• November 18, 2018
  • Iraq Solidarity News (Al-Thawra)
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The artist currently showing on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square is to get a major London exhibition next year. 

Michael Rakowitz, the Iraqi-American artist who was chosen for the 2018 edition of the prestigious commission, will be the subject of the Whitechapel Gallery’s summer exhibition opening in June 2019. 

The show will be the first major European survey of his work, and will take the form of a series of installations that draw from architecture and cultural histories, mixing them with contemporary pop culture and consequences of conflict. 

The exhibition will also feature work from Rakowitz’s project to recreate all 7,000 objects looted from the Iraq Museum in 2003, and those more recently destroyed at Middle Eastern archaeological sites. 

His current Fourth Plinth work, The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist, is part of this project, replicating the sculpture of winged bull Iamassu which was destroyed by ISIS at the gates of Nineveh in 2015. The sculpture reimagines the work made out of date syrup cans. 

Next year will also see the Whitechapel Gallery host a retrospective spanning half a century of work by Brazil-based artist Anna Maria Maiolino, as well as a presentation by Max Mara Prize for Women winner Helen Cammock and a celebration of Rachel Whiteread, the winner of the gallery’s Art Icon award. 

Michael Rakowitz will run at the Whitechapel Gallery form June 3 - August 25 2019. For more information, visit whitechapelgallery.org 

by Ailis Brennan

  • November 18, 2018
  • Iraq Solidarity News (Al-Thawra)
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The UAE launched an artificial-intelligence-assisted research programme to predict future trends in Islamic art and culture on the sidelines of the first edition of Al Burda Festival, held in the Capital on Wednesday. 

Dozens of artists, Islamic and cultural experts and government officials from the UAE and across the region gathered at Warehouse421 in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday to take part in the festival. 

Attended by Lt-Gen Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior (MoI), the festival aims to educate the young generation about Islamic traditions and promote the beauty of Islamic art. 

Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, said: "The festival seeks to showcase the greatness of the Islamic civilisation through its art that represents an invaluable part of human heritage." 

Al Kaabi said the first artificial intelligence (AI) research study in the Arab region, 'Al Burda Swarm AI', was conducted with the participation of 30 experts and addressed a variety of issues. 

"The research yielded results that will shape the future of Islamic art. Among its key takeaways was the insight that investment in art programmes plays a key role in developing artistic and creative skills among the youth." 

"It stressed the significance of greater legislation in supporting the regional art scene, which could provide creative ideas with the right training and help build partnerships between the government, artists and the academe." 

She pointed out that the study also predicted the growth of Islamic performance and visual arts over the next five years. Based on the results of the study, the ministry will implement initiatives that will nurture young talents and further develop the Islamic art scene, which includes design, ornamentation and calligraphy. 

Launch of an endowment 

Al Kaabi, on the sidelines of the festival, also announced the launch of Al Burda Festival Endowment, an initiative that aspires to expand the reach of Islamic art and culture by supporting creative pioneers who embrace experimentation. 

She said: "The endowment recipients will be tasked with producing artworks and exhibiting them in select locations across the country with the aim of creating a movement that introduces the public to diverse types of Islamic arts." 

"We look forward to seeing creative artworks that are inspired by Islamic heritage. Such works help develop and enrich various genres of the art, pave the way towards reviving its wonders, and bring it back to our streets and museums so that it becomes an integral part of our lives once again." 

UAE's efforts to preserve Islamic art and culture 

Pointing out the importance of the UAE's involvement in the reconstruction of the Great Mosque of Al Nuri in Iraq, which was destroyed by Daesh in 2017, Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, said that it is crucial to preserve Islamic art and culture. 

In April, the UAE pledged to finance a $50.4-million (Dh185 million) project to rebuild the 840-year-old mosque and preserve what is left of Al Hadba minaret, a square prism that will be turned into a memorial site for the victims of Daesh. 

