This Iraqi City Just Chose Its First Female Mayor in a Century

Almost exactly a century ago, the Iraqi Kurdish city of Halabja made local history by appointing a woman as its mayor.

Adela Khanem was the first Kurdish woman to hold a post like this. The wife of a local tribal leader and mother of two poets, Khanem was considered a progressive leader—building schools and engaging in construction projects, during her tenure between 1909 and 1915.

Locals says that Khanem changed Halabja from a village to a city, filled parks and waterways.

The Iraqi Professor Who Remade My Unfinished Soldier Story

“Come in, come in, and take your shoes off.”

His green eyes sparkled as he whisked me into his home. My job as a peacemaker with Preemptive Love Coalition gives me a chance to connect with different people every week. The other day, I looked for a professor at the local university who speaks Arabic and could help with a quick translation. Dr. Sabah Alwan responded graciously to my email and invited me to his home. 

Kids With Down Syndrome Are Part of Every Surgical Mission. Here's Why That Matters.

The large room was lined with beds, each a home base for a mother and her child as their waited their turn to have surgery and graduate out of the ICU. Mothers whiled away their time talking and fussing over their babies.

I made my way to Salima’s bed, and sat on the edge beside her mother. “Salima is beautiful.”

Sozan's Impossible Journey—The Next Chapter

Read part one of Sozan’s story here. Part two can be found here. 

A year ago, Sozan was in free fall, her world unraveled by violence. 

“ISIS takes everything,” she said back then. “We lost everything.”

You broke her fall. You caught Sozan—and you haven’t let go since. You helped Sozan find her footing. You cared for her in her distress. 

Peacemaker Fridays: May 20, 2016

Israeli and Palestinian teens connect over Facebook; a Malaysian makeup artist challenges prejudice against hijab-clad women; love conquers hate in Islamberg; and high school students break down barriers at the prom.

Here are the week's best stories of people reaching across enemy lines, loving the other, and waging peace...

Sozan's Impossible Journey—Made Possible By You

This is part two of Sozan's story. Read part one here.

"I’m afraid," Sozan told us, when the time drew near to give birth to her son. 

Only months before, she and her family had fled from ISIS. Not everyone made it. Trapped on a mountain, surrounded by militants, Sozan’s 7-year-old daughter died of starvation.

This Family Is Honoring Their Son's Memory By Putting Love Into Action

What would you do if a rare brain disorder took your 5-month-old baby?

How would you get through the day when you ought to be celebrating his 4th birthday? The Gibson family has to ask themselves this question every May.

Here is what Eli's mom says:

"Every year on my son’s birthday, my family puts 'love is a verb' into action. So instead of Thomas the Train or Mickey Mouse birthday parties, we find ways to love others."

Sozan's Impossible Journey—The Day You Showed Up

It was a year ago when you first met Sozan. 

A dear friend traveled to Iraq and sat with her in the shipping container she calls home—to mourn and lament and dream with her—and to carry her story back to you.

It was a year ago when you allowed Sozan’s story to break your heart the way it broke ours when we first met her. And it was a year ago when you cried out with one voice, “We don’t let go and we won’t let go and we won’t turn away.”

How You Helped Save an Entire City From ISIS

In the summer of 2014, ISIS seemed unstoppable.

The swept across Iraq, capturing city after city. Some cities fell easily while others resisted, but all of them fell eventually—except for one.

Playing Hide-and-Seek in a War Zone

Don’t look! She starts counting, the children all scatter, looking for a place to hide.

Look down. The mud cakes and climbs up around the soles of my shoes.

Children of the Terror: Shunned and Stateless, Children Born to ISIS Fighters Languish

Nour* is just over a year old now. But already the little Iraqi girl is persona non grata in her community. Nour is the child of Wafa, a woman from near the central-southern city of Tikrit, and Adel, a farmer from near Hawija in northern Iraq.

