Iraqi Americans

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Editor: Thomas Riggs
Date: 2014
Publisher: Gale, a Cengage Company
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Iraqi Americans

Mary C. Sengstock and Sanaa Al Harahsheh


Iraqi Americans are immigrants or descendants of people from the nation of Iraq, which is a member of the League of Arab States. Iraq was founded in 1920 by the League of Nations and includes territories of the former Ottoman Empire. On the west, Iraq is bordered by Jordan and Syria; on the south, by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia; on the east, by Iran; and on the north, by Turkey. At 166,859 square miles (432,160 square kilometers), the area of Iraq is approximately the size of the state of California.

According to the CIA World Factbook, the population of Iraq in 2012 was 31.1 million. Most Iraqis are Muslim, with about 60 percent belonging to the Shia branch of Islam and about 35 percent belonging to the Sunni branch. The majority of the population is Arab, but Kurds make up a large ethnic minority in the northern part of country. The Kurds trace their origins to the ancient Medes, whose original homeland was in Persia (now Iran), and as a result Kurds generally do not identify themselves either as Arabs or Iraqis. Iraq's economy is largely dependent upon the petroleum industry. Agriculture and textiles are also important in the economy, even though much of the terrain is arid and only about 13 percent of the land is available for agriculture. The economy was negatively impacted by the Gulf Wars, and according to the CIA World Factbook about one-fourth of the Iraqi population is believed to be living below the poverty line.

Iraqis have been immigrating to the United States since the early twentieth century, with many of the earliest immigrants settling in the area of Detroit, Michigan, in communities where others from the Middle East had already settled. Although the predominant religion in Iraq is Islam, the majority of early Iraqi immigrants were Chaldean Christians, who sought opportunities for economic advancement and a setting more conducive to practicing their Christian faith. There was a substantial increase in the number of Iraqi immigrants in the last decade of the twentieth century and the first decade of the twenty-first century, largely because of the turmoil in Iraq due to the Gulf Wars.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, there were 105,981 people in the United States who reported having Iraqi ancestry, a number comparable to the population of Green Bay, Wisconsin. However, the Arab American Institute (AAI) estimates the actual Iraqi American population to be significantly larger—possibly up to 60 percent higher than this number, as U.S. Census data has historically not accounted for the entire Arab American population. Areas with a significant number of Iraqi Americans include Detroit and Dearborn, Michigan; Turlock and San Diego, California; Phoenix, Arizona; and Chicago. Other states with small, but significant, populations of Iraqi Americans are Texas and New York.


Early History Iraq lies in a region sometimes referred to as Mesopotamia, which refers to the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The region is also known as the “cradle of civilization,” because it was home to early civilizations of antiquity. Prior to the Common Era, Mesopotamia was occupied at various times by Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Akkadians, and Jews. The Bible reports that Abraham was from Ur, a city settled by the Chaldean people. In the first century after the death of Christ, the area was reportedly visited by his apostles and disciples, converting many of its inhabitants to the new religion. In the seventh century CE, most residents of the area were converted to Islam by the Prophet Muhammad. After Muhammad's death, there were disputes concerning who would be the key leaders of Islam. Followers of Muhammad known as the Sunni believed that caliphs (Arabic for “successors”) should be elected to succeed him. Another group of Muhammad's followers, the Shia, believed that the leadership should be drawn from the family of Muhammad. In 680 CE, the two groups came to blows in the battle of Karbala, a city in what is now southern Iraq. The leader of the Shia (Hussein ibn Ali, grandson of Muhammad) and several of his followers were killed. Today they are viewed as martyrs by the Shia, who observe a period of intense grieving each year on the anniversary of the battle.

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the area that is now Iraq was part of the Ottoman Empire, which covered an extensive area in eastern and southern Europe as well as the Middle East. In the mid-nineteenth century, the Ottoman Empire faced a considerable loss of its power. During this period, there was increased European interest, particularly

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Following the establishment of the new Iraqi government, there was considerable controversy over the character of the Iraqi flag. Since 1963 the flag had consisted of four colors: red, black, white, and green, the colors of the pan-Arab movement. Following the second phase of the Iraq War, there was a movement to change the flag in radical ways, replacing the colors with blue, yellow, and white; there was general public dissatisfaction with this plan. In 2008 a new flag was developed. Largely a modification of previous flags, it consists of three horizontal bands of red, white, and black. In the white band, the takbir, a phrase meaning “God is great,” appears in green Arabic letters.

by the British Empire, in exerting economic and political influence in the area. Britain encouraged British Christian missionaries to attempt to convert the Muslims in the area to Christianity. After World War I, following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, the area became a protectorate of the British government. At that time, the British government estimated the population at about three million. Most of the population was Muslim, divided between Sunni and Shia. About 15 to 20 percent were Kurdish, and Christians, Jews, and other religions together constituted about 5 percent.

Modern Era Iraq became an independent nation by action of the League of Nations in 1932. In 1948, after World War II, Israel was created from portions of Palestine—an action that had a dramatic impact on the Arab Middle East. Non-Jewish Palestinians were displaced, which caused anger and resentment in the Arab world. The Ba'th Party, which promoted unifying the Arab world, grew in prominence in Syria and eventually other places in the Middle East, including Iraq. Saddam Hussein, representing the Ba'th Party, came to power in Iraq in 1968. In the early 1970s he fought against Kurdish rebels, who for a time received aid from Iran. In 1980 Iraq went to war against Iran, and the ensuing eight-year conflict produced little gain for either country.

In 1990 Iraq invaded the petroleum-rich country of Kuwait to its south. Western countries, including the United States, felt compelled to support Kuwait and, in a conflict known as the First Gulf War, succeeded in expelling Iraq from Kuwait. The conflict's aftermath for Iraq was severe. The United Nations Security Council imposed trade and financial restrictions against Iraq, which led to extreme poverty, food shortages, and inadequate health services, as well as increased tensions among Iraqi ethnic minorities. With the onset of the Second Gulf War, in 2003, the crisis only increased. The West, led by the United States, sought to ensure that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction or any other mechanisms that might support terrorism. Although no weapons of mass destruction were found, Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi military were defeated, destabilizing the country. Saddam Hussein was arrested in 2004 for crimes against humanity and, following his conviction, executed in 2006.

Refugees from Iraq reported severe limits on food and medicine and a lack of clean water. Death rates increased dramatically, particularly in children. Although a degree of stability was achieved in 2010 when a new Iraqi government was established, the importance of adequately representing Iraq's three major religious and ethnic groups—Sunni, Shia, and Kurds—in the government continued to be a concern. Some segments of the Iraqi Parliament believed that religious and ethnic divisions would remain a problem, in part because there were no provisions for the smaller minorities, particularly Christians, Jews, and Turkomen. From the invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003 to Iraq's reconstruction, declared December 21, 2010, Kurds had hoped for the establishment of a separate Kurdish state, a dream that was never realized.


