Speech at 19th annual conference of the Kurdish National Congress (KNC) at the Hilton Hotel in Irvine, California on March 24, 2007. It is of note that midway through the conference an angry individual made threats and demanded the hotel remove the symbolic identity of the Kurdish people from the flag pole in front of the hotel. The incident is being investigated.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Before I proceed, I would like to have a minute of silence for the loss of one of our best members, Mrs. Soraya Sarajadini. Whoever had met Soraya, the late KNC vice president, knows about the dedication of this remarkably assertive and confident leader; she was an advocate of independence and an opponent of injustice, humiliation, and submission. We miss this dear sister and leader tremendously but continue her mission.
After the 2006 annual conference in Washington DC, the KNC board decided to have the next event in Irvine. As the resident of this beautiful and diverse city, I was asked to chair this year's annual conference. In the name of KNC board of directors and the conference committee members, who have worked hard to make this event happen, I would like to welcome all of you.
As the chair of the conference and its preparation committee, I thank every one who stepped in and helped us with achieving our objective. Special thanks to our committee members who were directly involved and alphabetically included: Mr. Dyari Ahmad, Mr. Luqman Berwari, Mrs. Soraya Falah, Mr. Aazad Moradian Mr. Hiwa Nazhadian, the board members Mr. Nyma Ardalan, Mr. Bulan Baban, Mr. Shwan Karim, Dr. Wafa Khorshid, Mr. Brusk Reshvan, Miss. Lana Salih, Dr. Saman Shali, Mr. Tom Ver Ploeg, the alternate board member Muazaz Aziz, and the past presidents Dr. Fouad Darweesh, Dr. Hikmat Fikrat, Dr. Asad Khailany, Dr. Najimalden Karim. They deserve a very loud applause. Thank you all.
I would like to especially thank Dr. Sahli who for the past three years tirelessly has worked hard and brought the organization to a new stage of its development. Now many Kurds in North America, in other part of Diaspora, as well as in Kurdistan look up to KNC as a pluralistic, determined, and assertive organization that does not accept anything less than independence for Kurdistan.
KNC was established in 1988 by the few patriotic Kurdish Americans in response to the chemical bombing in Halabaja. Since they all were men, it's fair to consider them as the founding father of KNC. I refer them as senior members, although they are not qualified for the 25c coffee at McDonald's, as one of our members put it. They have been great role models for many of us who joined the organization later.
Some have criticized KNC leaders as self serving people who are after power, fame, and position. Frankly the people I have worked with in KNC can achieve a much higher position, fame, and power by not working with KNC or being a Kurd at all; because of their dedication, talent, and determination, they could lead any institution they join, but they rather promote a cause that they are compassionate about; not many people dare to take their noble path because it is a tough road to take and requires much dedication without any personal rewards.
Still since 1988 many others Kurds and friends of Kurds have joined and helped this organization to promote the cause of our stateless but courageous, hopeful, and determined people to fulfill their dream of obtaining self determination right. Like any other organizations KNC has had downfalls, yet been persistent and successful in working toward its ultimate objective step by step.
As an example the yearly conferences including the one last year in Halwe and Slemany, the women's conference in Hawler, the youth conference in Nashville, and convincing some of the US legislators as well as human rights organizations to support our cause are not simple tasks. They all required dedication, time, and money. Without voluntarism of our members and supporters these would not have been possible. Thank you all.
Of course more can be done, and I invite all of you to join us to serve our 40 million stateless people who are being treated as second class citizens in four dictatorial countries. One could argue that one of those states is no longer dictatorial. I doubt if it is left for the fanatic section of the “liberated Iraq” they will not hesitate to repeat Saddam's atrocities against the Kurds. Sadam's punishment was carried out by a revengeful fanatic section in Iraq that has a difficult time to forgive and insists on mixing religion and state as the answer for every citizen as indicated in their suggested constitution. Although such a constitution might be of value to some, it might be an insult to others who have other convictions and to some of us who doubt any convictions.
For the past year many Kurds have been reminding the leadership in Southern Kurdistan to declare independence. Some have argued that it is better to wait until all parts of Kurdistan are ready to create one united Kurdish state.
Even I, as a dreamer consider such a hope impractical. While there are multiple Turkish, Arabic, and Persian states, why should we shy away from having a few Kurdish states starting with Southern Kurdistan? How long should Southern Kurdistani people wait until all citizens of Dyarbekir, Qanmishli, and Kermashan have an access to an education in their language as the foundation for a healthy identity and development?
An independent Southern Kurdistan not only benefits all Kurds but also neighboring countries. I am convinced if Kurds are free, they would unite not only with each other but also with the neighboring nations to create a union based on equality and mutual respect, as it is the case in European Union. Such ideas might sound dream-like; however, humankind's achievements have always started with the ideas of some dreamers.
In the eye of our opponents, including some cheaply purchased entrepreneur or self acclaimed intellectuals who had described Kurdish hope an illusion, KNC activists might be seen as dreamers. I believe those opponents are in a dreamless sleep for not seeing their destiny will be the same as the destiny of colonialists, slave-owners and all of those who opposed freedom and equality. I believe independence of Kurdistan is inevitable despite all the obstacles.
I am confident once independent, Kurds will open their arms even to their opponents and wish them a happy Newday. For now they might only wish a happy Newroz to those who believe in freedom and equality!
Dr. Kamal H Artin is a member of Kurdish American Education Society (www.kaes.us), and the Kurdish National Congress; however, his views do not necessarily reflect the views of all members. Dr. Artin maintains the website: www.art-in-mind.net