Minneapolis Hosts the First Delegation of Elected Officials from Sister City Najaf, Iraq

Group shot of community dinner attendees and visiting Najaf council members.

Blog contributed by Jessy Belt, Deputy Director, Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project. Click here to view the original blog post on Medium.

Having hosted over 50 professors, physicians, lawyers and business people over the past seven years, the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project (IARP) and the Mayor of Minneapolis were proud to host the first delegation of officials from our Sister City of Najaf, Iraq. On May 20 and 21, 2016 five elected Najaf Provincial Council Members, Council President Dr. Majeed Zainy; Vice President Mr. Hussein Al Isawi; Member of Najaf Health Sector Dr. Ali Al Shammari; Member of Najaf Investment Sector Ms. Sahar Al Fatlawi; and NPC Administrator Mr. Nabeel Asad visited Minneapolis. The group was escorted by Sami Rasouli of Najaf and Minneapolis.

This whirlwind trip included a meeting with Mayor Betsy Hodges, a learning session in the City Council Chamber, a morning tour of Minneapolis and a community dinner with about 25 local Minnesotans.

The delegates and Mayor Hodges discussed challenges of governing while the country is in civil turmoil. They focused their attention and requests for sharing on education, investments, and technical expertise. One example of technical expertise is for water quality experts to assist in doing feasibility studies for alternative water sources for the greater Najaf area. The two main rivers of Iraq, the Tigris and Euphrates, are both dwindling in size as dams have been built in Turkey and Syria, siphoning the water off before it reaches Iraq.

Group shot of community dinner attendees and visiting Najaf council members.The meeting in City Hall Chambers featured a presentation by Peter Ebnet from the office of the City Clerk. He explained how the precinct arrangement in Minneapolis works, each area electing one representative. Two Council Members, Cam Gordon and Linnea Palmisano, joined the group to answer questions from the delegates.

A community dinner was hosted by IARP at Basha Mediterranean Wood Grill Restaurant where 25 individuals and the visiting delegates talked about a variety of topics. The local participants included seven Iraqis recently resettled in Minnesota, representatives from Women Against Military Madness (WAMM), and other IARP supporters. Multiple conversations went on into the night between long-time Minnesotans and recently arrived Iraqi refugees.

Mayor Hodges’ long standing support of the Najaf-Minneapolis Sister City relationship was noted by both the Iraqis and IARP members. It was her initiation and thoughtful discussions with her colleagues on the City Council in 2008–2009 that laid the groundwork for a unanimous positive vote in the Minneapolis City Council to become sister cities with Najaf. Mayor Hodges promised to consider the requests of the delegates and recommitted herself to cooperation for mutual benefit of both cities.