March 23, 2016

KRG High Council of Women’s Affairs delegation in United States for meetings with UN and American government officials

Washington, DC ( – A delegation from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) High Council for Women’s Affairs is in the United States this month to participate in the 60th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations in New York, and to meet with US government officials and regional experts in Washington.

The High Council for Women’s Affairs’ Secretary General H.E. Pakhshan Zangana and Director General Florin Gorgis delivered a speech at one of four sessions of the CSW, calling on the UN to support ‘the extraordinarily dire crisis in Kurdistan with an extraordinary response.’ They highlighted the importance of women’s empowerment as a pillar of stability and economic and social sustainability. They also asked that the UN support Iraq and the KRG to overcome problems, particularly the financial crisis in the region.

The Council works to support women’s empowerment and rights in the Kurdistan Region. Established in 2009, it is headed by Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and, in addition to Secretary General Zangana and Director General Gorgis, is comprised of ministers from the Ministries of the Interior, Finance, Justice, Culture and Youth, Labor and Social Affairs, and Education. Secretary General Zangana holds the rank of Minister in the KRG.

During a two-day visit to Washington, Secretary General Zangana was accompanied by KRG Representative to the United States Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman to meet with a number of senior US administration officials at the State Department and discuss how the US can support the Council’s work on women’s economic empowerment, psychosocial rehabilitation for women and children rescued from ISIS, and combating terrorism and ideology.

She said, ‘The most important thing for us is freedom for women through economic empowerment.’

The delegation met with Assistant Secretary Anne Richard of the Bureau for Population, Refugees, Migration to discuss the Council’s efforts to support women’s empowerment among displaced populations. They thanked the US for its commitment to Iraq and the Kurdistan Region throughout the humanitarian crisis, and asked for support for efforts to care for the women and children rescued from ISIS control.

Kurdistan is currently hosting over 1.8 million displaced Syrians and Iraqis. Although UN High Commissioner for Refugees and various international NGOs continue to provide daily survival needs to displaced families, livelihood support programs have suffered from lack of funding.

Assistant Secretary Tom Malinowski of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor met with Secretary General Zangana for a discussion on the genocide against Yezidis, Christians, and other religious and ethnic minorities in the region. They thanked the State Department for dedicating time and resources towards investigating and ultimately determining that ISIS is responsible for genocide, and emphasized that recognition of the crimes will help them support some of the most vulnerable populations.

They also met State Department officials Director of Iraq Affairs Scott Oudkirk, Special Coordinator in the Office of Global Criminal Justice Todd Buchwald, Special Advisor for Religious Minorities and International Religious Freedom in Middle East Knox Thames, Deputy Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons Carl Fox, and Stephanie Foster, Senior Advisor and Counselor to the Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Catherine Russell.

The delegation met with Kimberly Stanton, Senior Democratic Fellow at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs. They thanked the Commission for its role in supporting House Concurrent Resolution 75, which expressed the sense of Congress that ISIS had committed genocide against Yezidis, Christians, and other religious and ethnic minorities. They highlighted how the financial crisis in Kurdistan has profoundly affected their ability to continue programs aimed at protecting and advocating for women. Secretary General Zangana said, ‘Recognition is the first step toward seeking justice, and only through justice will we ever find reconciliation.’

Secretary General Zangana visited the United States Institute of Peace for a roundtable with experts and representatives from USIP’s Gender and Peacebuilding Center and Center for Middle East and Africa. They discussed collaborative ways that KRG can implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which aims to activate the role of women in conflict resolution and security operations, particularly in post-conflict settings.
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