More than 300 thousand displaced Yezidi Kurds in Kurdistan Region

The Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister’s envoy for people who fled ISIS terrorist organization from Sinjar, Dr. Nouri Osman Sinjari, said that since the capture of the town by ISIS, 263,000 have fled to Duhok, 20,000 to Erbil, 20,000 to Slemani, and a few to neighbouring Turkey and Syria. He said many have been rescued from Sinjar Mountain.

In an interview with KRG.org, Dr. Nouri said the “KRG established this special representation office to monitor the situation and assess the needs of displaced people who fled ISIS persecution from Sinjar and its environs and who sought refuge in the Kurdistan Region due to the takeover of their homeland”.  With the arrival of winter rains and colder temperatures their needs have greatly increased.

About 10,000 people, mostly Yezidi Kurds, have decided to remain on Sinjar Mountain with Peshmerga and volunteer fighters to defend their homeland. The Prime Minister’s envoy explained, “Those still on the mountain remain by choice because they do not want to leave their homes. Some evacuated earlier but have returned to defend their homeland.  Some even came from Europe and have been killed in fighting ISIS terrorists.”

Iraqi and US forces continue to airdrop humanitarian supplies, including food and medicine, and the ill and injured are being evacuated. This action continues in cooperation with the Federal Government of Iraq. He lauded the support of the Iraqi President Dr. Fuad Masoum and Iraqi Army Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Babakir Zebari.

However, Dr. Nouri Osman Sinjari highlighted insufficient response by the Iraqi government in meeting the emergency needs of the displaced people who fled to the Kurdistan Region. The Region is host to 1.4 million displaced people from center-south Iraq, including 70,000 Christians and 300,000 Yezidis from Nineveh Governorate, and more than 200,000 refugees from Syria.

With the Federal Government of Iraq suspending funding to the Kurdistan Region since January, meeting the emergency needs of this exceptionally high number of displaced people has been particularly difficult.

Despite the formation of a national committee to assist displaced people, headed by Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Salih Al-Mutalq, the response has been inadequate, especially in the provision of health care. The KRG is in contact with the committee and continues to seek full support.

Dr. Nouri praised the role of the people of the Kurdistan Region and especially the people of Duhok Governorate for their support and offers of assistance to so many. Duhok is host to more displaced people than any other governorate in the country. He praised the Governor of Duhok and all government staff for their hard work.

He highlighted the efforts of the Duhok Directorate of Health which started a vaccination campaign to prevent epidemic diseases in cooperation and with support of international health organizations.  Despite inadequate Iraqi government funding, the KRG allocated about $100 million to Duhok for health services.  This includes funding to send serious cases abroad for treatment.

As the Kurdistan Region is the forefront of the fight against ISIS terrorism on behalf of the world, the Prime Minister’s envoy urged the international community, particularly the US and UK, to expand and accelerate military and humanitarian assistance.

With ISIS threatening further aggression and atrocities, Dr. Nouri said the situation in Sinjar remains alarming. Atrocities committed against Yezidis are being documented. Hundreds have been killed, buried in mass graves, with some bodies being uncovered by recent rains.

He noted that Yezidis are inseparable from their fellow Kurds. Their religious texts are written in Kurdish. The Prime Minister’s envoy concluded the KRG seeks the persecution of Yezidi Kurds to be internationally recognized as genocide.

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KRG Representative to Spain met with the President of Navarra Parliament

During an official visit to the Spanish Region of Navarra Daban Shadala was received by the President of the Parliament of Navarra, Alberto Catalán Higueras.

Alberto Catalán Higueras welcomed him and expressed the solidarity and support of the Navarra Parliament towards the Kurds. He said “We continue to monitor the situation in the Kurdistan Region very closely and we assure you that the people of Navarra and Spain give you their full support in your fight against global terrorism.”

In turn, Daban Shadala discussed the current situation in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and the Middle East in general. He went on to inform Mr Catalàn of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Kurdistan, which is providing refuge to many refugees and internally displaced persons fleeing the terror of Daesh.

They also discussed the role of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and other powers of the region in the conflict, the situation of ethnic and religious minorities, the new Iraqi government and the role it should play in defeating Daesh.

Daban Shadala thanked the President of Parliament for the support and solidarity that he and parliament had shown. He went on to say “the Kurdistan Region currently hosts over 1.5 million refugees and IDPs. The number of people is very high considering that the population of the region is just over 4.6 million. We welcome and provide shelter to Yezidi Kurds, Christians, Arabs (Shia & Sunni), Shabaks etc. – we do not discriminate.” He further went on to inform Mr Catalàn that “Kurdistan has become home for all persecuted people of Iraq, it is an island of peace and inclusion. But our resources are not sufficient to meet the basic needs of the large number of people, so we ask for the help and support of our friends abroad.”

