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.