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Call for a thorough investigation into the assassination of three Kurdish women activists in Paris


Kurdish National Congress of North America (KNC-NA):

Call for a thorough investigation into the assassination of three Kurdish women activists in Paris

January 11, 2013

Los Angeles, CA – As members of the Kurdish National Congress of North America (KNC-NA) and the Kurdish Americans of southern California, we will hold a peaceful demonstration in protest to the recent political killing of three Kurdish women activists in Paris.

This protest will start on Monday, January 14, 2013 between the hours of 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM in front of Consulate General of France in 10390 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA

3kurdish_women.jpgOn the evening of January 9, 2013, three Kurdish woman activists were shot in the head in execution-style in the office of the Kurdish Information Centre in Paris.

One of them, Sakine Cansız, was a founding member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and a key organizer of Kurdish women’s struggles. Fidan Doğan was a successful Kurdish diplomat and Paris representative of the Brussels-based Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) and Leyla Söylemez was a young woman involving in Kurdish youth activism in Europe. During his visit to the crime scene, the French Interior Minister said that the deaths were “without a doubt an execution.” He called it a “totally intolerable act.”

There have been negotiations peace talks between Mr. Abdullah Öcalan, the PKK’s leader who has been imprisoned in the Imrali Island since 1999 and the Turkish authorities toward peace- building.

Many Kurds and analysts view the murders of such magnitude as an attempt to derail peace negotiations. Peace dialogues between the PKK and the Turkish authorities are already fragile. If these murders remain unresolved, peace-building will be an all the more difficult task.

As Kurdish National Congress of North America (KNC-NA), we fully condemn these inhumane and cowardly murders. We demand the French authorities to do a full investigation and bring those responsible to justice as soon as possible.

Kurdish National Congress of North America

P.O.Box 50216, Irvine, CA 92619,

For Immediate Release Contact:

Luqman Barwari (805) 402-6440


Mr. Azad Moradian’s speech on the KNCNA 22nd Annual Conference, Kurdish National Congress of North America: Strategy and Tactic for a new era

Mr. Azad Moradian’s speech on the KNCNA 22nd Annual Conference,

San Diego State University,California

Azad Moradian Speech: Kurdish National Congress of North America: Strategy and Tactic for a new era

June 2010:

Kurdish National Congress of North America: Strategy and Tactic for a new era

Dear President of KNC-NA,
Distinguished guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

Thank you for attending KNCNA’s 22nd annual conference. I congratulate the board of advisers, board of directors, members, and the supporters of the KNCNA on the 22nd anniversary of excellent work for the promotion of the Kurdish issues in the North America. I hope that the 22nd conference will be able to successfully reach its goals as it has always done. Every year we gather to reflect on our progress thus far, bring awareness to current issues pertaining to Kurds and Kurdistan, and outline how to move forward.

In the short time that I have with you today I want to take a look at two very important aspects of any organization: strategy and tactic.

Strategy is defined as the overall campaign plan or goal of an institution. This is often confused with tactic.

When KNC-NA was established by a group of distinguished intellectuals following the 1988 chemical bombings of Halabja and the subsequent massacre of the Kurds in Northern Iraq, they agreed to mobilize under the slogan of a United Kurdistan. They were catalyzed by genocide and remained primarily focused on this region for the next decade or so. Some of the objectives of KNC as quoted directly from our website were: “Unite Kurds living in North America to work for common goals, to promote the idea of a United Free Kurdistan, and to strengthen the voice of all Kurds living in the USA and Canada.”

As with all strategy, this overall goal involves complex operational patterns, activity, and decision-making that lead to tactical execution. Tactics are then defined as the actual means used to gain the objective or strategies previously decided on.

Although the founders of KNC-NA envisioned an organization, which pays equal tribute to all Kurds regardless of geographic location, it seems that throughout the years, the primary focus of this establishment has been Iraqi Kurdistan.

This has perhaps been due to the makeup of KNC’s leadership, the historical events at the moment, and the geopolitical importance of Iraqi Kurdistan during the 1990’s and then during the US led war in Iraq.

Azad Moradian Speech: Kurdish National Congress of North America: Strategy and Tactic for a new eraThe tactics that KNC has used to promote the Kurdish agenda has been to be a voice for the victims of Halabja and Anfal, as well as strengthen ties between Kurds in diaspora and the governments in our host countries. This can be seen as strategically wise for KNC because this organization was able to work on the issues most historically urgent for Kurds as well as most newsworthy.

The leaders and founders were able to establish themselves as an authority on current events regarding Kurds and political movements in the region and have been consulted by various agencies.

Another reason why KNC might not have been able to focus on other parts of Kurdistan might have been lack of expertise. This is understandable considering our sheer numbers in North America. We are a very small minority here and have yet to establish a truly educated and organized community. We must be realistic on our outlook. With a population of 300 million in the United States alone and a vast landscape stretching from coast to coast, 20,000 Kurds will have a very difficult time coming together and bringing their talents to form a well-rounded minority group.

This country is also made up of many diverse minority populations, all with their own demands. In order for Kurds in diaspora to be recognized as a minority with a unique history and specific needs, much more must be done. KNCNA can play a very crucial role in this. However, in order to do this our tactics must be current. Our strategy will always be focused on what our founders had in mind but tactics and alliances might need to be reconsidered and then executed.

I believe KNC has an even bigger role to play. The events taking place in the Middle East today will have a direct impact on Kurds, not only in the region, but also on those of us living in diaspora.

The potential to make an impact on policies and lives of Kurds are enormous. All of this has to be done with a fresh outlook.

We cannot continue to use the same tactics we have used in past to move towards our strategy of serving all Kurds. Today Kurds in Turkey, Syria and Iran face serious threats and need the attention of the international community more than ever. Just as in the 1990’s when KNC brought the western communities’ attention to Iraqi Kurdistan;

We now have the potential to zoom in on these regions. We must have the right leadership with such vision, as well as the right connections. We cannot have biased opinions about working with opposition groups or other ethnic minorities in the region, and must redefine what it means to live as a Free Kurd in place like Iran or Turkey.

With all smart goals and strategic planning, an organization must move with the times. It is important for our organization to look at our tactics and find more innovative ways to sail towards our strategy of a United Kurdistan.

Like any other successful organization, KNC needs to be able to self-evaluate and adapt to the new geopolitics of the Kurdish region. Any delay in the systematic reexamination of KNC’s tactics may cause an adjustment disorder similar to any system and phenomena. In fact, ignoring the new system of the region is like ignoring the needs of our people who are working in the grassroots level and can be costly.

Turkey moves towards cultural freedom, while Iraq is moving towards federalism. Although the situation is Iran been bleaker the overall consensus is that the focus should be on Human Rights of Kurds first and foremost. In Syria, the recognition of Kurds as a citizen is one of the most significant issues today. None of these means a derailment from a Free United Kurdistan. Rather these are tactics and diplomatic maneuvering.

