September 23, 2015

Kurds and friends celebrate launch of Kurdistan Tour Guide in Congress

Washington, DC ( – Congressmen, US government officials, members of the Kurdish community, business leaders, academics, the media and friends of the Kurds celebrated the launch of the Kurdistan Tour Guide in Congress last week.11223334_1011697035518758_3329920774954140220_o

The Kurdistan Regional Government US Representation, in conjunction with the United States Kurdistan Business Council (USKBC), Kurdish American Congressional Caucus, and Douglas Layton, co-author of the Kurdistan Tour Guide, formally launched the book at a reception held in the US Congress on September 16.

The 400-page guide, aimed at attracting travelers to Kurdistan, was authored by two Americans and is the first comprehensive tour guide of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq.

Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, KRG Representative to the United States, said at the book launch, ‘This book is the first comprehensive guide to the Kurdistan Region. I see it as a celebration and we need to have celebrations even in the darkest of times. Today, Kurdistan is facing ISIS. Our valiant and brave Peshmerga are defending the people Kurdistan and the nearly 2 million displaced persons now taking refuge in the Kurdistan Region.’

She added, ‘Today, there are many minorities, including Yezidis, Christians, Shabak, Kakai, Turkmen as well as Sunni and Shia Arabs among other ethno-religious groups taking refuge in the Kurdistan. This is simply because Kurdistan is peaceful and we believe in peace and coexistence. Our friends in the West often tell us that Kurdistan’s greatest asset is its people. I am proud to say the book reflects that.’

The guide covers over 200 historic sites, contains 600 pictures and portrays Kurdistan’s culture, cuisine and customs. Kurdistan boasts the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world as well as its oldest bridge and aqueduct ruin, Neanderthal caves and numerous citadels, shrines, churches, synagogues, mosques and ancient temples. ‘One could stand on the site of Alexander the Great’s historic battle with the ruler of Persia, Darius III. This is truly a fresh and largely unexplored region, the cradle of civilization which any serious traveler should not miss,’ Dr Layton told guests.

The American entrepreneurs behind the book, Dr Layton and Harry Schute, a retired US Army Colonel, have more than 25 years of experience in the region. Through the book, they hope to help change perceptions and show that the Kurdistan Region is a still-point in the Middle East’s turbulent geopolitics.

Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn also praised the launch of the book and commended the bravery and sacrifices made by the Kurdish Peshmerga Forces. ‘We are always trying to raise awareness about the attacks carried out by ISIS on the Kurdish villages in Iraq and Syria and we appreciate your commitment to ease these issues and to improve the economic and health development of the region,’ she said. Ms Blackburn represents Nashville, Tennessee, which hosts the largest Kurdish-American community in the United States, and currently serves as a co-chair of the KACC.

‘Most people thought we were crazy by launching this book, but in 2011, National Geographic voted Kurdistan as a top 20 destination in the world, as did USA Today and the New York Times,’ said Dr. Layton. National Geographic dubbed Kurdistan an ‘oasis of peace and stability in a historically volatile region… drawing a growing stream of curious Western visitors to its ancient cities, snowcapped mountains, and bustling bazaars’.

‘People often ask, why produce a guide in the middle of a crisis? Kurdistan is a land between rivers, the cradle of civilization; it has more archaeological and historical sites than any other region in the world. Beautiful snow-covered mountains, rivers, lakes, streams and most importantly perhaps the most hospitable people in the world. We approached this book with one important reason, to educate the people around the world who the Kurds are,’ said Dr. Layton.

General Jim Jones, who heads the US-Kurdistan Business Council, told the audience about his experiences with the people of Kurdistan over the years. He said, ‘In that part of the world, I know of no other group of people that are better friends of the United States.’ Gen. Jones commanded US Marines during Operation Provide Comfort in the early 1990s to protect the Kurds of Iraq from being massacred by Saddam Hussein. He told the audience that Operation Provide Comfort was one of the most memorable events of his long military career.

The reception was well-attended by US government officials, including Assistant US Trade Representative (USTR) for South Asia Michael Delaney, who addressed the guests. ‘I reviewed the book and I highly recommended it. It is a great guide and I can say that Kurdistan is a fascinating place for tourism and there is a tremendous amount of history there. Kurdistan has a promising future and great potential,’ said Mr. Delaney. The USTR office is part of the Executive Office of the US President and Mr. Delaney is responsible for development of trade with the countries of South Asia including Iraq.

Congressman Jared Polis of Colorado also attended the event and praised the guide during his remarks. ‘I am very excited to join you today to help launch the tour guide. I look forward to the day when I can visit Kurdistan as a pure tourist. I am very proud to co-chair the Kurdish Caucus and we deeply care about this region,’ he said. ‘As a Coloradan, I’d like to think we have our beautiful mountains in common and Kurdistan equally has some stunning peaks along with it opportunities for tourism and recreation as well.’ The Kurdish American Congressional Caucus has over four dozen members including some senior members who sit on key committees.

Earlier in the month, more than a dozen Kurdish-Americans hand-delivered the Kurdistan Tour Guide to every member of Congress in an effort to strengthen awareness of their homeland, culture, history, heritage, and today’s challenges.

See a high-resolution photo gallery here.

See a report by Kurdistan TV on the event here.
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