Good afternoon (Roz bash). I am Dr. Ibrahim Salih, KNC President. I am honored to welcome you to the 27th annual conference of the Kurdish National Congress of North America.
The conference is occurring at a somber time for Kurds everywhere. We are holding this conference in the wake and ongoing current mass atrocities against our people. In Southern Kurdistan (Iraqi Kurdistan), we had what is a truly a genocide against Yezidi Kurds in Shingal and Zumar. We are also witnessing ongoing atrocities against our Kurdish people in Western Kurdistan (Syrian Kurdistan) attack and massacre in Kobane and surrounding villages. And a mass exodus of hundreds of thousands leaving everything behind to seek refuge in any place they can find.
As you may know, the KNC was founded in 1988 in the wake of another genocide of Halabja and the Anfal campaign that occurred in many areas of Southern Kurdistan. In 1988, Kurds from all over the continent gathered together in Ann Arbor, Michigan during that tragic time. The aim of the KNC was to embrace all Kurds regardless of their political affiliation, ideology or religion to achieve Kurdish unity and a stronger unified voice and presence in North America to better help our people. And that is the theme of our 27th annual conference, which is Kurdish Unity in the face of current and emergent threats. We also created KNC as a forum for Kurds to share their experiences, especially during difficult times like this time that we must show our true Kurdiaty. Over the course of the lifespan of the KNC and many more years, we have witnessed firsthand or watched the Human Rights violations committed against our people in all parts of Kurdistan, including mass detention, imprisonment, deportation, internal displacement, imprisonment, shelling and destruction of our villages and bombardment of our cities and execution of Kurds.
These tragedies have drawn us together and united us behind our cause. Today Kurdistan is going through an exceptional time. The withdrawal of the Iraqi military from the third largest city in Iraq (Mosul) left behind one fifth of Iraqi military weapons including tanks, and heavy artillery for ISIS. This left Kurdistan on the front lines to face a terrorist organization for more than 1000 kilometers, stretching from North to South. In Western Kurdistan, Bashar al-Assad’s military left the Kurds to battle ISIS on many fronts alone. The power struggle between political parties on each side of Kurdistan is threatening Kurdish Unity at this critical time.
Even with all these trials over the course of the last half- century, we are seeing a glimpse of sunlight. In the post-liberation of Iraq, Southern, Kurdistan has prospered with a booming economy and is very peaceful. Many refugees are pouring in from the rest of Iraq to benefit from Kurdistan’s security, tolerance and opportunities. Our military (Peshmerga), operating under Kurdish leadership, proved to be disciplined and organized in their fight against ISIS. Having held their ground against ISIS, the Pershmerga emerged as the most reliable ground force fighting in Iraq. They earned military support and raised the Kurdish profile abroad. The same thing happened for the People’s Protection Unit (YPG) in Western Kurdistan. Kurds have won significant international respect, and our leaders are respected worldwide. Other national leaders, heads of states are visiting Kurdistan regularly.
We should be proud of how far we have come despite all the challenges we have faced. It is critical for us to put aside all political and ideological differences and stand united together in our struggle. In the KNC of North America, we call for all our people in these two great countries to come together and work together to lobby for new legislation to protect Kurdish homelands, to secure military assistance in the ongoing fight with ISIS and to help refugees find a new place of settlement. We also hope the UN will take a more proactive role in helping the KRG with the 1.5 million refugees in Southern Kurdistan.
I would like to invite Kurds from all parts of Kurdistan to come together in Washington D.C. to have a round table discussion on how to establish a committee to organize our activities in helping our Kurdish people in all regions of the world.
Thank you for your attention, and we hope you find the conference rewarding, and you find the panel discussions and speeches interesting.