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.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Draft NGO Law in Iraq

Sami Rasouli, Director of Muslim Peacemaker Teams, recently provided comments for an article by Al-Sabah, a major newspaper in Iraq. The article focuses on the reaction of Iraqi NGO leaders to a draft law before the Iraqi Parliament that regulates NGO activity. Many NGO leaders have spoken out against the law, which would give the government broad supervision and power over civil society. This law is potentially very dangerous for Iraq's democracy because it would allow the government to essentially pick and choose which NGOs it wanted to allow (e.g., pro-government) and which to dissolve (e.g., anti-government). Below is the Al-Sabah article in Arabic as well as an article about the law by Niqash, in English.

government launches attack on civil society

mon 08 jun 09

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have expressed concern over government attempts to control their activities, monitor their funding and curtail their independence.

A proposed new law giving the government the right to supervise NGOs and deny them the right of registration without due reason, has provoked strong civil society opposition. The draft law gives the government the power to dissolve any NGO or freeze its work without any judicial supervision. Additionally, the law obliges NGOs to obtain governmental approval to buy or sell any property.

"Any person who joins a non-registered organization or an organization which is not legally and properly declared shall be imprisoned for a period of six months to three years," stipulates the draft law.

Hadi Najm Lazim, a member of Hamourabi Organization, an NGO working in the field of election awareness, said that the penalties contained in the new law "disturb" him and remind him of the practices of the former totalitarian regime.

“Our organization is not registered because of the deadly routine and bureaucratic practices,â€‌ commented Lazim. “I can imagine police raiding our premises and arresting us for giving a lecture on human rights or electoral awareness.â€‌

A draft copy of the NGO law, which was discussed in parliament in April, was recently leaked to the media, creating an outcry.

The draft law is supposed to replace Bremer’s administrative order number 45 of November 2003, the legal framework currently regulating relations between the government and the NGO sector. Although order 45 was heavily criticized by legal experts and civil society activists, “Bremer’s order is less stringent than the provisions of the new draft law,â€‌ said Lazim.

According to Hassan Karim Ati, a lawyer and a member of the Iraqi Society for the Support of Culture the law’s provisions directly contradict the basic aims of civil society organizations. Ati warned that “civil society will be endangeredâ€‌ if the draft law is passed.

The law also seeks to monitor the activities of international NGOs, stipulating that any international organization wishing to open in Iraq needs to provide the government with the names, telephone numbers and addresses of its international and local staff. Moreover, the law stipulates that foreign NGOs should not provide more that 25% of local NGO funds.

Raad Hani, the director of Iraqis Without Borders says that "the government is putting obstacles in front of foreign organizations and their support for local NGOs and that this will discourage them in a time when we are in dire need of their support.â€‌

Critics say that the government failed to consult with civil society in preparing this law.

As a result of widespread criticism, the draft law is now expected to be reviewed and amended, but the date for this review has not been yet specified.

Al-Sabah article:

مجتمع مدني: المطلوب قانون يعبر عن رغبة لدعم المجتمع المدني

ناشطون في منظمات المجتمع المدني:
بغداد ــ شمخي جبر
اكد عدد من الناشطين في منظمات المجتمع المدني اهمية أن يعدل قانون المجتمع المدني بالشكل الذي يحقق إستقلالية مؤسسات المجتمع المدني من غير أي تأثير سلبي مباشر أو غير مباشر من الحكومة والاحزاب السياسية والدينية التي تشكلها (الحكومة)، جاء هذا في معرض التعليق على مسودة قانون المنظمات غير الحكومية الذي قدمته وزارة الدولة لشؤون منظمات المجتمع المدني، واشاروا الى ضرورة ان يتضمن القانون حقوقا لمؤسسات المجتمع المدني الفتية لا ان يتحول الى سلة من الالتزامات والقيود والشكليات التي لا مبرر لها .

