CRDC Board Member
Zainab Al-Suwaij is the co-founder and executive director of the American Islamic Congress (AIC), a social activist organization founded in the wake of September 11, 2001, to foster tolerance, promote civil society and civil rights, and mobilize a moderate voice in the American Muslim community. Since its inception, the American Islamic Congress has grown to include a diverse membership of Muslim and non-Muslim activists from around the country and throughout the world.
Ms. Al-Suwaij was born in Basra, Iraq, in 1971. She is a Hashemite, a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, and the granddaughter of one of Iraq’s premier Shi’ite clerics. Ms. Al-Suwaij characterizes her religious views and activities as traditional, but progressive. And despite the societal pressures women face in the Arab and Muslim world, Ms. Al-Suwaij is an outspoken social activist and positive voice within her community.
Ms. Al-Suwaij grew up under Saddam Hussein, experiencing the Iran-Iraq war, the invasion of Kuwait, the Persian Gulf War, and the subsequent 1991 failed uprising against Saddam. Despite being only 20 years old and a woman, she participated in the uprising, providing medical assistance to the wounded. She has presented her story for the Iraqi people to President Bush, Vice -President Cheney.
After the uprising was crushed, Ms. Al-Suwaij went into hiding, eventually fleeing to Italy, Iran, and finally to the United States. Prior to September 11, she worked as a refugee case manager in New Haven, Connecticut, for Interfaith Refugee Ministry. Among her most special cases were working with the Lost Boys of Sudan, young African Christian victims of persecution at the hands of Sudan’s National Islamic Front, also worked as language instructor at Yale University.
Ms. Al-Suwaij has participated as one of a few women delegates to historic conferences for the interme government in Iraq and spent the last 10 Months working in Iraq on rebuilding Iraq school system and implement women’s empowerment programs, She also Co-Found the Iraqi Women High Council in Iraq.
Ms. Al-Suwaij is a member of Connecticut’s Hate Crimes Advisory Board. Her writing has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New Republic, USA Today, The Boston Globe, The Houston Chronicle, and the Hartford Courant. She has been interviewed on National Public Radio, CNN, CBS News, Fox News, and MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews.
Ms. Al-Suwaij has addressed numerous and diverse audiences, including Church Women United, the Anti-Defamation League, and Muslim conferences nationally and internationally.