This May, we had the honor of participating in the Festival of Nations for the third consecutive year. The Festival of Nations, which has been held annually for over 80 years, inspires individuals “to discover more about our wonderful world and embrace its rich cultural diversity.” This rich diversity was celebrated with 35 cafes, over 40 international bazaars, over 100 music and dance performances, and the cultural booths.
This year’s theme was Rites and Rituals, and the Iraqi cultural booth chose to showcase wedding traditions from around Iraq. With the help of an amazing group of volunteers from the Iraqi community, our booth had many traditional elements of an Iraqi wedding. On display, there was a beautiful wedding dress, candles to bring passion and energy to the couple, a tray of seven white objects, such as sugar, symbolizing purity, a Qur’an so the couple may receive God’s blessing, and a mirror to bring light and brightness to the couple’s future. The scene was set with lights, lanterns, cushions, and curtains, as well Iraqi music. On Saturday, Iraqi volunteers and friends gathered to dance the traditional chobi for visitors.
We had a lot of fun stamping passports, writing visitors’ names in Arabic, and celebrating the traditions of Iraq. We would like to give a special thank you to all of the volunteers who made this possible by decorating the booth and interacting with the visitors to ensure everyone had a fun and educational experience. We hope to see everyone there next year!
Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project is proud to announce that our newest Iraqi Voices documentary, Our Iraq, will soon be featured at Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival (MSPIFF). This local festival is hosted by the Minneapolis St. Paul Film Society.
If you would like to attend this event, tickets are on sale at mspfilm.org. The film will be screened April 15th at 11:40 am at St. Anthony Main Theatre in Minneapolis.
The short documentary was written and directed by Iraqi refugees in Minnesota as part of a collaborative art lab called Iraqi Voices. Our Iraq dismantles caricatures of Iraqis and Muslims in the United States: an Iraqi-American sculptor rebuilds what extremists have destroyed, Muslims pray at a Catholic church in Minneapolis, refugees own a St. Paul neighborhood grocery, and a public school administrator becomes the first Muslim woman to win an election in Minnesota.
Our Iraq was also screened at the Vail Film Festival on March 31st. The Vail Film Festival, in Colorado, is celebrating its 14th year and will be honoring Golden Globe nominee Julie Deply as well as Emmy nominee Christina Ricci. More information about this festival can be found at http://www.vailfilmfestival.com.
I’m from a country at war
I am from a country that’s bleeding
A country of anger
A country of martyrs,
I’m from a country once called Mesopotamia
I’m from the land of black gold
I’m from the richest land on the earth
I’m from the land of sunshine on a golden desert
I’m from there
But I’m not there
I had beautiful dreams
I had friends, brothers, sisters, sweet parents and pink hopes…
I had green gardens, tall palms and olive trees
I had a warm winter
I was born on land before the crossing of swords on the body
Turned into a banquet table
Before Bush and Blair turned our rivers into blood
Then they donate us millions of tents instead of roofs for our houses
The rain has died in my homeland..
They left graves in the green grass in our fields
Only cacti remain laughing in the barren desert
The sun has become ashamed behind the clouds
Where is God ?
Has even God became a refugee in His land ?!
Where is our ancient law?!
Even this been stolen?!
I crossed the seas of death
Waves of grief have led me here
To the land of my usurpers in an old and narrow shelter
The victim cannot judge its executioner
I now speak in two languages, but I have forgotten in which one I used to dream
I have learned all the words to take
the lexicon apart for one noun’s sake,
The compound I must make:
No choice I came here
but I’m not here
You are a refugee and
Your choice is not your choice
Malka Al-Haddad is an Iraqi poet, academic and defender of Human Rights and has lived in Britain since 2012. She is a member of the Union of Iraqi Writers and was one of the first delegates to the US for the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project. She is an activist with Leicester Civil Rights Movement: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/malka-al-haddad and has presented her academic paper Political Changes and their Impact on Iraqi Women at LSE in 2015 https://brismes2015.wordpress.com/panel-5d-politics-gender-and-nostalgia-in-contemporary-iraq/
In January of 2017, scholars, in association with the Immigration History Research Center and the Immigration and Ethnic History Society at the University of Minnesota, published a public syllabus on immigration. The syllabus is based on “Essential topics, readings, and multimedia that provide historical context to current debates over immigration reform, integration, and citizenship.”
