Sunday, September 13, 2009

Schedule of Public Events with the Najaf Delegation to Minneapolis

A delegation of 14 men and women from Najaf, lraq – Minneapolis’ newest Sister City – will visit the Twin Cities this September 18 through October 2, 2009. The visit will be the first official exchange between the two cities.

The delegates will be hosted by the Minneapolis-based non-profit Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project, along with the Minneapolis Convention and Visitors Association, the University of Minnesota, Friends for a Nonviolent World, and other local organizations. The following is a list of events with the delegation open to the public. For other inquiries or opportunities to participate, please contact IARP at

9/20, 1:00 PM: Peace Garden Dedication at Lake Harriet in Minneapolis. More information at the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s website.

9/24, 7:00-9:00 PM: Arab Night. In celebration of the newly official Sister City relationship between Najaf, Iraq and Minneapolis, USA, a festive Arab Night will be jointly hosted by the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project and the Najaf delegation on Sept 24th, 2009 from 7pm-9pm. Arab Night will provide an opportunity for the delegates to share a taste of their city with the community through live music, food provided by Big Marina Grill and Deli, and a display of joint projects between Minneapolis and Najaf, including water sanitation projects, art pieces and an opportunity for children to write to Iraqi kids. The public is invited to join us for an entertaining and friendship-building evening.
Where: St. Joan of Arc Church. 4537 3rd Ave South, Minneapolis, MN 55419. $8 suggested donation.

9/26, 7:00 PM: “Art in Iraq” at the St. Mane Theatre, 206 Parkway Ave N, Lanesboro. Presentation by Sami Rasouli, Founder and Director of Muslim Peacemaker Teams. At 8:00 PM a reception at Cornucopia Art Center in Lanesboro will be held in honor of the fourteen delegates from Najaf.

9/30, 2:00-4:30 PM: “Water for Peace: An Iraqi-US Partnership.”
Location: Room 64, Biological Sciences on the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota. (1445 Gortner Avenue in St. Paul, see this link for map:

According to a recent report by the United Nations, lack of access to clean water poses a significant threat to the health of Iraqi children. In the province of Najaf, 100 miles south of Baghdad, a unique partnership has developed to help meet the challenge of providing clean water at schools, hospitals, and clinics. An Iraqi NGO, the Muslim Peacemaker Teams, has partnered with a Minnesota non-profit, the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project, to install water filtration systems in important public sites in Najaf. This program will bring together a multi-disciplinary panel of speakers to discuss the impact of clean water on education, health, and other aspects of public life, and how a bilateral community organizing effort can mobilize citizens to impact community health issues. The program is sponsored by the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project, the Muslim Peacemaker Teams, and College of Education and Human Development and Office of International Programs at the University of Minnesota.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

IARP's New Website!

IARP is in the process of creating a new website. Check out the progress at our new address: All new posts will be entered on the new website rather than this blog, so this is the last post here. Hope to see you at the new site! Your feedback is welcome!


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Iraqi refugees release captivating album online


Iraqi refugees release captivating album online

News Stories, 12 June 2009

© UNHCR/G.Brust
From left to right, Abdel Mounem Ahmad on the qanun, Fadi Fares Aziz on the ney and Salim Salem on the oud.

DAMASCUS, Syria, June 11 (UNHCR) A trio of refugee musicians from Iraq have released their first album on some of the world's leading music-sharing sites and have agreed to use the profits to help financially strapped compatriots in exile.

"Transitions," comprising 15 tracks put together by Salim Salem, Abdel Mounem Ahmad and Fadi Fares Aziz with the support of the UN refugee agency, made its online debut Thursday on iTunes, Napster, Amazon, Amie Street, IMVU, lala, ShockHound, Rhapsody and emusic.

The three used their collective experiences of life as refugees, their transitions and the uncertainty of exile as inspiration for their captivating and calming music a mix of ancient and modern that highlights the richness and diversity of the Iraqi musical repertoire. Salim plays the oud (lute), Abdel Mounem the ney (pan flute) and Fadi the qanun, a type of zipher.

They met in Damascus after fleeing the violence in Iraq. The three men often talked about recording Iraqi music that would reach an international audience. "When I arrived in Syria, my oud was my only luggage as a refugee. I had left my country behind, but my music spoke about nothing else," recalls Salim.

His dream to record music with Abdel Mounem and Fadi turned to reality when the UNHCR office in Damascus became involved as part of its "Express Yourself" campaign, launched in 2007 to give talented Iraqi refugees in Syria a platform to express themselves artistically.

UNHCR's Damascus office contacted the iTunes last month and asked them to market the music. They referred the agency to TuneCore, a United States-based music distribution company. TuneCore then sent the music to all its partners including iTunes for sale. The album was recorded in Damascus.

Philippe Leclerc, UNHCR's acting representative in Syria, welcomed the release of the album. "Iraqi talent is alive. We need to continue to support it and help Iraqi refugees living in exile," he said. "Iraqi society is facing major challenges today and we hope that this music will allow people all over the world to become closer to Iraqi culture while supporting Iraqi refugees."