During the years after the fall of the Soviet Union, borders were carved up and nations were formed; however, today the international community is not interested in nationalism and state formation, but rather in democratization and standardization of rights. Any deviation from this agenda comes of as extremism.

kncna_22nd_azad.jpgUnfortunately, in a brief analysis of KNCNA’s work in the past few years, one can see a strong indication of reluctance within the leadership to change tactics. There has been a major sense of resistance to move with the times. KNCNA has been unable to differentiate between the overall strategy of holding on to the slogan and dream of a Free Kurdistan and the need to realistically measure the challenges faced by Kurds under each regime in the region

The danger of not reevaluating our tactics is a continuous isolation of the Kurds in diaspora and subsequently less attention and solidarity from the International community to our cause. Our very small presence in the Armenian Genocide Remembrance day is a perfect example of a tactical mistake on our part. A lack of connection with Greek communities and their lobbies is yet another mistake because they could be extraordinarily important especially when issues of Turkey’s human right abuses are brought up.

If we believe that a Free Kurdistan is not compatible with working with non-Kurdish opposition groups in the Middle East who are fighting and struggling with the same regimes in the region, then we will have a much more difficult battle.

Often pro-democracy opposition fronts of all ethnic groups have the same common goals as Kurds, and we need to build strategic alliances. In order to do this we have to have a presence during critical historical events.

For example, the last 12 months could have been a fantastic opportunity to direct the attention of the International community to the plight of the Kurds in Iran. This opportunity was missed. Unimaginable events swept Iran, which took the international community by surprise. It demanded solidarity from the Kurdish Community in diaspora precisely because Kurds in Iran have suffered the most from the regime in Iran and will need the support of other ethnic groups in Iran in the coming months. Our Kurdish community has been almost entirely absent because they have considered the movements in Iran inconsequential and irrelevant to a Free Kurdistan. This type of mentality is not compatible with 21st century politics and needs to be updated.

knc_039.jpgAs Kurds we have to be honest with ourselves and look at our history critically and analytically. We have been one of the biggest losers of history. Yes, we have been betrayed by world powers in the past and continue to struggle with challenges to be recognized. Yes we lack adequate resources to educate our youth and keep them from being executed. Yes, we have been under oppression and have faced genocide, war, and ethnic cleansing. However, we cannot ignore the very fact that we have also often lacked strong compassionate leadership. We have often lacked the right strategy and tactic. We have done too little too late. We have often been silent when we should have shouted, or not acted when we should have been up in arms. Many times when we should have been at the negotiating tables we were too busy fighting amongst ourselves for power and position. Many times we just simply did not understand the systematic geopolitical, economic, social, and cultural aspects of the times we lived in.

If we do not learn from our history then we are bound to repeat them. The prices of losing opportunities are irreversible. As someone who comes from a family of martyr, who has lost many close relatives to the Kurdish plight, as someone who has spent many long months in prison and many long days in the mountains as well as a refugee, I understand first hand what it means to be a Kurd without a land. I also understand that shouting slogans will not save children from execution. We need diplomacy and strategy, lobbies and resources, leaders and funding, as well as dedication and compassion. Yes we can move KNCNA towards a more pragmatic and mature tactical road-map.

Thank you

Azad Moradian, Chaeir of Kurdish American Committee for Democracy and Human Rights in Iran.


KNCNA; Iran: The Last Executioner of Children and Women in the Modern World

Iran: The Last Executioner of Children and Women in the Modern World 


News from the KNC Public Relations Committee

Contact: Mrs. Soraya Fallah


Iran: The Last Executioner of Children and Women in the Modern World

California. June 28, 2008. The Iranian Islamic authorities, soon after they tightened their grip on the country in 1979, following the overthrow of the Shah’s tyrannical establishment, have been suppressing every basic human, religious, and ethnic right in Iran.

This, in essence, is a grave violation of every democratic principle. Months after they established their religious sectarian rule, and on an order from Khomeini, the Iranian authorities sent their forces to Kurdistan-Iran in order, as they put it, to wipe out the “foreign agents.” They declared a so-called “Jihad” against the Kurdish people. Their jihad did not even spare pregnant women and children sleeping in their cradles.

After regaining control over Kurdistan, instead of working to bring tranquility to the people and show concern for their welfare, the Iranian regime continued the same policies of its predecessor, the Shah’s despotic regime. The Iranian regime maintained the policy of persecuting Kurdish human rights advocates and freedom seekers. In 1989, Iranian regime used the negotiation tactics to trap the Secretary General of Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), Dr. Abdurrahman Qasmlu along with two of KDPI leadership members in Vienne, and murdered them while they were negotiating terms to find a peaceful solution to the Kurdish national demands within a democratic Iran. They were slain while sitting at the negotiation table. This pattern of suppression and murder was repeated in 1992 in Berlin when Qasmlu’s successor, Abdurrahman Sharafkandi along with several of his supporters were murdered after returning from a peace conference. Dozens of other Iranian Kurdish democratic and human rights activists who had fled to Kurdistan-Iraq to escape a certain death were murdered by Iranian co-conspirators and agents who followed them to Iraq and executed them.

According to the Amnesty International’s recent report (2008), Iran is the only country in the world that still executes children and child offenders (those accused of committing an offense when they were under 18 years of age). In the past decade, the Iranian regime sentenced 177 child offenders to death, of which 34 executions have already taken place. Their ages ranged from 12 to 17 years. The remaining 114 await execution. Today, Iran accounts for 73% of all juvenile executions worldwide.

The theocratic state has also launched a campaign of suppression against women and women’s
organizations who are advocating for human rights for women. Iranian women’s groups have
been peaceably assembling and using democratic means to try to make the regime to grant them more freedom. Their civic movement has proved to be effective to promote the idea of social justice where all citizens are considered equal before the law regardless of their gender, religion/sect, or ethnicity. As a result, these organizations and their leaders have met with harsh repression in a recent crackdown.

Amongst these women’s rights activists are two Kurdish women’s rights advocates, Ms. Hana Abdi and Ronak Safarzadeh, both age 21. They had been in prison in the Kurdish city of Sina (Sanadaj), since their arrest on September 25 and October 23, 2007 respectively. The crimes, of
which they are charged include being active in the Azarmehr Association of the Women of Kurdistan, a group that promotes women’s status through capacity-building workshops and sports activities for women in Sina and elsewhere in Kurdistan-Iran; and volunteering with the
One Million Signatures Campaign for Equality.

Iran has used propaganda to stigmatize advocates of human rights and democratic principles as
enemies of Islam and nation, and labels them as “munafiqeen,” or “foreign agents,” By characterizing those who disagree with their political and religious agendas as munafiqeen’s or
enemies of Islam, the Iranian theocracy have created a climate in which they believe it is righteous for them to murder those whom they suspect of being in violation with their way of thinking. By using the epithet of ‘anti-Islam’ against innocent people or accusing people of “endangering the national security” without providing undeniable proof of such claims, the Iranian regime has itself become “extremist’ through acts such as murdering children and public “stoning” of women.