There is no specific class following this syllabus, rather it is geared toward educators and any individual interested in learning more about immigration issues and history.
The syllabus follows the basic semester long structure and has weekly topics. The topics are in chronological order beginning in colonial America and covering through present day. Each week has a list of readings, primary sources, and multimedia links such as documentary films. The syllabus gives instructions on how to view all of these materials.
The University of Minnesota hopes that making this syllabus open to the public will help educators, activists, and concerned citizens learn more about the issues. They also hope that these resources will “assist policymakers who seek to avoid the mistakes of the past.”
Anyone interested in learning more about immigration and citizenship can view the syllabus here.
Today, Monday March 3rd, Donald Trump signed a new executive order to replace the travel ban of January 2017. The new travel ban will take effect on March 16th.
A few key factors were revised between the two executive orders. The immigration ban signed on March 3rd only restricts immigration from six countries: Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. Iraq was removed from the list after the U.S. State Department spoke with the Iraqi government about improving methods of vetting Iraqis before entrance into the U.S. No specific changes to the vetting process were published.
Much like the original immigration ban, the new document states that citizen of the six countries will not be able to obtain visas for 90 days.
There will also be a suspension of refugees entering the U.S. for 120 days. Syrian refugees are included in the 120 day ban, as opposed to the indefinite ban on Syrian refugees proposed in the original travel ban.
The stated goal of this new executive order is to supposedly improve the vetting process of immigrants into the U.S. In fitting with this goal, the order allows for extending the ban beyond the six countries listed. It states that the Department of Homeland Security will have 20 days to review the identity and security information that all countries provide to U.S. officials. If the Department of Homeland Security determines more information is needed from specific countries, those countries will then be given 50 days to update or improve the information given to the U.S. government. If those countries do not comply, more travel restrictions may be added.
The 2016 IARP Annual Report is now available. The report includes a letter from our Directors, current board and staff lists, impact by the numbers, financials and a complete list of IARP individual donors and supporters.
Thank you so much to everyone who helped make 2016 an impactful year for IARP and our community.
Written by IARP intern Nicole Rash
The Iraqi Voices’ film, Our Iraq, was screened at the University of Minnesota and hosted by he Immigration History Research Center. There were about 60 students and faculty present at the event.
The 20-minute documentary was followed by a discussion with audience members. The discussion was led by Assistant Professor Joseph Farag, an expert of Arabic Literature and Culture at the University of Minnesota. The discussion started with him describing his reactions and the process of developing this film. The producers of the film wanted to showcase the Iraq’s rich culture and history, not the Iraq portrayed in today’s media. Next, the students were able to ask questions. Students were curious about the size of the Iraqi community here in Minneapolis as well as the location of the biggest Iraqi community in the United States. In addition, people wanted further elaboration on the intentions of the filmmakers because the process was so passionate.
While I was walking around the room taking a few pictures, I was noticing that everyone seemed engaged and interested in this topic and the community. Students asked for more information about where to find the video to show their friends. This showed that people wanted to spread the word about Iraqi culture and wanted to be involved locally.
We ended the discussion with reactions. Students were surprised with the depth and richness of Iraq’s history and culture. While some students thought that some of this culture has been lost due to the wars, others believed that the Iraqi culture has been resilient and continues to thrive.
I was so happy to be a part of an event that highlighted the beauty of Iraqi culture, and to be able to share that understanding with my peers.It was clear to me that people enjoyed the film, especially the grocery store scene.
This blog post was written by IARP intern Allie Harris.
On an unseasonably warm winter day in Minneapolis, over 5000 people gathered to show love. The MN Caravan of Love was a march in solidarity with immigrants, refugees, and all those impacted by the new travel restrictions.
I am honored to have been a part of this event. We marched, we chanted, we wrote love letters, but most importantly we loved one another as neighbors, friends, and family. Along the two mile route, flowers, balloons, and letters were handed to local immigrants. The streets echoed with “No hate. No fear. Refugees are welcome here.” Halfway through the route, the group stopped to hear speeches by inspirational individuals from countries affected by the executive order. They told stories of tragedy and of hope. The march concluded on the University of Minnesota campus with a celebration including more speeches, singers, and dancers.
