Author Archives: Cathy Breen

Who calls anyone civilized?

Naomi Shihab Nye is a poet and professor of Creative Writing at Texas State. Her father was Palestinian and a refugee journalist. Continue reading

‘Today is one of the heaviest days of my life’

I’ve written often about our Iraqi refugee friend and his oldest son from Baghdad. I will call them Mohammed and Ahmed. They made the torturous flight last year from Baghdad to Kurdistan and then across Turkey. They were on three Greek islands before permission was granted them to continue their trip. They passed through several countries at the time the borders were being closed. They arrived finally at their destination in late September 2015. Finland. Continue reading

Stories by the fire

ERBIL, Kurdistan, April 26, 2016—It is hard to put my feelings into words. I am travelling as a peace witness in Iraqi Kurdistan. Just the other day we visited a sheikh whom I had met in Fallujah in 2012. He and his family were forced to flee to Kurdistan about two years ago. Fallujah, as you probably know, is being held by ISIS. None of the residents are allowed to leave. People are literally dying of starvation. Continue reading

Arriving in Erbil and wondering what lies ahead

ERBIL, Kurdistan, April 24, 2016—Wherever I look, tall, unfinished concrete buildings, accompanied by construction cranes, loom over the city. It is somewhat eerie because I see no movement inside or around any of the buildings, none whatsoever. Continue reading

To find a happy day

When I can’t sleep at night I have the bad habit of listening to world news on the radio. This seems to be a family trait that I inherited from my father. Continue reading

Revisiting dust-covered dreams

NAJAF, Iraq, Nov. 11—I returned from Baghdad last night. Over coffee this morning, I filled the father of my host family in on my trip. I told him it was wonderful to see everyone, but I only heard sad stories. Continue reading

People have changed: A legacy of the U.S. War in Iraq

BAGHDAD—Last Sunday was a beautiful autumn day in Baghdad. As I was visiting two families in widely different neighborhoods, I was able to traverse a large part of the city. I looked with eyes that have not seen Baghdad for nine years. Today, it is a city of stark contrasts. Bright new autos wherever one looks. I saw them up close as we waited endlessly in gridlocks due to checkpoints. Although I was not conspicuous with my gown and head covering, I was careful not to gaze around and gawk when we were stuck in traffic jams. Continue reading

Living differently

NAJAF, Iraq, Nov. 1—For the past three days I have been trying to get news of the situation in our houses on the lower East side of Manhattan, where the flooding from hurricane Sandy was especially heavy. Continue reading