اذ اوضح مدير منظمة (الفريق الاسلامي من أجل السلام) في النجف سامي عبدالزهرة المعمار:
إن رسل مؤسسات المجتمع المدني هم الضمير الحي للمسؤول السياسي. وينبغي ان يبقوا كذلك. إذ ان عليهم ان يقدموا النصح لذلك المسؤول في الدولة بدون وجل مهما كان حجمه صغيراً ام كبيراً و يقولوا له مالذي ينبغي فعله او عدم فعله بما يتناسب ومصلحة المواطن الشرعية وبما ينص عليه القانون الدستوري , لان ناشط مؤسسات المجتمع المدني الحقيقي هو الحلقة الموصلة للشعب بالمسؤول الحكومي والناطق الفعلي بلسانها و المدافع لحقوقها متى هدرت. فعليه , وبناءً على مقتضيات المسؤولية الوطنية يجب أن يعدل قانون المجتمع المدني بالشكل الذي يحقق إستقلالية مؤسسات المجتمع المدني من غير أي تأثير سلبي مباشر أو غير مباشر من الحكومة و الاحزاب السياسية والدينية التي تشكلها (الحكومة). وكذلك ينبغي الاستفادة من تجارب و قوانين مؤسسات المجتمع في دول العالم الديمقراطي الحر لا سيما ان الشعب العراقي قد قرر ان يؤسس الدولة العراقية الحرة , الديمقراطية , المستقلة والضامنة لحقوق الانسان بجوهر اجتماعي مدني متقدم.
فيما قال رئيس منظمة (المؤسسة العراقية للتنمية) في نينوى:
هنالك خلط مابين ( التاسيس ) و(التسجيل) لان منظمات المجتمع المدني تؤسس بناء على الارادة الحرة لمؤسسيها وتعتبر متاسسة من تاريخ اصدارها للبيان التاسيسي الاول والتي على الدولة عملا باحكام الدستور تسجيلها .وقد اشارت المواد 21 و 22 من العهد الدولي الاول ( ان الافراد لايحتاجون الى ترخيص لانشاء منظمات مجتمع مدني).
ـ المادة (4) الفقرة/ ب تتعارض مع المادة (2) فقرة/ ج من الدستور العراقي.
ـ امتاز فصل التأسيس والتسجيل بالاطالة والتفاصيل المرهقة ما يجعل تعديله مستقبلا عملا في غاية الصعوبة ذلك لان الامور المتعلقة به امور ادارية بحتة ليس هنالك من ضرورة لذكرها لعدة اسباب منها ان علم الادارة علم متطور ومتغير ومن العيب تحديده بنص في القانون لان تغيير اي اجراء اداري منصوص بالقانون يستلزم تغيير القانون.
ـ كان من الاجدى بالنص اضافة الفصل او دمجه مع فصل العضوية تحت عنوان (التأسيس والتسجيل).
ـ خالف النص تحديد الدستور كمال الاهلية بـ18 سنة.
ـ لم تراع مسودة القانون تأسيس منظمات للاحداث والاطفال بموجب الاتفاقية الدولية لحقوق الطفل المقر بقرار الجمعية العامة للامم المتحدة 44/25 لسنوات 1989 المواد 15،31.
فيما يرى (الناشط في مجال حقوق الانسان) المحامي مرتضى هادي الموسوي:
ان وجود قانون للمجتمع المدني وبالخصوص المنظمات غير الحكومية امر جيد ولكن يجب ان يتضمن القانون حقوقا لمؤسسات المجتمع المدني الفتية لا ان يتحول الى سلة من الالتزامات والقيود والشكليات التي لا مبرر لها.. يجب على ممثلي الشعب ان يوفوا بعهودهم التي قطعوها للشعب بان يمنحوا لهم حقوقهم ويجب ان يبدوا حسن النية تجاه المجتمع المدني ويخففوا من اتهاماتهم له بالفساد لان عاقبة ذلك سوف ترتد عليهم وبالتالي يجب ان لا نرجع للوراء بمعنى الى عصور الظلام التي كانت سائدة في ظل النظام السابق. العراق اليوم ليس العراق امس والمجتمع المدني ليس منحة جاء بها الاميركان انه موجود من زمان في العراق وقد فرضت عليه قيود كثيرة طيلة الخمسين سنة الماضية بحكم تعاقب الانظمة الدكتاتورية على العراق طيله تلك الفترة . من جانبه اوضح (الناشط والحقوقي في الناصرية) القاضي جليل عدنان خلف:لقد اطلعت على مسودة قانون منظمات المجتمع المدني المعروض على البرلمان ووجدت فيه الكثير من العيوب والتناقض بحيث اذا ما تم اقراره من البرلمان فانه سوف يثير منازعات وخلافات واسعة بالتفسير بحكم تناقض فقراته وتداخلها وعدم وضوح الكثير منها وخصوصا ما يعرف ايراد فقرات حول المنظمات ذات النفع العام دون ان يحدد ماهي والكشف عن المصالح المحتملة للاعضاء في المنظمة وهذا شيء غريب وغامض على التشريعات والنصوص القانونية العراقية كما ان ايراد الاجراءات الادارية المتعلقة باجراءات التسجيل والسجلات وغيرها امر غير مبرر وكان من المفروض ترك ذلك عاما لان علم الادارة متطور ومتغير وايراد ذلك بالقانون يجعل من الصعب تغيير أي اجراء اداري الا بتعديل القانون ولذلك ان ادعو اعضاء البرلمان الى عدم التسرع باصدار القانون لان مساوئه اكثر من الايجابيات التي فيه وحتى لايكون هنالك جدل لتغييره بعد اقراره لوجود العيوب فيه مثلما يحصل مع الدستور الحالي الذي كتب على عجالة والان هنالك محاولات كثير لتعديله .
واشار (مدير مركز صدى للتنمية البشرية، في الناصرية) المحامي غسان الصالح الى ان القانون ينص على ضرورة دعم عمل منظمات المجتمع المدني وتعزيزها بدون ان يحدد آليات واضحة لمثل هذا التعزيز او الدعم في وقت تضع فيه مواده تفاصيل واجراءات تنفي مثل هذا الدعم وتقوضه. وتابع الصالح:بناء على ما تقدم وغيره من الملاحظات الكثيرة فاننا كمنظمات مجتمع مدني وكناشطين في مجال حقوق الانسان وداعين لدعم عمل منظمات المجتمع المدني بوصفها السلطة الخامسة ندعو الى الغاء قانون منظمات المجتمع المدني بصيغته الحالية المقدمة للبرلمان وصياغة قانون جديد يعبر عن رغبة حقيقية لدعم المجتمع المدني في العراق ويعزز التحول الديمقراطي في مجتمع انتقالي، وذكر الصالح عدة ملاحظات على القانون:
ـ عدم وجود اشارة الى تمكين المنظمات غير الحكومية من تحقيق ادوارها.
ـ من المفترض بنص القانون ان يكون شكليا وليس موضوعيا، اي ينظم العلاقة بين الحكومة و منظمات المجتمع المدني وليس له ان يرسم سياسة المنظمات ويحول منظمات المجتمع المدني الى جزء من الحكومة وتحت اشرافها ورقابتها الصارمة في وقت يجب ان تؤدي هي فيها مهامها الرقابية على اعمال الحكومة.
ـ منظمات المجتمع المدني تسعى لتحقيق اهدافها طبقا لانظمتها الداخلية وليست تبغي تحقيق اهداف الحكومة، وهو الخلط الذي يثيره نص القانون بصدد الاهداف.
ـ لم تحدد تفاصيل لتعزيز دور منظمات المجتمع المدني ولا اية اشارة للتسهيلات التي يقدمها القانون ولا آليات حكومية معينة لتحقيق هذا الهدف.
ـ يجب الغاء الفقرة 3 المتعلقة بايجاد آلية مركزية كون ذلك مخالفا للدستور الذي نص على ان العراق دولة اتحادية.
ـ لم يلتفت المشرع في المسودة الى اهمية اهداف و اغراض منظمات المجتمع المدني واكتفى بالاشارة اليها بجملة واحدة في حين افرد قانون المنظمات غير الحكومية في كردستان فصلا كاملا بعنوان الاهداف والوسائل.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Two more examples of Letters for Peace