The irresponsible behavior of the Iranian Mullahs has begun to destabilize the entire Middle East. By justifying their intolerance under the banner of “Islam” they have been promoting terrorist groups affiliated with its ideology and succeeded in demonizing the image of Islam to the larger world community. Further, their ambitions to help bring about the downfall of a sovereign nation and their ambition to obtain nuclear weapons have brought Iran into serious confrontations with the world. This sort of brinksmanship can only bring calamity to Iranian people.

We call upon the leaders of Iran to stop promoting terrorist groups , relinquish its extremist rhetoric and actions and rejoin the world community as a modern functioning state. Internally, we hope it will continue to provide better economic opportunities for its citizens to achieve a decent living standard, and to protect its citizens’ human, democratic, and cultural rights. Political prisoners, including Ms. Abdi and Ms. Safarzadeh must be released or given a fair trial according to the rule of law and not narrow religious interpretations. Iran must treat all ethnic groups equally and allow them to exercise their indigenous culture. At the external level, it must work diligently to regain its international reputation as a functioning member of the world community by stop supporting terrorists. It needs to respect the international norms and protect human rights. It needs to work genuinely to normalize its relationships with the world in order to be allowed to take its place back in the family of nations. Iran cannot have a healthy relationship with the world if it continues to adhere to its current policies. It can no longer justify its cruelty toward women and children by using its narrow religious interpretations. These policies would only guarantee its eventual downfall.

Date published: Tuesday, July 01, 2008


In Memory of the Kurdish Patriot Ms Soraya Serajeddini (Nakshbandi)

In Memory of the Kurdish Patriot Ms Soraya Serajeddini (Nakshbandi)

Professor Asad Khailany,

Founder Kurdish National Congress of North America (KNC)

Patriot Ms Soraya Serajeddini (Nakshbandi)

In the USA Senate building addressing the conference


On July 24, 2006 in the city of Millersville in the state of Maryland, USA, the Executive Vice President of the Kurdish National Congress of North America (KNC), and the chairperson of the Committee on Democracy and Freedom for All Iranians and Kurdish Human & National Rights died suddenly.  Soraya Serajeddini (Nakshbandi) had a severe asthma attack and passed away within minutes.  Soraya’s dedication, determination, hard work, and commitment to human rights, women’s rights, minority rights, Kurdish National Rights, democracy, and freedom for all was unparalleled.  Soraya was a visionary and worked tirelessly to promote democracy and freedom in general and Kurdish human and national rights in particular. She strongly believed in a united free Kurdistan. When she suggested to me in the 17th National KNC conference on March 25-26, 2005 in Nashville, Tennessee USA to chair a conference in southern Kurdistan on Independent Kurdistan on November 9-13, 2005 I accepted and asked her to be the vice chair of the conference and she accepted. Her energy and dedication contributed significantly to the success of the conference and we were very proud of her achievement. During that conference it was decided to direct more efforts to promote democracy, freedom for all and Kurdish national and human rights in other parts of Kurdistan, specifically western and eastern Kurdistan.  Starting January 2006 she chaired the newly created committee on “Democracy and Freedom for All Iranians and Kurdish Human & National Rights”.  Through her dedication and efforts it was possible to hold the first conference on Democracy and Freedom for All Iranians, and Kurdish Human & National Rights in the US Senate building. She chaired the conference, which was attended by the Kurdish leaders from Iran and the representatives of all other minorities in Iran. Soraya also contributed significantly to the success of the conference on Democracy & Freedom in Syria & Syrian Kurdish Human and National Rights which was held  March 13, 2006 in the US Senate building and was chaired by Dr. Sherko Abbas.   Soraya, and her husband Tom have dedicated their lives to promote democracy and freedom and Kurdish human & national rights.  In recognition of their efforts both Soraya and Tom were elected to the board of directors of KNC and they received the highest number of votes in the election held during the 18th KNC National Conference on March 17-19, 2006 in Washington D.C.  On June 23rd 2006 we had meetings in the US Senate, Congress and the State Department.  Soraya flew all night from California to get to the meetings on time. She was very tired but I remember how well she performed.  I introduced her by saying “Here is our capable, and knowledgeable KNC Executive Vice President, and the Chairperson of the committee to promote democracy, freedom and Kurdish human and national rights in Iran”.  She spoke so wonderfully and elegantly which left a great impression on all in attendance.  The departure of Soraya is not only a great loss to her family, KNC, and the Kurdish people but also for all peace loving people, and all those seeking equal rights for women, and justice, democracy, human rights, and national rights for all.

At the time of the incident her beloved children,  Aveen Ver Ploeg age 12, and Daryan Ver Ploeg age 10 were in California with her beloved husband Thomas Ver Ploeg, the Secretary, and member of the executive board of directors of the Kurdish National Congress of North America (KNC). The only person present at the time of the tragedy was her sister, Shawnem Serajeddini (Nakshbandi), who was visiting from Eastern Kurdistan.

Soraya was born 1960 in Tehran, Iran to her parents Abed Serajeddini, and Zayneb Setoodeh.  Soraya was a member of the well-respected family of the Tariqat Nakshbandi Sheikhs of Taweele and Biare in Kurdistan.  Soraya and her family escaped Iran in 1980, and went to southern Kurdistan lived for two years in Suleymani and Baghdad. In 1982 Soraya came to the US, first attended San Francisco State University, then transferred to Northeastern University in Boston in 1984 and graduated in 1987 with a BS degree in Electrical Engineering.   In the same year Soraya and Thomas Ver Ploeg were married.  Later they moved to California and joined KNC, and were instrumental in organizing activities within the Kurdish community there and making Kurdish issues known to the American people.  In 2004 the family moved to Washington, DC so that they could devote even more time to Kurdish issues.  KNC has lost a very dedicated and committed leader. I had the privilege to work with her, and her talent, leadership and commitment always impressed me.

