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President Barzani opens JFK / Yale conference series

President Barzani’s speech at Justice For Kurds/Jackson Institute opening conference on April 13th was both reminiscent of past US-Kurdistan accomplishments and hopeful about the future of their relationship.

Two days ago, on Tuesday April 13, the opening conference of the four-part series of virtual discussions about “The Kurds in the Middle East” kicked off. 

This series of events, co-hosted by the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale University and Justice for Kurds, gathers an impressive group of 12 speakers. All committed to raise awareness for the Kurdish cause, they include a wide array of American, European, and Middle Eastern practitioners, including senior Kurdish representatives from Iraq and Syria.
The first conference was launched with a powerful and engaging speech by President Nechirvan Barzani. The President of Kurdistan Region began the address by reminding the audience about the historical and significant partnership between the US and Kurdistan: 
“This month, April 2021, is of major historic significance for the Kurds and for the US-Kurdistan relations. It marks the 30thanniversary of United Nations Security Council Resolution 688 and Operation Provide Comfort. The successful military and humanitarian intervention during which the US – with France, the UK and other partners – protected Iraqi Kurdistan.”
He went on to describe how this military operation, and the strategic military partnership that ensured, helped Kurdistan become what he described as an “island of peace,” and an icon of stability in the region. 
President Barzani then saluted President Biden’s new administration, paying particular attention to its renewed global engagement. For him, this is a great sign for US-Kurdistan relations. He alluded to specific policy decisions he would like the Biden administration to implement: “We do except the US to remain engaged with us in Iraq to ensure the lasting defeat of ISIS”. President Barzani urged for US troops to support the Peshmerga and Iraqis in their fight against the Islamic State. 

He ended his speech by returning to the UNSC resolution signed thirty years ago, emphasizing that it had brought hope to Kurdistan and its partnership with the US and other allies. In doing so, he urged the new Biden administration to keep honoring this partnership. He seemed hopeful that this would strengthen Kurdistan durably.
What President Barzani’s speech made obvious is that now, more than ever, is the perfect opportunity to repair the US-Kurdistan relationship that was damaged by the previous Trump administration’s decision to remove troops from North East Syria.
You can find President Barzani’s full speech here: https://vimeo.com/536791572. 
After Barzani’s speech, the conference moderator, Emma Sky, asked Justice for Kurds Chairman, Thomas Kaplan, and President, Bernard-Henri Lévy, a series of questions. The discussion was extremely interesting; a wide array of topics were covered. 

The speakers described their own interest in the Kurdish cause, mentioning what had prompted them to create Justice for Kurds. They also spoke about the US-Kurdish military partnership, the success of the Peshmerga and their own thoughts on the Biden administration’s political role in supporting the Kurds against ISIS. 
The conference ended with a few questions from the audience about future prospects for refugees in Kurdistan, the speakers’ optimism about the Kurdish cause and ways in which they could get involved to help Justice for Kurds. 
All in all, this was an impressive start to “The Kurds in the Middle East” conference series.

If you would like to know more about this talk, and all following events, head over to our social media pages for more recaps about the discussions! 

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