Kurdistan Regional Government
Representation in the United States

Washington, D.C.
April 2020 newsletter
Welcome to our April 2020 newsletter
As COVID-19 rocks communities around the world, Kurdistan Region remains vigilant for potential cases. After a period of total lockdown, a limited number of businesses are reopening as Muslims in the region mark Ramadan, although the majority of establishments and government offices remain closed. For the time being, the KRG seems to have contained the virus through rigid quarantine and lockdown policies. The total number of active cases today stands at 37, with five deaths. Even so, Prime Minister Masrour Barzani is urging citizens to be vigilant and take precautions.

The economic toll that now faces the Kurdistan Region is immense. The price of oil has crashed, and the lack of economic activity has severely impacted businesses and diminished government revenues. The effect of the pandemic and oil prices on the rest of Iraq is just as extreme. At this critical time, the Iraqi government has said it will no longer make monthly budget transfers to the Kurdistan Region, a move that President Nechirvan Barzani has called "unconstitutional and unlawful". In a meeting with United Nations Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis- Plasschaert, the President asked the UN to mediate in resolving the dispute.  
This week, Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani is in Baghdad meeting with federal government officials and political leaders in an attempt to seek a solution. In the meantime, we approach the deadline for the formation of a new Iraqi cabinet by Prime Minister-designate Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, who has the support of the Kurdistan Region as well as that of other, but not all, groups in Iraq.

As we contemplate the new complex of challenges facing Kurdistan Region, we are grateful for the support of our partners and allies around the world, including the United States which has provided medical assistance for COVID-19 through USAID and is supporting some peshmerga brigades through stipends, which are critical at this trying time.

We also appreciate the support of NGOs like Spirit of America which recently provided personal protective equipment to the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs in order to combat the COVID-19 outbreak. This month, the  "Kurdistan in America" podcast interviewed Zack Bazzi, Regional Director for the Middle East and Central Asia for the Spirit of America. In concert with the financial and technical support provided by the US Government, organizations like Spirit of America will remain essential for Kurdistan's success in the coming difficult months. 
Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman
Representative to the United States
Kurdistan Regional Government
KRG US Representation Office Closure

As the impact of the corona virus continues to evolve, we at the Kurdistan Regional Government Representation in the United States remain focused on the health and safety of our staff and communities.

As a result of concerns over the spread of the virus and in line with guidance by local authorities, our office in Washington, DC is closed to visitors until further notice. The Representative and staff of the Mission are teleworking and remain active and available digitally.

Community services, including Proof of Life certificates and Power of Attorney authorizations can still be processed by mail, but applicants should keep in mind that the documents may not be processed in Kurdistan Region for some time due to the curfew and shutdowns experienced there.

Read a press release with relevant contact information here: [English] / [Kurdish]
Prime Minister Barzani meets with UNAMI and WHO representatives, describes Baghdad's cut of Erbil budget as political pressure

Prime Minister Masrour Barzani met with representatives from the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in Erbil, to discuss ongoing efforts to form Iraq's new cabinet as well as Baghdad's recent move to cut the Kurdistan Region's share of the federal budget.

Prime Minister Barzani described the federal government's budgetary decision as political pressure against the people of the Kurdistan Region. This allocation accounts for half of the money used by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to pay public sector salaries.

Deputy Prime Minister Talabani discusses formation of new Iraqi cabinet with U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq Affairs

Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani stressed the importance of forming a new government in Iraq quickly, in a telephone conversation with David Copley, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq Affairs in the US Department of State.

Deputy Prime Minister Talabani said the federal government and the KRG should step forward to resolve outstanding problems together. He wished success to Iraq's Prime Minister-designate Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, and expressed the Kurdistan Region's readiness to cooperate with the federal government in overcoming Iraq's economic, security and health issues.

Spirit of America's Zack Bazzi speaks with "Kurdistan in America" podcast

The "Kurdistan in America" podcast published its third episode this month, featuring an interview with Zack Bazzi, the Regional Director for the Middle East and Central Asia for the NGO Spirit of America.

The podcast explores the rich relationship between the US and Kurdistan Region. The latest episode focused on Spirit of America's work in the Kurdistan Region, including their recent delivery of critical medical supplies to protect Peshmerga forces from COVID-19. We also discussed the role of the US government and NGOs in supporting the humanitarian crisis, as well as Zack's first introduction to Kurdistan as a US Army Sergeant during the Operation Iraqi Freedom.

or on your favorite podcast app:

Prime Minister Barzani expresses support for Iraq's new Prime Minister-designate Mustafa Al-Kadhimi

Prime Minister Masrour Barzani spoke by telephone with Iraq's Prime Minister-designate Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, and offered his support in the formation of a new federal government.

