Opening of the American University of Duhok

Duhok, Kurdistan Region, Iraq (cabinet.gov.krd) – In a ceremony held today in Duhok, attended by Kurdistan Region President, Masoud Barzani, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, Chancellor of Kurdistan Region Security Council and Honorary President of the American University of Duhok, Masrour Barzani, a number of foreign diplomatic representatives and KRG and Iraqi ministers and political parties’ representatives, the American University of Duhok was opened.

In a speech he made at the ceremony, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said, “Opening a university during this challenging period is the right message to our enemies that no matter how hard they try, they will not be able to stop our path to prosperity and growth. It is also a sign that the love of our people for life, development, and building a brighter future cannot be eliminated by difficulties facing our region.”

Following is the text of the speech:

Your Excellency President Masoud Barzani,
Excellencies Ambassadors of the United States of America and the Republic of Italy
Consuls and foreign representatives,
Leaders of political parties, governors,
Friends of Kurdistan Region who are joining us here today
Distinguished guests,

I warmly welcome you all to this important event. I am pleased to be here with you all to participate in the grand opening of the American University Duhok Kurdistan. This university will become an excellent center of education for the city of Duhok and Kurdistan Region and will be known as yet another accomplishment for the Duhok province. I would like to seize this opportunity to offer my sincere congratulations to Mr. Masror Barzani for being the driving force behind the establishment of the University as well as the people of Kurdistan in general and Duhok in particular.

Quality of educational institutions in any country is an indicator of its level of development, advanced nations are known for their world-class education and academic excellence. Therefore; we have to attach great importance to building and enhancing the quality of our educational institutions.

Opening a university during this challenging period is the right message to our enemies that no matter how hard they try, they will not be able to stop our path to prosperity and growth. It is also a sign that the love of our people for life, development, and building a brighter future cannot be eliminated by difficulties facing our region.

Fighting for the freedom of Kurdistan prevented our fathers and grandfathers from graduating from universities. They sacrificed their lives so that the new generation can have the opportunity to study at universities. I salute our martyrs for giving us our freedom.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Kurdistan Regional Government has placed great importance on the education sector and higher education. We have given the opportunity to the private sector to open institutions and universities in the Kurdistan Region in accordance with international standards of academic excellence.

The number of educational institutions in the Kurdistan Region has considerably increased in the past several years. Currently, we have 15 public universities, several public technical institutes, 13 private universities, and 9 private technical institutes. The Kurdistan Council of Medical Specialty and Kurdistan Board for Strategic Studies and Scientific Researches are also of equivalent status to universities.

Today 94,700 students are enrolled in higher education institutions in the Kurdistan Region. Forty-eight percent of students are female, a very positive indicator that will increase women participation in the development of our society in the future.

Kurdistan Region is now in great need of occupational education. Training individuals through occupational education programs can greatly contribute to the development of our Region. Therefore, we have to pay more attention to such kind of educational programs to enhance human resources and capacity building.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We all know that the imposed war on Kurdistan Region and other challenges have placed a tremendous burden on the shoulders of our people. Since the beginning of 2014, the Iraqi government has cut the share of the Kurdistan Region of the federal budget. This was followed by the imposed war on Kurdistan Region by the most barbaric terrorist organization, which caused the displacement of 1.8 million refugees and internally displaced people to our region. Lastly, our economy has suffered the most painful blow due to sharp drop in oil prices.

We understand the magnitude of challenges facing our region. We consider the challenges as a golden opportunity and an important lesson to remedy our shortcomings and to conduct meaningful economic reforms. In that regard, we have started to implement a comprehensive reform plan, particularly in the areas of administrative system and fiscal administration in order to balance the budget.

We will implement necessary measures to further enhance revenue transparency, in particular oil revenue transparency so that we can put an end to the campaign against Kurdistan Region on oil revenues.

To successfully pass this stage we are in need of full cooperation between the people and the government of Kurdistan Region. On behalf of myself and the government of Kurdistan Region, I express my sincere appreciation to the people of Kurdistan Region, especially those who live off government salaries for their resilience.

