March in Kurdistan's calendar is a month filled with significant dates and events, including the somber anniversary of the genocide in Halabja in 1988 and the more joyful celebrations of Newroz, the Kurdish new year.
Welcome to our March 2020 newsletter
This year, due to the coronavirus, there were almost no public events in Kurdistan or among the diaspora in North America as gatherings were cancelled in observance of curfews in Kurdistan and social-distancing followed by lockdowns in the United States. In both places, heroic healthcare professionals, key workers and law enforcement have won the praise and gratitude of the public.
As of March 30, there are 161 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Kurdistan Region, with two people killed by COVID-19. Across Iraq, the number of confirmed cases is 630 with 46 losing their lives. In Kurdistan Region, some communities were also hit by flash floods, while the economy is taking a hit as oil prices fall sharply.
In observance of advice by the CDC, the KRG US Representation closed to visitors earlier this month and we are conducting meetings via the telephone and video-conferencing, the new reality for many diplomatic missions, businesses and schools.
Amid the gloom and deep worry caused by the coronavirus, there is some happier news. USAID is donating $670,000 to Iraq, including the Kurdistan Region, to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and President Donald Trump congratulated President Nechirvan Barzani on the occasion of Newroz.
Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman
Representative to the United States
Kurdistan Regional Government
PM Masrour Barzani speech on the coronavirus
Prime Minister Masrour Barzani delivered a speech on March 14, outlining the KRG's response to the ongoing threat posed by the global outbreak of the coronavirus.
In his speech, the Prime Minister said,
"It is clear that the Kurdistan Region, alongside the rest of the world, faces an unprecedented threat."
"The Kurdistan Regional Government was one of the first in the world to take protective and health measures. We put in place an early emergency budget and immediately took steps to contain and delay the virus as soon as the danger became apparent, for instance by closing schools and universities, and cutting back and in some cases suspending government bodies; restricting border crossing movements; limiting public events and gatherings, and enforcing strict temperature controls at borders and airports. After assessing the situation, we have now restricted movements between provinces in Kurdistan and with the rest of Iraq. We are now at a stage where it is necessary to further restrict movements within cities and towns."
US President extends Newroz greetings to the people of Kurdistan
Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani received a congratulatory letter from President Donald Trump of the United States on the occasion of Newroz.
President Trump wrote:
"On behalf of the American people, I wish you and the people of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region a warm and joyous Nowruz.
We have made great progress together against ISIS, and I look forward to new opportunities to strengthen our economic and security relations with your 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]
President Nechirvan Barzani receives US delegation
Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani received U.S. Deputy Special Envoy to the International Coalition, Ambassador William Roebuck.
The latest developments in Iraq, including the recent rocket attack on the international coalition forces in Al-Taji near Baghdad were discussed during the meeting.
The two sides also discussed the recent political developments in Iraq and the ongoing efforts to designate a new candidate for Iraq's prime minister.
'Spirit of America' supports Ministry of Peshmerga in fighting coronavirus
The Spirit of America organization has donated over $18,000 worth of protective gear and equipment for use in efforts against the coronavirus to the Ministry of Peshmerga.
Brigadier General Hazhar Omar, Ministry of Peshmerga Director of Cooperation and Communication said, "We found it necessary to request help from the 'Spirit of America' organization in order to better prepare us protect our forces against this virus. Consequently, through cooperating with the Joint Security Office at the U.S. Consulate in Erbil and Ministry of Peshmerga's General Directorate of Health, we were able to approve and receive the donation from the mentioned organization."
US 2020 Census includes option to write in Kurdistani heritage
Every ten years the US government conducts a survey of all people living in the United States. This year the Census includes the ability for people to write in their own race. This means that if your heritage is from Kurdistan, you can say so on the Census form.
It's time to be counted!
Census forms should have been mailed to every address by now. The Census is the opportunity to know how many people originally from Kurdistan are now living in the United States. It will help the community to be counted when it matters. Census results help the US federal government allocate funding for health clinics, schools, jobs and education, among other resources and facilities.