Prime Minister Barzani underlined the importance of working together to resolve disputes between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Baghdad in accordance with Iraq's Constitution.
Head of DFR receives a phone call from the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq Affairs at the State Department

Minister Safeen Dizayee, Head of KRG's Department of Foreign Relations, received a phone call from David Copley, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq Affairs at the US Department of State's Near Eastern Affairs bureau.

In the phone call, Minister Dizayee congratulated Deputy Assistant Secretary Copley on assuming his new post and wished him success. He also expressed his optimism for a good working relationship as they work to further develop bilateral ties in the many areas of mutual interest and cooperation between the United States and Kurdistan Region.

KRG Representative holds call with US Energy Department PDAS Dr. Matt Zais

KRG Representative Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman had a call with Dr. Matt Zais, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of International Affairs at the US Department of Energy (pictured here in January 2020).

During the call the two officials discussed a range of issues including the Iraqi federal government formation, the KRG's handling of the global COVID-19 pandemic, and the ways that the recent collapse in oil prices and decreased demand for energy will impact Kurdistan Region and Iraq.

Read a press release here: English // کوردی 
Deputy Prime Minister Talabani meets with government delegation for federal budget affairs, urges continued efforts to secure region's fair share

Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani with the KRG's delegation for federal budget affairs in Erbil, to discuss the latest developments concerning the region's share of the budget.

The Deputy Prime Minister stressed that the priority of the KRG is to protect the public from the coronavirus pandemic and ensure government employees receive their salaries on time. He said ongoing discussions with Baghdad on the region's share of the federal budget will continue.

In the meeting, the KRG delegation for federal budget affairs briefed the Deputy Prime Minister on the outcome of their recent visit to Baghdad, as well as the current economic conditions in Iraq.

Read a press release here.
Representative Abdul Rahman and officials at State Department and National Security Council discuss challenges facing Kurdistan and Iraq

KRG Representative to the United States Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman spoke with David Copley, the newly-appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq Affairs.

The two officials spoke via telephone about the growing challenges facing Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, including the outbreak of COVID-19, ongoing humanitarian crisis, and the issues around forming a new federal Iraqi government. They also discussed the opportunities for greater cooperation presented by the these difficulties.

The previous week, Representative Abdul Rahman spoke with Erik Olson (pictured here, December 12, 2019), Director for Iraq Affairs at the National Security Council, to update him on recent developments in the region, including the KRG's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Read a press release here: English // کوردی
Prime Minister Barzani chairs cabinet meeting on coronavirus, warns disease still a threat

Prime Minister Masrour Barzani on April 22 chaired a cabinet meeting via video conference to discuss the ongoing coronavirus threat. He thanked the public for their resilience and commitment to the lockdown measures aimed at containing the disease and urged continued compliance.

Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani also attended the meeting, in which the Prime Minister said the KRG proactive measures to fight the coronavirus have worked.

The Prime Minister said local authorities have taken steps in lifting some social distancing measures to normalize peoples' lives, while key mitigation measures remain in place to prevent a rebound of the disease. These efforts will continue to ensure life goes back to normal in a phased manner.

Two Peshmerga killed in attack by ISIS terrorists

Under cover of darkness,  on April 15 ISIS terrorists attacked Peshmerga defensive positions in the town of Kalajo, Garmiyan district. Two brave Peshmerga from the 5th Infantry Brigade, Ismael Fars Rasul and Sarkew Hama Rasheed, were martyred.

We extend our condolences to the families of those brave martyrs, who paid the ultimate price as they defended Kurdistan Region.

In a press release, the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs reminded the people of Kurdistan that despite the current unfavorable conditions and COVID-19 outbreak, the Peshmerga are prepared and working hard at defending the land and people of Kurdistan.

President Barzani hosts wide-ranging discussion with Kurdistan's Vice Presidents

Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani held a meeting on April 20 with his Vice Presidents and a number of senior aides at the Kurdistan Presidency to discuss the latest developments in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq.

The meeting focused on containment efforts of COVID-19 outbreak, the protective measures that were set by the KRG and their impacts on the people's lives and livelihoods, the issue of the deployment of troops in the Zini Warté area, the formation of the new Iraqi Cabinet and Kurdistan Region's share of ministerial posts, and the dangers of ISIS threats and the ways to confront them, particularly in the disputed territories.

KRG-US issues April Humanitarian Bulletin
The KRG Representation in Washington issued its monthly humanitarian bulletin, highlighting the ongoing humanitarian crisis and delivering up-to-date information and statistics about the situation.

