November Newsletter, 2013

Since 2010, we have been collecting the first hand stories of Iraqi refugees, with the focus on making sure that what happened to innocent civilians as a consequence of the US invasion will never be lost.

Future generations can look back and see what this war brought on the millions of Iraqi civilians.  We have ensured this by archiving our interviews at the UC Berkeley Library Catalog/OskiCat.

We have now heard hundreds of stories and seen the painful consequences of families being torn apart and dispersed all over the world. We’ve heard about the death of fathers, brothers and at least one relative in every family, and decent professionals stripped of their dignity.  It is estimated that 500,000 Iraqis were killed since US invasion in 2003, 60 percent as a result of the violence which ensued while the other 40 percent were a result of the decline in the health sector after the invasion.

The lost treasure of innocent people


The numbers of civilian deaths continue to rise as the violence in Iraq is not over. With the weak security state, the lack of rebuilding the infrastructure, Iraqis continue to struggle to find the means to live a peaceful life ten years later.

For the Iraqi refugees, the images and memories of war  are still haunting as they try to rebuild their lives in America. Their struggles are unique. They are professionals who had esteemed jobs and middle class status, which they had to abandon because of the escalating violence in the country.

When they left Iraq, they hoped to resettle in a place where they would be able to raise their children peacefully, without the beating sounds of bombs or the scenes of explosions and blood on the streets. And when they came here they found a new wave of struggles that has made it challenging for them to reach that hope.

Iraqi refugees in America is growing. It is estimated that there are nearly 30,000 living in the US. Most of them have college degrees that they can’t use mostly because of the language barrier, but also because of the different educational backgrounds that make it hard to apply their degrees here in the US.

A lot of the refugees had to resort to menial jobs such as cashiers or janitors to help support their families, while others have too many health problems that prevent them from providing a sustainable income and eventually making it harder for them to live peacefully after going through war and turmoil.

Citizens Reach Out has interviewed Iraqis who explained their struggles back in Iraq and the challenges that they are facing in America. These stories would be lost to history if CRO had not recorded them. Please, take the time to listen to some of these stories.

Help us reach out 


Our work thus far has been focused on gathering the stories of Iraqi refugees living in America to help their invisible struggles become visible.

Our staff is volunteer based, but there still expenses that need to be paid such as paying for travel to meet our interviewees, recording, video and production costs.

We are reaching out to you to donate to our project so that we can continue our work.


Welcome to CRO’s October Newsletter!

Dear friends of CRO,

We are happy to return to our followers and supporters with a few new changes that have happened in the past few months. First, our archive of recorded stories of refugees is now available at the UC Berkeley Library Catalog and OskiCat. This is a huge step for us as these stories have become now more accessible to the public to learn more about the bitter reality that refugees live in everyday. Our video-recorded stories are also available on our YouTube channel as well as our podcasts which are available on CRO’s website.

In this newsletter, we are sharing with you two compelling stories of two Iraqis, Mustafa Al Nidawi, whom you may know from The Ruth Group, and Ahmad Al Kubaisi who have been resettled in the US recently.

We urge you to take a moment and to read and/or listen to one or more of these stories and help spread the word about our work. Visit our Facebook page to get the latest updates and don’t forget to subscribe to our website to be the first to know about our upcoming stories and events.

Meet Ahmad Al Kubaisi
By Ellen Greenblatt, Board of Directors, CRO 

Ahmad with Katya

Ahmad with Katya

Preserving the stories of Iraqi refugees to the US is the purpose of the “What Happened?” project of Citizens Reach Out. But helping to create new stories about What Will Happen? is just as crucial.

Ahmed is an example of both parts of this mission. The life path for Ahmed, a 22-year old, changed irrevocably when a bullet went through his chest outside his home in Fallujah seven years ago, paralyzing him from the chest down. He was 15—just 15—when he became completely dependent on others, and he was lucky when he was transported to Jordan—but his luck, such as it was, ran out, as his confinement to bed led to life-threatening bedsores.

Through the interventions of the UNHCR and an Iraqi-American philanthropist, he made his way to Fairmont Hospital in Oakland where he will remain for several months until his bedsores heal.

That’s “What Happened.”

But What Will Happen? Ahmed’s future is here in the USA. When I sat in recently on a meeting at Fairmont Hospital with his doctor, his physical therapists, his social worker and his nurses, I had a sense of the enormous challenges he faces, and the doctor clearly laid out Ahmed’s own responsibilities, stressing, among other things, that Ahmed take an active role in learning English. Ahmed dreams of a career, perhaps as a pharmacist, but before he can pursue a profession, he must learn English, so I thought about how to put the resources of the Bay Area to work for him.

Ahmad with Dalia

Ahmad with Dalia

Contacting the UC Berkeley Near Eastern Studies Department seemed a natural step, and they posted my flyers explaining Ahmed’s need for conversation partners.  So far, two young women, pictured here have responded, and both studying Arabic. Dalia is an Iraqi-American, while Katya is European-American, and they visit Ahmed regularly (Katya often with another UC student) to help him with English as well as to provide him with American friends his own age. Ahmed’s good nature and hard work are paying off in improved English, but he is giving back as well—Dalia and Katya are getting some help practice with their Arabic studies, and Ahmed converses with both young women over Facebook as well as in their face-to-face meetings at Fairmont Hospital.

Ahmed will continue to need help for some time—in English as well as for finding a living situation suitable for a disabled person. As a first step, CRO is launching a campaign to raise money for a wheelchair for Ahmed. We’re posting it on our Reaching Out link on our CRO website. Please check it out.


Remember Mustafa Al Nidawi?
Contribute to a cochlear device the “Rondo” for 8 year old Mustafa Al Nidawi who lost his hearing in a bomb blast in Iraq in 2006.

Mustafa 3yrs old

Mustafa 3 years old

On December 31, 2008 Mustafa Al Nidawi arrived in San Francisco with his father Ghazwan Al Nidawi. They traveled from Iraq to the U.S. because Mustafa then 3 years old was deafened by a U.S. bomb explosion near his home in Diyala Province and needed medical care not available in Iraq.

Mustafa was sponsored by a community organization in Marin County California, formerly named Ruth Group (Now Citizens Reach Out). The project was conceived in the hope that through this act of citizen diplomacy the group could not only educate the nation about the outcomes of war, but also actually help a child who was its victim.

Doctors from UC San Francisco Medical center volunteered their time to help Mustafa. Volunteer organizers from Ruth Group went to work to find a surgeon to do the surgery, the manufacturer of the cochlear device to donate one device, teachers from SF Hearing and Speech Center to admit Mustafa in their school once the device had been implanted and a place to live at Ronald MacDonald House. Mustafa received his first device in January, 2008.
Since Mustafa received his cochlear devices, a new generation of devices known as the “Rondo” have been developed. This device uses only one piece on the outside of the head. The device that Mustafa has is one piece on the head and another sound processor that hangs on his ears.  The device that hangs on his ears is difficult for him to deal with as it falls off easily when he is physically active.  It makes it awkward for him to participate in sports and be close to other kids who are playing as his device is always in jeopardy of falling off, or being lost.  It also sticks out prominently on his head and makes him more susceptible to teasing and ridicule.  This refugee family will not be able to afford this device in time for Mustafa, and Mustafa needs it now.

Mustafa at age 8 now

Mustafa at age 8 now

CHECK WRITTEN TO: The Alalusi Foundation/ MUSTAFA Fund
MAIL CHECK TO: The Alalusi Foundation,
1975 National Ave,
Hayward,CA 94945
Contact: Ruth Friend,


April, 2013

Dear Friends,
March 19th marked the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War a war that is not over.

Citizens Reach Out had the opportunity to talk to the public about the consequences of the war for Iraqi people, using its interviews and videos of Iraqi refugees.
KALW FM Public Radio broadcast an hour program about the work of CRO. “Crosscurrents” is an inspired daily program highlighting the lives and work of San Francisco and Bay area people. Hana Baba was the producer, and we loved working with her. CRO’s interviews with Iraqi’s telling their stories of what happened to them during the war were woven into discussion with Ruth Friend’s experience in collecting these stories and Farah Muhsin Al Mousawi telling her personal story. Farah’s story, eloquent and heartfelt, is an example of the loss of a country, and family, a core consequence of the Iraq war for Iraqis. Please take the time to listen and learn about it:

Ruth Group Reunion

CRO marked March 19th the 10th Anniversary of the Iraq War

CRO marked the March 19, with a reunion of old friends and anti war activist known as Ruth Group. It was held at the Sausalito Cruising Club in Sausalito, the place where many bay area political groups were seeded in 2003-2008. In 2003 Community members met in the months leading up to the US invasion of Iraq, and organized protests with millions of others around the world . Our voices went unheard by the Bush Administration, but the seriousness and dedication of the people never waivered. The list of peace and justice action groups that sprung out of the early Ruth Group days is now long and we took the time to read it at the event.
Many thanks to Co Sponsors of the evening:; Progressive Perspectives; Coaliion for Grasssroots Progress; Progressive Democrats of Marin; Seniors for Peace,Mill Valley.

Speakers Norman Solomon, David Harris and Farah Muhsin gave memorable talks about US involvement and the consequences for our future. David had a 3 point plan to address what has happened, and to approach the future.


Directors Mohamed Al-Darakji and Atla al Daradji film the story of 32 football-crazy boys in Sadr City, Baghdad who live, eat, study and sleep together in a rented two bedroom house which functions as an unofficial orphanage.

IT IS A MUST SEE. “In My Mothers Arms” is a disarming, intimate look at the plight of millions of children left without parents .. Because of the historically strong family structure, orphanages were not a priority for the government and tend to be places where children are left untended and often abused, To this day families have independently taken in as many children left parentless as they can. However, every family now struggles to provide the essentials of daily life, and many children are left without a home.

This is a story of one man who cannot stand to see the children left on the street and has taken it upon himself to create a place for boys to live.

I hope you will take time to listen to KALW to hear about our work, and to visit our website where you will find interviews with Iraqi refugees. Learn about what happened.

Still praying for peace,



Citizens Reach Out has been working with The Alalusi Foundation for many years. We have been able to help many Iraqi’s in need of financial support through this organization. CRO trusts them to make sure your contributions are handled properly and go to your designated cause


Individual households have been identified and funds are funneled through friends and associates of the Alalusi Foundation in Iraq. Specify in an email to Hesham Alalusi how you want your donation used.


Alalusi Foundation has been able to get funds to them and will work with you to make sure your contribution gets to them.

Contributions are tax deductible

Alalusi Foundation

1975 National Ave., Hayward CA 94945 510 887-2374

Contact: Hesham Alalusi

e-mail: (


The Iraq Veterans Against the War
Our brothers and sisters, and children who went to Iraq with good intentions to “defend” their country, returned different people. Disillusioned by the US Military’s treatment of civilian Iraqis and their daily exposure to the brutality and death of their brothers and sisters, these brave young people spoke out in front of the San Francisco old Federal Building on March 19th, chalking the names of the dead, and speaking to the news media about their personal experiences. It was moving and heartbreaking to hear their young, clear voices, now against violent solutions and a part of the peace process. CRO’s intern, Farah Muhsin read the personal testimony of an Iraqi female detainee who was just released from Al Maliki’s prison for being an activist. To see a video of this event, please click here


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