Click here for information on how to indicate Kurdistani heritage.
Click here for a Facebook group about the Census, run by the Kurdish community.
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Joey Hood speaks with "Kurdistan in America" podcast
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Joey Hood spoke with the "Kurdistan in America" podcast about the close relationship between the United States and the Kurdistan Region. He also talked about his family's history with Operation Provide Comfort and his dream of seeing Kurdish products like
leben Erbil in American supermarkets.
This was the second episode of the podcast, which is released monthly.
or on your favorite podcast app:
Prime Minister Masrour Barzani statement in response to attack on Taji base
In response to the death of US and British servicemen in a rocket attack on Iraq's Taji military camp, Prime Minister Masrour Barzani expressed his condolences:
"I strongly condemn this attack on our Coalition partners and express condolences to the victims' families and wish the wounded a speedy recovery."
"This attack, at a time when ISIS remains a serious threat in Iraq and the region, will only strengthen extremist groups. Our joint efforts should be focussed on defeating the terrorist threat. Iraq already faces health, economic and security obstacles. Any further escalation will simply harm Iraq and the whole region."
KRG US issues March Humanitarian Bulletin
The KRG US Representation issued a humanitarian bulletin in March, providing the latest information on the humanitarian crisis, including official figures and updates on the COVID-19 outbreak and the KRG's mitigation strategies.
The KRG is experiencing a huge funding gap for supporting displaced people, and the current outbreak will further complicate things. On average, it costs about $2.7 million US dollars per day ($81 million per month) to provide basic civic services to the displaced people in Kurdistan. Approximately 25 percent of the funding is covered and managed by the United Nations Agencies and US Department of State bureaus and 5 percent by International and local NGOs. The KRG provides about 70 percent of funds out of its budget to sustain current basic services, which has exhausted its resources.
President Barzani's statement on Halabja chemical attack anniversary
Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani issued a statement on the anniversary of Saddam Hussein regime's chemical attack against the town of Halabja. He said,
"Today, 32 years have passed since the former Iraqi regime launched a chemical attack on Halabja, killing 5000 innocent civilians, wounding thousands and displacing many more. The horrors of the horrendous attack still haunt the survivors and their families who bear the physical and emotional scars up to the present time. The chemical attack continues to have a devastating impact on the environment of the city and its neighboring areas."
"As we mark this unforgettable crime, we honor those who made sacrifices for our nation, particularly the fallen heroes who lost their lives in the attack. At the same time, we continue to reiterate that such atrocities must be prevented in the future. The genocide of the people of Kurdistan or civilians anywhere in the world, regardless of their faith, ethnicity or political affiliations should not be allowed. This important and sacred principle calls for more unity and tolerance among us."
HDP Foreign Affairs Co-chair visits KRG Mission in Washington
KRG Representative Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman hosted a meeting with Hisyar Ozsoy, the People's Democratic Party (Halkların Demokratik Partisi) Co-chair of Foreign Affairs, and Giran Ozcan, the Party's Representative in Washington. They discussed a range of issues related to the status of the security, prosperity, and rights of the Kurdish people in the Middle East.
Earlier in the week, Representative Abdul Rahman visited Congress to meet with Senator Angus King and discuss the latest political and humanitarian developments in the region, as well as the resurgence of ISIS in Iraq and the importance of the US-Kurdistan security partnership.
US provides additional assistance to Iraq to respond to novel coronavirus COVID-19
The United States Government has provided $670,000 to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Iraq from the Emergency Reserve Fund for Contagious Infectious Diseases at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). USAID is providing these funds to the World Health Organization (WHO) to support Iraq's COVID-19 readiness and response. These funds will contribute to the goals of the Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan to stop further transmission of COVID-19 in affected or at-risk countries, and to mitigate the impact of the outbreak in all countries.
"Today's announcement shows the strength of the US and Iraqi partnership; and we are committed to fighting this pandemic alongside the Iraqi people," said Ambassador Matthew Tueller. "Support provided through the WHO will directly enhance the county's ability to combat the spread of COVID-19."
