Karim Wasfi is a renowned cellist, conductor, and founder of Peace Through Arts Foundation. Wasfi conducted the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra 2007-2016 and established the Italy Iraq Scholarship program in Modena as well as the British Council office in 2005. Wasfi utilizes sound resonance on the brain, neuroscience function, cultural diplomacy, a unique music and sound approach for healing, cross cultural integration, deradicalization, and prevention of tension. His innovative approach helped thousands of people in crisis areas to rise from violence, fear, and intimidation of terror, by conveying creative peaceful resonance through music, sound and arts. Wasfi’s current effort is to rebuild Iraq’s war torn areas by focusing on healing and rebuilding inner and societal peace that aims to proactively prevent future relapse into war and conflict.


Kevin Basl is a writer, musician and activist living near Ithaca, New York. He holds an MFA in fiction from Temple University in Philadelphia, where he has taught writing. His work has been published or is forthcoming in War, Literature and the Arts, O’Dark Thirty, Miramar Magazine, Truthout.org and elsewhere. As a US Army mobile radar operator, he deployed to Iraq twice. He is currently a member of About Face: Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace.


Dunya Mikhail is an Iraqi-American poet. She is the author of  In Her Feminine Sign, The Beekeeper, The Iraqi Nights, Diary of A Wave Outside the Sea, and The War Works Hard. Her honors include a Guggenheim fellowship (2018), Kresge fellowship (2013), Arab American Book Award (2010), and United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights (2001). She currently teaches Arabic at Oakland University in Michigan.


Carlos Sirah is a writer, performer, and cultural worker from the Mississippi Delta. His work encounters exile, rupture, and displacement in relation to institutions, local and beyond. His most recent works include The Utterances, The Light Body, and Black ‘n da Blues: Stories and Songs from the Arkansas Delta, 1919-2019


GemArts is a leading arts organisation based in Gateshead currently working with Syrian refugee young people on a songwriting and hip-hop project as part of their East by North East youth music programme. The core group of young people in this programme — Ahmed, Hussein, Jowan, Ali and Mohammad — have been working with music leaders Izzy Finch and Pawel Jedrzejewski to develop their musical skills and aspirations. These young people participate in sessions that are very much participant led resulting in lyrics that are often in Arabic and sometimes in English with themes around the war in Syria, politics, nostalgia, love, lost love and friendship.


Aaron Hughes is an artist, anti-war activist, teacher and Iraq War veteran, working collaboratively in diverse spaces and media. His work seeks out and shares the poetic connections that bind us together, reveal our shared humanity and make meaning out of personal and collective trauma. 

Hughes works with a variety of art and activist projects including Iraq Veterans Against the War, Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative, National Veterans Art Museum, emerging Veteran Artists Movement, and Prison & Neighborhood Arts Project. He has shown his work internationally at institutions including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, Maruki Gallery in Tokyo, Ashkal Alwan in Beirut, Sullivan Gallery in Chicago, and the School of Visual Arts Museum in New York. 

Poetry Despite/Music Despite (Eternal War Requiem) was conceived of and organized by Hughes for the 2019 BALTIC Artists’ Award, a worldwide biennial art award judged solely by artists. Hughes was selected for the award by artist Michael Rakowitz. 

In addition to the BALTIC Artists’ Award, Hughes has been awarded grants, residencies, and fellowships from a variety of art institutions, including Ashkal Alwan, Blue Mountain Center, Lawrence Arts Center, Links Hall, The Kitchen, and Penland School of Craft. In 2014, Hughes was awarded the Edes Prize for Emerging Artists for his ongoing Tea Project.