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.


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.


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 hearts…it 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 don’t want this beautiful picture you’ve 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 legit…there is no one that doesn’t 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 mother…and how can I leave my mother when she is sick and being eroded by illness…I stay to treat her and live her chest and pray to god that she gets better….and the ones that left are excused…some were threatened and were attacked for their welfare. But those that lived in Iraq and were not attacked or threatened…why 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 frankness…a 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 America…and at the end Sarah still suffers…and 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 you’re wearing a muzzle…that’s 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.

Iraqi Voices Premiere Event @ Macalester College

Written on November 19, 2014, by


You are invited to join us for a premiere event, a screening of 6 short films and discussion with the filmmakers.
Dessert and Coffee reception to follow.

When: Tues. December 2, 2014, 7:00 pm
Where: Macalester College, 1600 Grand Ave, St Paul, 55105 / Ruth Stricker Dayton Campus Center, Lower Level

Iraqi Voices is an ongoing collaborative mentorship program that gives Iraqis in Minnesota support and training to transform their stories into high-quality documentary video shorts. The films are written and directed by Iraqi-American participants and are photographed and edited by Nathan Fisher.

Hosted by the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project in partnership with MacHOPE (Macalester Helping Open Peaceful Exchange).

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

Event is free; donations welcomed.

More info… join our Facebook Event Page here.



Sister City Day | July 20 At Nicollet Island

Written on July 10, 2014, by

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.


2nd Annual Sister City Cruise Recap

Written on July 10, 2014, by

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!

**photos by Marisa McGinty & Hannah Johnson

2nd Annual Sister City Celebration Cruise

Written on June 16, 2014, by


Iraqi American Reconciliation Project Invites you to our 2nd Annual Celebration of the Sister City relationship between Minneapolis and Najaf!

Please join us for a fun-filled evening accompanied with delicious food, music and sharing between local Iraqis and Americans. In addition to your conversations, we will be hearing from our special guest Suaad Allami, a prominent Iraqi women’s rights leader and attorney.

Tickets to this event are $15.00 per guest and will include dinner and beverages. In order to ensure your seat on the ship, please email Lauren no later than June 16th. Reservations and payments will need to be placed in advance by credit card or check. Please call to arrange for cash payments if necessary. You can also mail your check to the IARP office at Suite 116, 416 East Hennepin, Minneapolis, MN. 55414. Tickets can be payed for in cash at the event if guests have already RSVP’d.

Questions? Contact Lauren at or 952-545-9981

Boat departs at 6:30pm / Sunday, June 22
From: St. Croix River Falls Boat Tours
220 South St. Taylors Falls, MN 55084

Join us on FACEBOOK.

IARP looks forward to seeing you!!

Suaad Allami: Speaker / June 24 @ Hamline University

Written on June 1, 2014, by

Join us on TUESDAY JUNE 24, 6:00-8:00– Anderson Center, Room 304, Hamline University for a talk with Suaad Allami. CLICK HERE for details. 

Founder and Chair of Women for Progress Center, Sadr City, Iraq

Ms. Suaad Allami is a prominent Iraqi women’s rights leader and attorney.  A graduate of Baghdad University School of Law in 1992, she has practiced in Iraqi family courts for 17 years. She is a founder and Chair of the first legal clinic in Iraq (Women for Progress Center) in Sadr City which deals closely with victims of GBV and children, and provides them legal assistance and socio-psycho treatments.

She participated in many national, regional, and international workshops, conferences, trainings, seminars, and programs inside and outside Iraq; also Ms. Suaad has represented Iraq in many events outside Iraq; she was trainer in countless training sessions on women’s rights, gender-based violence and related issues; Ms. Suaad was speaker in distinguished universities and think tank centers such as Woodrow Wilson Center, Harvard University J. Kennedy Center, University of Minnesota Law School, William Mitchell University Law School in Saint Paul/ Minnesota, etc.

She has supervised five comprehensive women’s centers throughout Baghdad and executed the first continuing education conference for women’s lawyers.  She is a former member of the Baghdad Provincial Council and Sadr City District Council (2004-2009) and author of the By-Law for the District and Sub-District Councils of Baghdad Province.