I want to reassure all public servants that their financial entitlements will not be wasted. We were obliged to take some temporary austerity measures as part of our plan to overcome the financial crisis.

We have overcome even harsher situations in the past. I firmly believe we will successfully pass this stage as well. Throughout the history, we have experienced immense hardships; yet we have never surrendered. We believe in the will of our people, and we believe a brighter future awaits us.

Please allow me to offer my sincerest appreciation for the bravery of our Peshmergas who sacrifice their lives to defend Kurdistan. Their bravery is recognized by the whole world. I salute the martyrs who lost their lives defending the freedom of Kurdistan and values of humanity in the fight against the terrorists.

Distinguished guests,

I would like to once again extend my appreciation to the people of Badinan and particularly the city of Duhok for their remarkable humanitarian response and warm welcome to the displaced Yezidis, Christians, and Muslims who took refuge in the Duhok province fleeing the cruelty of ISIS terrorists. The people of Duhok can hold their heads up high because they taught the whole world a lesson in humanity.

The people of Duhok very generously opened the doors of their homes, mosques, and schools for the refugees and displaced people, regardless of their ethnic or religious background.

Our welcoming attitude perfectly demonstrates our culture of peaceful co-existence and religious tolerance that is deeply rooted in our society and history.  Peaceful co-existence of different religious and ethnic groups in the Kurdistan Region is widely acclaimed internationally and has become a source of our pride.

I would like to thank the governorate of Duhok, the Governor, and all local authorities for bearing such an immense responsibility and for working hard to provide services for the people of Duhok and for more than 670,000 displaced people and refugees in the province. I also like to thank all local and international organization for helping us to relief the suffering of the refugees and displaced people in the region.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The genocide committed against our Yezidi sisters and brothers will never be forgotten. It was one of the most heinous crimes against humanity in the recent history. The massacre of Yezidis, kidnaping their women and girls, destruction of their villages and hometowns, and the atrocities committed against our Christian brothers in the Nineveh plain and other components of our society can never be forgotten, the wounds are too deep to be healed easily.

There is no doubt that ISIS terrorists will pay a heavy price for their atrocities. We will continue to do whatever it takes to support our Yezidi brothers and sisters and to give them the hope of a better future.

The liberation of Shingal under the direct command of President Barzani was the first step in our efforts. Our next step is to rebuild Shingal and to provide a better life for its people.

Please allow me to reiterate our call upon our friends in the international community to help us rebuild areas destroyed by ISIS terrorists so that the displaced people will have the opportunity to start a new life in their hometowns.

We believe the biggest blow to ISIS would be to help the displaced people return to their hometowns and build their lives stronger than ever before. The peaceful co-existence of the people of Kurdistan Region has to be protected and practiced in other areas.

We are relentlessly continuing our efforts to free our Yezidi sisters and brothers from ISIS terrorists. So far we have been able to rescue 2,426. Just today we have rescued 5 women and 14 children and we will not relent in our determination to rescue those still in ISIS captivity. We have also made progress in our efforts to obtain international recognition for the crimes committed against Yezidi Kurds as acts of genocide.

We are grateful for the support provided to the Kurdistan Region in the fight against ISIS by the U.S-led Coalition in terms of air strikes, military training and support. With the support of the coalition, our Peshmerga forces have been able to inflict heavy damages on ISIS and to consolidate the frontlines.

As for the internal unity of the Kurdistan Region, I would like to reiterate our commitment to solve internal disagreements through dialogue and negotiation. Our internal unity is of paramount importance, when we are united, together we can build a brighter future for the people of Kurdistan Region.

At the end, I would like to once again congratulate the opening of this university. I am confident this university will contribute to the development of higher education in the Kurdistan Region and will become a place where students can receive excellent education, helping them to build a bright future for themselves. This university will be another bridge of communication between Kurdistan and international universities.

I thank the company that built the campus of the university, and I wish them continued success.

Thank you all

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