PRESS RELEASE ؛ Champion of Kurdish democratic movement Soraya Serajeddini passed away

The Kurdish National Congress of North America

P.O. Box 1663, Lake Forest, CA 92630 USA Tel/Fax: 949-583-1417
1975 St. Laurent Blvd Ottawa, ON K1G3S7, CANADA Tel 613-216-1427
P.O. Box 545 Millersville, MD 21108 USA Tel: 408-834-5557


Champion of Kurdish democratic movement Soraya Serajeddini passed away
It is with deep sorrow to announce that KNC-NA, in particular, and the Kurdish democratic movement, in general, have lost one of their most significant pillars, Soraya Serajeddini. Soraya was a champion in Kurdish democratic movement, a human rights activist, an advocate of gender equality, the vice president of Kurdish National Congress of North America, and the director of Kurdish American Committee for Democracy in Iran.
She passed away on early Morning of July 24th 2006 possibly due to complications of an asthma attack. Soraya is survived by her husband Tom Ver Ploeg, and her two sons, Aveen and Daryan. Location and details for her honoring ceremony will be announced later.
Kurdish National Congress of North America

18th Annual KNC Conference: Kurdish Quest for Independence and Prospects for Statehood

18th Annual KNC Conference March 17-19, 2006 – Gaithersburg (North Washington DC)

Kurdish Quest for Independence and Prospects for Statehood

The Kurdish National Congress of North America concluded its 18th annual conference on Sunday March 19th. The focus of this year’s conference was to encourage in-depth discussions on all four parts of Kurdistan and to bring political leaders, intellectuals and independent activists from East, West, North and South together. As in the past 17 years, the 18th Annual Conference got under way with the raising of the Kurdish flag. Dr. Wafa Khorsheed welcomed the attendees on Friday by briefly mentioning the last year’s achievements and encouraged everyone to fully participate in the three day events.

Mr. Shwan Karim, KNC board member and chair of the Youth Committee introduced the first panel by listing some of the activities of The Kurdish American Youth Organization (KAYO), a KNC affiliate, and pointed out the
importance of youth in the future of our nation. Subjects ranged from runaway youth and honor killings to interracial and arranged marriages. Panel members included Ms. Aryan Akrayi, Ms. Sheinei Saleem, Mr. Nezar Ahmed Tovi, Mr. Ara Alan and Mr. Butan Amedi. Much emphasis was given to young Kurdish women’s rights and the value of communication between parents and their children who have been raised outside Kurdistan. Goran Sadjadi, the president of KAYO also spoke of the organization’s web site and the services they provide including a place for youth to publish their own articles and opinions.

Several guest speakers followed with a diverse set of topics. Dr. Jaques Wilson of Kurdish Human Rights Watch (KHRW) listed many projects in Southern Kurdistan that are in process and answered questions on status and focus of these projects. Dr. Kamal Artin highlighted the importance of unity to achieve independence, which has been described by some leaders as wishful thinking. He argued wishful thinking of other oppressed nations as well as noble ideas of anti slavery movement, woman’s rights activists, and many others who have made an improvement in people’s lives have come true. He differentiated between ideas and behaviors that serve humanity and those that are against it. He concluded that Kurdish dream of independence is just a matter of time and achievable with unity among Kurds and support from international community, since it is a noble and humanistic idea or “wishful thinking”. Dr. Kirmanj Gundi focused his talk on Northern Kurdistan and mentioned the legacy and birth of the Turkish state that resulted in banning of Kurdish culture as well as denial of its existence and attempts to obliterate the Kurdish identity. He followed by saying that: “In the 1980s, our people saw another terminology added to describe their identity, the so-called Good Kurds, Bad Kurds”. He followed by discussing the role of the United States’ government, for coining the term “Good Kurds” for the Kurds in Iraq, who assisted the U.S. in its war to remove Saddam Hussein’s regime. And that: “The term “Bad Kurds” the U.S. has graciously applied to describe our brethren in Turkey”. Mr. Bakhtyar Zuhdi, stressed that Kurdish independence can only be secured by economic independency. He reminded us that, our rural areas should be revitalized and become more productive and that our light industries need to grow to a level of providing sustainability in case economic blockade is imposed on an independent Kurdistan. He believes that we are a long time away from economic independency in Southern Kurdistan.

Chairman of the 18th Annual KNC Conference, Mr. Thomas Ver Ploeg opened the Saturday sessions by welcoming attendees and guests and touching on the current events of Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western Kurdistan. He stated that these are times of great change and that this has been said for the past 18 years which is testament to rapidly changing political climate in the Middle East. He also repeated the emphasis of this year’s conference on different parts of Kurdistan and encouraged all attendees to engage in discussions that were planned specific to each occupied region as well as the free region in Southern Kurdistan.

Sherkoh Abbas of the Kurdish American Committee for Democracy in Syria chaired a panel on Western Kurdistan and gave a report on the formation of the Kurdish Front for Promoting Democracy & Freedom in Syria. He followed by reading the 13 points issued by the participating political parties of the Washington Conference held the previous week. The panel consisted of political party representatives and independent Kurdish leaders such as Mr. Mobarak Al-Khaznawiand and Mr. Abdel Baqi Yousif from Yeketi. Panel members discussed their desire for regime change in Syria to a democratic one that would recognize a federal Kurdish state. Kurdish parties are taking a leadership role in creating a formidable opposition to the Baath Party instead of following behind their Arab counterparts. Also, the newly released report from Refugee International, “Buried Alive” about the stateless people of Western Kurdistan was mentioned several times and praised.

The panel on Eastern Kurdistan was diverse and included five representatives from Kurdish political parties. Ms. Soraya Serajeddini introduced the topic by recounting the victimization of Kurds in Iran and the need for Kurds to take a leadership role in the Middle East. She stressed that while we should not allow the world to forget the atrocities committed against Kurds, it is time now to act as leaders and not victims. Panelists discussed their desire and accomplishments towards forming a political front in Eastern Kurdistan. Mr. Hamid Bahrami of Komala Party stressed the need to stop the Iranian nuclear program and gave reasons why this move by the current regime in Iran is destabilizing the world and the Kurds’ responsibility at this junction in time. Mr. Shamsi of Komala articulated the long history of Kurdish national struggle and its unique characteristics in relation to other ethnic groups in Iran. He recounted his party’s role in promoting civil groups in Iran struggling to achieve a better life and tied it to the national struggle of Kurds and their resistance movement. During the question and answer session, Dr. Morteza Esfandiari of KDPI stressed that his party included many Shiaat Kurds such as himself. He also stressed the need for the Kurdish opposition to work closely with other ethnic groups in Iran. Aref Bawajani of the newly formed Party Serbasti pointed out the failed attempts at federalism and limited self determination for Kurdistan and presented his views of independence for Eastern Kurdistan from Iran as the only viable option. Zagros Yazdanpanah, North American representative of the Revolution Union of Kurdistan followed by mentioning that his party believes in an independent Kurdistan but will work within the platform of a Federal Democratic Iran for the time being.

KNC paid a special tribute to Professor Dr.Ahmad Ali Uthman delivered by his long time friend, colleague, and KNC past-president Dr. Hikmat Fikrat. Professor Uthman passed away on December 14, 2005 leaving a great void in the heart of all his friends and associates who had the pleasure of knowing him. Dr. Uthman was a professor of Oral Surgery and Oral Medicine at New York State University in Buffalo and a past Dean of the Dental College of the University of Baghdad. He was a true Kurdish patriot. He had a real passion for the causes of his beloved people and that of the subjugated Kurdish nation at large. Ahmad Uthman was one of the founding members of KNC and a past executive vice president and general secretary of the organization as well as a founder and past president of the Kurdish-American Medical Association (KAMA). As KNC members said their final farewell to him, they vowed to keep his legacy alive and follow his footsteps in the service of their nation. (A full text of the memorial address in addition to photos of Dr. Uthman can be found on the KNC website). A letter from Dr. Uthman’s family thanking KNC for the special tribute was read to the audience.