Salim, Abdel Mounem and Fadi have all agreed to donate the profits to a UNHCR-run financial assistance programme that provides a lifeline for some 12,000 Iraqi refugee families unable to work legally in Syria, or lacking savings. Every track downloaded will mean 60 US cents for the programme.

"This solidarity will mean a lot, not only to the refugees but also to the humanitarian aid workers who are supporting this operation," said Sybella Wilkes, a UNHCR public information officer in Damascus.

Meanwhile, "Transitions" might become the only album recorded by the three men. While Salim remains a refugee in Damascus, Fadi was recently resettled in the United States with UNHCR help. Abdel Mounem has returned to Baghdad, once a musical centre of the Arab world, though he will play a special World Refuge Day concert in Damascus next Wednesday with Salim.

"I have returned to Iraq, determined to make my future here," Abdel said. "I am part of a resistance that promotes passion for music and peace. Culture and art are still part of the Iraqi identity. Such an ingrained, deep-rooted and ancient civilisation cannot be erased in a few years."

Salim is not ready to go back, but he believes things are improving in Iraq. "During the past year, I have seen music blossoming again in Iraq," said the oud player. "We would like to dedicate this album to all Iraqis around the world, to all the people who have made this project possible and to all fine listeners of Oriental music," he added.

By Dalia Al-Achi in Damascus, Syria

We are not disturbing the peace, we are disturbing the war

This is an interesting story from the blog Daily Kos:

"We are not disturbing the peace, we are disturbing the war."
by Bjorn in MN
Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 09:46:11 PM PDT

Every Tuesday afternoon a small group of peace activists stand at the busy intersection of Burnsville Parkway and Nicolet Avenue , just a couple blocks away from the largest park and ride in the southern suburbs and outside the offices of Republican Congressman John Kline. For over two years now they have been coming to this spot in Burnsville , Minnesota to exercise their first amendment right to speak out against the war that Kline is a big supporter of. Over the course of those two years the peace vigil has received a great reception from many in the community and the protesters have received a large number of honks of support from those who pass by.

The Burnsville Police Department never seemed to like the idea of a peace vigil outside Kline's office however. From early on, it appears they needed to find a way to build a case to show that these people represent a threat to public safety.

The police decided to target a sign that was frequently held at the peace vigil that said "Honk for Peace". There is a law on the books which states that a person can not honk their horn for non-emergency purposes. It is a law that the Burnsville Police were not enforcing in the past, but now people were honking in support of peace and so it was time for a police crackdown.

Officers approached the participants at the vigil and told them that their "Honk for Peace" signs were encouraging an illegal act and if anyone honked the participants of the vigil would be held responsible. Of course there is no legal precedence for prosecuting protesters when people honk in support of them and so the participants of the vigil asked the police to show them the law that prevented them from holding their signs at the intersection. In the words of Coleen Rowley who is a regular participant at the Burnsville peace vigil, "we're not disturbing the peace, we're disturbing the war." The city of Burnsville had no laws on the books prohibiting anyone from disturbing the war however, and so they tried a different tactic in an attempt to get the protesters to go away. Instead of targeting the protesters, they were going to target the motorists who expressed their support with honks.

Police set up a dragnet at the intersection one afternoon to catch and ticket those who honked while going through the intersection. Over the course of a few weeks, they were able to ticket two or three different motorists. One of those ticketed was very supportive of the vigil's message but was also very upset that the vigil continued after the activists knew police were going to be pulling people over and ticketing them. The vigil participants felt very strongly that the first amendment not only allowed them to be at the intersection but also allowed people like this woman to show their support. Eventually the Burnsville woman who was ticketed sought and received the help of ACLU volunteer attorney Howard Bass.

Bass took up the case to defend our first amendment rights and after a several month battle, he was able to get the city of Burnsville to not only drop the charges but also get a consent decree issued which affirmed the right of all motorists to honk for peace. The police agreed that they would stop pulling people over for honking and allow the peace vigil to continue. It seemed free speech had prevailed and the participants of the vigil breathed a sigh of relief.

For several weeks the vigils went on without police harassment, but then on June 23rd the police showed up and started photographing the peace vigil participants. Greg Skog who is a participant in the vigil had his camera along so he took some pictures of the police to document their actions and then asked them what was wrong. The police said they knew about the consent decree and they were not going to be pulling anyone over, but they did not explain what anyone at the vigil was doing wrong or why they were being photographed.

When the vigil participants arrived on June 30th, the police were already waiting for them. At least one officer was in the parking lot of Kline's offices monitoring the peace activists the entire time. Officers appeared to be recording driver's license numbers on notepads.

It is unclear what kind of case the police are trying to build, what is clear is that this peace group has been at the intersection for nearly two years now and every single week they have remained very peaceful and law abiding. The Burnsville Police Department is targeting and harrassing peaceful protesters and their community supporters by using intimidation tactics, but fortunately the participants in the vigil are not going to give up on their free speech rights. They are intending to be at that intersection every week, rain or shine, until the wars come to an end. Let's give them our support.