The President of the Parliament of Navarre and the KRG Representative to Spain then visited a photography exhibition that the Red Cross had organised in the court of Parliament entitled “War From the Victims Perspective” by Jean Mohr.

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KRG Spain participates in seminar at the Univeristy of Nebrija, Madrid

Daban Shadala sat on a panel last week in the University of Nebrija to discuss “Kurdistan in front of its new Jihadist enemy”. The KRG Representative to Spain was invited to speak among other guests to a seminar entitled “The New Geography of Terrorism: A Vision from Spain” in Madrid’s Nebrija University.

The panel included Spain’s previous Ambassador to Iraq Mr Ignacio Ruperez Rubio who gave an in-depth analysis of the history of terror in Iraq, how it arrived, set roots and developed into the current form that exists. He was followed by His Excellency Mohammad Hassan Fadaifard, Iran’s Ambassador to Spain. The Ambassador discussed Iran’s role in the conflict placing specific emphasis on supporting the Iraqi government forces as well as the Peshmerga forces fighting and defending the northern front. Also sitting on the panel was Iraq’s Ambassador to Spain, His Excellency Mr Wadee Al Batti.

The KRG Representative to Spain then gave an insight into how the KRG has been dealing with its new “neighbour” since the start its Northern advance back in June. He welcomed the international efforts that have been made to support the Peshmerga who have been “fighting the terrorist group on the ground to defend the principles and way of life of the free world.” Daban Shadala however called for more international support in order to help defeat the group and to provide more humanitarian aid and finances to help ease the crisis facing those from the affected areas who have sought refuge in the Kurdistan Region. Moreover, the KRG Rep to Spain emphasised the importance for European & western countries to do more to prevent the radicalisation of youths by countering the Islamist ideology in home countries.

Professor Waleed Saled Alkhalifa who runs the Arabic and Islamic Studies department at the Autonomous University of Madrid then provided his insight into the importance and necessity of the international coalition in defeating ISIS.


Hungary opens Consulate General in Erbil and signs MoU with KRG

A high level Hungarian delegation headed by Mr István Mikola, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, arrived in Erbil yesterday to officially open the Consulate General of Hungary and to discuss bilateral ties with the Kurdish leadership as well as sign an MoU with the KRG.

Mr István Mikola’s delegation included Tamás Vargha, State Secretary of the Ministry of Defense: Réka Szemerkenyi, Senior International and Energy Security Advisor to Hungary’s Prime Ministry, and several other officials and business leaders.

During the two-day visit, the Hungarian delegation held meetings with Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, KRG Minister for Peshmerga Affairs, Mustafa Saiyd Qadir, KRG Minister of Natural Resources, Ashti Hawrami, and the Head of Department of Foreign Relations, Minister Falah Mustafa.

At the opening of the Consulate General, Mr Mikola said, “The Government of Hungary has decided to lay a new foundation for its foreign policy. This new policy pays special attention to the countries of the Middle East, to Iraq, and within Iraq to the Kurdistan Region.”

“When many foreigners were considering leaving Kurdistan, we decided to stay and expand our presence in the Kurdistan Region. We have made the right decision because the heroic Peshmerga forces have been able to repel the ISIS attacks and to preserve the security of the Kurdistan Region,” he added.

Commending the role of the Kurdistan Region in regional stability, Mr Mikola said, “Kurdistan Region has become the leading force of the international coalition against ISIS and a safe haven for hundreds of thousands of refuges and IDPs who are fleeing ISIS barbarism.”

Mr Mikola reiterated the strong desire of the Hungarian government to further strengthen bilateral ties with the Kurdistan Region. He said, “Hungary will be your strong and reliable partner. The Consul General has got clear instructions from Hungary, he has to make every effort to broaden the bilateral relations in all fields.”

Speaking on behalf of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Minister Mustafa commended the decision of the government of Hungary to open its consulate general in Erbil. He said, “With the opening of this office, we are entering a new phase in our relations. It is a great step forward and will certainly enhance relations between the Kurdistan Region and Hungary.”

He assured the Hungarian delegation that Hungary’s mission in Kurdistan will receive full support from the KRG.

The opening ceremony was also attended by senior KRG officials as well as Hungary’s Ambassador to Baghdad, Tibor Szatmari, and Hungary’s Consul General in Erbil, Csaba Vezekenyi.