In 2008, she was named by the Iraq Women’s Foundation as Female Lawyer of the Year. Ms. Allami received the International Women of Courage Award in March 2009 from US State Secretary Hillary Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama. She was also the recipient of the Massachusetts Bar Association Public Service Award in May 2010. She is alumna of Humphrey Fellowship 2009-2010 (Fulbright) from University of Minnesota Law School She completed her Master degree (LLM) in International Human Rights Law from the University of Minnesota Law School in 2011.

In 2011 worked as a consultant to the United Nations of Development Programme (UNDP) in Iraq on human rights, rule of law and access to justice program with more focus on gender-based violence issues.

In 2012 Ms. Allami has published an article in the national association women’s lawyers’ journal (NAWL) as co-author “The United States and women’s rights in Iraq. Legacy Interrupted”.


مؤسس ومدير مركز تقدم من أجل النساء, مدينة الصدر-بغداد, العراق

سعاد اللامي هي محامية وناشطة نسوية عراقية بارزة في مجال حقوق المرأة وحقوق الأنسان, بعد تخرجها من كلية القانون- جامعة بغداد في 1992 مارست العمل في المحاماة في محاكم الأحوال الشخصية ل 17 عاماً. وهي مؤسس ومدير أول عيادة قانونية في العراق كمنظمة غير حكومية بأسم (مركز تقدم من أجل النساء) في مدينة الصدر ببغداد والتي تتعامل بشكل رئيسي مع ضحايا الأسري والعنف القائم على النوع الأجتماعي من خلال توفير المساعدة القانونية, الأجتماعية, النفسية والمهنية والأقتصادية.

شاركت في العديد من النشاطات مثل ورش العمل والمؤتمرات والبرامج على الصعيد الوطني, الأقليمي والدولي ومثلّت العراق في العديد من المناسبات والنشاطات خارج العراق. كما كانت مدربة في عدد لايحصى من الدورات التدريبية في مجال حقوق المرأة والمعاهدات الدولية التي تعنى بالمرأة وحقوق الأنسان وكذلك في قضايا تتعلق بالعنف القائم على النوع الأجتماعي والعنف ضد المرأة وغيرها من القضايا ذات العلاقة. أيضاً كانت متحدثة في العديد من الجامعات والمراكز البحثية مثل جامعة هارفرد (مدرسة كندي), جامعة منسوتا- كلية القانون, جامعة وليام متشل-كلية القانون, ومركز ودروو ولسن وغيرها.

سعاد اللامي كانت قد أشرفت على أنشاء خمس مراكز نسوية شاملة الخدمات في مختلف مناطق بغداد والأكثر خطورة, كما أنها نظمت أول ورشة للتعليم المستمر للمحاميات في العراق. وهي عضو مجلس محافظة سابق في بغداد وعضو سابق في المجلس البلدي في مدينة الصدر (2004-2009) ومؤلف للنظام الداخلي للمجالس البلدية والمحلية في بغداد في 2008.

في 2008 تم تسميتها كأفضل محامية في العراق من قبل منظمات المجتمع المدني (مؤسسة المرأة العراقية), وفي 2009 تم تكريمها بجائزة المرأة الشجاعة الدولية من قبل وزيرة الخارجية السابقة السيدة هيلاري كلنتون والسيدة الأولى ميشيل أوباما لتكون من بين أشجع 8 نساء في العالم عن دورها في تحقيق العدالة الأجتماعية والحماية القانونية وسيادة القانون للنساء في العراق. كما تم تكريمها في العام 2010 بجائزة الخدمة العامة من نقابة المحامين في ولاية ماساشوستس. وهي خريجة زمالة همفري (فولبرايت) من جامعة منسوتا – كلية القانون 2009-2010 ومن نفس الكلية نالت درجة الماجستير في القانون الدولي لحقوق الأنسان في العام 2011.

عملت في العام 2011 كمستشار في برنامج الأمم المتحدة الإنمائي في العراق في مجال حقوق الأنسان, سيادة القانون والوصول للعدالة مع التركيز بشكل أكثر على قضايا العنف الأسري والقائم على النوع الأجتماعي.

نشرت في العام 2012 كمؤلف مشارك مقالاً في مجلة النقابة الوطنية للمحاميات الأميركية حول “الولايات المتحدة الأميركية وحقوق المرأة في العراق. تركة متوقفة”

**photo credit: via VITAL VOICES.