Dr. Saman Shali, KNC president, addressed the attendees describing the past year as one filled with optimism as well as frustrations. He noted that the call for independence has increased in the region and for the first time in our history, an opportunity has opened up to demand that our right to self-determination be respected. He added that Kurds have worked very hard to implement the process of democratization in Iraq and have participated actively in all the elections and have become the glue to hold Iraq together. In conclusion he called on the international community to recognize the rights of the Kurdish people equally in all parts of Kurdistan, and to stop labeling the Kurds as “Bad Kurds and Good Kurds”. He also urged the international community and organizations to conduct a national referendum throughout Kurdistan, asking the Kurdish people for once what they want and to stop the policy of making decisions for them behind doors.

Dr. Asad Khailany opened the discussion on Northern Kurdistan by pointing out major changes in the U.S foreign policy. He continued that while in the past decades, the U.S was willing to work with dictatorships and sacrifice democracy for stability the current line of thinking is shifting towards achieving stability through the promotion of democratic governments. Mr. Christopher Hitchens, the renowned journalist and political analyst spoke of the U.S government’s realization that Kurds are an ally once the Turks denied US forces of using their bases to launch an attack on Saddam’s regime. Mr. Brusk Reshvan stressed the necessity of forming a unified front for representing all political parties and personalities in Northern Kurdistan and the creation of concrete solution proposals for the Kurdish question so that everyone would know what Kurds want. Ara Alan of KAYO stated the need for dialogue between the US and the European Union and the Kurdish parties in Turkey. The panelists further expressed their skepticism about EU’s role and motivation re-iterating that EU is mainly interested in keeping the Kurdish problem away from its borders. It has not announced any solution proposals to the Kurdish question so far and is unlikely to do so in the future. The Kurdish question for the EU is a sub-topic under the Copenhagen Criteria. On the solution to the Kurdish question in the North, the U.S can play a more effective role; the southern experiment is unfolding currently and it is highly expected that both in West and East the U.S might be a great factor. They also mentioned the need for the Kurdish parties of the North to have a clear Kurdish message and not to continue their failed strategy of trying to be pluralistic democracy parties with diluted programs. Mr. Jeff Klein of concluded the panel by recounting the positive effects of Turkey’s bid to join the European Union and recounted his experiences before and after the reforms in Amed. He told the audience that the towns and villages and the people are expressing their identity more freely and while Turkey’s EU membership is not be the whole answer, it has helped the struggle in Northern Kurdistan.

Dr. Najmaldin Karim introduced the panel on Southern Kurdistan, mentioning the achievements as well as disappointments of the last few years. He mentioned the lost opportunity of adding Kirkuk to the Kurdish controlled region and declaration of independence in 2003. Dr. Liam Anderson, an expert on constitution documents opened his talk by listing some of the shortfalls of the draft Iraqi constitution. He expressed reservations that the process for a democratic constitution would succeed in Iraq and even if it did, whether the spirit to implement a democratic constitution exists in Iraq. Christopher Hitchens participated in this panel as well and re-iterated that the relationship between Kurds and the United States and the West in general has changed forever because of the war in Iraq. Qubad Talabani, PUK representative in Washington DC, mentioned accomplishments and much work ahead for the KRG. He explained that while independence is ideal, we need to build our infrastructure such as a bank. During the question and answer session, Mr. Talabani appealed to the Kurdish American community to become more active and to lobby their government on behalf of Kurdistan. He also denounced the burning of the Halabja monument which was the overwhelming opinion of the conference attendees.

Later on Saturday evening, KNC honored Dr. Najmaldin Karim, co-founder and past president of KNC and current president of the Washington Kurdish Institute with its annual “Lifetime Achievement Award”. Dr. Karim’s contributions to the Kurdish struggle were chronicled in a slide show prior to the banquet and included his tremendous effect in promoting the Kurdish plight both in the United States and in Kurdistan. The award ceremony continued with presenting the first KNC “Kurdish Artist Appreciation” award to Zuhdi Sardar, a longtime KNC member and supporter. Mr. Sardar has promoted the Kurdish cause through his art for decades and is a well-known painter and sculpture in the United States and the world.

Mr. Nijyar Shemdin, the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) representative in North America and the UN, addressed the conference on Sunday with a message of support from Nechirvan Barzani, Prime Minister of Kurdistan. Mr. Shemdin stated that the Prime Minister wishes success for the conference and appreciates what KNC is doing for Kurds and Kurdistan. He also relayed to the members the great efforts of the Kurdistan Regional Government in trying to keep Kurdistan safe and prosperous by way of fighting the spirits of evil who do not want a secure and safe Kurdistan. He followed by saying that the Prime Minister asks all international organizations including KNC to support the KRG in this effort.

The KNC 18th annual conference concluded with the election of the Board of Directors and a committee to review the organization’s bylaw. The newly elected KNC Board then met and selected the KNC Executive Committee.
Results from the elections are as follows:

Dr. Saman Shali President
Ms. Soraya Serajeddini Vice President
Mr. Buland Baban Treasurer
Mr. Tom Ver Ploeg Secretary
Dr. Wafa Korsheed Board Member
Dr. Kamal Artin Board Member
Mr. Shwan Karim Board Member
Miss Lana Salih Board Member
Mr. Brusk Reshvan Board Member

The conference ended with calls and recommendations to the International community and the Kurdish leaderships:

1. Call for Unity among Kurdish organizations and parties for the creation of a common strategy and National

2. The conference attendees emphasized the new realities and opportunities in Western and Eastern Kurdistan
for gaining Kurdish right to self-determinations

3. The importance of Turkey to be a part of the European Union while recognizing the cosmetic nature of many
of the reforms implemented up to this point. Conference attendees call on the European Union to accept
Turkey to the union only when real democratization takes place in Turkey.

4. The Kurd in Southern Kurdistan facing challenges starting with the new constitution to the possibility of the
civil war. The conference called on the Kurdish parliament to be prepared for establishing a Kurdish state
and to lobby for support of the US, UN and other allies especially if civil war breaks out. No one can blame
the Kurds of breaking away from Iraq because the Kurds did everything in their power to keep Iraq together.

5. Speed up the re-unification of the two Kurdish Regional Governments in Southern Kurdistan.

6. Call on UN to conduct a national referendum in Southern Kurdistan.

7. KNC must aggressively lobby the U.S State Department, the Senate, and the Congress to change its policy
with regards to the Kurdish issue and equally promote democracy and Kurdish rights in all parts of the
Middle and Near East including the occupying governments of Iran, Syria and Turkey.

