Lifelong Kurdish rights activist and Emeritus Professor at Eastern Michigan University, Dr. Asad Said Omar Khailany, passed away peacefully in his home in Ann, Arbor on April 1st, 2020 after a long illness. Born into a religious and scholarly family in the town of Rwanduz, in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq in 1937, Professor Asad Khailany started his political path to fight for the freedom of Kurdistan at a very young age. He joined the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in 1953, where his political activities led to him meeting future Kurdish leader and President of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, and they became lifelong friends.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Dr. Khailany attended the University of Baghdad and was active in the political leadership of Kurds in Iraq, founding the Kurdistan Students Union and eventually being elected to lead the KDP’s Baghdad and southern Iraq branch. In 1962, he was exiled to Nasiriya, southern Iraq, where he worked as a high school mathematics teacher. In 1966, he accepted a scholarship to continue his higher education in the United States of America. Professor Asad Khailany received two Master’s degrees from St. Louis University in 1968, and then a Master’s degree in 1971 followed by a Doctorate degree in 1972 from Washington University, St. Louis in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics. Professionally, he taught Computer Science at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock from 1971-1972. He then joined the faculty at Eastern Michigan University College of Business in 1972, where he taught until his retirement in 2005 as Emeritus Professor. He authored two textbooks and numerous research articles, and participated in many professional conferences as a presenter, reviewer, and panel moderator.
However, his driving passion throughout his entire life was his Kurdish activism and the promotion of a united and independent Kurdistan. In 1988, he founded and was the first president of the Kurdish National Congress of North America (KNC), a non-profit, member-driven organization representing Kurds from all parts of Kurdistan living in the United States and Canada. Professor Khailany took it upon himself to use any opportunity to shed light on the plight of the Kurdish people.
He lobbied US officials persistently, including an April 2003 meeting in Detroit with President George W. Bush to discuss the rights of the people of Kurdistan in the future of Iraq. He advocated that the best strategy for the future of Iraq would be to split it into three parts, Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni. History has proven him to be right with his prediction. He worked tirelessly to unite all Kurds from all the different parts of Kurdistan and have Kurdistan be recognized by the world as its own independent nation.
Unfortunately, he did not live long enough to see his dream fulfilled. He was a generous man and did his best to assist anyone who sought his help. He loved to gather people together to enjoy a meal and conversation. His hobbies were playing golf, reading, gardening, and investing in real estate and the stock market. He will be greatly missed by many friends and family and the loss of his leadership in the Kurdish diaspora has been deeply felt. Professor Asad Khailany is survived by his wife of 49 years, Laura Ann, and children Sheilan, Brucek (Kristen), Raygar (Laura Marie), and three grandsons. If you would like to contribute something to his memory, donations may be made to www.seedkurdistan.org.