Here are two more letters written recently by young students in Iraq and the U.S. as part of IARP's Letters for Peace program:

Monday, June 8, 2009

"A Quiet but Undeniable Cultural Legacy"

Anthony Shadid at the Washington Post has a recent article about the pervasive influence of the American occupation on Iraqi culture (copied below). According to Shadid, some (mostly younger) Iraqis have embraced elements of American culture like rap, heavy metal and tattoos, while other Iraqis reject the changes. Great article, makes me wonder: how many Americans could name one famous Iraqi singer, or one Iraqi TV show, or one Iraqi Arabic word, or other marker of Iraqi pop culture?

A Quiet but Undeniable Cultural Legacy
U.S. Occupation of Iraq Will End, but a Host of American Influences May Linger

By Anthony Shadid
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, May 31, 2009


Across the street from the tidy rows of tombstones in the British cemetery, mute testimony to the soldiers of an earlier occupation, Mustafa Muwaffaq bears witness to the quieter side of the United States' six-year-old presence in Iraq.

In wraparound sunglasses, shorts and shoes without socks, the burly 20-year-old student waxes eloquent about his love for heavy metal of all kinds: death, thrash, black. But none of it compares, he says, to the honky-tonk of Alan Jackson, whose tunes he strums on his acoustic guitar at night, pining for a life as far away as a passport will take him.

"You know, I wanna go to Texas and be a country boy," he said, as he stood in the sweltering shade of Baghdad's Academy of Fine Arts. "I wanna be a cowboy, and I wanna sing like one."

All occupations eventually end. When this one does, history's narratives will be shaped by the cacophony it wrought -- the carnage unleashed by the U.S.-led invasion that threatened Iraq's notion of itself as a country and that will haunt generations to come.

But the whispers may linger just as long -- the far quieter way in which two cultures that often found it difficult to share the same space intersected to reshape Iraq's language, culture and sensibility. From tattoos of Metallica to bellybutton piercings, from posters for a rap concert in Baghdad to stories parents tell their naughty children in Fallujah of the Americans coming to get them, the occupation has already left its mark.

There is the bellicose language of the checkpoint: "Go" and "Stop" (often rendered as "stob" in a language with no "p"), along with a string of American expletives that Iraqi children imitate with zeal. In parks along the Tigris River, they play "tafteesh," Arabic for inspection. Iraqi troops, sometimes indistinguishable from their U.S. counterparts, don the sunglasses considered effeminate in the time of Saddam Hussein.

Some Iraqi youths even dip Skoal tobacco.

"It's inevitable that they're going to leave a trace on us after they depart," said Yahya Hussein, a soccer coach, former player and denizen of Baghdad's Karrada neighborhood.

'These Are the Times'

Hussein left Kawkab al-Sharq cafe -- named for a legendary Egyptian singer of another era -- where waiters ferried tea, Nescafe and a water pipe known as a nergilla, a word taken from Persian. His family's history in Karrada stretches back 11 generations, and as he strolled along the neighborhood's main thoroughfare, he spoke with the authority of experience.

"All this," he said, pointing at a kiosk, "came after the occupation."

Rickety stands along the street overflowed with goods. Toy guns emblazoned with the moniker "Super Police" sat next to imitation handcuffs and walkie-talkies. A doll dressed in fatigues, with dog tags around its neck, carried an M-16 rifle, familiar to Iraqis as a weapon of the U.S. military. With a squeeze of the doll's hand, Freddie Mercury belted out Queen's "We Will Rock You" to a street speaking Arabic.

"These are the times," Hussein said.

Bootleg copies of "Star Trek," "Valkyrie" and "Marley & Me" were on sale, along with CDs by Eminem, 50 Cent and Massari. On a wall was an ad for a concert by Rap Boys, billed as the "first and biggest rap party in Baghdad."

Youths asked a barber across the street for the latest haircut, which they call "spiky"; one barber insisted that the name came from a soldier's nickname for his military dog. The soldier's version of a crew cut is called "Yankee" (or, sometimes, "bankee").