Public Relations & Media Contact: Soraya Serajeddini (408) 834-5557

The Kurdish National Congress of North America
P.O. Box 1663, P.O. Box 43098, P.O. Box 545
Lake Forest, CA 92630 Mississauga, ONT Millersville, MD 21108
Tel/Fax: 949-583-1417 Tel 905-306-7300 Tel: 408-834-5557

KNCNA 17th Annual Conference:Kurdish Independence, Democracy and Regional Stability

Kurdish National Congress of North America

17th Annual Conference

Kurdish Independence, Democracy and Regional Stability

March 25-26, 2005 • The Millennium Maxwell House Hotel • Clay St. • Nashville, TN


Friday, March 25


noon    – 12:50 p.m.


12:50   – 1:10 p.m.


Mr. Buland Baban, Session Chair

Flag Raising Ceremony

Singing of the Kurdish National Anthem: Ay Raqib

Opening Remarks, Treasurers Report

1:10     – 2:30 p.m.

PANEL: Kurdish Organizations in Nashville

Mrs. Soraya Serajeddini, Session Chair

Mr. Saeed Chalky,            Kurdish Human Rights Watch

Mr. Mohammed Ibrahim,  Kurdistan Culture Institute

Mr. Tahir Hussain,           Nashville Kurdish Forum

Mr. Nabaz M. Khoshnaw, The Iraqi House of Nashville

Mr. Muhammed Kokoy,    Salahadeen Center of Nashville

2:30     – 2:45 p.m.

Guest Speaker

Dr. Kamal Artin, KAES President

A Psychiatric View on Individual vs. Society and The Role of Kurdish National Congress

2:45     – 3:30 p.m.

PANEL: Kurdish Youth

Mr. Shwan Karim, Session Chair

Mr. Goran Sadjadi

Ms. Shiluva Yassin

3:30     – 3:45 p.m.

Coffee Break


3:45     – 4:00 p.m.

4:00     – 4:05 p.m.

Guest Speakers

Dr. Kirmanj Gundi – Promoting Kurdish Diplomacy

Mr. Tahseen Atroshi, President of Kurdish Community Center, San Diego

4:05     – 5:35 p.m.

KNC Affairs / Open Session

Q&A Panel – KNC Board of Directors

5:30     – 7:30 p.m.

No Events Scheduled

7:30     – 9:00 p.m.

Kurdish Film: “Jiyan”

Presented by Kurdish American Youth

Saturday, March 26

8:00     – 9:00 a.m.


9:00     – 9:10 a.m.

Welcome and Opening Remarks

Dr. Wafa Khorsheed, KNC Vice President

9:10     – 9:20 a.m.

Guest Speaker

Dr. Najmaldin Karim, WKI President

9:10     – 10:15 a.m.

Guest Speakers

Dr. Shafiq Qazzaz, KRG Minister of Humanitarian Affairs

Mr. Qubad Talabany, KRG, PUK US Rep.

Mr. Khalid Azizi, KDPI

Mr. Mehdi Zana, Former Mayor of Diyarbakir

10:15   – 10:25 a.m.

Guest Speaker

The Honorable Representative Jim Cooper, U.S. Congressman, 5th District of Tennessee

10:45   – 11:00 a.m.

Coffee Break

10:25   – 10:45 a.m.

Presidential Address

Dr. Saman Shali, KNC President

11:00   – 12:30 p.m.

PANEL: Independence and Regional Stability

            Dr. Najmaldin Karim, Session Chair

Mr. Qubad Talabany, KRG, PUK US Representative

Dr. Michael Gunter, Prof of Political Science, Tennessee Tech Univ.

Mr. Mahdi Zana, Former Mayor of Diyarbakir

12:30   – 2:00 p.m.

Lunch Break

2:00     – 3:30 p.m.

PANEL: From Federalism to Independence

            Dr. Hikmat Fikrat, Session Chair

Dr. Shafiq Qazzaz, KRG Minister of Humanitarian Affairs

Dr. Asad Khailany, KNC Past President\

Mr. Jeff Klein, Senior Editor,

Dr. Fouad Darweesh, KNC Past President

3:30     – 4:00 p.m.

Coffee Break

4:00     – 5:30 p.m.

PANEL: Independence and Democracy

            Dr. Saman Shali, Session Chair

Dr. Munther Al-Fadul, Professor of Law –  Kurdistan, member Iraqi National Assembly

Mr. Khalid Azizi, KDPI

Mr. Falah M. Bakir, KRG, KDP

Please join us at 7:30PM for the Newroz Banquet and Awards Presentation

Reservations are required.


Speaker Biographies: (Alphabetical)



Kamal Artin

Dr. Kamal Artin is a Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Southern California, a practicing psychiatrist, a member of Kurdish National Congress and the Kurdistan Referendum Movement, as well as president of Kurdish American Education Society.  He is a contributing writer to and  Dr. Artin was born in Born in Bayangan, a small Kurdish town in the Kermashan province in 1959.  He migrated to Europe and later the U.S. in the 1980s.  He has been an active Kurdish activist during his whole career including as a writer for an open forum of PDK-Iran in the 1990s, a contributing writer to the bulletin of the Kurdish cultural center in Zurich, and founder and moderator of Dangi Be Dangan, a biweekly informative and multilingual radio program in Zurich on Kurdish history and culture in 1990s.



Falah Bakir

Mr. Falah Bakir currently serves in the Kurdistan Regional Government as Minister without Portfolio at the Office of the Prime Minister and Liaison Officer to the Korean Troops in Iraqi Kurdistan.  He has held a number of positions with the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Kurdistan Democratic Party since 1991 including work in foreign relations, public relations, translation and interpretation, and management.  Mr. Bakir’s long list of positions within the Kurdish movement include Special Advisor to the Prime Minister and Liaison Officer to CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority) from 2003-2004, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation from 1999-2003, Chief of the KRG Special Committee for International Companies in Kurdistan from 1999-2003, Member of the Oil-for-food Program Committee from 1996-2003, and Chief Translator for President Massoud Barzani and Liaison to International and UN NGOs from 1992-present.  Mr. Bakir also writes and publishes articles in Kurdish, English, and Arabic as time permits.



Jim Cooper

Mr. Cooper is serving his second term as U.S. Representative for the 5th District, although his prior service in Congress gives him eight terms of experience. Jim represents approximately 700,000 people who live in Nashville and surrounding communities like Mt. Juliet, Lebanon, Ashland City, Pegram and Pleasant View.  His job is to cut through federal red tape for people here at home and to help pass good federal laws for the nation. Jim’s background is as a local businessman, attorney and teacher.  His main congressional office is in downtown Nashville at 706 Church Street, diagonally across the street from the new Public Library. In Washington, Jim serves on three different committees: the Armed Services Committee (including the Terrorism and Special Forces Subcommittee) and the Budget Committee.  Jim does not live in Washington; he goes to our nation’s capital for votes and committee meetings. He and his wife Martha and their three children live in Green Hills.



