Our Iraq at the MSP International Film Festival!

Written on April 6, 2017, by

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 Human by Malka Al-Haddad

Written on March 27, 2017, by

I’m from a country at war
I am from a country that’s bleeding
A country of anger
And revolutions
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
Blue rivers
Red flowers
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?!

No choice
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

No job
no identification
no dignity.

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:
Homeland

No choice I came here

I’m here
but I’m not here

You are a refugee and
Your choice is not your choice

But remember…
I’m human
I’m human

 

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/

Public Syllabus on Immigration

Written on March 10, 2017, by

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.

New Travel Ban- Does not include Iraq

Written on March 6, 2017, by

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.

Iraqi Voices Screening at my school- Nicole

Written on February 28, 2017, by

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.

The Minnesota Caravan of Love

Written on February 15, 2017, by

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.

How to Protect Yourself in the Face of New Ban

Written on February 3, 2017, by

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 theG-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:

 

  1. 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
  2. Regardless of your immigration status contact CAIR are or a trusted immigration attorney before traveling outside the United States
  3. If you know of anyone traveling to the US have them contact CAIR our office or trusted immigration attorney near the airport of entry
  4. Do not submit any forms for immigration benefits without first contacting an attorney for review and guidance.
  5. Do Not speak with or sign any documents from law enforcements or any immigrants immigration officers without first contacting an attorney.
  6. Always carry valid immigration documents with you (ex.-green card or work permit).
  7. Keep copies of all your immigration documents in your car and at your home.
  8. Keep all foreign documents in a safe place and do NOT carry them with you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IARP response to Executive Order on Immigrants and Refugees

Written on February 3, 2017, by

January 28th, 2017

Dear friends,

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 info@mn.cair.com. 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.

Sincerely,
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?

The current vetting system for incoming refugees is extremely thorough. Learn more here.

 

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Christmas in Karbala by Cathy Breen

Written on January 3, 2017, by

Published with permission from Cathy Breen

Dec. 25, 2016

Karbala, Iraq–It is Christmas day, and I am in Karbala with dear friends. We awoke to a second day of rain, and pictures of flooding, especially in Baghdad, are being shown on TV. Yesterday, on Christmas-eve, several tents caught fire in a camp for the internally displaced near Mosel. As I write you, I am looking at the charred remains of one of the tents on TV. Angry people are describing what happened, lifting high the kerosene heaters for all to see. And, of course, the conflict in Mosel is foremost in the news. I am missing a translator this morning as my host is at work. But I would like to relate something from last week’s events.

Over the years, we have made many contacts in Najaf through our generous host there, Sami. These include doctors, dentists, hospital personnel and University deans. On one particular morning last week two presentations for me had been arranged, one at a Medical college, another at a college of Dentistry. As Voices for Creative Nonviolence we are eager to hear from young people, and rather than giving a presentation, I welcomed the opportunity for an open exchange.

One of the questions that repeatedly arose was “What will happen under Trump to all Muslims in America?”

“We want the U.S. to understand one thing” said a student. “Islam doesn’t mean terrorism.”

When asked if there was any interest in the US elections, a female student spoke up. “The elections were not important for us, but somehow the U.S. rules the world and I think the elections for the U.S. president should be worldwide. I was really disappointed in Trump.” Another student felt that it didn’t matter who was elected, the U.S. policy would remain the same.

Both Najaf and Karbala house holy Shia shrines and thousands of pilgrims visit both cities annually. They are two areas which, thank God, have remained for the most part safe and stable. It is one of the reasons we can travel here.

One of the first students to speak in the lecture hall of about 150 students said “On facebook I get the impression people think we are dodging bullets and bombs every day. We live a normal life.” Someone retorted, but not harshly, “And in Mosel or in other parts of Iraq?” And there was a feeling of agreement in the room that Najaf has been spared the violence, destruction and death that beset most other parts of the country.

“We have to start by changing the corrupt government,” said one, “a government the U.S. put in. But I don’t know how to bring about that change.”

On another day, we visited the Middle Euphrates Cancer Center which opened in 2014 and provides radiation and chemotherapy. Fifty percent of their patients come from the middle Euphrates area and they receive patients from the internally displaced population as well.

They have entered a critical period in terms of budget cutbacks. As the incidence of cancer increases throughout the country, the Ministry of Health (which provides 90-95% of their services) is cutting their budget by 50% in 2017. In 2013 the budget was 3.7 billion dollars. In 2016 the budget was $1,2 billion dollars. The salaries are fixed, but the cuts will affect drugs, equipment and specifically cancer care. Last week 85 items in their drug stock were depleted; 50% of their overall stock is depleted. The Minister of Health can only provide 6% of their needs. This is indeed distressing news.

Just prior we visited El Sadder hospital. Walking through the halls, clean but in a state of disrepair, I was reminded of the time of economic sanctions. In one of the sitting rooms, a doctor sat down next to me and immediately began to tell me of two great needs: 1. deficiency in orthopedic supplies and 2. the need for training for their technicians. Could they come to U.S. for a month or more of training? I asked to see the prosthetic unit and was taken there immediately.

A personable young man named Hussein, 21 years of age, who had lost an arm (and had extensive scarring on his face) at 10yrs of age due to an explosion approached me. He spent time in Arizona receiving treatment, and his English was excellent. Hussein has many contacts with Shriner’s Hospital in NY city. I was given an itemized list of items they need. It would be a wonderful thing if Shriners could contact this hospital for some type of interchange and/or assistance.

I struggled with mixed emotions during the visit, feeling like a visiting ‘dignitary of importance’ being escorted through the halls and units. I remembered back to a young 12-year-old quadruple amputee, Mohammed. Four or five years ago, his father and prosthetic technicians brought him to the house where I was staying in Najaf. Could I help him get a prosthetic arm? For months on end I showed his picture and told his story in the states and in Jordan as well, trying to find some organization that could help. Coming home from school at six years of age, Mohammed had stepped on an electrical wire from a pole downed by a U.S. bomb. All of my/our attempts proved futile. I still find it painful to remember this boy, who had not been able to feed himself, itch his nose or embrace a fellow human being since he was six years of age. This experience has made me very hesitant to receive similar requests.

Last night my host read to me from the Koran the account of Jesus’s birth. It was a special way to spend Christmas eve, assuring, that our faith traditions share much in common.

Meet our new intern: Allie Harris

Written on December 26, 2016, by

Hello, my name is Allie Harris. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies and finished my Master’s in Islamic Studies in June. After finishing my degree in Denver, I moved north to the Twin Cities. So far, I am loving Minnesota and I could not be more excited to be involved in IARP. I am lucky to have this opportunity to be more involved in my new community, continue in the field I am passionate about, and, hopefully, work on my Arabic language skills.