Speaker of Parliament Dr. Rewas Faiq's message on International Women's Day 2020
On March 8, International Women's Day, the Speaker of Kurdistan's Parliament issued the following message:
On the occasion of March 8th, International Women's Day, my best wishes go out to all the women of Kurdistan and the world. I hope that this symbolic occasion is a new start for women to achieve their goals. We are glad that this occasion coincides with the Kurdish Uprising, when Kurdish women played a significant role together with the Peshmerga forces.
Throughout the history of the Kurdish people's struggle, women have participated in political and civil struggle. However, history has not been fair in recording the role of women in any era.
President Barzani and Deputy Prime Minister Talabani receive the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in Iraq
President Nechirvan Barzani and Deputy Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region Qubad Talabani separately received the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert.
In the meeting with President Barzani, the two sides reiterated the importance of political stability and a new Iraqi government that addresses the legitimate grievances of the people and safeguards the constitutional rights of all groups and communities. In that regard, they highlighted the constructive role of the United Nations.
In the meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Talabani, which was attended by the representative of the World Health Organization, the Deputy Prime Minister stressed that the KRG has taken many measures to prevent the outbreak of the coronavirus, and expressed optimism in the cooperation between citizens and the government to move beyond this crisis with minimal loss of life.
Representative Abdul Rahman holds virtual meetings with senior administration officials
Keeping with the isolation guidelines issued in March, Representative Abdul Rahman held a number of telephone meetings with senior US administration officials, to discuss the rapidly evolving situation in Iraq around the global outbreak of novel coronavirus and other pressing issues.
She met virtually with Assistant Administrator of USAID's Middle East Bureau Mike Harvey (pictured, photo from July 2019) to discuss the particularly concerning nexus of the expanding coronavirus outbreak and the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Iraq, which has left more than one million refugees remaining displaced in the Kurdistan Region. Representative Abdul Rahman thanked Assistant Administrator Harvey for his leadership and USAID's continuing programming in Iraq.
Representative Abdul Rahman held meetings with officials from the Department of State as well, including Ambassador James Jeffrey, who serves as the US Special Representative for Syria Engagement and the Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIL. She also met with Robert Waller, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iran and Iraq, and Director of Iraq Affairs.
Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani chairs cabinet meeting on reforms, electricity production
Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani chaired a cabinet meeting on the implementation of the Reform Law, a flagship initiative of the government, as well as the latest measures taken to contain the outbreak of coronavirus in the Kurdistan Region.
Deputy Prime Minister Talabani stressed the need to continue the ongoing reform process, including diversifying the economy, as one of the government's top priorities. The cabinet requested Minister of Finance and Economy, Awat Janab Noori, to present a detailed report next week on the progress achieved thus far in terms of the implementation of the Reform Law.
Kurdistan Region President meets with UN delegation
Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani met with the United Nations' Under-Secretary General and Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng and Special Adviser and Head of the Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by ISIS/Da'esh (UNITAD) Karim Khan.
In the meeting, also attended by Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani and a number of Kurdistan Region officials, President Nechirvan Barzani reiterated Kurdistan Region's support and readiness to cooperate with the United Nations in investigating the crimes committed by ISIS terror group against the peoples of Iraq in general, especially Yezidi and Christian citizens.
Representative Abdul Rahman meets Senators Grassley, Casey and King
Earlier this month, Representative Abdul Rahman met with members of Congress to continue the KRG's outreach.
The Representative met with Senator Bob Casey (D-PA, pictured), Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Angus King (I-ME). She discussed security and economic partnerships between Kurdistan and the US, as well as recent developments in Kurdistan and Iraq, including protests, the challenges posed by COVID-19, and plunging oil prices.
KRG Minister of Health in video-conference with American doctors
KRG Minister of Health, Dr Saman Berzinji, spoke to several American doctors to explain the steps the KRG has taken to suppress the spread of COVID-19 and the Region's urgent need for medical equipment and supplies.
The video-conference was organized by the KRG-US Representation and included American doctors who have previously spent time in Kurdistan carrying out operations, as well as physicians who had never visited the Region.