What we know about The Executive Order:
- A ban on entry for 90 days of all immigrants and non-immigrants, for nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. This seems to be affecting US permanent residents (green card holders) as well
- Stops most refugee admissions for at least four months: 120-day pause in refugee admissions to the U.S with exceptions permitted for those fleeing religious persecution if their religion is a minority in their country of nationality
- Blocks refugees from war-torn Syria from entering the U.S. indefinitely.
- Caps total refugee admissions for fiscal year 2017 at 50,000- less than half of the 110,000 proposed by the Obama administration
Click here for the full executive order text with annotations.
How to protect yourself:
- If you are a non-citizen, even a green card holder (lawful permanent resident), it is recommended to not travel outside of the U.S. without consulting an immigration attorney during the 90-day period.
- If you are a non-citizen, even a green card holder, and you leave the U.S. you will most likely be denied reentry.
- If you are a green card holder and are outside of the U.S. fill out the USCIS G-28. It will officially appoint you an immigration attorney to represent you when you land. Have the form completed before boarding your flight. Here is link to the G-28.
- If you are a green card holder (lawful permanent resident) do not sign an I-407 at the airport or border. Instead ask for the supervisor who handles LPR admissions. If you sign the I-407, you will be giving up your green card. Here is a link to the I-407.
- Do not hesitate to call an immigration attorney to understand your specific case. We recommend that you call CAIR number: (408-986-9874 or 415-848-7711)
- Do not allow immigration officers in your home without a warrant. If they do have a warrant, make sure to have an immigration lawyer before speaking.
CAIR-MN’s 8 Know Your Rights Tips for travelers & immigrants:
- Do not leave the US if you are you here on a visa from the following countries Iraq Iran Libya Somalia Sudan Syria and Yemen
- Regardless of your immigration status contact CAIR are or a trusted immigration attorney before traveling outside the United States
- If you know of anyone traveling to the US have them contact CAIR our office or trusted immigration attorney near the airport of entry
- Do not submit any forms for immigration benefits without first contacting an attorney for review and guidance.
- Do Not speak with or sign any documents from law enforcements or any immigrants immigration officers without first contacting an attorney.
- Always carry valid immigration documents with you (ex.-green card or work permit).
- Keep copies of all your immigration documents in your car and at your home.
- Keep all foreign documents in a safe place and do NOT carry them with you.
January 28th, 2017
We are deeply troubled regarding the Executive Order targeting our refugee, immigrant, and Muslim communities. It flies in the face of the American values we hold dear. Religious freedom is a key tenet in our constitution, and the persecution of one faith threatens the protection of all faiths. The United States Constitution expressly protects individuals from persecution perpetrated by their own government. This includes bigotry based on faith, on nation of origin, and skin color.
This announcement is especially heart wrenching for our Syrian, Iraqi, Iranian, Libyan, Somali, Sudanese and Yemeni community members who are waiting to be reunited with a sister, brother, parent or child. These refugees are our coworkers, neighbors, friends, business owners, community leaders, and fellow American citizens and voters.
As an organization whose mission is to promote reconciliation between the people of the US and the people of Iraq in response to the devastation of the US invasion and occupation that has affected Iraqi families, society, and culture, we find this news horrifying. This announcement would bar many Iraqis who are eligible for the Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) and who face persecution due to their work alongside U.S. troops. The US government must not abandon the little responsibility it has taken regarding the consequences of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq.
We recommend that you take a look at the steps the Arab American Institute has outlined to stand against the ban here. We also recommend reaching out to CAIR with any legal questions at 612-206-3360 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us at IARP with any questions or concerns.
In the upcoming weeks, please reach out to your immigrant, refugee, Muslim, Arab, South Asian, and Latin American neighbors, and let them know you care and stand with them in solidarity.
Your IARP Team
What we know about the Executive Order:
- A ban on entry for 90 days of all immigrants and non-immigrants, for nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. This seems to be affecting US permanent residents (green card holders) as well.
- Stops most refugee admissions for at least four months: 120-day pause in refugee admissions to the U.S. with exceptions permitted for those fleeing religious persecution if their religion is a minority in their country of nationality.
- Blocks refugees from war-torn Syria from entering the U.S. indefinitely.
- Caps total refugee admissions for fiscal year 2017 at 50,000 – less than half of the 110,000 proposed by the Obama administration.
What is the current vetting system like?