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
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.
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.
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.
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:
-Feminine hygiene products
-Laundry and dishwashing powder
-Large box for storage
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
We are challenging ourselves to fund the kits by May 15. Please join us as we kick off this new urgent project!
Please note that we are partnering with CNSF to fund this hygiene project. No donations will fund any other CNSF programs.
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 email@example.com or 763-710-0427. Any additional donations will be given to NYOI to support programming. You can send a check or donate at reconciliationproject.org/2012/donate/. If donating online, please send an email noting the donation amount and purpose. All donations are tax deductible.
Learn more about NYOI at: www.facebook.com/NYO.IRAQ/
Learn more about IARP at: www.reconciliationproject.org/
Listen to the original NPR piece here: http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2015/09/28/443214847/-we-need-to-be-human-zuhal-sultan-on-starting-the-iraqi-youth-orchestra
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.
Ellen Abbot & Gerald Krause
Philip & Kathleen Adam
Jameelah Hasoon and Jamal Al Samarai
Amel Al-Sammarai and Mohammed Al Azzawi
Mary Jean Babcock
Richard and Cathleen Bernard
Pepperwolf and Tom Bottolene
John & Marie Braun
Steve & Christine Clemens
Mary E. Crowley and Robert H. Edelstein
Katherine and Rich Fournier
Barbara and Donald Gerten
Richard Klupper and Diane Glynn
Jeff Grosscup and Karin Grosscup
Joan & Philip Haan
Mark & Margaret Hottinger
Robert and Joycelyn Johnson
Daniel Leisen & Andi Kuenning
John and Connie Marty
David & Jeanie Mayes
Salam Murtada and Vanessa Cornett-Murtada
Ihab & Rita Murtada
Al and Anne Nettles
Karen Osborne Pope
Angelo and Mary Percich
Mark Raderstorf and Linda Armstrong
Carroll and Ann Rock
Patrick & Narmin Rolston
Carolyn Rose Schurr
Mohammed Selims’s Class
Rev. David Smith
William Stoeri and Sue Johnston
Robert & Kathleen Wedl
Rev. Greg Wilcox
Deborah Wuerffel and Jake Kirchgessner
All donors from Network for Good – Google
Organizations and Foundations:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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 email@example.com
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:
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)!
Each year, generous supporters like you celebrate Give to the Max Day by making your online donation on GiveMN.org. 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 GiveMN.org 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 GiveMN.org 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 GiveMN.org or click here.