Category Archives: Kurdistan

Khalaf Zebari


Recently the University of Duhok in Iraqi Kurdistan renamed Kalaf Zebari hall to Peshmerga Hall. For those who do not know the Peshmerga are the military that has defended the Kurdish region from both external attacks and internal such as Saddam Hussein’s military and most recently ISIS. Khalafe Zebari on the other was a Kurdish intellectual, who also happened to be a former Peshmerga fighter. This change has caused considerable consternation in the region. While it is understood that it is right and proper to honor the Peshmerga who have sacrificed much for the Kurdish people, why remove the name of an honored intellectual and poet who himself sacrificed for the Kurdish people. Having uprooted himself and his family several times, first to escape the tyranny of the Saddam era then to secure a future for his family in the US. Lastly, he once again uprooted his entire family to move to Washington DC to begin Voice of America Kurdish broadcasts.

This last gave great comfort to the Kurdish people, not only in Iraq but Turkey, Syria and Iran. Bringing news, information and hope to the suppressed people of Kurdistan. Joining him was his wife, Chiman, who in addition to VoA worked with a number of US and international agencies supporting Kurdish and regional refugee programs as well as US government operations in the region.  I’ve known Chiman Zebari for a decade and have worked with her closely so I know her loyalty for her people.  My interest in this began as I read posts on Chiman’s FB page. While I do not read Kurdish and the google translations leave much to be desired, I understood the gist of the story.

While, as said. it is right to honor those Peshmerga who gave so much. There are a number of ways to do this, and they have been done throughout the Kurdish region. The University of Duhok, being an institute of higher education must not forget the contributions made by the poets and intellectuals. Return the name of this man who gave so much to support the intellectual freedom of the Kurds.  

The Iran Deal and social justise


While the nation is consumed by the Impeachment trial, we have not heard much on Biden’s moves to rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran deal. Since President Trump withdrew the US from the Iran deal there has been a massive hue and cry from certain segments of the political spectrum that Iran is going to go Nuclear and the people will starve with any return to sanctions. Iran has never stopped its nuclear program and its people were starving before the deal.

The US as well as the EU has requested re-negotiating the deal to allow for the addition of missile development, more stringent inspections and, very important, inclusion of human rights. In two on-air interviews/debates I have had recently with Iranian foreign policy people it was made clear that there would be no re-negotiation and the US must first recommit to full compliance before going any further.

The US and other allies went too fast and gave up too much in the original agreement. Those calling for a return to the original have never addressed what the problems are. I am not naive enough to believe that Iran will ever be in full compliance or that any attempt at reducing missile development or getting meaningful access to all sites will be successful. What can be hoped for is that the level of human rights abuses can be exposed to the world. The daily killing of Kurds and others as well as the destruction of any religion other then their version of Islam must be exposed and would-be during negotiations.

When so many call out for social justice to ignore the abuses in Iran for political means is disgusting. Iran is the chief supporter of terrorism in the world including facilitating al-Qaeda and ISIS supporting Hamas and Hezbollah and the killing and destruction of Kurdish culture and the Baha’i religion.  These things must be addressed before any return to any negotiation,

Kurds, Clintons and the “Daughters of KobanI.”


By Chiman Zebari and Paul Davis

In the past few of days, we have been treated to the news that Hilary Clinton and daughter Chelsea will be making a film based on a book about the female Peshmerga in Syria. Lots of comments on Twitter about this new book, to be published on 16th Feb 2021. Called Daughters of Kobani, it claims to detail the Women’s Protection Unit of the Syrian Democratic Forces known as the YPJ, and the YPJ’s struggle in Kobani against ISIS. Early reviews of the book indicate it looks promising and comes at a very timely moment in the struggle of Kurds, with Erdogan attacks in Rojava (NE Syria) on a nightly basis and threatening full-scale invasion.

We are both happy and disgusted by this. Happy that these fighters will get the exposure they need but disgusted that the person doing so spent the latter years of public service calling them terrorist and making every effort to deny the Kurds their rights and the country that should have been theirs to begin with. To make profit off the suffering she was a part of is hypocrisy in the highest.

We can understand the screams of frustration coming from women Kurdish filmmakers and accusations of hypocrisy and cultural appropriation but frankly, at this point of the Kurdish struggle, we warmly welcome this book as pro-Kurdish rights campaigners and hope that it will strengthen some people’s resolve to stand up to Erdogan’s attacks against NE Syria in the coming weeks and months. And to be honest, it is on that basis that Kurds welcome such policies, but at the same time, can disagree and want to ask where Hillary Clinton was when her husband, the then President of the US, were funding the Turkish government when it was at the height of the village depopulations in the 90s. It is a valid question and I’m sure we will face disappointment and anger in the coming months, but at least it gives some sort of hope that those around the President and Democrat circles will give recognition to the role the Kurdish people played in the defeat of ISIS and that they have sacrificed so much, that they have more than  earned the inalienable right to be able to determine their own future and build the progressive society they fought for as a beacon of light, not only for women for who Rojava has been a revolution but for the future of the Middle East and beyond! We can only live-in hope and continue to defend the Democratic Nation through all its troubled times ahead. We hope this film can shine a light on the brave fighters of the YPJ. We hope however that the double dealing and hypocrisy of the Clintons is also brought to light.