On September 19 of this year, 2020, a bomb placed at the entrance to The American Institute for English in Najaf, Iraq, founded by Sami Rasouli, went off at about midnight. No one was present or injured but the building and school were destroyed. The American Institute for English Bombed
Sami and three of his children were in the US at the time of the explosion. They relocated to his adopted homeland (he is a dual citizen of the US and Iraq) due to the financial collapse of Iraq which has been exacerbated by Covid. His wife Suad and her son Redha (who Sami adopted) are stranded in Iraq because they are not US citizens.
This GoFundMe is being sponsored by Mike Miles and Barb Kass (Anathoth Community, Luck, WI), Dave Kast (Wausau, WI), Irene Mehlos and Susan Hass (Merrill Peace Study Group, Merrill, WI), Marie Braun (Twin Cities Peace Campaign, Minneapolis, MN), and a host of friends to help Sami and his family safely reunite in Minnesota as he considers the next steps in his ongoing peacemaking activities in Iraq.
Raise $120,000 to help Sami stabilize his family in the Minneapolis area while pursuing the means to reestablish the English Institute in Najaf. We would like to raise this money by June, 2021, or earlier.
Sami Rasouli: A Bridge for Peace
Sami's American Dream began in 1984 when he fled Saddam Hussein's Iraq and came to the United States. Five years later he opened Sinbad Restaurant and Cultural Center in Minneapolis. It embodied the epitome of Arab hospitality with award winning cuisine as well as music and artistic events cosponsored with the broader Arabic community.
Sami Rasouli at his award winning restaurant.....Sinbad!
During Desert Storm and the ensuing war with Iraq he used the restaurant as an educational platform bringing in Arab and Muslim academics to present forums as well as organizing TV news watch parties where he would translate what global Arabic television was saying about the conflict.
Sami is 100% Iraqi and 100% American which makes him 200% human and a perfect bridge for building understanding and deep relations between cultures which should be able to live in peace and mutual benefit. His ability to navigate difficult, sometimes dangerous arenas of conflict is truly a gift.
When the second Iraq War started in 2003, Sami was devastated as both an American and Iraqi when he saw the destruction occurring in his home country.
He has a large extended family in Iraq that he couldn't visit until his immigration status became finalized. When his mother died in 2003 he decided to travel back to Iraq to assess how his family was coping with the destruction and occupation. Upon returning to the United States from this visit, he made a life changing decision: to return to Iraq and work for peace. He sold his thriving restaurant business, bid his friends good-bye and in November, 2004, returned to Iraq determined to do what he could to help rebuild Iraq nonviolently in the midst of war.
Initially he worked in Najaf and Fallujah helping clean up areas destroyed by bombings along with other volunteers. Then he started organizing between Sunni and Shia communities to demonstrate and promote their peaceful working together to rebuild their country.
Muslim Peacemaker Teams
During this time he met members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams. From these meetings Sami conceived the idea of starting Muslim Peacemaking Teams in early 2005. Their goal, based on the CPT model, was to teach peace, unity and self-sufficiency as well as non-violent conflict resolution. MPT took considerable risks acting as negotiators and intermediaries whenever possible in conflict arenas.
MPT were often the first ones on the scene of alleged suicide bombings and discovered that what they were seeing was the beginnings of the use of drone attacks to foment animosity between Shia and Sunni communities. Sami's English speaking and US driver's license saved many terrified Iraqis at check points negotiating passage with equally frightened US soldiers just doing their jobs keeping traffic moving.
Water for Peace
One of MPT's early projects involved working with Veterans for Peace to install water filtration systems in Sami's hometown of Najaf. This project was known as Water for Peace.
Visits to the US and Art for Peace
When Sami made the decision to return to Iraq, he also made a commitment to return to the United States each year for speaking engagements promoting peace and encouraging dialogue. During these visits Sami promoted an Art for Peace program in which he brought art work by local Iraqi artists to sell during his presentations to help them support their families and share Iraqi culture.
Sami also initiated a number of sister-city programs between cities in Iraq and the United States. The first one, most dear to his heart, was between his hometown of Najaf and his adopted home of Minneapolis. Sami led delegations from Iraq to the US and facilitated US visitors to Iraq for years. His dedication to building human bridges is without parallel.
English for Reconciliation
In 2017 Sami conceived a new project: English for Reconciliation, an English language program in Najaf at The American Institute for English. The goal: to teach English to Iraqi youth and foster friendship between Americans and Iraqis. Since it opened three years ago, Sami has invited volunteer teachers from the United States who stay at least a month at a time teaching English. Sami and Suad host the teachers at their home which enhances their experience of Arab hospitality.
Sami's work has been an inspiration to many of us. Not only does he do the work, he knows how to promote it and has been featured in countless interviews in media outlets all over the globe, including on Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! A Google search of his interviews registers thousands of results.
On August 26 of this year, 2020, Sami came back to the United States with his three youngest children in part because of the pandemic and the ongoing violence and fears of possible violence toward his family and the school from a number of warring factions in Iraq and Najaf in particular. Because Sami is American, his three youngest children with Suad are also citizens and were able to come with him, but Suad and Redha must wait for visas which is taking some time because the American Embassy in Baghdad is almost completely shut down due to the pandemic and violence in the area.
Sami with his wife, Suad, three boys Redha, Omar and Essa and daughter Roia
Sami is in daily contact with his wife and stepson and they are staying with family. He is also in regular contact with the board of The American Institute, setting up plans for rebuilding the Institute and reestablishing the English for Reconciliation program.
Sami, our dear 200% friend, is determined to return to Iraq to help in the rebuilding of his language school and to continue his work with Muslim Peacemaker Teams.
None of this, however, detracts from his great cooking and wonderful sense of humor which often disarms even his most ardent skeptics. One of Mike's favorite Sami quips: "Why does God send all of His holy prophets to the Middle East? Because the food is so good!"
Sami Rasouli has dedicated the last 16 years of his life to peace work both in Iraq and here in the US. All of us who care for peace need to support him and help him get back in the field doing what he does best: building people-to-people bridges.
Please donate generously.
- Melissa and Michael Rhine
- Kim L Heikkila
- Elizabeth Amman Steger
- Richard Van Dellen
Organizer and beneficiary
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