Businesses hawked camouflage-patterned men's underwear. "Harley," a kind of biker boot, went for $125. "Texas," the cowboy version, cost $100.

For each item, Hussein had a simple phrase: "after the suqut," the fall of Saddam Hussein.

The Long Perspective

Iraq remains a proud country, its people bridling at what they see as the condescension inherent in the United States' modern-day equivalent of a civilizing mission. History, thousands of years of it, forms the refrain of any conversation: Mesopotamia gave birth to civilization, and at its medieval zenith, as Europe slumbered, Baghdad was a city of racetracks, law schools, museums, libraries, hospitals, zoos and insane asylums.

The country's past shamed its present, and in the wake of Hussein's fall in 2003, many Iraqis, however suspicious, were willing to give the Americans the benefit of the doubt. Now, many blame them for everything from sectarian strife to Baghdad's disrepair. The only kind of American most Iraqis have met is a young, gun-toting soldier, and a look of scornful incomprehension often greets a question about the Americans' cultural legacy.

"What are they leaving behind?" asked Mohammed Chayan, a 45-year-old painter sitting with friends at the Madarat Cafe and Gallery, near a wall of concrete barriers.

"There's never really been interaction with society," he said. "When they came to visit, it wasn't artists who showed up. It was soldiers coming down from their tanks."

"They were isolated," admitted Mohammed Rasim Kasim, a filmmaker and photographer. "But," he added, "I have to disagree with my colleague."

Kasim, a bearish, cheerful man, said that before 2003 he had traveled only to neighboring Jordan. Since then, he has visited the United States, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Germany and Austria. And an image lingers from his travels: recognizing a car in Berlin as a U.S. military vehicle not because it was part of an armored convoy snarling traffic for a mile behind it, as in Iraq, but because he spotted the tiny inscription on its license plate: "U.S. Army."

"It was written so small," he said, still amazed at how inconspicuous it was.

"I'm not defending their presence, but that's not all it was. We have to be honest," Kasim told his friend. "We paid a very high price, but it was the price of freedom."

Chayan shook his head.

"We haven't seen a bright side," he said. "Well, there's no bright side to colonization, we can say that. But the Americans could have left something positive behind. What makes me sad, wherever I go, whenever I go, I just see remains of destruction."

A friend of Chayan's stopped by briefly. "Peace be upon you," he said. The two men traded words of endearment in a staccato burst of familiar Arabic: "My heart," "My dear," "My soul." Then Chayan bade him goodbye: "With peace." His friend's response was distinctly Iraqi, a word borrowed decades ago from English and now used as a greeting, as a farewell, as thanks or as welcome.

"Hello, hello," he said.

The British Interlude

The British entered Baghdad in 1917 to end Ottoman rule, with the same pledge the Americans would make. "Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators," proclaimed Maj. Gen. Sir Stanley Maude. Like the Americans, the British faced a revolt, in 1920, led by a segment of the population that had grown frustrated and resentful at the heavy-handedness of a foreign army.

British rule lasted until 1932, and its waning influence ended with the fall of the Hashemite monarchy in 1958. By then, it had left an indelible mark on Iraq's culture and society. Everything from post offices and nightclubs to the railway stations and double-decker red buses that ran in the capital until the last days of Hussein's rule bore a British stamp. So did the military, the judiciary, the health system and the ministries.

Even today, English instructors in Iraqi universities favor a British accent.

"The British created the system. We inherited it from them," said Adnan Pachachi, an 85-year-old lawmaker and former diplomat who entered Iraq's foreign service in the last years of the monarchy. "Of course, Iraqis then added to it."

Words borrowed from the British still litter Iraqi Arabic, albeit with a local inflection: glass, bottle, bicycle, rail, battery, ice cream, counter, blanket, jerrycan, gear, dashboard (dishbool), table (tabla) and lousy (malyous). "Wrongside" means to drive the wrong way down a one-way street. Some argue that the word for tea glass, istikaan, comes from the phrase "ice tea can." (Others insist the word is derived from Persian.)

And, of course, "hello."

American Dreams

Abu Naji was the nickname Iraqis gave their British occupiers. There remains no equivalent for the Americans, but a slew of words describe those who imitate them. The older term for someone becoming more American than Americans was mitamrik, or Americanized. More conservative types here call such people khanazeer or quruud, "pigs" or "monkeys." One student at the Academy of Fine Arts coined another name.

"Am-raqis," she said.

The students agreed there has been an infitah, or opening -- the word many use for the plethora of influences that followed the occupation, imported through the Internet and satellite television, each banned to varying degrees under Hussein. But many of them echoed the question heard at the Madarat Gallery: What has freedom brought?

"You can say what you want to say, and you don't care what anyone else thinks," said Raed Ibrahim, a 23-year-old painter at the academy. "That's my freedom. Anyone can grasp it."

Shahid Shaker, a 21-year-old sculptor, looked at the ground, then spoke up. "Don't exaggerate," she told him softly. "Yes, the occupation brought freedom. But it destroyed culture, too. We're being educated in a culture of violence."

"Sometimes," she added, "there is too much freedom."

Imported pornography is sold openly in Baghdad's Bab al-Sharji market. Popping pills is something of a fad. On campus, dating has grown more permissive. The reality TV show "American Idol," broadcast by a Saudi-owned satellite channel, has its fans. Citing songs by 50 Cent and Metallica conveys a certain hipness. So do tattoos; Shaker says 40 percent of students have one, a remarkable figure given that they were once a mark of prison time.