Wafa met Adel when she and her family were forced to leave Tikrit after the area was overrun by the extremist group known as the Islamic State. The extremists had threatened to kill or arrest all the men in the area so the family decided to flee. Wafa’s family ended up in Hawija, where they have relatives who took them in.

"A few months later, I married Adel,” Wafa told Niqash. “He was a very religious person and very calm. He used to work as a farmer until he went to join the Islamic State. I begged him not to go."

Peacemaker Fridays: May 13, 2016

Syrian refugees come to the aid of Canadians displaced by the Fort McMurray wildfire; youth in Singapore reach out to migrant workers; and Christians and Muslims in Lebanon show how to live together in peace.

Here are the week's best stories of people reaching across enemy lines, loving the other, and waging peace...

The People of Sadr City—They're Our People


There were just a few things to pick up at the market: tomatoes for dinner, fresh flat bread, maybe some sweets. Three stops at most, then back home for the day.

The bazaar was packed yesterday morning, as only it can be during morning rush hour. Cars wove between lanes—back and forth with mere inches to spare—as drivers rushed to get to work just in time. On the sidewalks, shoppers jockeyed with shopkeepers rearranging oranges and pomegranates into perfect pyramids, hoping to draw in those who came before having breakfast. Their assistants dusted colourful packages of toys, neatly hung at a child’s eye-level.

Here's to All the Nurses Who Show Up and Love Anyway

Here’s to the nurses who show up in conflict countries like Libya. 

Here's to the nurses who watch the news and come anyway, who weigh the risk and decide that the children are worth it. Here’s to the nurses who go without seeing their own families and friends—sometimes for months at a time—so that children with no other way to get the heart surgeries they need can get their chance.

Violence Against Muslims Is Real. And It's On the Rise.

American Muslims are 6 to 9 times more likely to be attacked than they were 15 years ago, before 9/11, a new report finds.

The Georgetown University-based Bridge Initiative published their findings last week, revealing an increase in the number of violent acts targeting Muslims due to their faith. 

No Safe Return: How ISIS Wreaks Havoc After They're Pushed Back

A few days ago Ali al-Fahdawi, a former resident of Ramadi, decided to return home. He and his family had been displaced, thanks to the extremist group known as the Islamic State, which had been in control of the city for almost two years.

But at the beginning of this year, the Iraqi army and volunteer militias announced they had pushed the extremists out of the city. They’ve been successful—but it’s come at a high cost to the city and residents, as al-Fahdawi relates.

What Really Happened to the Yazidis of Iraq... And What Comes Next

People assume it was all chaos and haphazard slaughter, but that’s not what really happened.

When ISIS swept across Iraq, they approached each religious group differently. Each was given a set of options.

All of it was premeditated, ruthlessly calculated.

Peacemaker Fridays: May 6, 2016

An Indian teenager challenging world leaders to wage peace; touching the untouchables in Nepal; a Greek WWII survivor housing Syrian refugees; and pursing reconciliation on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Here are the week's best stories of people reaching across enemy lines, loving the other, and waging peace...

Refugee Radio: How Four Displaced Women Are Making Themselves Heard

Four displaced young women are making waves in the northern Iraqi city of Halabja—radio waves, that is.

The women run a radio show that is broadcast on the socially-conscious Dange Nwe ("New Voice") radio station, that’s called "By Displaced People, For Displaced People." 

Guilt May Be The Most Powerful Motivator to Give, But It Doesn't Have To Be

We’ve all heard it.

A speaker gets up on stage and shows you photos of a child with flies on his face or a swollen stomach. It’s horrible. But it’s also real. The desperation you feel looking into the eyes of that child is real. And then the speaker, knowing there’s a knot in your stomach, swoops in...

“If this were your child, you wouldn't even bat an eye to save his life.”

“With all our wealth and our Starbucks, we can't even imagine what these poor people are going through.”

“Americans will spend billions on things they don’t need this Christmas, but she just wishes she had some food.”

Guilt. Tyrannical, puritanical guilt.

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