This week, Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani met with United States Senator Lindsey Graham to discuss the many issues Kurdistan is currently facing. The two spoke in Erbil primarily about the continued efforts by the Peshmerga to subdue the Islamic State and the nearly 2 billion internally displaced people that have been affected by the conflict. A readout from the meeting released by the KRG said,
Welcoming large numbers of IDPs and refugees — who were fleeing terror — by the people and Kurdistan Regional Government, the bravery of Peshmerga in eliminating the fear and the threat of Daesh on all levels, and the military and humanitarian aid of America to the Kurdistan Region, were discussed.”
The autonomous Iraqi-Kurdistan region has hosted upwards of 1.3 million internally displaced people and refugees from Syria registered with the Joint Crisis Coordination Centre. The human rights of these people and the ethnic relevance pertaining to the collective as well as facilitating the return to their homes were discussed in depth. In this context, Prime Minister Barzani conveyed “the readiness of the government for any facilitation, collaboration or cooperation.”
The Prime Minister also held a meeting over the weekend with a United States led delegation where they discussed religious freedom in the region. This came at the advisement of Vice President Mike Pence, who has been pushing for initiatives aimed at supporting Middle eastern minorities through humanitarian aid. Kurdistan is one of the most diverse regions in the Middle East and is a collective of Kurds, Turkmen, Arabs, Yezidis, and various other ethno-religious minorities. Many of these collectives were at the forefront of the Islamic States atrocities during the recent conflict especially in the disputed territories.
Many of these disputed territories are still being affected by the remnants of ISIS now that the Peshmerga have been forced to withdraw by the central Iraqi government. Residents have been subjected to an influx of murders, kidnappings, and robberies carried out by Islamic State sleeper cells and general criminals alike. Both the KRG and Iraqi government wish to claim the territories and security forces are spread too thin to make a real impact. Prime Minister Barzani hopes that progress will be made in the future through continued diplomacy with Iraq. He declared that Kurdistan is prepared to participate “in a way that the rights of the Kurdish nation and all the other components be protected according to the constitution.”
Featured image: Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani | By KRG Office [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons