Books for Mosul Campaign

Written on March 6, 2018, by

Collecting 15,000 books now through May 15, 2018

Once a major center of learning in the Middle East, the library at the University of Mosul was destroyed by ISIS when they occupied the city in June 2014. The militants methodically burned nearly all of the one million books, manuscripts, and historic maps saving only a few chemistry textbooks that they used to build crude explosives. The rest were considered “blasphemous.” One of the finest libraries in the Middle East was burned to the ground.

The Iraqi-American Reconciliation Project (IARP) is holding a book drive for Mosul to restore the library as a credible resource center at one of the Middle East’s most important universities. Community members can donate books or funds for shipping and handling costs.

IARP is coordinating the book drive in conjunction with Omar Mohammed, the historian and blogger behind Mosul Eye, who chronicled life under ISIS rule until he had to flee Iraq. He’s now trying to coordinate a cultural rebirth in Mosul, beginning with the library.

IARP’s goal is to collect 15,000 books to help restock the shelves of the University of Mosul library and $15,000 to pay for shipping and handling costs.

IARP is collecting GOOD QUALITY university-level books in English and Arabic in the following subjects:

  • Engineering
  • Mathematics
  • Humanities (history, art, music, literature, classics, etc.)
  • Medical school texts and references
  • References (encyclopedias, dictionaries, etc.)


Books can be sent to:


2021 E. Hennepin Ave, Suite 200

Minneapolis, MN 55413.


Twin Cities drop off locations:

Global Studies Department, University of Minnesota

214 Social Sciences Building

267 19th Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55455


IARP Office, Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 10:00am-12:00pm

2021 E. Hennepin Ave, Suite 200

Minneapolis, MN 55413


Donations to the Books for Mosul shipping and handling costs can be made here.


For additional drop off times and more information, contact or call 612-547-9971.





Remembering the Al-Mutanabbi Street bombing eleven years ago today

Written on March 5, 2018, by

Eleven years ago on this day, March 5, a car bomb targeted Baghdad’s historic open-air book market—Al-Mutanabbi Street. During this attack, 26 lives were lost and countless others were injured.

Al-Mutanabbi Street was named after one of the greatest poets of the Arabic language, the 10th century classical Iraqi poet Al-Mutanabbi. His legacy lends to the culture of Al-Mutanabbi Street. When the bomb exploded, lives were ended and precious books were destroyed. However, this street and all that it represents will not be erased from the Iraqi landscape. Writers and poets from all over the world responded to the tragedy. Their writings and poems are collected in an anthology called Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here.

Below is a selected work from Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here.

In the Valley of Love
Genny Lim

For Farid ud-Din Attar

Give me a thousand hearts
That I may sacrifice one for each moment
Open the door to each heart that
The Light of love may enter
Burn away the senses
For the truth of pleasures lies
In the truth of loss
Love itself is the flame
From which the self is wrought

Welcome our new Staff!

Written on February 25, 2018, by

Jessica Belt Saem Eldahr selected as next Executive Director

Jessy has been with IARP in her role as Deputy Director for the past two and a half years and is honored to have been selected as the next Executive Director. Jessy holds a BA from the University of Minnesota in Global Studies with a focus on the Middle East. In her new role, Jessy will continue to manage all programs as she takes on the full-time role of E.D. Before joining IARP in 2015, Jessy taught English and life-skills in the mountains of Lebanon where she spent the first fifteen years of her life. Jessy first became involved in IARP as a volunteer in 2012. Jessy and her husband Samer are the proud parents of a newborn son. They enjoy traveling and cooking ‘halabi’ food from Samer’s hometown of Aleppo.

Welcome Erin Hart as Director of Development and Communications

Erin joined IARP as a board member in September 2015 and most recently served as Interim Deputy Director. Erin worked in public affairs and consular positions with the State Department in Afghanistan, Oman, Iraq, and Washington, DC, before relocating to Minneapolis. She has an MA in law and diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University and a BA from Grinnell College. As Development and Communications Director, Erin looks forward to contributing more to IARP’s programs and long-term growth. She plays flute in a local music group and enjoys spending time with her two-year-old daughter Penelope and husband Ben.

A letter from Kathy McKay as she steps into new role of board member emeritus

Written on February 25, 2018, by

Dear Friends,

I want to be among the first to congratulate our new leadership at IARP. As of February 5th Jessica Belt Saem Eldahr has taken on the full responsibilities of the Executive Director. Over the past two and a half years, in her position of Deputy Director, Jessy has handled major responsibilities of the organization including overseeing the production of Birds Sing Differently Here at Dreamland and the Guthrie. In conjunction with the planning team, Jessy managed the Iftar Dinner and Minnehaha Potluck Picnic. She has managed interns and written grants. She is well equipped to lead IARP hand-in-hand with our Board of Directors.

In October 2017, Erin Hart assumed the title of Interim Deputy Director during the period Jessy was on family leave. She will continue in a part-time position at IARP as well as maintaining her role as a Board member. Erin brings management, communications and planning experience from her many Department of State positions.

With the new Executive Director and a strong Board of Directors, I will be stepping back to being volunteer without a title. I look forward to continued involvement with the Women’s Conversation Group and other opportunities that arise.

My leadership of IARP over the past ten years has been that of a convener, a convener of the talent and passion of others. From the early founding board members up through today’s Board of Directors there has been a steady hand and generous “holding” of the mission to foster connections between Iraqis and longtime Minnesotans. The Board now includes veterans, Father David Smith, PhD, and Salam Murtada; middle term individuals Mohammed Raef Al-Azzawi, Kathy Adam, and Erin Hart; and newer Board members (Ali) Muntadher Al-Jayashi and Ethan Wilensky-Lanford.

Over the years on a day to day basis the passion and tireless contributions of many young people, most particularly Luke Wilcox, Tricia Heuring, Nathan Fisher and Jessy Belt, have built IARP and kept it vibrant. With most of the hurdles small start-up non-profits encounter (limited funds, lack of credibility/identity) and some unique to our work (cross cultural, Islamophobia), these four individuals found ways to get things done. Without their vision, determination and perseverance IARP would not be the broad and deep community non-profit we now are.

IARP would be hollow, of course, if not for the generous Iraqi community members who risked believing we were sincere in our sometimes clumsy invitations to be friends. Patiently instructing us about cultural differences, so many went on to then share their most personal and sometimes painful stories. We have now an amalgam of Iraqis and non-Iraqis who stand together showing the world we are friends. We are the same, and we have differences. Together we stand against prejudice, hatred, and misunderstanding.

I expect to remain an active participant in IARP activities, just without the titles, and look forward to the year ahead.



Meet our intern: Michael Salzman

Written on February 20, 2018, by

Hi, I’m Michael Salzman. I’m a senior at Macalester College studying Arabic and the history and politics of the Middle East. In 2014, I worked for the D.C.-based nonprofit New Story Leadership, where I worked to bring Israelis and Palestinians together to discuss their own stories. My studies since then have focused on the unique dynamics of identity politics and narrative building in the post-colonial Islamic world. I’m also learning to cook.

Meet our spring intern: Gita!

Written on February 16, 2018, by

My name is Gita Misra, and I am a student at the University of Minnesota. I am in my junior year, and my major is global studies with a focus on human rights and justice in the Middle East. I am looking forward to interning at IARP! I chose this organization because its focus falls within the region of study I would like to work in some day. I am looking forward to deepening my understanding on how nonprofit organizations work since I have no experience with them so far, and I would like to work in this field in the future. I grew up in the Twin Cities area and decided to attend college here. Since high school, I knew I wanted to work in human rights, but it wasn’t until college that I chose my emphasis area as the Middle East. In my classes at the U, I learned more about the Middle East and discovered what a diverse region it was. During my sophomore year at the U, I studied abroad for a semester in Jordan (and visited the UAE for a short period of time). While abroad, I conducted a research project on sexual education among teenagers in Amman. Being there was one of the greatest experiences in my life, and I am hoping that once I graduate, I can return to the country.