The Hungarian delegation concluded its visit to Kurdistan by signing a memorandum of understanding with the KRG. The MoU outlines areas of cooperation, including political consultation, archeology, energy, information technology, tourism, and higher education.

Hungary is the 31st nation to open a diplomatic representation in the Kurdistan Region.


Parliament of Navarra’s Commission for Coexistence and International Solidarity Declares Full Political Support to the Kurdistan Region

Yesterday the KRG Representative to Spain Daban Shadala appeared before the Commission of Coexistence and International Solidarity of the Parliament of Navarra to brief members on the latest developments in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, the refugee situation, & the ongoing violation of human rights committed by ISIS.

Daban Shadala presented a case for humanitarian assistance to the Kurdistan Region to members of the commission, which included members of all parties in the parliament: GP Unión del Pueblo Navarro, the G. P. Socialists of Navarre, the G. P. BILDU-Navarre, the G. P. Navarre aralar-Bai, the G. P. People of the Parliament of Navarra and G. P. Left-Ezkerra.

All members of the commission expressed their solidarity with the Kurdish people & their willingness to provide full political support to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Daban Shadala thanked the Parliament of Navarre for the support and solidarity it expressed. The Board of Spokespersons adopted unanimously on October 13th an official statement by the Parliament of Navarre denouncing the military escalation in Iraq that has threatened and continues to pose a threat to Kurdish territory.

Daban Shadala was then received by the President of the Parliament of Navarra, Alberto Catalán Higueras, who welcomed him and conveyed his solidarity and support to the Kurds: “We continue to closely monitor the situation in the Kurdistan Region and we assure you that you have the full support of the people of Navarra and Spain in your fight against global terrorism. ”

Daban Shadala in turn thanked the President of Parliament for the support and solidarity, saying that “The Kurdistan region currently hosts over 1.5 refugees and IDPs. This number of people is very high considering that the population of the region is just over 4.6 million. We are currently providing shelter to a number of minorities including Yazidi Kurds, Christians, Arabs, Shabaks, Kakai’s. Kurdistan has become a home of peace and safety for all persecuted peoples of Iraq. Our resources are insufficient to meet the basic needs of those seeking refuge, so we are asking for help from our friends around the world.”


PM Barzani: We will not hand Kurdistan Region’s oil control to SOMO

 Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani talked to the press following yesterday’s Parliament session hosting the Kurdistan Region Oil and Gas Council.

Prime Minister Barzani said the Region would not hand oil control to the Iraqi State Oil Marketing Organisation, SOMO.  He noted the federal government cannot export oil from Kirkuk without involving the Kurdistan Region. He said, “We wish to settle all outstanding issues with Baghdad. However, if we do not reach agreement, the Kurdistan Regional Government has other solutions.”  The Prime Minister also affirmed that trading with the ISIS terrorist organisation is national betrayal.

He informed the press, “When the Iraqi Government stopped Kurdistan Region’s budget we were not exporting oil and their decision was unilateral. The Kurdistan Region seeks a mechanism where such situations would not reoccur”.

Prime Minister Barzani reiterated that Baghdad has not provided funds for the salaries of the Region’s civil servants since January.  He said, “With the policies we have adopted, we have so far managed to pay salaries to some extent.” He hoped the KRG could soon overcome this situation so the issue of salaries would no longer make headlines. He expressed confidence the KRG would reach that level.

Deputy Prime Minister Talabani informed the press that the United States, Britain, and the United Nations are concerned about the situation and they are exerting pressure on the Iraqi Government to honour the promises they made to the Kurdistan Region during the government formation process. The Deputy Prime Minister said, “We are in touch with these countries on a regular basis and have conveyed our concerns to the United Nations’ envoy in Iraq.”

Prime Minister Barzani said the Kurdistan Region’s priority preference is to reach agreement on issues with Baghdad, but if agreement is not possible it does not mean there are no other solutions. He said, “There are other solutions for sure, but the Region’s first preference is mutual agreement with Baghdad.”

He stated, “We hoped to see clearer initiatives from Iraq’s new prime minister and new oil minister towards resolving these issues. We still hope the issues will be settled. The Iraqi oil minister is expected to visit the Kurdistan Region, we are looking forwards to the meeting, and we will decide on the date to visit Baghdad after meeting with him.”

Prime Minister Barzani noted the Kurdistan Region could earn its full 17 percent share of national revenue by the end of 2015. He added the Kurdistan Region would meet the 11 percent share the Region was receiving from Baghdad through oil sales by March 2015. He explained that Baghdad deducts national expenses applicable to the whole country, plus expenses for running the federal government, and then sends the Region’s share from the remaining balance.

