War Tax Resistance Speakers Bureau – Kathy Kelly

Click here to contact Kathy

Image of Kathy Kelly by Robert Shetterly with Americans Who Tell the Truth

Kathy Kelly, of Chicago, Ill., helped initiate the Voices in the Wilderness, a campaign to end the U.N./U.S. sanctions against Iraq.

For bringing medicine and toys to Iraq in open violation of the U.N./U.S. sanctions, she and other campaign members were notified of a proposed $163,000 penalty for the organization, threatened with 12 years in prison, and eventually fined $20,000, a sum which they’ve refused to pay.

Voices in the Wilderness organized 70 delegations to visit Iraq in the period between 1996 and the beginning of the “Operation Shock and Awe” warfare (March 2003). Kelly has been to Iraq twenty-four times since January 1996, when the campaign began.

In October 2002, Voices in the Wilderness declared their intent to remain in Baghdad, alongside Iraqi civilians, throughout a war they still hoped they could prevent. Kelly and the team stayed in Baghdad throughout the bombardment and invasion, and maintained a household in Baghdad until March, 2004. During 2007, she spent five months in Amman, Jordan, living amongst Iraqis who fled their homes and are seeking resettlement.

During the first two weeks of the Gulf War, she was part of a peace encampment on the Iraq-Saudi border called the Gulf Peace Team. Following evacuation to Amman, Jordan, (February 4, 1991), team members stayed in the region for the next six months to help coordinate medical relief convoys and study teams.

Kelly helped organize and participated in nonviolent direct action teams in Haiti (summer of 1994), Bosnia (August, 1993, December, 1992) and Iraq (Gulf Peace Team, 1991). In April of 2002, she was among the first internationals to visit the Jenin camp, where conventional military forces of the Israeli Defense Force had destroyed over 100 civilian homes, in the Occupied West Bank.

She and three companions from Voices were in Beirut, Lebanon, during the final days of the Israel-Hezbollah war in the summer of 2006 and subsequently reported from southern Lebanon following a ceasefire.

In 1988 she was sentenced to one year in prison for planting corn on nuclear missile silo sites. Kelly served nine months of the sentence in Lexington, Ky., maximum security prison.

In the spring of 2004, she served three months at Pekin federal prison for crossing the line as part of an ongoing effort to close an army military combat training school at Fort Benning, Ga..

Kelly has taught in Chicago area community colleges and high schools since 1974. From 1980–1986 she taught at St. Ignatius College Prep (Chicago, Ill.). She is active with the Catholic Worker movement and, as a pacifist and war tax refuser, having refused payment of all federal income tax for over 25 years.

Other Lands Have Dreams: from Baghdad to Pekin prison (2005) by Kathy Kelly is available through Counterpunch (www.counterpunch.org).


  • B.A. Loyola University at Chicago 1974
  • Masters in Religious Education, Chicago Theological Seminary; part of a consortium of schools which included the Jesuit School of Theology at Chicago where Kelly took courses each quarter


  • Other Lands Have Dreams: from Baghdad to Pekin Prison, Counterpunch Press, spring 2005

Editor and contributor:

  • War and Peace in the Gulf, Cornerstone Press, April 2001


  • Iraq Under Siege, edited by Anthony Arnove, 2000
  • Live from Palestine, edited by Nancy Stohlman and Laurieann Aladin, 2003

Articles, essays and interviews printed in:

The SunThe Chicago Tribune MagazineAmericaThe National Catholic ReporterColumbia Journal of International AffairsThe LinkFellowship of Reconciliation MagazineLapis Magazine,The Jordan TimesThe Washington Report on the Middle EastThe Capitol TimesMERIP MagazineSatya MagazineHope MagazineCommon Dreams website, Counterpunch website,Electroniciraq.net website, Voices In The Wilderness website, Voices for Creative Nonviolencewebsite, and Antiwar.Com website


  • Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace Award, 1998
  • Newberry Library Free Speech Award, 1998
  • Detroit City Council Testimonial Resolution commending humanitarian efforts, February 1999
  • Robert O. Cooper Fellowship in Peace and Justice Award, Southern Methodist University March 1999
  • University of the Incarnate Word Distinguished Speaker Award March 1999
  • California State Assembly Certificate of Recognition for Founding of Voices in the Wilderness November 1999
  • Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award, 1999
  • Consortium on Peace Research and Development Social Courage Award, 1999
  • Dan Berrigan Award, DePaul University 1999
  • Office of the Americas Peace and Justice Award November 1999
  • International Fellowship of Reconciliation Pfeiffer Peace Award, February 2000
  • Nobel Peace Prize Nominee with Denis Halliday 2000
  • Arab American Anti Discrimination Committee Humanitarian Award June 2000
  • Nobel Peace Prize Nominee 2001
  • Chaldean Iraqi American Association of Michigan Appreciation Award for Dedication in Lifting Sanctions Against Iraq July 2001
  • Newberry Library “1st place” orator – Bughouse Square Debates August 2001
  • Life for Relief and Development Humanitarian Services Award September 2001
  • Global Exchange International Women’s Rights Awardee May 2003
  • Archbishop Oscar Romero Award, Mercyhurst College March 2003
  • Nobel Peace prize Nominee, with Voices in the Wilderness 2003
  • Call to Action Leadership Award, with Voices in the Wilderness 2003
  • Thomas Merton Center Award, Pittsburgh, Pa. 2003
  • Adela Dwyer St. Thomas of Villanova Peace Award, Villanova University, Voices in the Wilderness 2003
  • William Scarlett Award from The Witness, Voices in the Wilderness 2003
  • Association of Chicago Priests, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Common Ground Award with Voices in the Wilderness 2004
  • First Annual Award for Justice on behalf of the Religious Orders Partnership given to Kathy Kelly and Voices in the Wilderness
  • Cranbrook Peace Foundation Annual Peace Award 2004
  • Houston Peace and Justice Center National Peacemaker Award
  • Peace Seeker of the Year 2005, Montana Peace Seekers Network
  • Doctor of Theology honoris causa from Chicago Theological Seminary awarded May 14, 2005
  • Honorary degree awarded from Lewis University, May 15, 2005
  • Elliott Black Award for 2006 awarded by the American Ethical Union
  • De Paul Center for Church/State Studies 2007 John Courtney Murray Award April 2007
  • Bradford-O’Neill Medallion for Social Justice Recipient, Dominican University September 2007
  • The Oscar Romero Award presented by Pax Christi Maine October 2007