Meet our new intern: Maddie Beal

Written on February 14, 2018, by

My name is Maddie Beal and I am a senior at the University of Minnesota. I am majoring in Global Studies with a focus in Human Rights and justice and Europe and minoring in History. I am very excited to be interning with IARP this semester! I got involved with IARP because of my internship class I am taking at the U. I wanted to intern with IARP because I am very interested in how nonprofits work and also very interested in learning more about the Middle East. Also, the projects that IARP is working on right now like Books for Mosul and the Iraqi Art Project are intriguing to me. I am originally from Colorado but moved to Minneapolis four years ago to play volleyball for the U. I just completed my four years of eligibility playing for the Gophers in 2017, now I am coaching a 14’s volleyball team for a club and love it! After I graduate I plan to go to the UK to play on a university team and get my masters or go to Europe to play professional volleyball.

Staged Reading of Birds Sing Differently Here at Dreamland Arts

Written on September 5, 2017, by

In March 2017, 12 Iraqi-Minnesotan immigrants and refugees came together under the direction of theater artists Taous Claire Khazem and Dylan Fresco to create an original and innovative theater performance based on their personal stories as a part of our Iraqi Voices project. They continued an extensive creative process for eight weeks, learning ensemble work and participating in storytelling and theater exercises. Rehearsals for the show began in July, with a staged reading version of Birds Sing Differently Here on stage at Dreamland Arts in August.

The diverse intergenerational cast included nine Iraqi Voices participants (Nada Alabbasi, Ali Alshammaa, Hannaa Al-Azzawi, Mazin Chilab, Abdullah Flaija, Adel Naji, Dhifaf Sarhan, Ahmed Al Shaikhli and Bahaa Al Shaikhli) and four professional actors (Ashawnti Ford, Dylan Fresco, Aamera Siddiqui and Mohammed Yabdri).

Each of the three nights were sold out! The premiere of Birds Sing Differently Here will be at the Guthrie in October.


Official premiere of Birds Sing Differently Here as part of the theater’s Level 9 Series, all tickets for productions in the Dowling Studio are $9. To purchase, call the Box Office 612.377.2224 or toll-free 877.44.STAGE or visit here.

DATE: October 27, 28, 29
TIME: 7:30pm and 1:00pm
LOCATION: Guthrie Theater, Dowling Studio


Meet our Iraqi Art Project Intern: Abby Massell

Written on July 30, 2017, by

Hello! My name is Abby Massell and I’m a senior at Macalester College studying International Studies, Political Science, and Arabic. I grew up in Burlington, Vermont and have had wonderful
opportunities to study and travel in Morocco, Jordan and Palestine.  At Macalester, I’ve spent my
time outside of academics singing in one of Macalester’s choirs and a cappella groups,
participating in Macalester Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights, as well as advocating
for the admission of displaced students to Macalester alongside a dedicated group of peers. It
has been a pleasure spending my first summer in the Twin Cities getting to know places and
people beyond the Macalester neighborhood, aided in particular by my internship with IARP.
While I do not yet have plans for after graduation, I hope to find a career in advocacy and
education with a goal to equalize access for those in my local community as well as abroad.


Cooking Class with the Good Girl’s Giving Club

Written on July 20, 2017, by

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)

  1. 2 Whole chicken.
  2. 5lbs white rice.
  3. 1lb
  4. 1lb
  5. 1lb Arabic noodles.
  6. 6tbsp
  7. 6tbsp
  8. 6tbsp
  9. 1lb
  10. 1 small green peas.
  11. 1 cup corn oil.



  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Onions are finely chopped and cooked in oil with continuous stirring until their color turns gold.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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)

  1. 3 cups all purpose flour.
  2. 5 – 2 cups of water depending on the flour used.
  3. Full tsp instant yeast.
  4. 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.