He said the Peshmerga are part of national defense and therefore they should be included in national expenses and not covered from the Region’s budget. The Prime Minister also said Peshmerga forces are currently deployed to places where defending Kurdistan Region does not require their deployment, if they were not part of Iraq’s defense system.

Regarding his meeting with the Governor of Kirkuk, Prime Minister Barzani said they are in touch regularly. He said the Governor of Kirkuk is to visit Turkey and he wanted to consider the Region’s views before his departure.

Regarding trading with the ISIS terrorist organisation, the Prime Minster said, “We view trading with ISIS as national betrayal.” He made clear the KRG would “seriously work on this issue and will hold anyone involved accountable.”

Regarding the plane that was refused permission to land in Slemani last week, Prime Minister Barzani said the plane did not have the required permission from Baghdad. The plane flew to Baghdad and there is no further information.

On the price of fuel, Prime Minister Barzani said he wished the price could be lowered but unfortunately it could not be done under the current situation.

Deputy Prime Minister Talabani informed the press that the Council of Ministers approved a bill to seek funds through borrowing and it was sent to Parliament. Following the bill’s passage into law the KRG will seek international loans.  He added that he visited the UK and UAE to seek loans from international banks as an additional income source. The Deputy Prime Minister said loan money will be used for investment on strategic projects and not for government salaries.


Prime Minister Barzani meets EU delegation

Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani on Monday received a European Union delegation headed by Mr. Hugues Mingarelli, the Managing Director for North Africa, Middle East, the Arabian Peninsula, Iran and Iraq at the European External Action Service, along with EU officials and the EU Ambassador to Iraq.

The delegation discussed the military, security and humanitarian situation in the Kurdistan Region and highlighted their aim to enhance cooperation and coordination between the Kurdistan Region and the European Union. Long-term energy cooperation was also discussed.

The delegation fully appreciates the Kurdistan Region faces very serious security challenges and is in the forefront of the fight against terrorism. The Region as host to displaced people and its role in providing humanitarian assistance were commended.  The EU delegation reiterated its support during this period of exceptional security and humanitarian need.

The EU delegation’s visit to Baghdad was also discussed noting that it urged the Iraqi Government to include all Iraqi communities in the political process, increase decentralization of political and economic authority to the regions and provinces in accordance with the Iraqi Constitution, and to resolve issues with the Kurdistan Region.

Prime Minister Barzani lauded the role of the EU in supporting the fight against terrorism and stressed requirements for more enhanced, heavy weaponry and training. Cooperation and coordination with Turkey in facilitating Iraqi Peshmerga to reinforce Kobani with heavy weapons was also discussed.

With the start of winter rains and decreasing temperatures the desperate plight of an overwhelming number of displaced people who have sought refuge in the Kurdistan Region was featured in the discussions.  Prime Minister Barzani affirmed, despite limited resources, the people and the KRG have welcomed and offered help and support to all who have been forced to leave their homes and will continue to do so.

It is noted that 20% of the more than 1.4 million displaced people in the Kurdistan Region are refugees from Syria for which more humanitarian assistance is urgently required from the international community. 80% are internally displaced persons, IDPs, from areas of Iraq outside the Kurdistan Region, including Arab Sunnis from Anbar Province adjacent to Baghdad, and Christians and Yezidis from neighboring Nineveh Province.

It is in the mutual interests of both the Kurdistan Region and the EU to develop closer relations, to improve relations with neighboring and regional countries, and to resolve outstanding issues between Erbil and Baghdad.


KRG Prime Minister’s speech at Ceremony celebrating inclusion of Erbil Citadel in World Heritage List of UNESCO

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Good evening and welcome to you all.

I am happy and pleased to participate here today with you in this event. We are witnessing another success in Kurdistan, as we are seeing another important and big step by Kurdistan towards the rest of the world which is the recognition of the historical Citadel of Erbil as a World Heritage Site, enabling it to formally become part of the archeological and cultural history of the world.

The recognition and inclusion of the Erbil Citadel on the World Heritage List is a source of pride and great honour for Erbil, Kurdistan, the people of Kurdistan, Iraq and even the larger Middle East. It is an important and worthy event.

The Citadel of Erbil is a place with a long history, over 6000 years old, putting its roots in the history books. Tens of leaders, rulers, emperors and world leaders have passed by the Citadel during different periods in history. The Citadel was used as a fortress to defend Erbil and its people and helped defeat the strongest and most dangerous armies. It always remained a proud symbol in the middle of Erbil.