Iraqi immigration to the United States began in the earliest decades of the twentieth century, when residents from Telkaif, a village near the city of Mosul in the northern province of Ninewah, made their way to the United States. This northern area of Iraq differs from other segments of the country in that it is populated primarily by members of two Iraqi minorities: the Kurdish ethnic group and Christians. The village of Telkaif is predominantly Christian—specifically of a specific ritual group of the Catholic Church called the Chaldean rite. This group also differs from the majority of Iraqis in that their ancestral language is Chaldean rather than Arabic. Thus, uncharacteristic of the greater Iraqi population, the initial wave of Iraqi immigrants was predominantly Christian.

U.S. Census data for 2010 lists 105,981 persons reporting Iraqi ancestry, an increase of 16,089 over the 89,892 listed in the 2000 census. The 2010 population was more than double the number reported in the 1990 U.S. Census (44,916). This jump was largely a result of the turmoil in Iraq following the two Gulf Wars, but it also reflects the impact of the 1965 changes in U.S. immigration law that eliminated the national-origins quota system. It should be noted, however, that accurate data on the number of Iraqis in the United States is difficult to obtain, because the U.S. Census categories are not worded in a manner likely to elicit a response from all Iraqis. These include primarily Chaldean and Assyrian Christians, as well as Jews and Kurds, most of whom do not identify either as Iraqis or as Arabs. Making use of numbers from the individual Iraqi communities provides a much larger figure for the number of Iraqis in the United States. For example, in 2009 the largest Iraqi immigrant community, the Chaldeans, Page 447  |  Top of Articleestimated their total numbers (including both immigrants and American-born) at 150,000, while the entire Iraqi American population in the United States has been estimated at 245,000 to 265,000.

The earliest immigrants from Iraq originally settled in Detroit around 1910. Others from the Middle East—Catholic immigrants from Lebanon, called Maronites—had already begun to settle there. Chaldean Iraqis continued to move into the Detroit area during the early years of the twentieth century. However, once the United States government imposed the quota system on immigration in the 1920s, the number of immigrants from Iraq who could be admitted was limited to one hundred a year; consequently, Iraqi immigration was slow. During this period, some members of Iraq's dominant Muslim group immigrated to the United States, but their number was less than that of Iraqi Christians because the quota system favored people who had relatives in the United States.

Migration from Iraq largely ceased during World War II. It increased after the war and Iraqis could come to the United States with a student visa. Again, Chaldeans continued to have an advantage because of their existing ties in the United States. Many Chaldean immigrants were able to marry members of the Chaldean community and remain as permanent residents. Other Iraqis did not have this advantage. By the early 1960s the Chaldean community contained about three thousand members.

The most dramatic increase in immigration from Iraq occurred following the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. This law made immigration easier, particularly for nations that had exceptionally small quotas, such as Iraq, and had not yet established a sizable presence in the United States. Immigration from Iraq increased, which led to major growth in Detroit's Chaldean community. Many Muslim Iraqis came to the United States at this time as well. In the late twentieth century and early twenty-first century, the unrest in Iraq led other Iraqi religious and ethnic groups to seek emigration. This was particularly true of the Shia and Kurdish populations, both of which reported suffering discrimination at the hand of Iraq's dominant Sunni leadership.

Once in the United States, Iraqi immigrants tend to move into the areas where others from their religious groups have settled. Chaldean Iraqis tend to move into the Detroit Chaldean community or other Chaldean communities, primarily in Turlock and San Diego, California; Phoenix, Arizona; and Chicago. Muslim Iraqis are often attracted to Detroit area as well, thanks to the large Middle Eastern Islamic community in Dearborn, a suburb of Detroit. The few Jewish Iraqis who have immigrated tend to move into Jewish communities, primarily in New York and California. Texas is another state in which a significant population of Iraqi Americans exists.


CENGAGE LEARNING, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED U.S. Census Bureau, 2006–2010 American Community Survey

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Most Iraqi immigrants speak Arabic, the national language of Iraq, and for Muslim Iraqi Americans this is usually the language of choice. However, the Christian minorities also speak a dialect of Aramaic that they call Chaldean or Assyrian. This is the language Jesus spoke during his life, a matter of great pride to the group. If Christian Iraqi Americans wish to teach their children their ethnic language, it is likely to be Chaldean or Assyrian, not Arabic. Similarly, since Jewish Iraqi Americans generally merge into the broader American Jewish community, they tend to use English rather than Arabic and would consider Hebrew their historic language.

English is becoming the language of choice for the children born in the United States to Iraqi immigrants, and its use is increasing in most Iraqi homes. Iraqi immigrants, particularly male immigrants, tend to learn English quickly in order to work in American society. Immigrant married women who stay at home may take longer to learn English but most soon learn to speak it to communicate with their children. However, in predominantly Arabic communities, such as Dearborn, Michigan, and other sections of the Detroit area with large Arabic-speaking populations, numerous business and public enterprises, including health and social service facilities, provide signs and other information in Arabic. Local schools offer classes in English as a second language for children whose first language is Arabic. Local universities and community colleges have also introduced the Arabic language as a subject for study.


The vast majority of Iraq's population is Muslim, most of whom (about 60 percent) belong to the Shia sect. Although members of the Sunni sect constitute only about 35 percent of Iraqis, they are the group that has typically held power in the public sphere. The remaining 5 percent of the population is made up of other religious denominations, including Christians and Jews. Iraqi Americans of each religious group tend to congregate with members of their respective religions rather than congregating together as a distinct Iraqi settlement. Thus the religious traditions of Iraqi Americans must be discussed within each of the respective religious subgroups.

The Islamic tradition established by Muhammad in the seventh century is based on the belief in one God, with Muhammad as his prophet. Followers of Islam believe they are descended from the Prophet Abraham, through Ishmael, his son by Hagar. Muslims have recorded the teachings of Muhammad in their holy book, the Quran. There are five major tenets, known as the Five Pillars of Islam: belief in the One God; need to pray often; requirement to fast; giving alms to the poor; and making a pilgrimage, called the hajj, to the Holy City of Mecca. Muslims pray five times each day. Fasts in the Islamic religion are particularly rigorous, requiring complete abstention from food and drink, even water, from sunup to sundown during the holy month of Ramadan. According to Muslim tradition, religion is not to be separated from other aspects of life but should permeate all of human activity.

Muslim Iraqi immigrants tend to move into heavily Islamic communities, such as Dearborn, Michigan, which has a number of mosques and other Islamic community organizations, several of them established specifically for Iraqi Muslims. The Sunni and Shia sects of Islam are not clearly distinct, so observant Muslims can practice their faith in any mosque. This is true in both Iraq and the United States.

