with spiced beef, and a Fattoush Salad, a flavorful salad tossed with fried pita and pomegranate molasses. We formed our small patties of rice and potato and set them on the platter as Azhar congratulated us on our efforts. With a smile she fixed many of them as she assured us it took years to perfect the technique. Our host for the night, Luanne, made chocolate chip cookies and gave the recipe and a bag of chocolate chips to Azhar to take home.

We ended the evening sitting around Luanne’s dining room table eating delicious food and in both Arabic and English shared our stories of how and why we were there that evening. Our first cooking class was a memorable evening of connecting over shared recipes, stories, and Iraqi and American food.

Here are the recipes:


Rice Kibbeh

Cooking Class

5 cups Egyptian short-grain white rice. Soak for 15 minutes.

2 lbs halal ground beef

Cut 1 medium onion per pound of meat very fine

Brown meat with the onions. Do not add oil to meat. Cook meat until not pink, then simmer gently until all liquid is evaporated. Cool meat.

Add 1 tsp allspice, 1 tsp cardamom, 1 tsp turmeric to meat. Stir.

Boil water. When water is boiling hard, add drained rice. Make sue there is enough water to cover 3/4 inch over rice.

Add 1 tsp tumeric and at least 1 tablespoon salt to rice.

Keep heat high until rice gets to hard boil, then lower heat to simmer. It will take about 15-20 minutes.

When rice is done, cool until you can work it with your hand

Peel & cut 8 russet potatoes, boil, then mash without adding salt or pepper.
Add potato to rice in a 3 to 1 ratio.

Knead rice and potato together very well. Rice will disappear into the potato. Wet hands from time to time to keep mixture from sticking. Knead just as you would bread.

Form rice potato mixture into a golf-ball size ball. Knead and begin to flatten. Wet hands to keep from sticking.

Form a patty about 1/4 inch thick and about 3 inches across, with a well in it. Add about 1 T meat to well. Close up top like a purse, then roll into a ball. Flatten to a patty about 3/4 inch thick.

Heat vegetable oil hot, ,bubbling. Add patties, but not touching. Check and flip when golden on bottom.

Transfer to plate when golden on bottom.



Roast large purple eggplant, pricked in several places, at 400 degrees until very soft.

When cool, peel.

Mix in blender with 2 cloves garlic, 1 tsp tahini, 1 tsp plain yogurt, salt to taste, juice of lemon to taste.


Chop tomato, cucumber, radishes, (could add chopped parsley and or a little lettuce.)

Dress with 1 clove Finely chopped garlic, mixed with lemon juice ( about 1/4 cup), 1/4 cup oil, 1 tsp pomegranate molasses, & salt to taste. Mix all, and dress salad.

Just before serving, fry small pieces of pita bread, toss into salad or sprinkle on top of salad


Enjoy! Sahtein (Arabic for two healths)!

Give to the Max Day 2015

Written on October 27, 2015, by


Each year, generous supporters like you celebrate Give to the Max Day by making your online donation on Your generosity on this day makes a difference far beyond the 24-hour giving event.

Join us on November 12, 2015, for Give to the Max Day and help us continue to promote reconciliation between the people of the United States and Iraq.

Your donation on Give to the Max Day also may help us receive an additional donation of $1,000. How? On November 12, every gift made on will be entered into an hourly drawing for a $1,000 GiveMN Golden Ticket to be awarded to a nonprofit organization. That adds up to 24 opportunities for you to help us receive an extra $1,000!

Here’s the really exciting part: One donation made on will be randomly selected at noon and at the end of Give to the Max Day to receive a $10,000 Super-Sized GiveMN Golden Ticket!

This year, Give to the Max Day is a part of our larger Growing Reconciliation campaign. We are thankful to have raised $7,733 so far. Mark your calendars for November 12th and help us reach our $20,000 goal!
Keep your eyes out for matching gifts and one of a kind rewards! Find our page to donate by searching for IARP on or click here.


Join us in Growing Reconciliation

Written on October 6, 2015, by

Will you partner with us to raise $20,000 to grow reconciliation in the next 3 months?




 A letter from our Executive Director
This August thousands of Iraqi civilians took to the streets in peaceful protest, demanding their government be more responsive to their needs. Despite consistent heat of 120 degrees and higher, and without even enough electricity to run fans or air conditioning, both young and old took to the streets of Iraq in a show of hope and determination that their country can be better – that their country can work. At the same time the Board of Directors of IARP is increasing its investment and commitment to these Iraqis and to reconciliation.
In America, people of Middle Eastern descent continue to face challenges integrating into American life. Suspicion and prejudice make it clear we need alternative approaches to understanding world events and building friendships with one another.
Redoubling our efforts, IARP has announced it is expanding its Board, has just hired its first Deputy Director, Jessy Belt, and is launching a capital campaign to assure a solid financial future for the organization. We are asking you to partner with us to raise $20,000 in the next 3 months. This is the largest fund raising campaign IARP has undertaken and we are confident this can be done with your help.
The Growing Reconciliation campaign seeks to expand and sustain the work for reconciliation– connecting Iraqis and Americans.

Campaign Fundraising Goal: $20,000

IARP is a credible, respected organization in both the US and abroad. For the last 8 years, the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project has organized over 25 professional delegations that connect Iraqis and Americans to “real people” from the other country; art exhibits that empower authentic Iraqi voices; and clean water for Iraqi schools. IARP received national recognition from Sister Cities International in 2013 for Arts and Cultural Innovation. Through the Growing Reconciliation campaign, IARP will re-energize and expand the community involved in this work for reconciliation.
The Board, volunteers and contract staff have done all of this on a limited budget. In order to confidently sustain our work going into the future we need consistent long term support for IARP. Your support and generosity allows us to build new bridges of reconciliation. Please join us with a financial gift today. Thank you for your generosity.
Kathy McKay for the Board of Directors
  Campaign Objectives
    • Support the hiring of a new Deputy Director to focus on community building and expanding the impact of the organization.
    • Screen IARP’s award winning Iraqi Voices documentary shorts, portraying the lives of Iraqi refugees in Minnesota at 15 local and regional venues.
    • Reach 2000 Iraqi and American children and adults in exchanging personal letters through our Letters for Peace Program.
    • Increase engagement with the existing community of committed supporters by providing opportunities and events to facilitate person-to-person reconciliation.
    • Add board members from diverse professional and cultural backgrounds to solidify financial base.
    • Expand our robust online community of people involved in reconciliation work to 10,000.
 Why a campaign now?

In the midst of increasing violence in Iraq, reconciliation work between the people of Iraq and America is needed more than ever. In Iraq, ordinary citizens are peacefully protesting, demanding accountability from their public servants and the provision of basic services such as water and electricity. In America, Iraqis integrating into local communities face suspicion and hostility, making it clear we need alternative approaches to dispel misconceptions. The Growing Reconciliation campaign seeks to intensify the work of connecting Iraqis and Americans in order to build bridges of friendship and mutual understanding.

Why Support the Growing Reconciliation campaign?

The impact you will have is real.The power of your support will help change the lives of Iraqis and Americans, whether it’s a an Iraqi artist who travels to the US for an exhibition, an American who is introduced to an Iraqi immigrant sharing their story on film, or Iraqi and American children who start a pen pal relationship. We are expanding our programs. We invite you to join us!

How do you donate?
Mail to:

416 E. Hennepin ave. #116

Minneapolis, MN 55414
Donate online at:
IARP is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and all donations are tax-deductible.

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.