"I'm going to get one as soon as I get the money," Ibrahim volunteered.

'Havee Matel Mark'

Mark Apram, the most popular tattoo artist in Baghdad, charges $50 for his work. Twenty-nine and married, he sometimes works from his cramped apartment, where a wall bears the words "Havee Matel Mark" over his painting of a red-eyed devil with pitchfork. ("Did I spell it right?" he asked.)

The room is a potpourri of American influences: a picture of an FHM model laminated on his coffee table; a stuffed Taz, the Tasmanian devil from Looney Tunes; an Incredible Hulk action figure. His shirt, embossed with images of Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg, reads, "The Hood, the Bad and The Guilty."

"Anything American, I love it," he said. "It's what makes me happy."

Apram estimates that he has done a million tattoos since the Americans invaded, inspired by the Internet and by designs he saw on soldiers' arms when they rolled up their sleeves. "Maybe even more," he responded to a look of disbelief.

He is an advertisement for his own work. His left arm bears the images of a scorpion, the sun, the Virgin Mary and the name of an old girlfriend, Rana. (His pregnant wife has begged him to remove that one.) Being right-handed, he has left his right arm bare. On his right leg are tattooed a dragon and the letter E, for Eminem.

Butterflies and flowers are most popular with girls, he said. Men prefer skulls, a barbed-wire-like design, Metallica and the names of daughters, wives and girlfriends. Some ask for a dragon. A teenage boy wanted a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

The Internet has been influential, he said, as have satellite TV channels. But as he sees it, his success is a legacy of the presence of tens of thousands of American troops in his country.

"They're the origin of all of it," he said. "They're teaching us how to act."

A Military Lexicon

The military aesthetic may prove to be this occupation's most lasting cultural artifact. If the British can claim credit for an array of industrial words used by Iraqis, including "radiator" and "machine," the Americans are responsible for a military lexicon that is still evolving.

"Hummer" has entered Iraqi dialect as the word for the armored jeeps known as Humvees, as has the Arabic-inflected plural, Hummer-at. "Buffalo" is the word for MRAPs, the hulking Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. "Chocolate, mister!" or "Soccer ball, mister, soccer ball!" children shout to troops in Sadr City, a Baghdad slum of soggy trash and stagnant pools of sewage.

Badg-at has become Iraqi Arabic for identity cards. Other words and phrases have been picked up from soldiers at checkpoints or conducting house raids or foot patrols: "Relax," "Please," "Sorry," "No problem," "Oh, my God," "Give me five." Almost any youth can hurl a string of American expletives whose Arabic equivalent would earn them a slap across the face.

The war has inspired new Arabic words, as well. Hawasim, the name Hussein bestowed on his last battle in 2003, has come to mean booty looted in its aftermath. Arabic rendered literally from English at checkpoints -- "Prepared to capture criminals" or "Prepared to help" -- reads like the Arabic subtitles of an American movie.

As in the Palestinian territories, where security forces sometimes copy the style of their Israeli occupiers, Iraqi soldiers are now sometimes indistinguishable from their American counterparts, resembling a scaled-down version of a football player.

There is the desert camouflage, along with sunglasses and, occasionally, gloves. The black leather boots of the Hussein era have given way to a khaki suede variety. Holsters have gone from the hip to the thigh. The soldiers are equipped with kneepads, though they usually droop down to their ankles. No one was seen with a flak jacket before the invasion. Nor did anyone roll up their sleeves or tuck their pants into their boots.

Even the posture is American: rifle carried high, finger on the trigger.

And a fist thrust forth has come to mean stop.

"They look like peacocks," declared Abu Ali Rubai, a 60-year-old uniform vendor. "They wear this and that," he said, pointing at a holster nicknamed Rambo, combat boots called Swat, and plastic handcuffs. "They're like a child playing with toys."

He ruffled through bags filled with the gold-colored insignia of the old army's medical corps, tanks, special forces and artillery. He pointed out the colors of the berets that no one buys anymore -- blue for air force, beige for infantry and red for military police. Then he grabbed fistfuls of new badges, most of them in English and Arabic. There was Special Forces, with its skull and crossed arrows (sometimes written as Special Farces). "Iraq Army" was printed in English. So was SWAT. One badge read, "Ministry of Interiors."

Rubai cast a longing eye at his favorite uniform, worn by Abdel-Karim Qassem, the officer who overthrew the monarchy in 1958, in a portrait that hangs behind his desk. It was a woolen, British-style uniform with a hat known as the sidara, or faisaliyya. Four blue versions of the hat still hung from nails in the wall, gathering dust.

"The old ones were more distinguished," Rubai said. Then he recited a stanza by Maaruf al-Rusafi, a nationalist poet who died in 1945.

The English are not our saviors,

Even if they have made pledges to us in writing.

When has a strong man had pity for the weak?

How does a master make a pledge to his sheep?

We are but prisoners in their hands

And by the pledges they have written that shackle us.

By God, even if we were monkeys,

Monkeys would not accept being our kin.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Images of Iraqis: Shock and Cliché?

I recently came across a great photo essay on the enduring suffering of Iraqis: SUFFERANCE: Iraqi Victims of War (some images graphic). Below are two images from the essay.

These images are both sad and powerful. They provide a window into the lives of Iraqis hurt by the war and conflict. They personalize the reality of life for Iraqis. Many Americans, including me, are shocked by this reality. As with the power of art in general, these photos can transform perceptions of reality.