Besides helping preserve Islamic history and culture, the initiative seeks to defeat extremism in all its forms and revive the spirit of the Old City of Mosul, where the iconic holy site is located. 

Last month, Al Kaabi attended the first meeting of a joint committee that will drive the project, which will also create 1,000 jobs for young Iraqi graduates during the five-year reconstruction of the site. More than 50 religious historical buildings and sites were destroyed in Mosul, including Muslim, Christian and pan-religious structures. 

by Jasmine Al Kuttab

  • November 16, 2018
  • Iraq Solidarity News (Al-Thawra)
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At Baghdad's grand but half-empty railway station, a single train is sputtering to life. It is the newly revived daily service to Fallujah, a dusty town to the west once infamous as a Sunni insurgent stronghold. 

The driver and conductor assure passengers that the tracks running through Anbar Province are now clear of mines planted by ISIS. The group also blew up bridges as it marauded through western and northern Iraq in 2014. 

The rapid advance of the militants shut down the line, before US-backed Iraqi forces drove them out of Fallujah in 2016 and defeated them in Iraq late last year. After a four-year hiatus, hundreds of passengers now travel the 50-kilometre railway between Baghdad and Fallujah in about an hour. 

By car, the journey can take several hours. "The train saves time. The Baghdad-bound leg arrives at 8am, which suits my schedule. It's also cheaper" than by car at 3,000 Iraqi dinars (Dh9) for a ticket, commuter Thamer Mohammed said. 

"You don't have to stop at checkpoints, and it's safer. You avoid road accidents," said the Fallujah resident, 42, who is studying for a history doctorate in Baghdad. The revival in July of the daily service, once a feature of an extensive rail network dating back to the Ottoman Empire, is an example of Iraq's attempts to recover from decades of unrest. 

Passengers see it as a metaphor for the state of the country: security has improved enough to allow unhindered passage through countryside dominated for years by ISIS and Al Qaeda militants. But the train is dilapidated and shudders as it gathers speed. 

The state of the tracks allows a steady pace of up to about 100kph, but no more. Dozens of windows have been smashed by children who play in the dirt in poor Baghdad districts and pelt carriages with stones as they pass. 

"I hope the service will keep running, but in the last few days there have been delays. Sometimes it runs out of fuel on the journey or has technical failures," Mr Mohammed said. Abdul Sittar Muhsin, a media official for the national operator Iraqi Republic Railways, said the company was in dire need of funding to keep the service running. 

"We did this with the company's money and we're operating at a loss," he said. Regular passengers include unemployed young people looking for work, a perennial problem in Iraq where demonstrations over lack of jobs, water and power turned violent in southern city Basra in September. 

"I had a job interview with an NGO today in Baghdad, but I'm not holding out much hope," said Yassin Jasim, a recent medical graduate. "I try to get casual work in Fallujah, but there's little and it's low pay." Mr Jasim and his family moved to the relative security of Erbil in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq while ISIS held Fallujah. 

The city and fertile countryside along the Euphrates River suffered a series of bruising battles after the US invasion in 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein. Fallujah became infamous in 2004 when four American security contractors were killed and their bodies hung from a bridge in the city. 

Everywhere are reminders of a delicate security situation. Armed police patrol the train, which runs past a scrapyard of cars destroyed during fighting and the remains of a road bridge blown up by militants. Railway officials hope to restore services all the way to the Syrian border. 

Iraq's rail network, developed during the British mandate period and under Baath Party rule in the 1960s, used to stretch to Istanbul and Aleppo in Syria, via Mosul in northern Iraq. Conflict with Iran in the 1980s, UN sanctions in the 1990s and violence since then have wrecked most of the old network, apart from regular services to Basra and now Fallujah. 

Plans to extend beyond Fallujah might be ambitious – tracks are buried in sand and Iraqi forces have been reinforced at the border after recent ISIS counter-attacks in Syria. For now, the Fallujah line is a big step forward. "It's great, I can regularly see my daughter now who is marrying a man from Fallujah," one woman said. "At the moment, things are fine." 