According to KRG's Joint Crisis Coordination Center, about 40% of the refugees in Kurdistan Region live in 10 camps and 20% of the IDPs live in 28 camps across three provinces in the Kurdistan Region. There is a total of 264,720 refugees throughout the Kurdistan Region: 244,663 are Syrian Kurds, 10,844 are Iranian Kurds, 8,513 are Kurds from Turkey, and 700 are Palestinians.
Refugees International hosts virtual event about COVID-19 outbreak and humanitarian efforts in Kurdistan Region and northeast Syria 

KRG Representative Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman spoke at a virtual event about the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on the Kurdistan Region and the humanitarian response.

Representative Abdul Rahman outlined the KRG's robust and swift response to the outbreak and the difficulty with providing aid for the more than one million displaced people in Kurdistan Region in such a crisis. She also spoke about the secondary effects that the outbreak has had on the local economy, governmental budgets, and the fight against ISIS. Ms Abdul Rahman noted that job losses due to the lockdown had resulted in some families in both the host and displaced communities needing food packages. She also warned about the impact of the weakening economy on funding for Peshmerga operations.

Representation Abdul Rahman holds round of calls with US officials

KRG Representative Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman held a series of calls with US administration officials this week from the Department of Defense, Office of the Vice President, and Department of State. In each call, Representative Abdul Rahman thanked the US for its going support to the Kurdistan Region and Iraq.

The Representative had a call with Simone Ledeen (pictured here), who began earlier in the month as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East. In their first call, Representative Abdul Rahman congratulated Deputy Assistant Secretary Ladeen on her new post and expressed the Kurdistan Region's appreciation for the close partnership between US forces and the Peshmerga, as well as the US' leadership in the international Coalition against ISIS. They discussed the challenges facing the Peshmerga, including a resurgent ISIS. They also discussed the economic difficulties facing Kurdistan Region, and Iraq as a whole, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and fall in oil prices.

Read a press release here.
KRG hosts portal for information about COVID-19

The website of KRG's Council of Ministers hosts an information portal about the COVID-19 outbreak in Kurdistan. The portal includes the latest data on daily infection rates, as well as infections by governorate, gender, and age.

As of April 30, Kurdistan Region had registered a total of 380 confirmed cases, although 325 of those had recovered. There have been five deaths, leaving the total number of active cases at 50.

KRG-US hosts COVID-19 discussion with medical professionals

The KRG Representation in Washington hosted a videoconference discussion with doctors working on the front lines of the battle against the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States.

There were two doctors on the call. Dr. Christine Butts, Director of Emergency Ultrasound Division and Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine at Louisiana State University, who has previously visited Kurdistan where she has met and worked with Kurdish doctors.

She was joined by Dr. Jagar A. Jasem, originally from Duhok in Kurdistan Region and a Fellow at Johns Hopkins University Hospital working on cancer cure and an international COVID-19 advisor who also holds a Masters of Public Health with distinction in Epidemiology from University of Nebraska Medical Center.

KRG Representative Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman moderated the discussion and took questions from the online audience.

Read a press release: English //  کوردی
Kurdistan Parliament decides on work priorities, special committee to scrutinize Coronavirus measures and their impact

Kurdistan Parliament's presidency and the heads of the parliamentary blocks held a special meeting on 4 April, as the nation tackles the Corona virus outbreak and its consequences. They decided to continue coordinating with the KRG on implementation of the Reform Law; to scrutinize border points, food and medicine imports; and to monitor the work of the special bodies tackling the Coronavirus outbreak.

The meeting was chaired by Parliament Speaker Dr. Rewas Faiq, and included Deputy Speaker Hemin Hawrami, Secretary Muna Kahveci, and the heads of the parliamentary blocks (KDP, PUK, Gorran, New Generation, Kurdistan Islamic Group, Kurdistan Islamic Union, Social Democrats, Communist Party, and the Christian and Turkmen parties). 

Columbia University hosts discussion with Representative Abdul Rahman

KRG Representative Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman joined a videoconference with students from Columbia University's International Fellows Program in the School of International and Public Affairs.

During the discussion, which was also joined by advocates from Russia and South America, Representative Abdul Rahman discussed the security, political, and economic situation in the Kurdistan Region, focusing on the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. She also answered questions from students during the off-the-record discussion.

  Read a press release: English  // کوردی
Kurdistan in the media

April 6, 2020
Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region on Monday warned of a "humanitarian catastrophe" from the coronavirus as the government in Baghdad offered to transfer funds to citizens stranded abroad.

April 14, 2020
Rudaw has collected the testimonies of several survivors to be released in a seven-part series, entitled "The Anfal Files".

