Humanizing War: The Experiences of Soldiers and Civilians During Conflict

    HHamza_rightHaider was born under the rule of Saddam Hussein – since then, he lived through four major wars, including the Iran/Iraq war, the Gulf war, and the US invasion of Iraq. As a journalist, he witnessed several other conflicts throughout the Middle East & North Africa region. In 2003, he joined the mainstream media as a war journalist. During his coverage of the US “War on Terror,” Haider spent two years embedded with U.S. military units covering combat operations. As a freelance journalist, he also spent time covering the perspective of armed resistance in the Middle East to learn more about their mindsets, goals and the reality of who they are. As a result, Haider witnessed the war from the perspectives of soldiers, civilians, rebel fighters, and journalists; all while attending school as an undergraduate student.

    During that time, Haider was arrested, injured and kidnapped. He lost several family members and friends. He wanted to stay in his home country of Iraq but the risk became too great. “At some point I realized that it is more important to live for a cause than to die for one,” Haider expressed. He graduated from Baghdad University and one year later, was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to move to the United States where he finished graduate school majoring in Global Security & Conflict Resolution.

    In subsequent years, Haider covered many headline-making news and events from the Middle East & North Africa; he attended all trial sessions of Saddam Hussein, witnessed the killing of Saddam’s sons, reported from the revolutions of the “Arab Spring” in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, and covered the killing of al Qaeda leaders, and the bloody sectarian violence and civil wars in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.

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    Haider’s powerful and fascinating lectures include poignant and touching visuals from his experience in war-torn Iraq as a citizen of the country and a war journalist. His various capacities as a journalist, a civilian, an activist and a family man have given him a unique perspective about war. He examines the losses of both nations involved in a war. His presentation takes the audience on a journey through every-day-life in a war zone while highlighting the sufferings, challenges, bonds, ironies and human behavior of both; Iraqi civilians and US soldiers caught in the war.

    Once he arrived in the US, Haider drove across the country setting up a booth titled “Talk to an Iraqi”. He set up the booth in 35 US states, inviting everyday people for a conversation about realities of war. His journey was featured in Showtime, NPR, and over 250 cinemas across the US.

    Haider has made appearances in tens of media outlets worldwide, challenging people to think more critically of war. Today, Haider splits his time between the US and the Middle East & North Africa region as he has become strongly committed to raising awareness among young people about the long-term effects of war, the universality of humanity, and sends messages of peace and reconciliation. Haider works with an international foundation helping Arab youth to become active members of political discourse through non-violent communication, advocacy and debate.

     

    “I have been around YPO/WPO and CEO for nearly 35 years, and engaged as both an organizer and attender of some incredible events.  Last night was truly the most memorable of all.  It was not just the photos, but the methodology Haider used in his presentation.  Calm, not vitriolic, non-judgmental, but real in describing the horrific unintended consequences of the acts of war that escape so many.  His ability to be articulate, reasonably dispassionate, opine on his experiences, understand the Iraqi society under Saddam and under the subsequent governments made it all the more compelling.” – Member – WPO Los Angeles

    “…a terrific night…spectacular job…got people totally engaged for 2 ½ hours.  It was supercharged…Many said it was among the most impactful they have ever seen, myself included…thought provoking.” – Ken Solomon, Education Chair – WPO Los Angeles

    “Haider was fantastic. Very powerful presentation. There were some young men sitting in the back, some with earbuds in their ears and all on their phone texting or scanning the internet. Their instructors brought them. Shortly after Haider started, they became fully engaged.  (Believe it or not, a true testament when the back row sitters become engaged on their own.)” – Barbara Clark-Evans, Director of the Intercultural Center – Kansas City Kansas Community College

    “He was wonderful!…Haider is a genuine guy…smart, funny, witty, and brilliant!  Loved having him.”  Judy Gothelf – Pine Brook Jewish Center

    “I am truly speechless, and just overwhelmed with awe and gratitude for the unbelievable gift of Haider’s presence and generosity with us. Our whole upper school and faculty are clearly profoundly blown away!!!” — Amelia Becker, Chair of the Religion Department – The Pennington School

    “…I can’t think of a time when I have been more transformed by meeting someone.  From the dinner, where you so thoughtfully engaged each of us, particularly the students, in genuine dialog and with such compelling presence, to the talk, which was the most original, riveting, and sincere I have ever experienced, you created for me and for many others here a once-in-a-lifetime understanding and reimagining of experience that will stay with us always…Thank you for the work that you do in the hopes of transforming the world into a place where we might all be able to imagine, equality, love, justice, and possibility.  Thank you for your visit to our small part of that world.  Please know that you have changed it immeasurably for the better.” — Carmen Gillespie, Director; The Griot Institute for Africana Studies – Bucknell University

    “We had the privilege of meeting and hearing Haider at our chapter retreat. Haider and his stories were eye opening for us. We could see the realities of war and life in a new and different perspective. He is not only a great photographer, but a brilliant storyteller.  His stories are also about tolerance and forgiveness, about celebrating life and living it to the fullest.   We highly recommend him for your future events.”  —  Elena & Marius Stefan – YPO Romania