Although Islam is the major religion in Iraq by far, the largest group of Iraqi American immigrants has been those who follow the Roman Catholic Chaldean rite. Chaldeans were among the earliest immigrants from Iraq to the United States. They sought economic advancement and freedom to practice their Christian faith. Chaldeans have established a Detroit-area Chaldean diocese that has seven churches. Most are located in the northern section of Detroit and in nearby Oakland and Macomb counties. Other Christian Iraqis have moved into communities in New York, California, and Illinois. Their presence in the western United States has led to the development of an additional diocese, located in San Diego, for the western states. Iraqi American Chaldean church leaders estimate their group's membership at approximately 150,000, based on requests for church membership and for church services such as weddings and funerals.

Chaldean religious traditions and beliefs are similar to those of other Catholics. They consider the Pope of Rome to be the head of their church. Mass is their basic religious ceremony, and they follow the same rituals for baptism, Holy Communion, weddings, and funerals. A major difference is the language used in the rituals. Most ritual services of the Chaldean rite make use of the Chaldean (Assyrian) language, a modern-day variant of Aramaic. In recent years, some services have been translated into Arabic and English to make them more understandable to Arab-speaking and English-speaking Chaldeans. Chaldean Iraqi Americans have established several churches to provide the community with the special Chaldean services. However, for routine religious services, such as weekly Mass, many Chaldean Iraqi Americans often go to services at the nearest Catholic church.

Many Iraqi Jews who fled Iraq moved to Israel, but there are an estimated 15,000 Jewish Iraqi Americans. Jewish Iraqis moving into the United States have largely settled into Jewish communities scattered throughout the country, but the majority live New York and California. Three specific congregations have been established to honor Iraqi Jews' historical ties to the ancient settlement of Jews in Babylon; these congregations conduct services according to ancient Babylonian Jewish practice. Many would consider

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Iraqi Americans

them to belong to the Sephardic branch of Jewry. Like other Iraqi Americans, Jewish Iraqi Americans have largely merged into the larger population of their religious tradition in the United States.


Iraqi American traditions and practices vary along religious lines and must be reviewed within each of these groups: Muslim, Christian, and Jewish. However, it should also be noted that members of some of these groups do not generally identify with Iraq, the Iraqi people, or the Arabic culture. Arab Muslims from Iraq, both Sunni and Shia, generally identify themselves as Iraqis. Christians from Iraq are more likely to identify themselves by means of their religious denomination or with the ancient Babylonian or Chaldean culture. Iraqi American Jews identify with the Jews of the Babylonian period in the sixth century BCE. And Iraqi immigrants of Kurdish ancestry are more likely to identify with the Kurdish language and culture, which crosses the borders of several nations in western Asia and the Middle East, including Iraq. Some customs appear to be common to all Iraqis, however. For example, some of the favorite dishes prepared by Iraqis, such as dolma and kibbeh, are enjoyed by members of each of the religious groups, with modifications to eliminate pork for Muslims and Jews, and alcohol for Muslims. The traditional dress formerly worn by Iraqis is common to Muslims, Christians, and Jews. Also, brides in all subgroups seem to share a common tradition of Lilat al-henna, or decorating their bodies with henna dye prior to the wedding.

Traditions and Customs The extended family is the central dimension of life for all Iraqis. Life revolves around the family, and protection of the family and its honor is essential. Equally important to most Iraqis is their respective religious tradition. Hence the most important events in life are carried out in the context of the family and the specific group's religion. In all religious groups, weddings and the birth or education of children are important events calling for great celebration.

In the Islamic community, the first religious tradition a male child will experience is circumcision, which occurs as soon as possible after birth. An important tradition for both boys and girls focuses on imparting knowledge of the Quran, the Islamic holy book, to the children. The training process, called al-Khitma, begins when the child is between nine and twelve years old. The child in the class who learns to read the text most effectively is honored with the title hafiz, which means “memorizer,” and the family usually holds a celebration to recognize the child's achievement.

Other important Islamic traditions accompany the holy month of Ramadan, a month of prayer and repentance to draw believers closer to God. Ramadan occurs in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. During this month Muslims are required to abstain from all food and drink from sunup to sundown.

Iraqi Christians follow the customs of the Christian churches. Shortly after birth, babies are baptized, and the event involves a great family and Page 450  |  Top of Articlecommunity celebration. Chaldean Catholic children receive their first communion around seven or eight years of age—this is another cause for a large family celebration. Weddings are substantial affairs, with a large church ceremony and a subsequent celebration for the extended family and community as a whole. Often, hundreds of family and community members attend these events.

Similarly, the important traditions of Iraqi Jews focus on religious events. Weddings follow traditional Jewish patterns. As with Muslims, the circumcision of a baby boy is an occasion of great celebration. In the Jewish faith, circumcision takes place eight days after birth. Jewish children become adults in the eyes of God when they become bar mitzvahs (in the case of boys) or bat mitzvahs (in the case of girls) at age thirteen. One of the requirements for becoming a bar mitzvah is learning to read Hebrew and reading from the Torah during a synagogue service. Their presentation at the synagogue is an occasion of great celebration in the family and community.

On a more secular level, Iraqi men often gather at coffeehouses or tea houses in Iraq, where they share beverages, smoke the hookah (water pipe), and share conversation. This tradition has been carried over to U.S. communities as well. In both countries these social groups tend to be divided along religious lines. Hospitality and generosity are also important Iraqi traditions. Visitors must be welcomed and treated royally. Islamic tradition actually states that guests must be allowed to stay for three days before they can be questioned about their long-range plans. When visitors are invited, they are expected to view this as a great honor; refusals are considered an insult. Throughout the year, but especially during the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims are required to exhibit generosity to those less fortunate by giving alms, or zakat.

Cuisine There are certain types of dishes that are recognized as distinctively Middle Eastern, and among these there are some that are distinctively Iraqi. These dishes are typically made by all of the various religious groups, with certain alterations made to adapt them to use by Muslims, Christians, and Jews. For instance, Muslims and Jews make the same dishes as Christian Iraqis, but they ensure that the animals are slaughtered and their meat prepared in the proper manner (called halal by Muslims, kosher by Jews), and they do not use any pig products. Muslims abstain from alcohol, while Christians and Jews typically do not.