April 27, 2020
The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, commended health authorities in the Kurdistan Region on Monday for "doing a good job" in combating COVID-19 so far.

April 29, 2020
A delegation of Kurdish officials led by Qubad Talabani, deputy prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) - met with US and Iraqi officials in Baghdad on Wednesday to discuss outstanding oil and budget issues between Erbil and Baghdad.

German Trial Accuses Iraqi of Genocide in Killing of Yazidi Girl - New York Times
April 25, 2020
The Frankfurt trial of the 27-year-old man accused of being an ISIS member is believed to be the first that carries the charge of genocide in relation to the Yazidis.

April 27, 2020
Baghdad is withholding the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)'s share of the Iraqi federal budget to "punish" the Kurdish people, Prime Minister Masrour Barzani told the United Nations special representative to Iraq during her visit to Erbil on Monday. 

April 19, 2020
WHO has provided medical supplies and equipment to the Ministry of Health of the Kurdistan region of Iraq to support response efforts in fighting COVID-19.

A pril 14, 2020
Photographers in Erbil have continued to document city life despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen daily life grind to a halt.

April 25, 2020
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, people all over the world are struggling. More than 197,500 people have died worldwide. While healthcare providers continue to risk their lives on the front lines in hospitals, there is another arena of public health education that needs to be addressed.

April 28, 2020
Lockdown. For most people, it probably wasn't a very familiar concept. When the American tanks first rolled into Baghdad, I hadn't heard of such strict curfews either. But now, as a 29-year-old Iraqi, I'm seeing events outside my window that feel like deja vu.

April 29, 2020
On Wednesday, the cabinet of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) sent a 10 point letter to its federal counterpart with documents, statistics, and legal arguments that challenged a recently-announced plan to suspend monthly payments of the region's share of the national budget that is crucial to paying salaries of government workers.

April 28, 2020
Forty days after the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) ordered all non-essential businesses to close, Erbil's artisan craftsmen have pulled open their shutters once more to resume work, just in time for the holy month of Ramadan.

Iraqi Kurdistan rejects NGO accusations of blocking aid to Syrian Kurds - Al Monitor
April 22, 2020
The government of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region is responding with anger to relief organizations' claims that it is blocking aid to the northeast Syria as COVID-19 rages, with officials saying it has "bent over backward" to help.

April 22, 2020
Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani warned on Wednesday that the coronavirus remains a serious danger and called on the public to continue to abide by precautionary measures now still in place to prevent new outbreaks as the number of hospitalized patients falls by the day.

April 22, 2020
Coronavirus has become the defining news story of the year - perhaps even the decade. Kurdish leaders have used the occasion of Kurdish Journalism Day to thank the Kurdistan Region's media workers for keeping the public informed through the crisis.

Iran and the U.S. agree on Iraq's latest nominee for prime minister. But will Iraqis
 - Washington Post
April 10, 2020
 When Iraq's sharp-suited intelligence chief accepted his nomination for prime minister Thursday, 17 years to the day that U.S. troops marched into Baghdad, the challenges ahead seemed steeper than at any point since the invasion transformed Iraq.

April 13, 2020
he US-led coalition will resume military training  for Peshmerga forces in the Kurdistan Region by the end of May, a coalition spokesperson told Rudaw on Sunday. 

April 17, 2020
Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region will postpone payments for oil sales made between November 2019 and February 2020 while committing to paying regularly for the following months, London-based Genel Energy said on Friday.

April 25, 2020
The Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) Minister of Education announced in a televised speech on Thursday that an e-school program for grades one through twelve was now being implemented to help students keep up their studies during the anti-coronavirus curfew that has closed centers of learning throughout the autonomous region.

April 22, 2020
Ainkawa churches have resorted to live streaming Mass services as the coronavirus lockdown continues. 

April 24, 2020
Senior officials of the Kurdistan Region, on Friday, marked the 46th anniversary of the bombardment of Qaladze by the former Iraqi regime, issuing statements which honored and commemorated the victims and survivors of that atrocity.

A pril 7, 2020
When people ask me my favorite places on Earth, typically I respond like this: the best food is in Ethiopia, the best historical sites are in India, but the best people are in Kurdistan. For that reason, I have been pulled back to Kurdistan as a photographer again and again.

April 26, 2020
Feud resurfaces as a Kurdish ally could become the country's next prime minister

April 21, 2020
Iraq's President Barham Salih stressed on Monday the importance of relying on the constitution and the national interest to solve outstanding issues between the federal government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq.

April 19, 2020
Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region said on Sunday it is committed to its share of an OPEC+ deal to reduce oil output to support prices and curb oversupply, Iraq's state news agency reported.