Yet the "shock factor," unfortunately, wears off. According to Susan Sontag, in our culture “the image as shock and the image as cliché are two aspects of the same presence" (Regarding the Pain of Others, 23). The images above are shocking (and important reminders of the continuing and enduring suffering of Iraqis), but many Americans have seen similar images for the last six years. What has already shocked soon becomes passé. Images that were once scandalous cease to be beyond our boundaries and instead move within our understanding. We become inured and numbed, consumers of spectacle.

What does this say about us? About our relationship with the depicted Iraqis? Can photos such as these provide more than an initial spark of motivation to change the reality of the depicted, or does that reality simply become part of "the way the world works"? Does the sympathy that photographs can engender have any real worth? If feelings of pity and sympathy fail to translate into action, are they less than worthy, i.e., can they reflect negatively on us as perpetrators of some further crime of inaction against the depicted?

Sontag also writes, “for the other, even when not an enemy, is regarded only as someone to be seen, not someone (like us) who also sees” (72). As a stillframe window, the image shows only a moment of the other's life. We do not see the whole story, the person's family, home, work, daily life, etc. In this sense the image is all too often a product to be consumed, with the power to shock and change perceptions, but not to develop a relationship or sense of personal connection with the depicted. By itself, an image soon becomes old hat.

While photos in the media are often intended for this limited function - to shock and then become cliché - images can serve a more positive function when incorporated into a larger narrative and project of building personal connections. The photo essay above, SUFFERANCE: Iraqi Victims of War, for example, displays images of Iraqis suffering not simply to shock and sell, but as part of an ongoing project begun in July 2008 photographing and documenting the lives of Iraqi refugees in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. There is a larger narrative that the photographs support and that aims to engage on a deeper level than shock. While our culture tends to consume images for the pleasure of viewing them, these images of Iraqis are used as points of entry into greater personal involvement with the lives of Iraqis.

My concern with this post has been the value or utility of photos for social justice, rather than any inherent value as art. In their general use in the media, photos reflect a disturbing appetite for shock, consumption, and inaction. As part of a larger project of social justice, however, photos can act as powerful inroads to greater personal engagement and action.

So the next time you see a photo of suffering or pain, think about the entire story and life behind the image. The person in the picture also sees, and looks at photos, and wants to understand more of your life.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Letters for Peace: a letter from Chris

Below is a letter from an American student to an Iraqi student, translated and sent by the Letters for Peace program. Letters for Peace seeks "to create an atmosphere of trust, respect and mutual understanding between the young people of America and the young people of Iraq. The purpose is to open channels of communication so that students might open their heart to one another and find that what we have in common is greater than what separates us."


Dear Iraqi Friend,

We have just read some of the letters you are writing about what life is like in Iraq today. It is amazing to know that we are the same age and yet our lives are so different. It must be pretty tough to have to deal with so many hard things like schools closing because of fighting, bombs in markets when you are shopping, friends being killed or just disappearing. I sure hope that people figure out what to do to stabilize conditions for you again.

I wonder if you have any sports in your school? I play basketball, which you would probably like if you don’t know the game. What kind of music do you listen to? I wonder if we have heard any of the same bands? I learned that you don’t use computers much because of electricity shortages. I hope that changes soon.

Well, I wish there was something I could do to make things better in your country. With the new U.S. president, Barack Obama, there is a good chance that things will get better.

Take care,

Your friend,


صديق عزيز في العراق

لقد قرأنا بعض الرسائل اللتي كتبتموها عن الحياة في العراق اليوم ومن العجب أن نعرف أننا في نفس العمر و مع ذلك حياتنا مختلفة جدا. لا بد من أن يكون صعبا جدا التعامل مع هذا العدد الكبير من الامور الصعبة مثل إغلاق المدارس بسبب القتال و القنابل في الأسواق عندما تتسوقون و وفاة أو اختفاء الأصدقاء. ارجو من الناس ان يتعلمو ما يجب عمله لتحقيق استقرار الأوضاع لكم مرة أخرى.

أتساءل إذا كان لديكم انواع من الرياضة في مدرستك؟ انا ألعب كرة السلة ، والتي ربما تحبها لو كنت لا تعرف اللعبة. الى اي نوع من الموسيقى تستمع؟ أتساءل إذا كنا قد استمعنا إلى نفس الفرق الموسيقية. علمت انكم لا تستخدمون الكمبيوتر كثيرا بسبب نقص الكهرباء و ارجو ان يتغير ذلك قريبا.

اتمنى لو كان هناك شيء يمكنني القيام به لتحسين الأمور في بلدكم و اظن ان مع الرئيس الاميركي الجديد ، باراك أوباما ، هناك فرصة جيدة بأن الأمور ستتحسن.

مع اطيب التمنيات,

صديقك كرس

Water for Peace Action at Al-Ghadeer Kindergarten in Najaf

Below are some images of children at Al-Ghadeer Kindergarten in Najaf, where a small water purifier unit was recently installed by the Muslim Peacemaker Teams. 150 kids attend the school.

Thanks to the sisters at Racine Dominicans for donating the purifier unit.