Rice is served with most dishes. Lamb and beef are popular. Many vegetables are used, such as green beans, peas, okra, cauliflower, and eggplant. Chickpeas are also popular, particularly in the form of hummus, a dish in which the chickpeas are ground into a smooth paste and mixed with olive oil, tahini (made with sesame seeds), and lemon juice. The hummus is served as a dip for pita bread or sometimes spread on sandwiches. Dolma is a dish made with grape leaves, which are stuffed with a meat and spice mixture. Cabbage and green peppers can be stuffed with the same mixture. Kibbeh is another popular dish among Iraqis. It is made with ground beef or lamb mixed with bulgur wheat and spices. Typical Arabic kibbeh is formed into balls or triangles and fried, whereas Iraqi kibbeh is formed into a flat pie before cooking. A similar dish, called kubbeh, is made by Iraqi Jews. The Arab shish-kebab dish, made with cubes of meat and vegetables and grilled on a skewer, is also enjoyed in Iraq. Iraqis make various desserts from phyllo dough and honey, often containing dates and pistachios or other nuts. Caleche is a cookie made with dates or walnuts and formed into a crescent or diamond shape.

Each Iraqi religious group serves special foods at their respective religious holidays. Muslims serve special foods for use in breaking the rigorous fast followed during the holy month of Ramadan. Typically these are high in carbohydrates to counter the low blood sugar that may accompany fasting. Dates are particularly important during Ramadan, not only due to their high carbohydrate content but also because Muhammad is said to have used dates to break his fast. For Christmas, some Iraqi Christians prepare a special dish, called pacha, made with tripe and intestines. Jews ensure that meals prepared during Passover have no traces of wheat or other grains.

In the United States, even second- and third-generation Iraqi Americans consume many of these traditional foods, but all have also adopted a wide variety of American foods as well. Additionally, Iraqi cuisine has become popular to American tastes. Numerous restaurants all over the country provide Iraqi or other Middle Eastern food. A restaurant in southeast Michigan has even introduced an annual event each spring, honoring Iraqi Jewry and serving Iraqi Jewish food.

Traditional Dress Traditional clothing in Iraq reaches across religious and ethnic lines, with similar items being worn by Muslims, Jews, Kurds, and Christians. Traditional garb for Iraqi men is a long robe, reaching to the ankles, called a caftan. It is worn with a cloth wrapped around the head similar to a turban or tied with a cord. Today, most men in urban areas of Iraq have adopted Western dress. Iraqi women wear long robes that cover them from head to toe. For Muslim women, the long robe, called an abaya, is still worn with a hijab (veil) that covers the head and face to abide by the Islamic requirement that women exhibit modesty when outside the home. Beneath their robes and veils, they wear normal dress. Veils are removed when at home or in female-only settings. Muslim women are more likely to continue the traditional dress patterns, but Iraqi women from other religions—and some Muslim women—have largely discarded the traditional style of dress.

In the United States, men wear Western-style clothing, and nearly all Christian and Jewish Iraqi American women have adopted Western-style clothes. Page 451  |  Top of ArticleThe pattern among Muslim Iraqi American women is mixed; some continue to wear traditional clothing, particularly the hijab, while others have adopted Western clothing styles.

Traditional Arts and Crafts Iraqi art is based on Islamic tradition and has been known for its beauty since before the creation of Iraq as a nation. Achievements have been made in ceramics, carpets, panting, calligraphy, glass, and Islamic-style fashion design. Since Islamic custom prohibits the visual depiction of human or animal forms, Islamic art has developed along the lines of calligraphy (decorative lettering) and the presentation of intricate geometric and floral patterns. The Arabic language, in its written form, is particularly well adapted to artistic presentations. Iraqi artisanship is particularly notable in the architecture of the Iraqi mosques, which are beautifully decorated. Iraqi artistic work can also be seen in its handicrafts, including jewelry, rugs, blankets, leather, and pottery. There is some indication that Iraqi arts and crafts are also being carried out by Iraqi American immigrants. However, such instances are few and far between, due to the pressures of adapting to a new environment.

Dances and Songs Music and dance are important customs in the culture of Iraq and often are present at weddings, parties, and other social events. Iraqis are known in the Middle East for their unusual music, including a fiddle-like instrument called a rebab and a wind instrument called an oud. Performers base their work on one of several melodic patterns, or maqams, many of which are derived from Arabic poetry, particularly poetry of the Abbasid Empire in Baghdad in the sixth through thirteenth centuries CE. Iraqi songs are usually performed in Arabic, although some of the traditional songs use lyrics from other languages of the area, including Aramaic, Armenian, Hebrew, Kurdish, Persian, or Turkish. Chaldeans and other Iraqi Christians may perform them in their historic Aramaic language. Many songs focus on either love or war and tell of the history of Iraq and its people. The pesteh, a kind of light song in the maqam pattern, gained popularity in the late twentieth century with the rise of recorded music and radio broadcasts. Performance arts, such as music festivals including the Babylon International Music and Arts Festival, have been important in Iraq. However, economic conditions following the Gulf Wars have made such festivals scarce.

A line dance (called chobi, or dabke in Arabic) is the most popular dance among Iraqi Muslims and in Iraq as a whole. Chaldeans also perform a line dance, called khiga, as do Iraqi Jews—the horah—although the horah's origins are in eastern Europe and Israel rather than Iraq. Today English dance music and songs and Western musical instruments have been adopted and are a part of many Iraqi parties, weddings, and other functions in Iraq and the United States. Although many Iraqi Americans now prefer Western music, the traditional Iraqi line dances, songs, and instruments are still used by some Iraqi Americans of all religions.

Holidays Holidays for Iraqis, both in Iraq and in the United States, tend to be centered around the faith traditions of each specific religion. There are two major holidays (referred to as Eid) for Iraqi Muslims, both tied to the Islamic faith. Eid al-Fitr is the celebration that brings the month-long fast of Ramadan to a close. The celebration continues for three days. The other major holiday is Eid al-Adha (the Festival of Sacrifice), which occurs at the end of the month in which Muslims traditionally make the hajj, or pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca. In both festivals, families hold feasts and may share the food with the poor, one of the major requirements of Islam. Other Islamic commemorations are the Islamic New Year, which occurs at the beginning of the month of Muharram and is typically recognized with quiet prayer and reflection; Mawlid al-nabi, the Prophet Muhammad's birthday (the twelfth day of the Islamic month of Rabi I); and Eid al-Isra wa al-Miraj, the commemoration of the Prophet Muhammad's visit to heaven, occurring on Rijab 27 (in July). Another important commemoration, observed only by Shia Muslims, is Ashura, which gives believers the opportunity to recall the massacre of Muhammad's grandson Hussayn and his followers in 680 CE; Ashura occurs on Muharram 10 (in January). Muslim Iraqi Americans generally continue to commemorate these festivals.