  • November 16, 2018
  • Iraq Solidarity News (Al-Thawra)
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Lately my days seem to be almost identical. I take meandering walks through the neighbourhood in the evenings, to combat drowning in a dismal routine of unemployment, inactivity and melancholy. 

I stroll through streets where over 15 years ago I played football, hide and seek and flicked marbles on the sidewalks of once-elegant houses with heavenly gardens that impregnated the air with the aromatic scent of Narenj flowers in blossom. Fifteen years ago. 

Since then, the friends I once played with have been scattered across the globe, because of a war that stole our futures. Alone, and agitated by a misshapen reality, my footsteps lead me past familiar houses now split into two, three or even more dwellings, unhappy distortions of their elegant forebears. 

The departure of locals, the rapid growth in population and the absence of countermeasure housing plans from subsequent corrupt governments, have distorted the capital's beautiful neighbourhoods, and its gardens have gradually started to vanish. As for my old family home, we had to sell it following my grandmother's death a few years ago. 

Now, instead of the ziziphus and the fig tree, the tomatoes and radish once grown in the shade of the palm, a second two-storey house has been built in the front garden where we'd once enjoyed outdoor lunches on spring days, and shared barbecues with friends on summer evenings. 

Those were the good old days, before the Americans invaded Baghdad. 

Memories of war 

But not every glimpse of the past is a pleasant memory. In the adjacent vacant lot, just beneath the northern brick fence of the old house, still lie the bodies of four Fedayeen Saddam militants, who died resisting the American occupation in 2003. 

I was only 12 when the Bush-Blair war drum started beating, but I was no stranger to air raids or siren sounds. One of my most vivid childhood memories is stepping on Iraqi painter Layla al-Attar's controversial portrait of George Bush laid at the entrance of Al Rasheed Hotel. 

We would run for cover every time the siren went off to announce the American and British airstrikes that lit up the skies of Baghdad in 1998. Al-Attar was killed by a US airstrike in the early 90s. During the 2003 war, we stayed with relatives who lived in the outskirts of Baghdad. My father thought it'd be safer there, and he was right. 

While we were away, a bloody battle took place in what used to be a peaceful neighborhood inhabited by Muslims, Christians and others from different ethnic backgrounds. In the aftermath, dead bodies were left on the sidewalks while weapons and unexploded bombs were scattered in the streets. 

No playing in the garden 

We returned home to find the front gate shredded by shrapnel, the walls and rooftop riddled with bullet holes and all the windows shattered by bombs. Bombing water treatment facilities, power plants and even even milk factories, America and Britain became notorious for violating international laws in Iraq. 

In a blatant breach of the Geneva convention, the invaders dropped nearly 13,000 cluster munitions containing 2 million bomblets on Iraq. Several of these exploded in our garden, but two duds were lurking in the grass, waiting to be touched, and detonated. Had my father not spotted them, and warned us never to play in the garden, I would've died long ago. 

Sectarian violence and terror attacks 

To settle their scores with the toppled regime, the then administrator of the US' provisional government Paul Bremer immediately decreed the 'de-Baathification' of Iraqi society, and the dissolution of Iraq's military forces. 

The outcome was a rapid escalation in sectarian violence that engulfed the entire country, as thousands of formerly armed men were fired from their jobs amid widespread unemployment, while corrupt politicians lurked in the background ready to settle scores accumulated during years of dictatorship. 

At first, ordinary people of different ethnic backgrounds resisted the western occupation with courage and valour. Attacks specifically targeted the American and British forces. But later extremist groups and militias - the likes of al-Qaeda and Muqtada al-Sadr's Jaysh al-Mahdi - hijacked the wave of resistance to kidnap, displace and terrorise local communities through rampant sectarian strife. 

I spent most of those afternoons playing multiplayer PC games with friends at a gaming centre in the neighbourhood. The bullets we fired with a click of the mouse in Counter-Strike would resonate in real life when armed men ambushed American convoys on the highway and we'd get trapped for hours before we could run home once the fighting had ended. 

On one afternoon an unlicensed sedan pulled over and camouflaged men tossed the bodies of two women in the dumpsters, about 30metres from our front door. They were still wearing dishdashas, and one was laid out in a degrading prostration posture. The corpses remained there for a week, a putrid odor filling the air before some neighbours dared to volunteer to bury them. 

I remember how my mother covered my sisters' eyes with her hands when she walked them to school in the morning to prevent them from seeing the appalling scene that she feared would be seared to their memories for a lifetime. 

The way to school 

My daily commute to school often resembled something from an action movie. I walked past armed men with heavy machine guns mounted on pick-up trucks parked on side streets, waiting for the perfect moment to attack American convoys that passed the nearby bridge throughout the day. 

Our school was by the highway, and sometimes when school had ended and evening had come, armed men fired anti-tank rockets or sprayed American convoys with machine gun bullets from the windows of our classrooms. 

Once, on a beautiful spring morning, I was strolling to school with my cousin when we entered the main gate and were stunned to see a camouflaged man with an RPG-7 on his shoulder pointing towards the highway. He was standing right in the middle of the school yard. We immediately turned back and headed for home; our school day having lasted just 10 minutes. 

Our dead shall not be forgotten 

Today, despite their frequent presence in the headlines, our suffering seems to be insignificant, our cries unheard and our dead, numbers in forgotten statistics. But this November, I would like to remember the martyrs of Haditha. 

On that day in 2005, 24 Iraqi civilians were gunned down at close range by American soldiers who have never served a minute of jail time. We must also recall the innocent souls of the Al-Nisour Square massacre, two years later, where American contractors opened heavy fire without provocation on a bustling square, killing 17 civilians and injuring 20 others. 

And finally, I will never forget Ahmed Kareem, the 15-year-old boy in Basra that British soldiers forced into a dirty canal until he drowned. As I wander along the canals of Baghdad at night, I think about these deaths, and all the others that I've seen over the years, all the stories that swirl in my brain from 15 years of war, and I wonder if the killers do so too? 

Do Bush and Blair stay awake at night, haunted by the Iraqi boys and girls whose futures they stole, by the children orphaned by the wars they launched? They might have forgotten, but we never will. 

Nabil Salih is a Baghdad-based engineer and writer.

  • November 16, 2018
  • Iraq Solidarity News (Al-Thawra)
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It’s time to rejoice for Iraqi football fans as clubs from the country are finally set to return to the prestigious AFC Champions League from 2019, as reported by Fox Asia.

Clubs from Iraq have been consigned to competing in the AFC Cup for the last 10 years, but they are set to make the jump up from next year, with 2017/18 Iraqi Premier League champions, Al Zawra’a gaining direct entry into the group stages of the competition. 

On the other hand, Al Quwa-Al Jawiya, who recently lifted their third AFC Cup title, will feature in the playoff stages where they will have to overcome Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor as well as UAE’s Al-Nasr to join Zawra’a in the group stages. 

Al Quwa-Al Jawiya qualified for the competition after defeating Altyn Asyr in the final of the AFC Cup, winning it for a third straight time. Al Zawra’a meanwhile, pipped Al Quwa to the 2017/18 IPL title by four points. 

The last time an Iraqi club participated in the competition was way back in 2008, when both Erbil FC and Al Quwa-Al Jawiya featured. The tournament was eventually won by Japanese side Gamba Osaka. 

A team from Iraq has never won the prestigious Asian club competition, with Al-Shorta and Al-Rasheed finishing runners-up on one occasion apiece. The 2018 edition of the AFC Champions League was won by Kashima Antlers, who lifted the trophy for the first time in their history.

