The Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project recently teamed up with The Good Girl’s Giving Club to hold a cooking class. The Good Girl’s Giving Club is a group of women who meet every month to discuss and donate to a worthy cause. Each month, the group is hosted at a different house, and the host is responsible for choosing an individual or an organization to receive the donation. On Tuesday, July 11, IARP met with eight of these women when we were invited to teach a cooking class.
Shaymaa Jakjook was our honorary Iraqi chef for the night. Shaymaa taught us all how to make an Iraqi version of Chicken Biryni. This is a multi-layered meal with chicken, rice, and a mixture of Arabic noodles, raisins, and almonds. We also had a lesson on how to make Iraqi bread. Shaymaa brought prepared dough that had already risen. She went through the process of stretching the dough, creating the shape, and her expert technique of flipping the dough onto a hot pan. Once Shaymaa had shown the steps a couple of times, some of the other women tried their hand at the art of making Iraqi bread.
While we cooked, the women in the giving group had an opportunity to hear Shaymaa’s story about coming to the United States as well as the story of her life in Iraq. As we sat down to dinner, Shaymaa’s phone began to play the call to prayer. This sparked a discussion on praying: how often Muslims pray, the routine of prayers, the differences between subject matter of prayers, etc. It is always refreshing to take part in conversations such as this one. All of the women in attendance were asking great questions and listening with open minds while also sharing their stories in a welcoming environment. This was my first Iraqi cooking class and it perfectly embodied the ideals behind out People to People project. This group of women helped us reach our goal of fostering cultural exchanges and intercultural understanding. I am so glad I was able to learn – and eat – with such an amazing group of women.
Chicken Biryni Recipe
Ingredients: (Enough for 12 people or more)
- 2 Whole chicken.
- 5lbs white rice.
- 1lb Arabic noodles.
- 1 small green peas.
- 1 cup corn oil.
- Rinse the rice then soak it in water for 15 minutes. Add suitable amount of water to cook the rice in a cook pot and leave it on the cooktop until it starts boiling. Drain the rice from the water and add it to the boiling water with continuous stirring for 5 to 10 minutes until the rice is half cooked. Rice is drained from water and put back in an empty cook pot on the cooktop on a low temperature until serving time.
- Part the chicken into 4 or 8 pieces as preferred. Chicken pieces are rinsed with water. Cover all chicken pieces with water in a cook pot on the cooktop until it starts boiling, then add two spoons turmeric, cumin and the oregano spices and a big peeled onion. Leave on low temperature until the chicken is done. Chicken pieces are either served right away with rice or fried until red.
- Peel the potatoes and cut them into small chunks then put them in boiling water until they are half done. After that, drain them and leave them aside.
- Cook the Arabic noodles in the oil and keep on stirring until their color turns brown. After that, add water and leave them on the cooktop for 10 minutes until they are fully cooked, then drain them from the water.
- Onions are finely chopped and cooked in oil with continuous stirring until their color turns gold.
- Half of the onions are mixed with all of the potatoes with an addition of a little bit of oil. Keep stirring on a low temperature until the potatoes’ color turns brown, then add the noodles to the mix with the remaining of the spices.
- Add the rest of the onions to the green peas and raisins on a low temperature for couple of minutes with continuous stirring then take them of the cooktop and add them to the mix in point number (6), then put everything on a serving plate.
- Chicken and rice are served in the same serving plate or in separate ones as preferred.
Iraqi bread recipe
Ingredients: (Makes 10 pieces of bread)
- 3 cups all purpose flour.
- 5 – 2 cups of water depending on the flour used.
- Full tsp instant yeast.
- 2tbsp Or, add salt as preferred.
All ingredients are mixed together at once until a soft dough is formed. Place the dough ball in a bowl, cover and allow it to rise for a some time depending on the room temperature, or an hour as an average. Divide the dough into small pieces according to the desired bread size. Leave the pieces outside in open air for 10 minutes. Bake the bread in the oven until done and ready to serve.
At the beginning of June, and the beginning of Ramadan, we had the pleasure of celebrating an Iftar meal with 85 members of our community. This was our second time hosting the Iraqi and American Community Dinner, and the event more than doubled in size. Together, we raised $1,475 towards dignity projects for displaced Iraqis fleeing Mosul and our general mission.
The evening began with a wonderful presentation on Ramadan by Sumayah Ameen. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of prayer, fasting, and charity-giving to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the “five pillars” of Islam, and is performed to learn compassion, self-restraint, and generosity. Iftar is the evening meal at sunset when Muslims end their daily fast during Ramadan.
Next, several community members shared what Ramadan meant to them. As guests lined up to pile on plates (waiting until all could be served so that all could break fast together per tradition) the speaker played the “athan”, the traditional call to prayer. We broke fast together as a community at sunset on June 2nd, and with the large number in attendance, everyone worked together quickly to load up plates with dates, pita, kefta, and many other delicious dishes.
The night ended with a sneak preview of this year’s Iraqi Voices theater project, performed by Iraqi community members. We cannot wait until the full piece premieres this fall! Thank you for joining us for this year’s Iftar event, and if you were unable to attend we look forward to an even larger event next year. Ramadan Mubarak to all!
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!
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/
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.