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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
By Tricia Khutoretsky, IARP Curator
In early May, I took an overnight trip to Kimballton, Iowa on behalf of the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project to install a special exhibit for the New Century Art Guild. NCAG is a 501c(3) non-profit organization that promotes the growth of artistic culture and development of art-related careers in the Midwest, especially those of military veterans wishing to make new careers in visual art. The organization supports three buildings that feature over 4000 square feet of studio and gallery space located on the Main Street of Kimballton, Iowa.
by Helen Benedict
March 16–April 6, 2014, The History Theater, St. Paul, MN
The stories of soldiers on the front lines of American’s most recent wars are unlike any that came before – especially for women in uniform. This provocative and timely play by award-winning author Helen Benedict, is based on interviews with soldiers stationed on the front lines in Iraq; these are the real words of eight battle-tested women warriors recounting their experiences on battlefield and in the barracks, and their personal journeys toward recovery and justice. Honest, heartfelt, and current, this play directed by Austene Van, opens the door for conversations about war, gender, and the challenges facing the next generation of American soldiers.
Enjoyed most by ages 16+
IARP Show Night: March 20
Join us for the 8:00 pm show on Thursday, March 20 and stay to meet the actors! Reserve your tickets for just $22 by emailing info@
Please join us at the Daily Iraqi Life Art Exhibit, open September 9-30th, 8AM-8PM, to observe and understand the connection the St. Paul/Minneapolis community maintains with our sister city of Najaf, Iraq and local Iraqi refugees.
The Iraqi American Reconciliation Project (IARP) is excited to take part in the Veterans for Peace Convention August 11-13 in downtown Madison at the Concourse Hotel and Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative (see an article about the event here). Convention displays will show various forms of art relating to war and peace. IARP’s portion of the exhibit will be in University Room C, and contain paintings and photographs by contemporary Iraqi artists and engaging, personal books created by IARP, Iraqi refugees, and U.S. veterans.
IARP and supporters are hosting Iraqi artist Fatin Al-Jumaily in Minnesota to participate in the Women’s Art Institute at St. Catherine’s University in St. Paul. Below are photos of Fatin and her husband, Watheq, in Minnesota. Special thanks to hosts Pat Owen, Hend Al-Mansour, and David Penchansky!
IARP is helping an Iraqi artist, Fatin Al-Jumaily, apply for the summer Women’s Art Institute at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. The following is a message from Fatin (thank you to IARP Board Member Salam Murtada for the translation):