In recent history, a significant number of personalities and famous figuresfrom theCitadelhave served Kurdistan in various fields. The lifestyle and the culture of the Citadel became an important part of the daily live of the people, society and culture in Erbil. The Citadel has frequently been mentioned in Kurdish literature and traditional songs.

It is the right of the people of Erbil and Kurdistan to be proud of this achievement ofErbil Citadel being listed in the World Heritage List, and that it has become the property of all humanity.

On this occasion on behalf of myself, the Kurdistan Regional Government and the people of Kurdistan, I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to the UNESCO and the High Commission for Erbil Citadel Revitalization specially Mr. Dara Yaqobi who heads this Commission and his colleagues who worked tirelessly to ensure the recognition of the Erbil Citadel as a World Heritage Site. I would like to also thank the Iraqi Board of Archaeology, the Iraqi Permanent Mission to UNESCO and all the countries which helped the revitalization of Citadel, Erbil Governor, the relevant authorities and those countries which voted for the Citadel of Erbil to be on the list of World Heritage Sites.

Also, by the name of the people of Kurdistan and Erbil, I would also like to warmly welcome the Director General of UNESCO Irina Bokova who ispresent today at this ceremony and who helped greatly on this issue. We thank her and welcome her to Kurdistan and Iraq.

Distinguished guests,

While we mark today an important cultural milestone and celebrate this success, we cannot not mention the situation which our country and the region pass through. We are currently confronting a vicious and dark terror. In these circumstances Kurdistan has become the front line of the international coalition’s war against terror and the brave Peshmerga of Kurdistan are fighting on behalf of the world and humanity, defending the land and people of Kurdistan and the principles of the free world. They are sacrificing their lives every day and they are now also alongside their brothers and sisters supporting Kobane where they are fighting and defending themselves together.

During these circumstances, the first condition in order for us to succeed is to ensure the national unity of all the various Kurdish political parties as well as the people of Kurdistan. The support and assistance of our friends across the world and in the region has allowed the Peshmerga to bravely fight in the battlefields with the spirit of ‘Either Kurdistan or death.’ They are making progress on a daily basis and day by day they will continue to defeat the terrorists.

To achieve greater success and defeating the terrorists the Peshmerga needs heavy weaponry, training and more assistance from our friends and the international community. Here again, I would like to thank the international coalition and all our friends who have helped us militarily or through humanitarian assistance, but we are hoping that they provide us with further assistance.

Another issue that has made the current situation difficult is the decision early this year by theIraqi federal government to cut the budget of the Kurdistan Region as well as the salaries of the KRG employees. This is a failed policy, as they used the livelihoods of the people of Kurdistan as a pressure card against the Kurdistan Regional Government becauseof political disputes. Baghdad accused the Kurdistan Region of having sold oil independently, which is far from reality. The Kurdistan Region began to export oil only after Bagdad government cut our budget, which forced the Kurdistan Regional Government to start selling its oil. However the patience of the people of Kurdistan and their endurance regarding the lack of salaries being paid on time has proven the failure of this wrong policy.  This policy along with other failed policies by Baghdad resulted in huge political, security and economic disasters across Iraq.

I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the citizens, employees and people of Kurdistan and reiterate my appreciation for their patience and understanding during this economic embargo. Thanks to the businessmen, companies and contractors, whom despite the lack of budget, continued their work in the process of the reconstruction of Kurdistan, and who did not stop their operations.

Here I would like to tell the people of Kurdistan, after long efforts, the Kurdistan Regional Government is close to solving the financial crisis and in the near future, this issue will be resolved. I would like again to ensure the employees of the Kurdistan Regional Government that none of their salaries will be lost and that they will receive their complete salaries.

Distinguished guests,

We in the Kurdistan Region have preserved our national unity and formed our broad-based government, and decided jointly to participate together in the new Iraqi federal government. We reiterate that the Kurdistan Region is willing and ready to solve all the outstanding issues with Baghdad through dialogue based on a proper understanding of the reality of the disputes.

We see our participation in the new federal Iraqi government as a chance to come together to solve the outstanding issues and where we can reach a solution which is in the benefit of all Iraq and all of us. An Iraq that can learn from the previous mistakes and act in a way to save the country from the disaster that it is currently passing through.

Again I would like to welcome you all and a heartfelt congratulations to the people of Kurdistan and Erbil. Its Citadel will be a part of the culture of humanity and property of the world. I am confident that a bright future, more success and progress are ahead of us.

I would like to wish you all a pleasant evening. Thank you very much.