Like other Christians, Iraqi Christians celebrate Christmas and Easter. These holidays are celebrated with religious services in the church and large feasts for the extended family, with numerous traditional foods. Iraqi Christians also observe the penitential season of Lent, which precedes the feast of Easter. Lenten fasts for Iraqi Christians tend to be more rigorous than the traditional fasts for American Christians. Major holidays for Iraqi Jews are similar to those of Jews as a whole, primarily Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year) and Yom Kippur in the fall; and Pesach (Passover) in the spring. Both religions also have numerous minor holidays as well.

Health Care Issues and Practices Iraq had a highly advanced system of health care in 1970s and 1980s. Because it was established on a system of socialized medicine, Iraqi health care was generally free. However, sanctions imposed on the nation after the First Gulf War—sanctions that restricted the import of any commodities that might be used in the production of weapons—prevented Iraqi hospitals and physicians from getting necessary equipment and medicine. This radically changed the medical situation. Sanctions also limited the import of chemicals and equipment needed to purify Iraq's water supply. In the early 1990s the number and types of diseases began to rise dramatically due to the residue from Page 452  |  Top of Articleradioactive chemicals introduced to the area during the First Gulf War. The frequency of cancer, hypertension, birth defects, and other diseases increased. The cost of medicine rose as a consequence of the conflict, and as medicine became more expensive to make, the quality declined. As a result, some Iraqis turned to herbal medicine.

Iraqi immigrants often suffer from conditions that could not be treated under the conditions existing in Iraq. They may also suffer from various mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, as a result of the wars and their aftermath. Numerous immigrants have also lived in refugee camps under extremely brutal conditions.

Iraqi immigrants face a dramatic change in the health care system when they come to the United States. In Iraq they were used to going to the doctor or hospital and being taken care of—they are not familiar with the U.S. requirement for physician prescriptions for medications, problems of waiting for care, the need for insurance, and other complications of American health care. They are not used to the idea that insurance is necessary or commonly tied to one's employment, and many do not gain immediate employment. Therefore many Iraqi Americans lack proper health care in the United States.

Death and Burial Rituals Death rituals among Iraqis follow the traditions of each respective religious group. Islamic funerals, which are called janazah in Arabic, follow specific rites. Funerals are generally the same for everyone, rich or poor. When a Muslim passes away, the death is announced to relatives and friends by the deceased's immediate relative. Family gathers for a last farewell before the deceased is taken to the mosque. According to sharia (Islamic religious law), Muslims are supposed to be buried on the day following their death. The burial is preceded by a simple ritual involving bathing and shrouding the body, followed by a prayer, or salah. Cremation is forbidden in Islamic tradition. Neither do Muslims believe in viewing the body. Muslim Iraqi American follow the same rites. However, in the United States, funeral directors who follow Islamic tradition typically provide the services the family would have provided in Iraq. During the funeral, female family members dress in black, without makeup. After the burial, relatives, neighbors, and friends gather to console the family of the deceased, offering ritual expressions of sorrow and sympathy. Usually, friends and relatives help provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner for everyone. This mourning period usually lasts for three days.

Christian burials are similar to those of other Christians in the United States. The death is announced to relatives and friends by the next of kin. In the Chaldean liturgy, the body is washed and prepared for burial while priests and deacons prepare for the church service. In the United States, funeral homes generally handle the preparation that would be provided by the family in Iraq. The Chaldean funeral service takes place in church. It includes a Mass and goes on for an extended period. The body is then taken to the cemetery, where an additional religious service usually takes place. Following the services, family and friends gather to console the family. Mourning usually lasts for three days. Women traditionally wear black clothing and engage in loud wailing. Additional memorial services usually are held on the fortieth day after the death as well as on the first anniversary following the death.

Iraqis Jews follow the traditional patterns for Jewish funerals. Those present at the death immediately say the traditional prayer for the dead, known as the mourner's prayer (kaddish), and relatives rend their garments (keriah). Burial takes place as soon as possible, preferably on the actual day of death, although modern-day logistics mean that rarely happens. Cremation, autopsy, embalming, and public viewing are considered violations of the body and are forbidden. Rather than being held in a synagogue, funerals were formerly were held at home. In the United States, funeral homes that follow Jewish practice generally fulfill the rites. Following the funeral, family members gather at home for a formal period of mourning (shivah) that lasts seven days. Visitors come to express their sympathy.

Recreational Activities Iraqi Americans generally participate in the same recreational activities as other Americans: baseball, basketball, football, and other sports and games played in the United States. School sport teams in the Dearborn, Michigan, area, where many Muslim Iraqis live, have even adopted modified schedules for practices to accommodate the rigors of the Ramadan fast for Muslim youth. Some immigrants retain recreational activities brought from Iraq. First-generation immigrants play tawlee, a board game similar to backgammon, but this tradition does not seem to have been passed down to subsequent generations. Smoking the hookah, a water pipe, is another recreational practice brought from Iraq.


For all Iraqis, regardless of religion, the family is the most important social institution. Loyalty to the family is critical, and family honor must be preserved at all cost. It is highly improper to speak ill of the family or reveal negative family matters to outsiders. Family is understood in a broad sense; it consists of all relatives, including parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, siblings, aunts and uncles, and cousins. In Iraq the strength of family was often displayed in the traditional family household, in which a man, his wife, and their children shared a home with grandparents, unmarried sisters, and often the eldest son and his family. In the United States, it is less common for the extended family to live together in one house. However, frequent contact with extended family members, as well as shared

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Proverbs tend to be characteristic of the different cultural subgroups in Iraq. The following are examples of Iraqi proverbs in (phonetic) Arabic:

Min shaf ahbaba, nisa ashaba.

When he sees his lovers, he forgets about friends.

Yigtil il mayit, w yimshi bjanaztu.

He kills the victim and attends his funeral.

Illi faat maat.

The thing that has passed is dead.

Sabi'a Sanaayi'a, wil bakhit dhaayi'a.

Seven jobs but no fortune.

Huwa naayim, w rijleih bil shamis.

Sleeping but his legs are in sun.

Lmbal lil ma ykhaaf mnil matar.

The soaked do not fear rain.

Lbaab illi yijiik mina lriih, sida w istariih.

Close the window that the wind comes through.

Maa ilna biiha laa naaqa wala jamal.

We do not have a male or female camel.

Kalaam il leil yimhii il nahaar.

Day erases whatever was said at night.

financial responsibility, continue to be important. Family members assist each other even across national lines, with Iraqi Americans often sending money to family members remaining in Iraq. Respect for the elderly is an important component of Iraqi culture. The elderly are believed to be the repository of community wisdom. This tradition has been brought to the United States, where many Iraqi elders still live with their children. To place them in senior residences is considered unacceptable, although the Chaldean Iraqi American community has attempted to provide senior living facilities for elderly members of the community.