During the video conference, Minister Berzinji said that Kurdistan's healthcare infrastructure had been weakened after 2014 when ISIS terrorists attacked and the Region received close to 2 million refugees and displaced people. He said that the KRG's response to the COVID-19 pandemic is focused on preventing the spread of the virus, which by and large the public in Kurdistan has adhered to.
Prime Minister Masrour Barzani speaks with United States Assistant Treasury Secretary Marshall Billingslea by phone
Prime Minister Masrour Barzani spoke by phone to US Assistant Treasury Secretary for Terrorism Financing Marshall Billingslea to discuss US-Kurdistan Region bilateral relations.
In the call, the PM and Assistant Secretary discussed the KRG's response to the coronavirus pandemic and ways that the United States Government can help. Prime Minister Barzani also updated the Assistant Secretary on the detailed domestic reform agenda that the KRG continues to implement, as well as discussing ways to increase US investment in, and trade with, the Kurdistan Region.
Kurdistan in the media
March 21, 2020
The World Health Organization (WHO) in Iraq on Thursday praised the measures enacted and leadership role played by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in facing the ongoing outbreak of the coronavirus.
March 30, 2020
Unless Washington intervenes with cost-effective, forceful measures, Iraqi Kurdistan could be the first Middle Eastern economy to implode under the pressure of coronavirus and low oil prices.
March 8, 2020
Representative Abdul Rahman: "There is no silver bullet to advance women's rights in the Middle East. As we in the Kurdistan Region in Iraq have discovered, building a society in which women and girls enjoy equal rights to men and boys requires a combination of progressive policies and laws and targeted public campaigns aimed at changing cultural mindsets."
March 20, 2020
As Kurds prepare to mark the Newroz holiday under coronavirus lockdown, the heads of Erbil's foreign diplomatic missions shared their warm new year's greetings in a series of videos.
March 26, 2020
The U.S.-led coalition on Thursday started pulling out of a second base in Iraq, in line with a planned drawdown of troops, hours after two rockets hit inside Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone.
March 29, 2020
Islamic State prisoners on Sunday seized control of the ground floor of a major prison in northeastern Syria run by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), with some of the militants managing to escape, an SDF spokesman said.
March 17, 2020
Iraq's president has named a former governor of the city of Najaf as prime minister-designate, following weeks of political infighting and a looming crisis amid a global pandemic
March 19, 2020
Hundreds of homes and shops in the Kurdistan Region's Duhok governorate were damaged on Wednesday, and dozens of cars were swept away and crushed as a result of heavy rain over the past two days.
March 29, 2020
The Iraqi Civil Aviation Agency has informed the Ministry of Transportation of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) that the suspension commercial flights to and from all Iraqi airports would continue until April 11.
March 10, 2020
A Marine special operations captain and gunnery sergeant were both killed Sunday during a joint U.S.-Iraq raid to destroy an Islamic State hideout in a mountainous area in northern Iraq, the military said Tuesday.
March 11, 2020
Iraqi semi-autonomous Kurdistan region has banned the Nowruz New Year festivals due later this month due to coronavirus fears, a statement said on Wednesday.
March 29, 2020
Local Asayish (security) in the Kurdistan Region's Sulaimani province have so far arrested over 100 individuals for attempting to smuggle people from Iran to the Kurdish autonomous region illegally to avoid being quarantined amid the outbreak of coronavirus in the region.
March 19, 2020
The new coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the world, raising alarm for refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who are already devastated by acute and ongoing conflicts.
March 24, 2020
Sebastian Meyer's business partner was shot and left for dead, but later called from captivity
March 8, 2020
Asenath Barzani was the daughter, wife, and mother of rabbinic leaders, but she surpassed them all.
March 18, 2020
Amid fears and mounting uncertainty about Coronavirus, the U.S 2020 census will soon be underway on April 1.
March 17, 2020
The Barzani Charity Foundation announced on Monday that it would provide food baskets to low-income families amid the curfews imposed across cities in the Kurdistan Region.