In Barefoot in Baghdad (Sourcebooks, 2010), Manal Omar, BA International Studies ’96, an American aid worker of Arab descent, tells a story in which the chaos of war and occupation dramatically shifts the fortunes of Iraqi women, destroying any hopes they had for a more liberated lifestyle. Omar’s various identities gave her a unique perspective of the women of war-torn Iraq and allowed her to live among Iraqi citizens often placing her own life in jeopardy. As her life became intertwined with Iraqis, their expectations, disappointments, dreams, pains, and losses became part of her own.
Omar worked with Women for Women International, a nongovernmental organization, as regional coordinator for Afghanistan, Iraq, and Sudan. Formerly a journalist, she began work in Iraq in 1997 and 1998 for the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and worked for Oxfam in the Middle East. Currently, she is director of Iraq programs at the U.S. Institute of Peace based in Washington, D.C. Over the past two years, she has worked in response to the emergency humanitarian crises in Israel, Palestine, and Lebanon.