Gender Roles Gender roles are very clearly defined in Iraq, a pattern that prevails throughout the Arabic world in general. This tradition remains, particularly in the rural areas, and involves a clear segregation between the sexes except when eating and sleeping. Men work outside the home and are the head of the household. Women are expected to take care of the home and bear children, who are considered members of their father's lineage. Boys and girls are indoctrinated into their respective gender roles practically from birth.

These strict gender patterns were brought to the United States by the earliest Iraqi immigrants in the first quarter of the twentieth century. However, gender patterns are changing for Iraqis, not only in the United States but also in Iraq. Increasingly, girls are becoming educated and moving into roles outside the home. They continue to be responsible for care of the household and children, however. Many Iraqi American girls continue to complain that they have more household responsibilities than their brothers, and some even indicate they are responsible for caring for their brothers' rooms. Some Iraqi males, on the other hand, complain about the increased freedom of the women in their families.

These traditional gender patterns can be found among Iraqis of all religious groups. The birth of a son is cause for much greater celebration than the birth of a daughter. Especially great celebrations are held for the birth of the firstborn son on the thirtieth day after his birth.

Education Education was not a priority in Iraq until the second half of the twentieth century. The earliest emigrants from Iraq were poorly educated, most having only a few years of schooling, if any. They generally moved into jobs requiring a low level of skill. The earliest Chaldean Iraqi Americans were grocers, and many reported learning to read English by studying the cans as they stocked the shelves in the store. Today, higher education is a goal for most Iraqis, both in Iraq and in the United States. The most recent immigrants often have a college education, and Iraqi Americans born in the United States—from all religious groups—usually pursue a college education. This pattern is encouraged by Iraqi organizations such as the Chaldean Federation, which provides scholarships to assist its youth in attending college and holds a ceremony to honor their achievements when they graduate.

Courtship and Weddings According to Middle Eastern tradition, marriage is a contract between families, with the views and the needs of the families considered more important than those of the individuals to be married. The idea of a couple falling in love was not relevant; rather, it was considered more important for the couple to share the same culture, and the family was considered more capable of making a wise choice than the couple themselves. Marriages nearly always occurred within the same ethnic group, and marriage between cousins was common. Men were married when they were old enough to support a family, typically around twenty to twenty-five years of age, whereas brides were usually much younger, often as young as twelve or fourteen.

By tradition, the women in the prospective groom's family would visit the family of the girl they had in mind, and they would have a conversation about a possible arrangement between their respective Page 454  |  Top of Articlefamilies. It was critical that the discussion be held in vague terms. A direct request was dangerous; in the event the girl's family did not agree, this would be a great embarrassment for both families. Should the initial contact indicate that an arrangement was acceptable, a formal, more public request for the girl's hand in marriage would be made by the groom himself and his family. Once an agreement was reached, it was followed by a formal announcement and engagement party. These marriage patterns persisted among Iraqis of all religions, even into the mid-twentieth century. In the Islamic community, the initial section of the Quran, called al-Fatihah, is read for the couple. This prayer, which honors Allah and asks for guidance, is an important part of all Islamic prayer life.

The extended family is the central dimension of life for all Iraqis. Life revolves around the family, and protection of the family and its honor is essential. Equally important to most Iraqis is their respective religious tradition.

In the Islamic community, a special party is held the night before the wedding, called Lilat al-henna. This is a relatively small party for the couple, including immediate family, aunts and uncles, and cousins. During the party, the bride's mother or aunt prepares a bowl with the reddish-brown dye from the henna plant and dances around the guests. The groom and bride place their little fingers in the bowl of henna, and their fingers are connected by a ribbon. Henna is often distributed to the women and girls to decorate themselves. Jewish, Kurdish, and some Christian brides may also have prewedding ceremonies using henna.

Weddings remain the most important festivals in Iraq. In the Islamic religion, the actual marriage ceremony is relatively brief and is held in the home of the groom. Christian ceremonies formerly followed the same pattern, but today they are more elaborate, especially in the Chaldean community, with a long Catholic Mass and numerous bridesmaids and groomsmen. Wedding traditions of Iraqi Jews are similar to those of other Jews. The bride and groom sign a ketubah (marriage contract). They take their vows under a chupah (canopy), and the ceremony concludes with the groom shattering a glass with his foot. In all three religious groups, the ceremony is followed by a celebration for the extended family and the community as a whole. In Iraq the celebration may extend for two or three days. Traditionally, Iraqi brides wore brightly colored clothing with gold jewelry, but today they are more likely to wear Western-style white bridal gowns. Members of the groom's family often give gifts of gold to the bride, such that she can support herself and her children in the event of widowhood. Divorce is rare among all Iraqi religious groups, even though Islamic Sharia law (the moral code and religious law of Muslims) makes it relatively easy to obtain.

Many of these traditions continue in some form in Iraqi American communities. However, there have been modifications to adapt to American culture. In particular, the increased liberty in the gender sphere is evidenced in the greater freedom of choice of marriage partners. Marriage between cousins has become rare, both in Iraq and the United States. In traditional Iraqi society, bride and groom did not meet before the ceremony. Today, dating before marriage and allowing the couple more involvement in the choice of a mate are more common. Weddings of Iraqi Americans, in all religions, tend to follow American bridal customs. Brides wear long white gowns and veils and have numerous bridesmaids; grooms and groomsmen wear tuxedos. Receptions are elaborate and last well into the night, often hosting hundreds of guests.

Relations with Other Americans Relations between Iraqi immigrants and other Americans changed dramatically in the century since the first Iraqis settled in the United States. The earliest Iraqi immigrants devoted most of their efforts to developing their businesses and making arrangements to bring relatives from Iraq to the United States. Their focus was on growth of the Iraqi Chaldean community itself, and they spent little effort developing relationships with other Americans. This is not an unusual pattern among newly developing ethnic groups. Like other immigrant groups, as the Iraqi American population grew and became more adapted to the new environment, they became more active in civic and political affairs and began to develop ties to the broad American community. The various Iraqi religious groups have become more involved in the broader community, mainly within the boundaries of their own religious groups but increasingly with other groups as well. Muslim Iraqis have moved into the larger Islamic communities, both of their particular denomination of Islam and of the Islamic community as a whole. Some Muslim imams have represented their religious community to outside groups. Iraqi Jews have largely become a part of the broader Jewish community. Chaldeans are becoming more recognized as part of the larger Catholic community, although they have also made moves to work with the Jewish community, because Chaldeans and Jews often live in nearby suburban areas, and both recognize their common origins in the Middle East. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, a few Iraqi Americans became active in civic groups and ran successfully for public office.