I feel bad for the kids having to sit through so many pictures! (there are many more not shown here...)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Education for Peace

Below is a recent note from Sami Rasouli, Director of Muslim Peacemaker Teams (IARP's partner in Iraq):

Dear friend,

"Schools across Iraq are crumbling as a result of a lack of government attention as well as rampant corruption, leaving many children without any means of education say observers." By Nizar Latif / Wasit


Meanwhile IARP & MPT are trying to do a positive difference toward Iraqi children's lives by reducing the violation of Human Rights, hardship of living conditions, violence & abuse applications, and improving their education system.

Please read this report:


English as a foreign language for Third graders at Iraqi schools:

The Iraqi Ministry of Education had a successful experiment of teaching English as a foreign language for Third graders in the province of Al-Muthana last schooling year (2007-2008).

IME had added the program as a new curricula for 3rd grade students at all schools across the country during current schooling year (2008-2009). English as a foreign language program begun to be taught at 5th grade in the past. The education community across the country is pleased for such positive change and development, even some educators and education experts are calling for earlier start with the program as early as 1st grade to begin with. The students are learning to listen, point, make, say words and eventually getting engaged in conversation between each other without leaning writing, reading or grammar skills at this stage of learning. The idea is to enable this group of early age kids to use a foreign language by providing them skills of active methods of communication.

MPT considers this curricula development is very important for the students at this stage of age where kids could discover other's culture through learning other's language, since MPT and IARP are engaged actively in several projects (Letters For Peace for instance) aimed to connecting children of both US and IRAQ.

Teachers, students and their parents are happy for this exciting program, but schools are lacking necessary visual aids such as flashcards, audio system and wall charts that make teacher's job easy and help students to get best results of learning process.

MPTers Mr. Ayad Khoshi, Principal of Al-Hiwariyoon Elementary and his Supervisor Mr. Abdul Khuder Abbas have suggested to MPT the possibility to provide the school with the needed VA by scanning the 42 colored pages of the newly assigned 3rd grade book-Iraq opportunity (please see photo below) and printing 21 large sizes of 2 pages together (1.2m X 80cm) as extremely helpful tool for English teachers.

This educational action was under taken by MPT 6 weeks ago as a response to Mr. Khoshi and Mr. Abbas request to show how VA for leaning a foreign language is important and also urging the officials in charge at the Iraqi Eduction Ministry to make them available for schools next year.

English teacher Mr. Anmar Jasim has reported that the experiment of using the wall charts at 2 of his English classes has improved kids learning up to 95% against 55% before using them.

There are over 16,000 elementary schools in Iraq.

Helping kids learn English will eventually help a whole Iraqi generation to understand American culture and become friends toward other people who speak English as an International language.

Thank you for your time and good work to heal our wounded world.


Sami Rasouli
Muslim Peacemaker Teams
Najaf, Iraq

Friday, May 8, 2009

"The Promise of Freedom" documentary

"The Iraqis who believed most in America are now running for their lives. Who will save them?"

Below are trailers for "The Promise of Freedom," a documentary about Kirk Johnson, an American aid worker trying to help Iraqis who are in danger because they cooperated and worked with the U.S. over the last six years.

IARP Reconciliation Report

Below is a simplified version of the second edition of IARP's new e-newsletter, the Reconciliation Report. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter, please email with the word "subscribe" in the subject line, or leave a comment here on this blog.

IARP Reconciliation Report
Issue 2, May 2009

Art shows, water systems, and expanding outreach
By Kathy McKay, Executive Director

Greetings from the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project! I hope this second edition of the Reconciliation Report finds you well and enjoying spring.

I want to thank you for your support for IARP. We're particularly excited about a number of art shows in the U.S. and Iraq, new water sanitation systems providing clean water for Iraqi schools and hospitals, and our expanding outreach efforts--none of which would be possible without you. This edition includes information on these activities, a note from Sami Rasouli (Director of Muslim Peacemaker Teams), and links for you to learn and act.


Art Shows

IARP believes strongly in the power of art to transform perceptions and ideas. An Iraqi artist's expression of war and occupation provides a window into her personal experience. For Americans, this window can counter the objectification of Iraqis as mere recipients of U.S. action (as depicted in photographs and media; e.g., American soldiers with guns bursting into an Iraqi home) and instead personalize Iraqi life.

A number of exciting shows are displaying Iraqi art this spring and summer. At United Theological Seminary in New Brighton, MN, the gallery show Art of War: Artists in Dialogue will be on display through June 15th. The show includes art from U.S. veterans and Iraqis. In conjunction with the gallery show, Iraq War veteran and UTS student Luke Leonard will hold a public discussion on May 6th about the situation in the Middle East. IARP hopes to see you there!

Through July 5th, the Salir a la luz gallery brings to light the interconnectedness of the world and enters "into the lives of children in war-torn Iraq." The children's art exhibit is from War Kids Relief, an organization that connects Iraqi and American youth. The Salir a la luz gallery is open Tuesday-Sunday 12-6pm or by appointment and is located in the Blair Arcade Building (lower level) at the corner of Selby and Western, St. Paul, MN.

IARP will display Iraqi art at Art-A-Whirl, the large art weekend in Northeast Minneapolis from May 15-17th. IARP's display will be at 1400 Van Buren St. IARP will also showcase Iraqi art at the Sabes Jewish Community Center and the Lanesboro Arts Center this September-November.

In Iraq, IARP's partner organization Muslim Peacemaker Teams (MPT) recently hosted an art show in Najaf for Iraqi artist Shaima'a Saad. Images from the show, which over 500 people attended, can be found on IARP's blog.


Water sanitation systems

With support from IARP and a number of American groups, Muslim Peacemaker Teams continues to install water sanitation systems at schools and hospitals in Iraq, providing clean water for Iraqis. Below are some recent photos sent by Sami Rasouli, Director of MPT.

IARP and MPT are thankful for the many people who have expressed interest in contributing to the Water for Peace project. Dr. Marcus Eriksen and Anna Cummins are currently on a 2000 mile cyclying/speaking tour on the U.S. West Coast to bring attention to two water issues: plastic waste filling the ocean and the critical need for clean water at schools around the world. Part of their mission is to raise awareness and funds for water sanitation systems in Iraq. Dr. Eriksen says, "Anna and I firmly believe that if every citizen could choose two causes (one human rights cause and one conservation cause) to know well, teach about, and defend with time and money, then the world would be a much different place. For this tour down the coast, we chose 'Plastic waste in our seas' and 'Clean water for schools.' We hope to make difference." Their website can be found here.

For teachers and others interested in the water situation in Iraq, IARP has a short synopsis of the situation here.

More pictures from the Water for Peace project can be found here.


Expanding outreach

IARP is working hard to expand its outreach, connecting with a number of groups and individuals. Our new blog provides an open place for you to explore and contribute to IARP's work. We invite you to submit activities, events, articles or other content that expresses your views on reconciliation, peace, and the relationship between Iraqis and Americans. IARP also has a Facebook group and Twitter online.

Recently, IARP Board Member Matt Gilroy visited a number of local and national organizations that support peace and human rights in the U.S. and Middle East. IARP is exploring ways to collaborate with Friends for a Non-Violent World, AMIDEAST, Global Action for Children, Friends Committee on National Legislation, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Washington Office, and others.

IARP also recently met with War Kids Relief to talk about collaboration and exchanged some exciting ideas. Both organizations work with kids and students in Iraq and the U.S. to build friendship and peace. What if there had been programs like the Young Ambassadors Program and Water for Peace 40 years ago, throughout the U.S. and Iraq? Would the same war have happened? It's much harder to go to war with your friends than your "enemies."


Sami Reports
A note from Sami Rasouli, Director of the Muslim Peacemaker Teams

Dear IARP and friends,

Congratulations! If there is any kind of CHANGE taking place or will take place in the US since January 20th, 2009, CHANGE of minds and hearts would be what we need in Iraq, and this is happening right now, day after day in Najaf due to your fine work of peacebuilding and extending bridges of respect and understanding between people of the US and Iraq. I would like to report to you about Water For Peace action that took place this morning at Al-Khawrnaq High School for boys (700 students) in Najaf. The School is an old teaching institution, was established in 1923. I personally had attended my 7th, 8th and 9th grades in the sixties. A large unit of 300 Gallons of drinking water production purifier has been installed at the school. Thank you!

School Principal, Staff members and students have expressed with enthusiasm their appreciation for you and the donors of the gift they have received and friendship you are offering. They also have listened with interest to MPTer Samirah (project coordinator) who graciously explained MPT & IARP plans for Minneapolis-Najaf sister city project.

More reports to come soon.

Sami Rasouli, Muslim Peacemaker Teams


Update on Najaf delegation planning

IARP continues to plan for a delegation from Najaf, Iraq to visit Minneapolis this coming September. Members of the delegation will include professors (likely a Dean and a Department Chair) from the University of Kufa, a representative from the Chamber of Commerce of Najaf, one or two members of the Najaf City Council, representatives from two or three women-focused NGO's, representative(s) from the Social Science research group AFAAQ, and a member of the writer's group currently corresponding with a group at the Loft in Minneapolis. Several of these visitors already have communicated with individuals here in the Twin Cities.

The Najaf residents are reportedly excited to meet people here that they have communicated with, to see how our city is run, and see how we live.

The delegation planning group has met once and is looking for more volunteers to make sure this is a rich, relaxing and educational visit for our friends from Iraq. Please respond to if you would like to be involved.


UNAMI Human Rights Report: the recently released report from the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, covering the period from July 1 to December 31, 2008.
Peace with Justice Center (Vermont): provides some good resources for peace and justice activists.

Blogs of the Month
Preemptive Love Coalition: "Life-saving heart surgeries for Iraqi children & cooperation between communities at odds."
Checkpoint Baghdad: Newsweek's Iraq blog. Stories are usually interesting and informative.
From Baghdad to New York: "Iraq as Iraqis see it and love it."

Take Action!
The Shape of Change project is an expanded sculpture project, investigating Iraqi and American concepts of political change, independence and civic agency. People across both countries are answering questions ranging from the meaning of democracy to the importance of national identity. Answers will be collected in an open source data base and interpreted in several ways. As content evolves in response to political events, artistic renderings of the data will function as evolving representations of change. If you are interested in the project, you can read more information and fill out the questionnaire here.

Urge President Obama to support Iraqi refugees.

Minneapolis-Najaf Sister City Initiative: If you live in Minneapolis and have not yet contacted your Council Member, please consider doing so. We encourage you to have a personal conversation specifying why you think establishing a Sister City relationship between Minneapolis and Najaf, Iraq would be good for Minneapolis citizens. You can find your Council Member's email and phone number at


Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project
Join IARP's Facebook group or follow us on Twitter
Visit IARP's website or Blog
Email IARP
Donate online and help strengthen the work of IARP. Donations can also be sent by mail to:
Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project
1346 Westwood Hills Road
St. Louis Park, MN 55426