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Iraqi Visitors Change Student Perceptions

Josie Duran, Author

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Visitors from Iraq and its capital, Baghdad, came to Santa Fe High with the help of the International Visitor Leadership Program—an organization under the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs that “helps strengthen U.S. engagement with countries around the world”—on Jan. 23 to address issues regarding domestic violence, women’s rights and children’s rights.

The visitors, Reyam Kadhum Hattam, Kamil Ameen Hashmin, Mohamed Fouad Jaafar, Abeer Mahdi Moshin and their translator, Raad Fanary, showed a presentation on what it’s like to live in Iraq.

The students in Ms. Akers’ seventh-period U.S. History class prepared questions for the presenters. One student asked if there was “war all over Iraq,” to which Fanary responded, “There isn’t war all over the country because the areas are closed off.”

Another asked if the visitors believed that President Trump represented all Americans.

“Trump has done good things and he has done bad things…. He does not define all Americans,” Fanary said.

Students appeared engrossed during the presentation, which ran until the bell rang and left many questions unanswered. Some students stayed behind to speak with the presenters, and several others expressed that the visit was a positive experience. Elijah Gonzales said, “There was a lot to learn about Iraq that tons of people never knew about, and I thought it was interesting to see how they spoke and communicated. It was also really interesting because they seemed important. It’s cool they were important people.”

Dominico Lovato remembered how fast they spoke and stated that their language was unlike anything he had ever heard. “It was an absolute honor to meet people from all over the world,” he said. “It was great to experience their language in person.”

Many students said their view of Iraq changed once they learned about the good things still happening there because before they had only associated the country with war and destruction.

Ms. Akers said, “I was very happy to have them visit. I was really happy to give my students this experience, to meet somebody. If I had the chance, I’d love if more people could visit because there was such a positive response.”

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