Fire burns Iraqi restaurant, war vets fundraise to help rebuild

Fire burns Iraqi restaurant, war vets fundraise to help rebuild »Play Video
Ghaith Sahib, the owner of Dar Salam, describes how a fire destroyed his kitchen last Thursday night.

PORTLAND, Ore. – A popular Iraqi restaurant in Northeast Portland has shut down after a devastating fire.

The kitchen at Dar Salam burned down Thursday night. The family who owns it is from Iraq.

But a group of local war veterans is working to make sure the family opens the doors again.

A tiny trailer in the back of Ghaith Sahib's restaurant is the heart and soul of his business. Without it, he can't do much.

"It's heartbreaking," he says. "I love this cart, and I love this business."

In March the Sahib family did Sean Davis, an Iraq war veteran, a big favor. They translated a letter he got from a long-lost friend in Baghdad. It was something he’d been holding onto for 8 years since he came home from the war, wounded.

Davis and his war buddies are returning the favor in a big way. They will be reading their own letters, stories and poems to raise money for the Sahibs.

Their group, A Rock or Something, is all about helping war vets re-integrate into the community through art.

"If 10 years ago, when I was on my first tour in Iraq, somebody told me that 10 years later, I was going to be helping an Iraqi family raise money to get their business repaired and their kitchen repaired, I would have laughed," says Miah Washburn, who is organizing the fundraiser.

For Washburn, it's about more than just fixing the restaurant. It's about a shared experience. And for Sahib, it's not just the food he serves, it's about teaching people there's more to Iraq than war. Dar Salam, after all, means "House of Peace."

The fundraiser is June 15 at 6 p.m. at Dar Salam. Other businesses are also collecting donations through the Alberta Main Street website.