Fouad Darweesh

Dr. Fouad Darweesh is a former president of KNC, a practicing physician, and a Clinical Associate Professor at University of California at Irvine.  He is a member of multiple local and international human rights organizations and started his human rights activities at a young age by attending a Kurdish school in Baghdad during the 1950s when the Kurdish language was forbidden to be taught.  Dr. Darweesh practiced medicine in the Kurdish area of Baghdad, Bab sheikh, and in Kurdistan.  Later, he served in an Iraqi prison, Kasir al Nahaya, former King Palace and in Turkish torture-prisons for 274 days.with Kurdish leaders Famed Musa Anter, Senator Ziya Sharafhan Oglu, Yasar Kaya (Former President of Kurdistan Parliament in Exile), Said Elchi, Meded and 39 others.  Dr. Darweesh has lived In the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and the USA and is committed to working for Kurdish human rights, self determination and independence, and believes in non-violence, freedom, democracy, justice, and human rights for all humans with cooperation among all the nations in peace.




Munther Al-Fadul

Dr. Al-Fadul is an expert and professor of middle eastern law and currently serves as a member of the Iraqi National Assembly, 2005, and as an expert at the Defense of Democracy Organization.  He holds a Doctorate in Private Law from the University of Baghdad, 1979. He has been a faculty member of the College of Law at the University of Baghdad, at the University of Annaba- Algeria and at Judicial institute in Baghdad and Jordan.  From 1992 to 1993 he was Vice-dean of the College of Law at the University of Amman, Jordan, and from 1993 to 1997 head of the public and private law departments at the University of Al-Zaytoonah, Amman, Jordan. Since 1997-2004 Dr al-Fadu has been an international consultant in law based in Stockholm, Sweden.  He has been visiting professor of Middle Eastern law at the International College of Law in London, England, since 2001, where he supervises masters and doctoral student theses in Middle Eastern law. He has a law practice in Baghdad and Kurdistan. Dr. Al-Fadul is the author of many law books and articles published in Arabic, Swedish, Kurdish and English, and has participated in legal conferences all over the world.  As a member of the U.S. State Department working group on the future of Iraq, he participated in the drafting of an Iraqi Constitution and bill of Iraqi rights.  After he was able to return to Iraq in 2003, he consulted for the Iraqi Ministry of Justice / CPA and resumed his legal practice in Baghdad.  Since Sept  2004, where he has been a member of faculty at Central European and Eurasian law initiative   (American Bar association-CEELI) Prague – Czech Republic.  Since 14 October 2004 , he has served as an adviser to the Prime Minister’s office of the KRG.  Since November 2004, he has been a visiting professor at the college of law-University of Salah Alden –Kurdistan (High studies / Doctorate students).



Michael Gunter

Michael M. Gunter was born in 1943. He earned his Ph.D. in 1972 from Kent State University. He is a professor of political science at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, Tennessee and teaches during the summer at the International University in Vienna, Austria. He is the author of five critically praised scholarly books on the Kurdish question, the most recent being Kurdish Historical Dictionary, 2004; The Kurdish Predicament in Iraq: A Political Analysis, 1999; and The Kurds and the Future of Turkey, 1997. In addition, he is the co-editor (with Mohammed M. A. Ahmed) of The Kurdish Question and the 2003 Iraqi War, 2005. He has also published numerous scholarly articles on the Kurds in such leading periodicals as the Middle East Journal, Middle East Quarterly, and Orient, among others and was a former Senior Fulbright Lecturer in International Relations in Turkey. He has been interviewed about the Kurdish question on many occasions by the international and national press.



Kirmanj Gundi

Kirmanj Gundi has been in the United States since 1977. He was a 17-year old teenager when arrived at the States. In fall 1979, he took the GED and passed it. In spring 1980, he enrolled at Tennessee State University, and majored in computer science and minored in mathematics. He completed his undergraduate studies in summer 1985, and received the teacher certificate in 1987.  In fall 1992, he started teaching math and computer science at Hunters Lane Comprehensive High School in Nashville. In fall 2000, he took a full time position as an assistant professor at Tennessee State University, and has been teaching educational administration and leadership courses at the graduate level in the College of Education. He has published numerous scholarly articles at the national and international conferences on education, brain functions, psychology, technology, leadership … etc.


Najmaldin Karim

Dr. Najmaldin Karim is President of the Washington Kurdish Institute and a practicing neurosurgeon.  He was born and raised in Kirkuk where he finished his high school education before heading to Mosul Medical College where he completed medical school.  In 1971, Dr. Karim was elected to the leadership of the Kurdish Student Union.  A year later, in 1972, he joined the Peshmerga forces.  Dr. Karim arrived in the United States in the company of the late Kurdish leader, Mulla Mustafa Barzani as his personal physician and remained very active in Kurdish issues in the U.S.  He completed Neurosurgery training at George Washington University where he still serves as acting clinical professor.  Dr. Karim is a founding member of the Kurdish National Congress of North America and served as its President from 1991 to 1999.  He testified before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee in June of 1990 on Saddam Hussein’s atrocities in Kurdistan, including the Anfal campaign and use of chemical weapons; he has since testified before numerous U.S. Senate and House of Representative committees.  Dr. Karim is also the founder and President of the Washington Kurdish Institute and serves on the Board of Directors of the Kurdish Institute in Paris.  In 1992, Dr. Karim worked with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and State Department to establish the Voice of America’s Kurdish service.  Along with lecturing student bodies at many U.S. universities on Kurdish issues, Dr. Karim has been a guest on numerous television and radio programs and written Op-Ed pieces in the Washington Post and Washington Times.  Dr. Karim participated in the Vienna Conference which founded the INC and was elected to the General Assembly.  He later participated in the Iraqi opposition conference in London in December 2002 and was elected to the 65-member Follow up and Steering Committee.  He also participated in the Salahaddin meeting of the Follow up and Steering Committee of the Iraqi opposition in February 2003.  Dr. Karim was a member of the first conference held in Baghdad following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in April 2003.


