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 jessy@reconciliationproject.org


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 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.


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 info@reconciliationproject.org 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, jessy@reconciliationproject.org, 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 Internationalís President and CEO, Mary D. Kane and other special guests.

More info about the conference:†http://www.sister-cities.org/annual-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 kathy@reconciliationproject.org***