  • November 14, 2018
  • Iraq Solidarity News (Al-Thawra)
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"When the Islamic State group attacked our village, we fled. We stayed on Sinjar mountain for eight days. I saw children and older people die from thirst and exhaustion." 

Aveen, 20, and her family fled when IS group took control of the Iraqi city of Sinjar on 3 August 2014. After years in displacement, they are among around 6,000 families who have finally returned home. 

Three years have passed since the Iraqi government regained control of the city. Still, more than 200,000 people remain displaced in northern Iraq and abroad, with no homes to return to. Most of them belong to the Yazidi religious minority. 

Home, but not living 

For two years, Aveen’s family lived in an unfinished building in Dohuk, about 150 kilometres further north. Now they are back home, but life is nothing like it used to be. 

"We are home, but we are not actually living, there is nothing here," she says. "We don’t have water, schools or hospitals. Pregnant women have died because of a lack of maternity healthcare." 

Ghost town 

Around 70 per cent of buildings in Sinjar were damaged or destroyed during the operations to retake the city. Today, it’s a ghost town. Those who decided to come back live in dire conditions, with the feeling of being left aside. 

"Streets are empty, you barely see anyone. Hundreds of thousands of Yazidis are still displaced across the country and cannot come back because of security issues and lack of basic services such as water and electricity. 

There is an urgent need to rebuild schools and hospitals, otherwise this place is going to stay empty," says the Norwegian Refugee Council's (NRC) media coordinator in Iraq, Tom Peyre-Costa. 

Hundreds of thousands still displaced 

Hundreds of thousands of Yazidis now live in displacement camps scattered across Iraq's northern Kurdistan region. In Bajid Kandela camp, white tents stand in long neat lanes, flanked by abandoned cars. 

Base Khalaf, 60, has lived here for four years now. "Islamic State killed one of my sons four years ago. I’ve still not been able to visit his grave. It’s difficult to go back to Sinjar – it’s not safe and the journey is very long," she says. 

Life in the camp is hard. There is little water and electricity. "Now, winter is approaching," she says, "and so is the rain, the cold and the wind. These tents will barely protect us. I wish I could go back home, but I can't." 

No reconstruction 

While the plight of Yazidi victims was highlighted last month through the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Yazidi survivor Nadia Murad, the city of Sinjar remains largely uninhabitable. 

Elsewhere in Iraq reconstruction is slowly happening, but in Sinjar it never started. Meanwhile, Sunni Arab neighbours are afraid to return, fearing reprisals from community members or local security forces. "Everywhere in the town reminds me of the day when IS came," says Aveen."Yet no one cares, no one asks how we are, or if we need anything." 

NRC work 

NRC is present both in the city of Sinjar and in displacement camps around Dohuk. In the camps, we support Yazidi children to deal with trauma and psychological distress through educational and recreational activities. 

In camps and in Sinjar, we support families in retrieving essential documentation such as identity cards and property deeds, which are essential for them to be able to rebuild their homes. We support youth with vocational skills training to strengthen their chances of finding a job. 

Through our community centre in Sinjar, we facilitate and coordinate a comprehensive humanitarian response between partner organisations and communities, to ensure that urgent needs are met. "What we do in Sinjar is a good start, but it is far from being enough. 

Yazidis must not be forgotten. It is time for the international community to understand the extent of the needs. They must invest as much in the reconstruction of Sinjar as they did in the military operations against IS group," says Peyre-Costa.

  • November 14, 2018
  • Iraq Solidarity News (Al-Thawra)
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School bells finally rang at Shimon Safa Elementary School this fall, Mosul’s oldest Christian school that had been closed for four years. 

The school, also called the Shimon Safa Institute, is located next to the 9th century Shimon Safa Church and the monastery, which is known as the Shimon Safa priestly institute. 

