Of course, says the widely traveled Clinton, being in Iraq is
challenging. With the rise of ISIS, security threats have increased
dramatically since Clinton’s first visit in 2009 — to the point that
once she’s safely at a school, she doesn’t go outside until it’s time
to head to the airport in Erbil to return home.
“I’m stuck in the building for 10 days,” says Clinton.
Clinton sleeps on a plastic mattress in a classroom, with Aref
and Modiri sleeping in another classroom so that she never has
to be alone. War widows who work at the schools in exchange
for tuition for their children cook Clinton’s meals. There’s even
Internet service. In preparation for this year’s trip to the school
in Ranya, she and Aref and Modiri have discussed how she’ll
escape if ISIS takes over the area — a plan that involves hiking
through the mountains to Turkey.
Still, Clinton downplays the security threats.
“When people think of Iraq, they think of Saddam Hussein
and ISIS,” she says. “My experience of Iraq is totally the opposite
of what you see on the news: It’s joyful and creative and
generous, and people are very welcoming and really excited
about creating change.”
To Merry Bullock, PhD, who directs APA’s Office of
International Affairs, Clinton’s work exemplifies the kind of role
CIRP hopes more psychologists can play abroad.
“These kinds of experiences form the basis of CIRP’s
ongoing project to develop guidelines for the competencies that
psychologists in the United States need to work abroad and that
they believe need to be a basic part of 21st century psychology
education,” says Bullock.
Clinton, whose only remuneration for the institutes is her
plane ticket, plans to keep going back to Iraq as long as she’s
“Increasing social justice in the world is a critical
contribution of psychology,” says Clinton, who just finished a
year as an APA/American Association for the Advancement of
Science Congressional Fellow in the office of Sen. Chris Murphy
(D-Conn.). “My dream would be that in a couple of years,
there’s no more need for someone like me in Iraq.” n
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