Philanthropy Iraqi Americans have developed a variety of philanthropic organizations to deal with the problems of their communities. As is true with most Iraqi customs, these activities tend to develop along religious lines. The Chaldean community has developed numerous philanthropic organizations. One of the earliest was the Chaldean Ladies of Charity, Page 455  |  Top of Articlefounded in the1950s to provide aid for Chaldean families. This group currently assists Chaldean refugees as well. Several Chaldean organizations have banded together under the auspices of the Chaldean Federation, which helps Chaldean refugees and provides financial aid to Chaldean students who want to attend college. Muslim Iraqi Americans participate in philanthropic organizations such as ACCESS (Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services) that serve the Muslim and Arabic-speaking community in general. Because of their very small numbers, Jewish Iraqi Americans tend to work within broader Jewish organizations. However, they have formed a few specific Iraqi Jewish organizations, such as the American Aid Society (formerly the Iraqi Aid Society). This group assists Iraqi Jews in adapting to American society and also serves as a burial society. The Adopt-a-Refugee Family Program, founded to assist refugees from the Gulf Wars, helps Iraqi immigrants regardless their religious or ethnic origins.

Surnames Iraqi surnames vary among the different religious groups, largely because each has a long-term connection to a different linguistic and religious tradition, each with its preferred naming tradition. Thus, Muslim names are based in Arabic and may honor traditional Islamic leaders. Chaldean names are derived from Aramaic and tend to favor Christian saints. Jewish names are often derived from Hebrew and commemorate ancient Jewish leaders. The following are common Iraqi surnames:

Iraqi Muslim: Al-Alousi, Al-Asadi, Al-Baghdadi, Al-Basri, Al-Bayati, Al-Dujaili, Al-Hassani, Al-Husseini, Al-jbori, Al-Karbalai, Al-Musawi, Al-Rawy, Al-Saadi, Al-Shamari, Al-Shirazi, Al-Soraifi, Al-Tamimi, Al-Tikriti, Al-Zahawi, Al-Zuhairi, Ali, Aljohari, Jaffari, Zerjawy.

Iraqi Chaldean/Assyrian: Acho, Binno, Bidiwid, Garmo, George, Hakim, Kashat, Khami, Kherkher, Konja, Lossia, Mansour, Matti, Najor, Namo, Roumayah, Sarafa, Sesi, Shammamy, Shamoun, Sitto, Yaldo, Yasso, Yono, Yousif, Zeabari.

Iraqi Jewish: Akerib, Anwarzadeh, Bakhash, Ben-Josef, Bessel, Dabby, Darwish, Ezra, Jiji, Nassim, Pishanidar, Rabbie, Shamash, Shohet, Yadgar, Yadoo, Yahuda, Zadka.


In the Middle East, Iraqis were known for obtaining an education and moving into a variety of professions. During the rule of Saddam Hussein, many Iraqis were educated in Great Britain and became medical doctors, engineers, and professors. This pattern of a wide diversity of occupations is true of Iraqi Americans as well.

Economic patterns among Iraqi Americans vary between the different religious groups. Christian Iraqis, the earliest arrivals, are typically the most established. By the 1990s Chaldean Iraqi Americans owned more than one thousand grocery stores in the Detroit metropolitan area. They continue to be active in this field but have also moved into a variety of other occupations, including fields that serve the grocery business, such as wholesale grocery distributorships; services to stores, such as providing butcher equipment and burglar alarm systems; and real estate development. A common occupation for Muslim Iraqi Americans in the Detroit metropolitan area is the combination gas station and convenience store. Many Chaldeans, and Iraqis of other religions as well, have moved into a variety of professions, such as law, dentistry, medicine, and pharmacy.


Members of the Iraqi American communities are relative newcomers in the United States, and their participation in U.S. politics and government has been limited. Adam Benjamin Jr., an Assyrian Iraqi American from Indiana, was the first Iraqi American to be elected (1977) to the U.S. House of Representatives. With the U.S. involvement in Iraq in the Second Gulf War and its aftermath, however, some Iraqi Americans have begun to see the need to become more involved in American political affairs, especially to influence American Middle Eastern policies.


Academia Majid Khadduri (1909–2007) was an expert on the politics of the Middle East and the founder of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies Middle East Studies program. Professor Khadduri served at Indiana University as well as the University of Chicago before accepting a position at Johns Hopkins University. During his tenure there, he founded the SAIS Middle Eastern Studies program and directed the Center of Middle East Studies. Throughout his distinguished career Khadduri wrote more than thirty-five books in English and Arabic.

Thomas L. Saaty (1926–) was a professor in the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh. In the 1970s Saaty developed the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP), a complex rubric based on a combination of mathematical and psychological principles that enables large groups, such as corporations, schools, and hospitals, to evaluate data and make decisions. Saaty also developed a less complex version of this decision-making tool called the Analytic Network Process (ANP).

Donny George Youkhanna (1950–2011) was a respected scholar and curator. Recognized by his contemporaries as “the man who saved the Iraqi National Museum,” Youkhanna has also written numerous books and made contributions to the fields of archaeology and anthropology.

Activism Dave Nona (1948–) has been active in community and civic organizations for many

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In Dearborn, Michigan, Iraqi Americans rallied to support the 2003 war with Iraq. At the same time, other Arab groups in Dearborn protested against the war.

In Dearborn, Michigan, Iraqi Americans rallied to support the 2003 war with Iraq. At the same time, other Arab groups in Dearborn protested against the war. Jim West / Alamy

years. He was a founding member of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce and served as its chairman for several years. Joseph Kassab (1952–), executive director of the Chaldean Federation of America, was responsible for refugee assistance programs. Iraqi American social activist and writer Zainab Salbi (1970–) cofounded Women for Women International, an organization based in Washington, D.C. Dahlia Wasfi (1971–) is an Iraqi American physician and peace activist.

Business Sam Attisha (1966–) is the vice president of business development and external affairs for Cox Communications in San Diego. He was named one of San Diego's “Top Influentials” by the Daily Transcript in 2010.

Shakir al Khafaji (1955–), a Detroit-based Iraqi American businessman, is a senior executive with more than thirty years of business experience. He also served as chairman of the Iraqi Expatriate Conference.

Journalism Ayad Rahim (1962–) is a journalist who was praised for his work on a series of articles on the Operation Iraqi Freedom documents. Rahim hosts a radio show on WJCU in Cleveland.

Literature Sinan Antoon (1967–) is an associate professor at New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study. An acclaimed novelist and poet, Antoon codirected the 2003 documentary About Baghdad, which chronicles the lives of people who lived under the tyranny of Saddam Hussein.

Mahmoud Saeed (1939–) teaches courses on Iraqi political history at DePaul University (Chicago) and is the author of Saddam City (2004), an autobiographical novel about Saeed's experiences in the Iraqi prison system during Hussein's rule. Saeed has published numerous other works, including short-story collections and scholarly articles.

Military Ahmed Kousay al-Taie (1965–2007) was an Iraqi American U.S. Army soldier who was captured in Baghdad in October 2006 and executed by his captors.