Asad Khailany

Professor Asad Khailany is the founder and former president of the Kurdish National Congress of North America.  His long career in Kurdish politics started with the founding of the Kurdistan Student Union in Hawler in the 1950s.  Later, after joining KDP, he eventually led of the 5th branch of KDP in Baghdad, managing the Kurdish struggle in Baghdad against the government of Abdul Karim Kasim.  Dr. Khailany was one of the three KDP members who met with the Baath party in 1963 to negotiate for an autonomous Kurdistan within a democratic Iraq.  After the overthrow of the Kasim regime, Dr. Khailany continued to lead the Kurdish struggle in Baghdad as part of the underground resistance.  In 1966, after the split of the KDP, Dr. Khailany decided to leave Kurdistan to pursue higher education, studying mathematics at St. Louis Univeristy and eventually receiving his D. Sc. In Computer Science from Washington University in St. Louis.  Since then, Dr. Khailany has been very active in Kurdish organizations in the U.S.  He has served as a board member of the American Kurdish Society, and Washington Kurdish Institute.  In 1988, Dr. Khailany founded Kurdish National Congress of North America in Ann Arbor, MI by extending invitations to a number of Kurdish activists.  Forty Two Kurds in North America representing all parts of Kurdistan attended the conference and the conference passed a resolution to establish Kurdish National Congress of North America (KNC).  Dr. Khailany was elected first president of KNC and has since served as a board member until 2003.  In May, 2003 after the end of major combat operations in Iraq, Dr. Khailany was invited to meet with President George W. Bush where he presented to President Bush a detailed plan for a federated Iraq in which Kurdish rights and aspirations be recognized. Dr. Khailany has also served as a guest on a number of syndicated national television and radio programs and has attended many international and national conferences to promote the Kurdish interest.


Wafa Khorsheed

Dr. Khorsheed is currently serving as the Executive Vice President of the Kurdish National Congress of North America. Dr. Khorsheed is a professor of Computer Information Systems at Eastern Michigan University. He was among the founding members of KNC.  Dr. Khorsheed was born in Kirkuk and received his education in Baghdad.  Dr. Khorsheed completed his higher education in United Kingdom and later the United States, where he received his doctorate in Computer Science. Dr. Khorsheed has been very active in promoting the Kurdish cause in United States. Dr. Khorsheed heads the Education Committee within KNC. Last year he participated in an initiative to send expert scholars from United States to deliver training seminars in Sulaymania. Dr. Khorsheed has coordinated a university-wide proposal, to USAID under the HEAD Program. The goal of the proposal was to establish partnerships between Eastern Michigan University and Iraqi colleges and universities to invigorate and modernize Iraq’s institutions of higher education, through the transfer of current knowledge and technologies in the areas of Health, Education, and Business.


Jeff Klein

Jeff Klein is a senior editor and journalist for, the world’s leading independent Kurdish news source.  In addition to tending to the administration of and coordinating its activities in the US, Mr. Klein has reported breaking news stories, interviewed political figures including mayors, exiled activists, and party leaders, and written on topics ranging from Kurdish film to Iraqi political strategy.  Mr. Klein has made numerous trips to Kurdistan.  He received a B.A in Economics-Mathematics and a Minor in Comparative Religion from Columbia University.



Shafiq Tawfiq Qazzaz

Dr. Qazzaz has served as the Minister of Humanitarian Aid and Cooperation for the Kurdistan Regional Government in Hawler, Kurdistan from 1996 to present.  He was born in Suleimani in Kurdistan of Iraq and has an academic background in internal relations, receiving his Ph.D from American University in 1971.   From 2000-present, he has also served as president of the Kurdistan Academy for Language & Literature and has been active in the UN Oil for Food 986 program since 2000.  Dr. Qazzaz is also well-known as the author of the Sharezoor Kurdish-English Dictionary, published in 2000.  He has also held several positions in the Kurdish movement including Head of Tehran Bureau of the Kurdish Revolution from 1974-1975 and the representative of the Kurdish Revolution in the United States from 1965-1973.


Saman Shali

Dr. Shali currently serves as the President of the Kurdish National Congress of North America.  He was born in the city of Sulaimany in Kurdistan of Iraq.  In 1969, he joined the Kurdistan Student Union.  In 1973 graduated with BSC degree in Chemistry from University of Sulaimany and subsequently joined the Kurdish revolution as a freedom fighter.  In 1980, he received a PhD in Science (Chemistry) from Sussex University in the UK.  Since 1976, he has become a Kurdish activist fighting for Kurdish human rights and self-determination.  In 1989, he joined the Kurdish National Congress of North America, and in the 2004 16th annual conference was elected as President.  In a March 2003, Dr. Shali represented KNC in a meeting at the White House with Dr. Condoleeza Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.  Dr. Shali has also been involved in the editing and publishing of the following Kurdish publications: Kurdistan in the Media, Kurdistan for Kurds, and Kurdistan Review.  He has also organized many demonstrations, galleries and conferences to bring the Kurdish cause on the international political stage and serves as an advisory member to the Kurdish Community center in San Diego.


Qubad Talabany

Qubad Talabany serves as the Representative of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in the United States.  The PUK is the leading political party in the Kurdistan Regional Government – Suleimani, which administers the eastern part of Iraqi Kurdistan.  In that capacity, Mr. Talabany works closely with the United States Government, the media and research institutions providing critical analysis and up-to-date information about the situation in Iraq.  In the aftermath of Operation Iraqi Freedom in spring 2003, he served for one year as a Senior Foreign Relations officer for the PUK in Iraq, operating mainly out of Baghdad and Suleimani. In that capacity, he worked closely with the U.S-led Coalition Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), and was the PUK’s top liaison to the Coalition after it became the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA).  In addition, while in Iraq, Mr. Talabany was a key PUK negotiator during the drafting of the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), Iraq’s current constitution.  He also acted as a liaison officer between the PUK and U.S. forces in Iraq.  From 2001 until spring 2003, Mr. Talabany served as the Deputy United States Representative of the PUK.  In 2000-2001, he was a Special Assistant to the then PUK Representative in Washington, Dr. Barham Salih.  Presently, Dr. Salih is Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister.  Mr. Talabany is frequently interviewed by the popular press and other publications and has appeared numerous times on major television networks, including CNN, BBC, FOX News, and other American and international networks to discuss Kurdish and Iraqi issues.   Mr. Talabany’s family has been involved in Kurdish politics for decades. His father, Jalal Talabany, is Secretary General of the PUK.  He was a member of the rotating Presidency of the former Iraqi Governing Council and presently continues to play a leading role in national Iraqi politics.  Mr. Talabany studied in London and holds a B.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering.  He lives with his wife Sherri Kraham in Washington, D.C.



Mehdi Zana

Mr. Zana was born in Turkish occupied Kurdistan in 1940.  In 1977, he became the mayor of Diyarbakir, the largest Kurdish city, after serving a sentence for speaking in Kurdish to authorities.  In 1980, he was arrested and put into Diyarbakir military prison like many other Kurds.  All were tortured.  In a span of two years, 54 Kurdish inmates would die as a result.  Many others would be crippled for life.  After serving eleven years in the notorious military prison in Diyarbakir, Mehdi Zana was released in 1991 following a conditional amnesty, only to be sentenced again in 1994 to four more years and in 1997 to ten more months of imprisonment for his testimony to the European Parliament Human Rights Sub-committee and for publishing a poetry book, respectively.  Mr. Zana has a book chronicling his ordeal in Turkish prisons titled, ‘Prison Number 5’ and continues his tireless efforts and leadership to bring freedom to Kurds.  Mr. Zana is currently busy with organizing a new Kurdish party in Turkey with his wife Layla Zana.

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