A special thanks to Coleen Rowley, Sue Skog and Greg Skog for their assistance with this post.

Tags: Peace vigil, Minnesota, war, protests, John Kline,

Friday, July 3, 2009

New art store opens in St. Paul on July 4th with exhibition of Iraqi and international student art

St. Paul, MN—July 4th, 2009—A new art shop displaying Iraqi, international, and U.S. veteran art opens on July 4th on Grand Avenue in St. Paul. The Wolves Head will open with an exhibition featuring art by Iraqi citizens and local international students. The show is also supported by a local non-profit organization, the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project (IARP).

Chukouma, the owner of the new shop, says, “Some art works exhibited in the store are from Iraqis and some from international students at a local school... The art will show the international talents of the students and hopefully people will come due to curiosity of what the art is about.” The Wolves Head is located at 1665 Grand Avenue, Saint Paul and is open from 2:00pm to 6:00pm this Saturday, July 4th. Its hours are 10:00am to10:00pm on Sunday and 10:00am to 7:00pm during the week, and the show will be open until July 25th.

The Iraqi paintings will be available for sale. The proceeds transferred to the artists are then shared with their sponsoring organization in Iraq, the Muslim Peacemaker Teams. On Sunday evening at 7:00pm there will be an informal, free jazz concert by local guitarist Rick Figucroa. Visitors to the Wolves Head may also sign up for future art classes such as jewelry making, bead weaving, quilting, a men’s sewing circle, and other fiber arts.

IARP Art Director Jessie Witte says, “The show will be a unique combination of artists in the community getting together.”

The Iraqi Art Project, a program of IARP, helps bridge American communities with Iraqi artists to enhance cultural exchange between the two peoples. It promotes a deeper understanding among Americans about the Iraqi culture, people and land through the transformative power of art.

For more information please contact:

Luke Wilcox, IARP Communications Director, at:

IARP’s website:

Monday, June 22, 2009

Tikkun and Imam Zaid Shakir

Imam Zaid Shakir is amongst the most respected and influential Islamic scholars in the West. As an American Muslim who came of age during the civil rights struggles, he has brought both sensitivity about race and poverty issues and scholarly discipline to his faith-based work. His article in the current Tikkun, "Obsessed with Defamation and Slander," rebuts the charges of "Islamofascism" made by the widely disseminated "Obsession" DVD and in much commentary about Islam as a whole.
Imam Shakir is scholar-in-residence and lecturer at Zaytuna Institute, where he teaches courses on Arabic, Islamic law, history, and Islamic spirituality. His essays have been collected in Scattered Pictures (Zaytuna Institute 2005). For more information see his own website.

We are delighted to welcome Imam Shakir to the Tikkun/NSP Phone Forum. Monday June 22 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific Time (9:00 p.m. Eastern).
Just call 1 888 346 3950 and ENTER CODE 11978#.
The Call is FREE! No phone charge to you.

Tikkun Managing Editor Dave Belden will interview our guest for twenty minutes, then he'll take questions from YOU.

To get full details about the Phone Forum please check at

If you need to contact someone at Tikkun, please call 510-644-1200.
And if you want a daily take on a spiritual progressive response to this amazing world, check out our new blog Tikkun Daily. Tikkun editors Dave Belden and Alana Price have started this blog in a small way and next month will be joined by others on a new page. Check out the Editor's Favorites in the right hand column.

Iraqi Delegation to Visit Twin Cities

The Iraqi & American Reconciliation Project, in conjunction with the University of Minnesota; Twin Cities Peace Campaign: Focus on Iraq; Women Against Military Madness; Friends for a Non-Violent World and others are hosting a delegation of 12-15 Iraqis visiting the Twin Cities in the second half of September of this year. They will be traveling here with Sami Rasouli, Iraqi-American and Muslim Peacemaker Teams Director when he returns for an extended stay.

Coming as peacemakers and visitors, these professors, city council members, NGO directors and Muslim Peacemaker Team (MPT) members are like us, curious, smart and interested in making friends.

The delegate planning committee invites your support and participation. We are already scheduling visits to the big sites in the Twin Cities, such as City Hall, the State Capitol and various museums, but we also hope to provide our Iraqi guests with opportunities for personal interactions with Minnesotans that can create more unique educational experiences. So we are open to any suggestions and invitations.

Attention Twin Cities area residents: Could someone provide a 15-20 minute explanation of the Peace Garden at Lake Harriet and then join the group for lunch? How about a favorite restaurant that would be welcoming hosts to 13 visitors from Iraq for lunch? We plan to bring them to the Peace Vigil on the Lake Street Bridge on a Wednesday evening and also offer the Alliant Tech morning vigil particularly to Professor Askouri whose research is in depleted uranium consequences and who now works in cancer treatment.

If you think of a way you would like to join us, please email or call 952-545-9981.