    “Haider was exceptional. His brief was to bring our members out of their comfort zone by communicating to them the pain, the grief and the suffering that war brings to people. His mission was to help us understand the complexities of social, political and military chain of events that starts when the first bomb hits the ground of any war scene. He did much more than that. He succeeded in making all of us feel and empathize with the people that are suffering. He made us understand little details of everyday life in war zones, as well as bigger things like the politics of terrorism and the exploitation of religion in the midst of chaos that prevails in the area. Haider Newmani is an exceptional speaker. Combined with his unique life experiences, he makes an exceptional resource for YPO.” — Stefanos Panteliadis, Education Chair – YPO-WPO Aegean/ Macedonian

    “It’s seldom that someone can fill an auditorium just by opening his mouth. You have a gift of conveying ideas and not just through the images you showed us…” — Karin Petrescu – YPO Romania

    “Amazing!!! Haider went on for 3 hours straight as there were so many questions. Nobody moved. We had to send them home as they wanted him to go on. They called him ‘mind blowing’…” — Emma Popa-Radu – YPO (Young Presidents Organization)  Romania

    “Haider was able to connect with our students on a very human level by talking with them and asking them questions and allowed everyone who came to his talk a chance to think about how important it is to talk with each other and understand one another as we work to make the world a better place! Haider was great to work with and our campus community loved hosting him.  Great Experience for our students!” — Jim Fry, Assistant Director of Campus Events – Monmouth College

    “Everything went very well with Haider.  What an incredible story he has.  Very powerful insights about the complexity and insanity of war.” — Carl B. Procario-Foley, PhD, Director, Office of Mission and Ministry – Iona College

    “Many thanks for the fine talk last night. You moved the Blair community in the direction of tolerance, understanding and perhaps even trying to stand in the other guy’s shoes, difficult as that may be.” — Martin Miller, Instructor – Blair Academy

    Haider was OUTSTANDING!  What a story and what a guy!”  — Summer Dittmer, Coordinator Student Activities – Mercy High School

    “We could not have asked for a more timely or relevant program for our MLK assembly.  You are an natural educator and your visit left a lasting impression that will be felt for years to come.” —  Linda Tonetti Dugan, Assembly Coordinator – The Ellis School

    Haider struck us very deeply with his perspective and experiences…Many said it was the best, highest impact speaker they had listened to…Haider is a very powerful teacher and our community has a new landmark event in understanding issues and people in the Middle East…”  — Pat Macpherson, Diversity Coordinator – Westtown School

    “Outstanding.  He has such an incredible life experience coupled with the best qualities of what makes us all human.  Very inspirational… Thanks again!”   — Steve Morrell, Director, Community Life Program – Pacific Ridge School

    “I considered it a true privilege to have occupied a seat when you spoke.  Your experience, insights, and challenges to such commonly assumed presuppositions was thrilling and transformative. It is my conviction that the dialogue you encourage armed with the documentation and facts you’ve acquired prime you to be a potent force for cultural and ideological change. Your information, first-hand experiences, and delivery press the listener to jettison cultural bias and be intellectually honest with oneself. I champion your cause and efforts and look forward to hearing you speak again….”  — Jeffrey Jernee, Teacher – Eisenhower Middle School

    “Haider profoundly impacted high school students in the morning and faculty in the afternoon.  His photos were compelling and riveting his narrative, even more so.  He encouraged us to abandon the ‘good guy/bad guy” mentality and understand that everybody involved in conflict on one side or the other’ needs to feel like the good guy or he can’t do his job.  Haider’s job is to help either side in the conflict to understand the side of the other.  He talked about ‘cultural sensitivity’ as a ‘game changer’  in war.  He talked about the fine line between freedom and chaos and helped us to understand what war and invasion really are.  I was tremendously impressed by his sensitivity, his knowledge, his kindness, and his accessibility. ”   — Cheryl Irving, Spring Colloquium – William Penn Charter School

    “We enjoyed Haider’s first visit to our college so much that we asked him to come back for a reprisal later that same year. Haider’s plain-spoken manner ingratiates anyone who listens to him, and his stories are delivered without judgment or guilt. His focus throughout his interaction with the audience is his perspective and experience, as envisioned through his photos. With some humor and much ease, he communicates his experiences and allows members of the audience to be pulled into snippets of his life. One is left with the feeling that our world is much bigger than we realize and that perspective is the key to moving forward.”    — Anjuli Perez – Pikes Peak Community College

    Our students talked about Haider’s presentation for weeks. Their eyes were opened to a story and details they had never considered. The images from his photos in Iraq showed what war is really like and helped our students understand a deeper message Haider  was able to articulate in his talk;  cultural understanding and communication are essential for peace.  He has been here twice and there are faculty members requesting his return. His program was one of our best.”  — Blanche Milligan – Nichols College

    “Haider has overwhelmingly been supported by the school community since he first started with the program. He is a brilliant man with incredible stories to share. He avoids political controversy and he can easily speak to his target audience. He comes well-prepared and he uses photographs and images to support his message. He is committed to working with today’s youth and he has been an integral factor in our attempt to spread the message of tolerance, compassion, adversity with our students.”      — Mark Maire, Principal – Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale