March 18, 2015

KRG High Council on Women’s Affairs delegation updates Washington on the status minorities, women, and children in Kurdistan

Washington, DC, USA (us.gov.krd) – Senior officials from the KRG High Council on Women’s Affairs (KRG HCWA) arrived in Washington on March 15, 2015 to meet with US administration officials, members of Congress, leading think tanks, and aid organizations.

The KRG HCWA was established in 2010 to raise awareness of women’s issues, combat violence against women, and strengthen families. Since the advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), they continue to advocate for the rights of religious and ethnic component minorities, and for the rights of children. The Council consists of Ministers from the Ministries of the Interior, Finance, Justice, Culture and Youth, Labor and Social Affairs, and Education.hcwa2

Accompanied by the KRG Representative to the United States Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, Secretary General Pakhshan Zangana and Director General Florin Gorgis met with members of Congress including Senator Tulsi Gabbard, Senator Susan Collins, Representative Lois Frankel, and Senator Mazie Hirono, as well as senior staff from the offices of Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Senator Hirono thanked the KRG for providing for the refugees currently seeking shelter in Kurdistan. Ms. Zangana said, ‘The Kurdistan Region remains the safe haven for all that seek safety. Today we host over 1.6 million Refugees and IDPs. This is indicative of the Kurdistan people’s tolerance. We call on the US to assist us on this front and continue to support the Peshmerga as they keep the region and religious components safe and secure.’

Senator Gabbard expressed disappointment that the United States was not doing more to help Kurdistan fight the terrorists of ISIL. She said, ‘I will be a voice for direct aid to Kudistan,’ calling the KRG and the Peshmerga the United States’ ‘partners in the fight against ISIL’.

During the meetings, the delegates discussed the KRG’s draft resolutions submitted for discussion to the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly on the ‘Protection of Women and Girls’, and on the ‘Protection of Ethnic and Religious Minority Communities in Iraq from Terrorism and Violent Extremism’ was discussed; The delegation sought the support and approval for the resolution from the US.

Ms Zangana and Ms Gorgis conducted meetings with key State Department officials, including Tom Malinowski, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, as well as Catherine Russell, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, and Kelly Clements, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. All of the officials praised the KRG, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the local community in supporting refugees.

Ms. Gorgis told Ambassador Russell, ‘Today we are working diligently around the clock to rescue the many hundreds of Yezidi and other components’ women still in the hands of ISIL.

In the wake of ISIL’s advance through Iraq, the terror group has kidnapped thousands of Yezidi women and children, selling many into slavery throughout Iraq and Syria. Over 5,000 are thought to remain in the hands of ISIL and their sympathizers.

‘ISIL targets religious components in the hope that no one will come to their rescue. We are proud to be their protectors and we are pleased to have the international community join us in this mission,’ said Ms Zangana in a meeting with Sarah Morgan of the Human Rights Watch. ‘We are committed to protecting all minorities, regardless of religion, race, or ethnicity.’

Ms Zangana, Ms Gorgis, Representative Abdul Rahman met Monday with Ambassador Steven Steiner of the US Institute of Peace (USIP) to discuss their programming in Kurdistan. USIP conducts civil society, rule-of-law, and capacity building programs throughout the Middle East, including in Kurdistan.

The trip also coincided with the KRG Representation in the United States’ annual commemoration of the 1988 chemical attacks on Halabja. Speaking to an audience of members of Congress, ambassadors and diplomatic corps, academics, Kurdish-Americans, and members of the press, Ms Zangana said, ‘Right now Kurdistan and all of Iraq is facing an incredible threat in the form of ISIL terrorists. ISIL wants to attack the political process, the aspirations of the people for democracy and civil society. It wants to destroy everything that is beautiful, everything that is sacred.’

During their time in the US, Ms Zangana and Ms Gorgis plan to attend the 59th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York City.

The delegates will appear on Fox News’ show America’s News Headquarters Saturday, March 21 at 12:00 EST.

Read a PDF of this press release here.
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