Music Rahim AlHaj (1968–) is an Iraqi American composer whose work has been called a mix of old-style Iraqi maqams (poems that are sung in an ancient Iraqi dialect) and contemporary music styles. Ashur Bet Sargis (1949–) is an Assyrian American composer and singer. He became famous in Assyrian communities worldwide for his nationalistic songs in the 1970s. Janan Sawa (1956–) is a famous Chaldean musician. To date, Sawa has released twenty-three albums. His brother, Esam Sawa, is also a singer.

Performance Christopher Lee (Chris) Kattan (1970–) is an Iraqi American actor/comedian best known for his work on Saturday Night Live. Remy Munasifi (1980–) is an Iraqi American standup comedian, parody musician, and video artist.

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Politics Adam Benjamin Jr. (1935–1982) was the first Iraqi American to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He represented Indiana's First Congressional District from 1977 until his death in 1982. Iraqi American Anna Eshoo (1942–) was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for California's Eighteenth Congressional District in 1992. Iraqi American John J. Nimrod (1922–2009) was a minority rights activist and Illinois state senator.

Religion Ibrahim Ibrahim (1937–) is bishop of the Chaldean Church in Eastern North America, based at Mother of God Church in Southfield, Michigan. Sarhad Jammo (1941–) is bishop of the Chaldean Church in the Western United States, based at St. Peter's Chaldean Catholic Cathedral in El Cajon, California. Hassan Al-Qazwini (1964–) is the leader of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan, the largest mosque in North America, representing the Twelver Shia branch of Islam.

Stage and Screen F. Murray Abraham (1939–) is an Assyrian American actor known for his roles in film, television, and theater. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Antonio Salieri in Amadeus (1984). Ashley Sawdaye (1974–) is an Iraqi American actor best known for his role as Sergeant Bridges in the 2007 film The Ungodly. Alia Martine Shawkat (1989–) is an Iraqi American actress who has appeared in a number of films and television programs, including Amreeka, State of Grace, and Arrested Development.


Iraqi Americans operate several media sources directed mainly to their ethnic communities. Some media outlets, however, are aimed at other Arabic, Iraqi, or Middle Eastern groups as well.

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The Arab American

A national online newspaper with coverage on issues of importance to the American Arabic-speaking population.

Betha Kaldaya

A community newspaper published by the Chaldean American Institute.

269 East Lexington Avenue
Suite B
El Cajon, California 92020
Phone: (619) 500-3224

Michigan Arab Times Alhadath Newspaper

Newspaper offering articles for the Arabic-speaking community in Michigan, including some materials on the Chaldeans.



A quarterly magazine published by the Assyrian Foundation of America, Nineveh contains articles in English as well as in Assyrian (Aramaic/Chaldean).

P.O. Box 2600
Berkeley, California 94702


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The Arab American Radio Network

AARN reaches out to immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa living in major cities in the United States. These broadcasts cover the U.S. cities with the largest Arab American communities.

648 Live Oak Drive
McLean, Virginia 22101
Phone: (703) 333-2008
Fax: (888) 747-0957

Arab Detroit Radio

Arab Detroit Radio was founded with the purpose of promoting an accurate image about the Arab American community and the Arab world.

14628 West Warren Avenue
Dearborn, Michigan 48126

KBES-FM 89.5

The first Assyrian radio station owned and operated by Assyrians in Northern California.

P.O. Box 4116
Modesto, California 95352
Phone: (209) 537-0933


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American Kurdish Society (KAS)

A Kurdish cultural organization based in New York City that promotes and highlights Kurdish culture. Some KAS responsibilities are to make contact with other Kurdish organizations, to promote good relationships, to develop policies to improve the situation of Kurds in the United States, and to strengthen the relations with American friends in many areas, such as art, science, sport, and education.

Phone: (718) 635-0064

Arab American and Chaldean Social Services Council (ACC)

A nonprofit organization that assists the Middle Eastern communities in the United States. Services focus Page 458  |  Top of Articleon education, employment and training, youth recreation, self-enrichment, cultural activities, immigration, and health.

26400 Lahser
Suite 330
Southfield, Michigan 48033
Phone: (248) 354-8460

Iraqi-American Council

IAC is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization that advocates for Iraqi Americans regardless their religious, political, or ethnic backgrounds. The council promotes, coordinates, and conducts various activities and programs for the advancement of the civil rights and social, economic, educational, cultural, and ethnic interests of Iraqi Americans.

7263 Maple Place
Suite 210
Annandale, Virginia 22003
Phone: (877) 807-8700
Fax: (877) 803-1800


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Arab American National Museum (AANM)

The first and only museum in the United States devoted to Arab American history and culture. A section of its space is devoted to the Iraqi Chaldean community.

13624 Michigan Avenue
Dearborn, Michigan 48126
Phone: (313) 582-2266
Fax: (313) 582-1086

Chaldean Cultural Center

Features historical data and artifacts relating to Chaldeans.

5600 Walnut Lake Road
West Bloomfield Township, Michigan 48323
Phone: (248) 681-5050

Hoover Institution, Stanford University: Middle East Collection

Formally established in 1948, the collection concentrates on twentieth-century history, politics, economics, military affairs, and U.S. national security affairs, and it includes materials from and about the Arab countries of western Asia and North Africa, Turkey, Israel, Iran, and Afghanistan.

Carol Leadenham, Archives reference
Hoover Institution
Stanford University
434 Galvez Mall
Stanford, California 94305-6010
Phone: (650) 723-3563


Brown, Matthew Hay. “U.S. Slow to Meet Needs, Refugees Say.” Baltimore Sun, December 29, 2008.

Hanna-Fatuhi, Amer. The Untold Story of Native Iraqis: Chaldean Mesopotamians 5300 BC–Present. Bloomington, IN: Xlibris, 2012.

Hassig, Susan M. Cultures of the World: Iraq. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1993.

Levy, L. Review of Babylonian Jewish Customs, by Abraham Ben-Yaacob. The Scribe: Journal of Babylonion Jewry 71 (April 1999). .

Najor, Julia. Babylonian Cuisine: Chaldean Cookbook from the Middle East. Detroit: National Books, 1981.

Schopmeyer, Kim. “A Demographic Portrait of Arab Detroit.” In Arab Detroit: From Margin to Mainstream, edited by Nabeel Abraham and Andrew Shryock, 61–92. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2000.

Sengstock, Mary C. Chaldean-Americans: Changing Conceptions of Ethnic Identity. Staten Island: Center for Migration Studies, 1999.

———. Chaldeans in Michigan. Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2005.

Wiswell, Joyce. “A New Life: First Iraqi Refugees Arrive.” Chaldean News, September 1, 2007.

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX3273300096