The elementary school used to be one of 20 Christian schools in the multifaith city until the 1980s. Most of these schools were closed gradually in the three turbulent decades that followed the 1990 Gulf War, particularly in 2014-17 when the city was constrolled by the Islamic State (IS). 

The return of the 400 students, between the ages of 6 and 12, to the classrooms of Shimon Safa Institute on Sept. 30 illustrates that the city is recovering, after IS displaced the city’s Christians during the 2014 invasion, banned non-Islamic rituals, destroyed churches and imposed its extremist beliefs. 

Ibrahim al-Allaf, a professor of modern history at the University of Mosul, told Al-Monitor, “Students’ enrollment in this school is a victory in itself over terrorism and extremism. The school is part of the city’s historical heritage. 

The first cohort of educated people in Mosul has memories from this school.” Allaf said, “The school was under the supervision of the Christian monastery but its students were not only Christians; it offered an education to students from all religions." 

The school is an annex to the renowned Shimon Safa, or St. Peter’s Church, a Chaldean church that dates back to the 9th century. “The church was restored in 1864 and was named after Shimon Safa. The school was founded as an annex to it and named after the saint as well,” Allaf added. 

The reopening of the church is largely due to the efforts of the residents of Mosul, particularly private donors and volunteers who repaired the partially damaged building. 

School principal Ahmed Thamer al-Saadi told Al-Monitor that the renovation was due to the efforts of “volunteers and donors from the city,” who collaborated with the Directorate of Education and the school administration. 

He said, “The importance given to this project is a lesson in tolerance and in foiling extremism. The school has received over dozens of years pupils without a religious and has been subjected to national and sectarian discrimination; it is now resuming its practical and social mission again.” 

Saadi also noted that more work is required. “Further renovation of the school is still underway. The Directorate of Education in Ninevah continues to train teachers. The administration that includes teachers from different confessions, ethnicities and regions has welcomed 400 students in 2018. 

The number is expected to increase in the coming years, especially since more people are interested in sending their children to this historical school.” He added, “Graduates of the school have become doctors, artists and writers. 

The school has become a historical establishment of knowledge. Many of the houses of Mosul’s citizens are decorated with photos of the school that they are proud of.” 

Ahmad al-Mosli, an Arabic-language teacher from Mosul, said, “The school is located in Al-Saa area in the old part of the city where Christians live. This gives the school exceptional importance because of the displacement, killing and oppression that religious minorities faced at the hands of IS.” 

Mosli said that the school had always been an example of the citizens’ unity in the mostly Sunni city. “All religions, sects and ethnicities coexisted peacefully, which explains why the school has Christian, Muslim and Yazidi students. 

Most schools in Mosul are suffering because their data and files were burnt when IS occupied the city. But Shimon Safa suffered the most in addition to other minorities’ schools [due to its location in the center of Mosul that was the focus of the war between IS and the Iraqi forces].” 

Director General of Education in Ninevah Wahid Farid also underlined the symbolic value of the school. He told Al-Monitor, “The opening of Shimon Safa Institute is of social and intellectual significance in restoring peace to the city. Ten other schools were opened in the old city too. 

Around 1,800 schools [in Mosul] have opened their doors to students for the 2018-19 school year and UNICEF participated in the rehabilitation campaign. Teachers and citizens were enthusiastic about volunteering [in rebuilding and helping] the schools.” 

Reports indicate that Shimon Safa Institute faces similar challenges as other schools in the areas liberated from IS, as it lacks funding and stationery, and its classes are overcrowded; 2,500 schools in Ninevah, Anbar, Salahuddin, Diyala, Kirkuk and Baghdad have suffered due to the war. 

They need funding from the state to become operational again. Media officer at the Ministry of Education Bushra Hassan told Al-Monitor, 

“The ministry allocates sufficient financial sums to rebuild the schools of Mosul and provide a complete curricula. The ministry launched a renovation campaign for the schools in Mosul in 2017. Saint Abdel Ahad School Tripoli in new Mosul, another Christian school, was rehabilitated in coordination with the ministry's Department of School Architects.” 

There is a pressing need to bring back life to the areas liberated from IS, especially Mosul whose education sector has suffered, with 89 schools no longer operational due to the destruction. Cultural and educational symbols, especially schools of minorities, are being renovated to restore the residents’ trust in their community and provide them with a role in rebuilding their future. Adnan 

Abu Zeed is an Iraqi author and journalist. He holds a degree in engineering technology from Iraq and a degree in media techniques from the Netherlands.

  • November 14, 2018
  • Iraq Solidarity News (Al-Thawra)
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Thirty-seven of the 57 Arab Americans, including candidates for the US Congress, state governor, mayoral offices and state legislatures on ballots across the United States, were victorious in the US midterm elections November 6. 

Two Muslim-American women will serve for the first time in Congress: Palestinian-American Rashida Tlaib from Michigan and Somali-American Ilhan Omar from Minnesota. Tlaib is the daughter of Palestinian immigrants and Omar moved to the United States 20 years ago as a refugee. 

Another Michigan Arab American, Justin Amash, also won a seat in Congress. Michigan, especially the greater Detroit area, has one of the largest populations of Arab Americans in the United States. 

Twenty-one Arab Americans ran for office in Michigan and 14 were elected to offices ranging from state legislature to city councils and school boards. Eight Arab Americans were elected to Congress, including Donna Shalala in Florida. 

Shalala, of Lebanese descent, served in the cabinet of former President Bill Clinton and was president of the University of Miami. It was her first run for political office — at age 77. Two Arab Americans won congressional seats in Louisiana, which has only six seats in the US House of Representatives. 

In addition to the eight victors, three Arab Americans lost elections for a seat in Congress. Among them was Democratic candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar, a 29-year-old Palestinian American in California whose opponent, incumbent Republican Representative Duncan Hunter, ran a campaign filled with personal attacks and ethnic slurs. 

Among other things, Hunter claimed that Campa-Najjar’s election would be a victory for terrorists and reminded voters that Campa-Najjar’s grandfather participated in the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s attack on Israeli athletes in Munich during the 1972 Olympic Games. Campa-Najjar never met his grandfather, who was killed by Israeli commandos, and was raised a Catholic by his Mexican-American mother. 

He worked in the Obama White House in a job that required a security clearance. In New Hampshire, Republican Chris Sununu was elected governor. Sununu, a Palestinian American, is the son of John Sununu, a former top aide in the George H.W. Bush administration who also served as governor of New Hampshire. 

Of the 37 victorious Arab-American candidates, 29 won seats at the state, county or municipal levels. This bodes well for future Arab-American political successes because these political jobs are often stepping stones to higher political office.  

With the exception of Campa-Najjar, none of the Arab-American candidates faced overt bigotry from their opponents, although more subtle forms of prejudice against Americans of Arab descent — and especially Muslims — remained. A number of far-right and white supremacist publications and websites such as JihadWatch warned of the “dangers” of electing Muslim candidates. 

JihadWatch noted that Tlaib was “draped in a Palestinian flag” at her victory celebration after winning the Democratic primary in August. Arab-American candidates mostly focused on domestic issues in their campaigns. Tlaib, for example, advocated for a higher federal minimum wage, expanded health coverage and higher taxes on the very wealthy. 

However, the progressive Jewish lobby group J Street withdrew its endorsement of her after she expressed support for a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. J Street advocates for a two-state solution. In her victory speech, Tlaib said: “I want you to know my mom, who is from a small village in the West Bank, they’re literally glued to the TV — my grandmother, my aunts, my uncles in Palestine — are sitting by and watching their granddaughter.” 

She said her victory “shows a lot of Muslim Americans that even with Trump in the White House and the Supreme Court telling us the Muslim ban is legal, our voices are powerful and remind people that we belong in this country like everyone else.” 

By Mark Habeeb

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