Today, Iraq Veterans and Iraqis Are Becoming Friends

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I just spent the entire Sunday with veterans of the Iraq War and Iraqi refugees who were forced to leave their homes because of that war. After 15 years of sending our young Americans to fight in a war we now all know to be based on complete lies (which war isn’t based on lies?), Iraq veterans are building strong relationships with Iraqi-Americans. An organization called Warrior Writers (WW) have been connecting war veterans with the local Iraqi community in Philadelphia and the results have been nothing but magnificent.

 

The Warrior Writers describe themselves as a

“community of military veterans, service members, artists, allies, and healers dedicated to creativity and wellness. We use writing, painting, photography, and a host of other mediums to reflect on our experiences and express them creatively. Warrior Writers is a national non-profit organization, based in Philadelphia, with members and activities across the country”

For over year, WW have been connecting with Iraqis to work on projects, creating radio shows and podcasts like Radio Silence. This podcast is described as a large scale project that

“interweaves dreams and memories from Iraq, America, and in-between into a soundscape of the contemporary refugee experience, the Iraqi diaspora, and the culture of an Iraq, that due to war and political unrest, no longer exists”

When we met in the park on Sunday for a Warrior Writers workshop, we didn’t spend the morning talking politics. This mixed bag of people spent most of their time joking around and doing what most friends do, hang out.

 

Playing with our camera toys in the park.

 

On Sunday, we started off with a picnic-brunch in a lovely park area. We just spoke to each other about our current lives, our past, and even suggested to each other some future projects we all may collaborate on. But we also just hung out, joked, laughed, and smiled. We learned about each other’s childhood, describing where we grew up. Sometimes, it’s surprising how much you can learn by just sitting down and talking.

Some of the Iraqis told me they left their home in 2006. That was the same year I first deployed overseas, to Iraq. I understand my job as a soldier was a mechanic, but I still occupied their country and feel guilty for everything my country has done to their country. I would have never thought that I would be making friends with Iraqi-Americans 12 years later in Philly. It’s the wildest thing.

Lovella From Warrior Writers with Iraqi-American Nashwa

The Iraqis are such great people and they’re currently making the most of their time here. Many have been or are currently in a college or university. Nashwa just finished her exams. Yaroub has a Master’s Degree in Industrial Design and is currently doing his PhD in Education. M0hanad recently went fishing with an Iraq veteran with plans to bring more of us next time. All of us are prepping for summer with trips of camping, bowling, making and flying kites, learning Iraqi games like Bulbulay, and so much more. We’re also having a poetry reading on August 12th at Burholme Park.

 

 

Iraqi-American “T”. (Photo by Sam)

 

Iraqi-American Siham in a park Sunday morning. (Photo by Sam)

 

Juan and Chris from Warrior Writers and Nashwa. (Photo by Sam)

 

Iraqi-American Yuroub. (Photo by Sam)

 

Iraqi-American Mohanad. (Photo by Sam)

 

After breakfast in the park, we decided to keep the energy rolling along and planned on watching a movie but first we wanted to eat. We ended up eating at a local Indian restaurant.

We all decided to watch the new Avengers: Infinity War movie. Isn’t it amazing how the Marvel Universe can bring together people from all over the world to spend over 2 hours in a room, quietly observing, and ultimately cheering for the same people? What if an institution as influential as the Marvel Universe, or Hollywood, could begin to make films about achieving peace on Earth, in reality? Oh I know why, because Hollywood literally has an office in the Pentagon to coordinate what the public can see or can not see.

We stopped to get some coffee while T watched soccer on his phone.

Having some fun while drinking coffee and watching soccer.

When we arrived at the theater, we purchased the last 8 tickets available. Of course, the seats were in the front row! I haven’t sat in the front row of a theater since I was 15 years old! But it was so much fun, and the seats reclined! Also, Sam stole my popcorn in the lobby area and didn’t return it to me until after the preview trailers. He didn’t eat too much of the popcorn, he said it was salty.

Sam holding the last tickets for the 4:10 showing of Avengers.

 

Getting ready for the movie.

 

When the movie ended, everyone got up to walk out. I tried to stop as many as possible to tell them about the post-credits scene. They had never heard of it! Yes, every Marvel Universe movie shows 1-2 shorts scenes after the credits played at the end of the movie. These scenes give you hints to the next Marvel movie. I had to use my Marvel nerd powers to educate everyone else. Even the veterans didn’t know!

By the time we walked out of the movie it was nearly 7 pm. We all felt like we could spend the rest of the night together but we all had to get ready for the week. We made several plans to meet in the future and to work on projects together. This is creating a culture of peace, something we most certainly need right now.

If there is ever a way to show opposition to what America is doing in the world today, with our corrupt and disgusting president and our corrupt and disgusting foreign policies, spending time with diverse groups like the Iraqi-American population and the Iraq veteran population is the way to do it. There’s no bigger way of saying “F— YOU!”, I’m not following your rules or policies because they are just absolutely wrong on so many levels. Trump and the military establishment sends messages everyday to Americans that are prejudice, racist, and ultimately violent. The most powerful way to oppose the establishment is to join hands with those that our president says is the problem: immigrants, communities of color, LGBTQ communities, disabled communities, and any marginalized group(s) around the world.

So I say “F— YOU” to Trump, to the military-power-hungry establishment, and to every racist asshole in the whole entire universe. I will stand by my friends, whoever they are and wherever they come from. No more lies. Just peace and love, baby!