Guest speaker outlines plight of Kurds in Iraq

Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman speaks at New College on Iraq and Kurdistan after ISIS.
Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman speaks at New College on Iraq and Kurdistan after ISIS.

The Sarasota World Affairs Council (SWAC) welcomed Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government to the United States, to the Mildred Sainer Pavilion last week for a discussion of Iraq and Kurdistan after ISIS.

Abdul Rahman told the audience about her peoples’ long period of oppression under Saddam Hussein, even as the United States entered into a partnership with the Kurds following the Gulf War. Hussein’s defeat emboldened the Kurds, who tried to rise against the dictator. His regime responded with brutal force and millions of Kurds fled.

“Among those who died was my grandfather,” shared Abdul Rahman. “He was in his 90s, and the journey and the cold were simply too much.”

Kurdistan enjoyed a golden decade of prosperity following Hussein’s ouster from power, but ISIS derailed the region’s economic and political gains.

Following a 2017 referendum in which the 5 million Kurds who live in Iraq voted for independence, Abdul Rahman says the people of Kurdistan want better relations with Iraq are ready to negotiate with Baghdad.

“I think one unified Kurdistan is difficult to imagine right now,” said Abdul Rahman of the 40 million Kurds spread across Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey. “We are linked by blood, language, history, heritage and no one can take that away.”

Abdul Rahman joined SWAC as part of its 2018-19 lecture series season. The next lecture, Dec. 12 at the Mildred Sainer Pavilion, features Andrés Ruzo, a geothermal scientist and National Geographic Young Explorer, discussing his work in the Amazon.


Located in Sarasota, New College of Florida has educated intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement since its founding in 1960. As the State of Florida’s designated honors college, New College provides an exceptional education that transforms students’ intellectual curiosity into personal accomplishment. The 110-acre bay front campus is home to more than 800 students and 80 full-time faculty engaged in interdisciplinary research and collaborative learning. New College offers nearly 40 areas of concentration for undergraduates and a master’s degree program in Data Science.

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