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Mr. President meets Mr. Kurd

By KANI XULAM 9/10/2018
It was an extraordinary occasion when President Trump recognized not one but two Kurdish journalists at his recent press conference in Manhattan, New York.

It exhilarated the Kurds, but I suspect blindsided the foreign policy establishment or in his words the “Deep State” that are deeply entrenched with the preservation of status quo in the Middle East.

Can Kurds expect some good news from this clash of titans the way Poles freed themselves from the clash of Germans and Russians after the First World War?

Majeed Gly, the first Kurdish journalist to enjoy the presidential spotlight, was understandably nervous when Mr. Trump recognized him in a room crammed with big-name reporters. 

Mr. Gly began his question by saying he was a representative of Rudaw Media Network.

But the words, Rudaw Media Network, didn’t ring a bell for Mr. Trump. Curious about Mr. Gly’s background, he asked, “Who are you? Where are you from?”

Mr. Gly said he was from the Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq and added: “I am a Kurd.”

The four letters, K-U-R-D, that cause insomnia in four Middle Eastern capitals delighted Mr. Trump.

He began to sing our praises.

Rahim Rashidi, a reporter for Kurdistan TV, was there and couldn’t believe his eyes or ears.

He must have leapt to the edge of his seat, and the president must have noticed it for he took a break from his superlatives and asked Mr. Rahimi if he was a Kurd.

Mr. Rahimi, without a microphone, told the president he was.

Mr. Gly then noted that Kurds are under a lot of pressure in Syria and Iraq and given their critical support for America’s war on ISIS, will Mr. Trump now help them in their hour of need?

President Trump said he liked Kurds, adding, “We are helping them. Some people are great fighters and some people aren’t. Kurds are great fighters. And they are a great people.”

There was more, but the above exchange alone would have been enough for the Kurdish media to headline President Trump as a potential friend of the Kurds.

And we would have considered ourselves lucky if the other journalists had made a passing reference to the superlatives of Mr. Trump on behalf of our people.

But President Trump was not done with the Kurds. After taking another question from another reporter, he recognized Mr. Rashidi and said, “Yes, please, Mr. Kurd?”

Mr. Rashidi took his new moniker with flair, reminded the president that he was an American Kurd and asked a variation of Mr. Gly’s question, adding that Iran is posing a real threat to Iraq, Syria, and especially Iraqi-Kurdistan and if that was okay with President Trump. 

Mr. Trump served a second helping of his initial fare and praised us even more — noting that Americans and Kurds had fought together against ISIS and that Kurds had shed their blood to defend their territory.

He didn’t dwell on the word territory. He would have shaken the decrepit Middle East and the foreign policy establishment to their foundations if he had said: Kurds had shed their blood to defend their territory, Kurdistan. 

But he did say, “We lost tens of thousands of Kurds — fighting ISIS. They died for us, and with us, and for themselves. And we don’t forget.”

A perfect follow up question would have been, “Mr. President, how many of your Turkish and Arab allies have died while fighting ISIS?” 

Alas, no follow-ups were allowed.

Mr. Trump didn’t mention it, but we also lost 7,000 of our daughters to ISIS. One of them, Nadia Murad, a survivor, just shared the Nobel Peace Prize for 2018 with Dr. Denis Mukwege.

Four years earlier, ISIS had declared Yezidis infidels and helped themselves to their daughters. Outraged Kurds joined the ranks of the Peshmerga and the People’s Protection Units (YPG) to blunt ISIS’ expansion. 

When President Trump decided to eliminate ISIS and needed boots on the ground, the Kurds volunteered. Mosul went down first. Raqqa followed suit. 

But all this camaraderie meant nothing when an Arab army equipped with American weapons and guided by Iranian intelligence agents took Kirkuk, the majority Kurdish city, in October 2017.

The same happened in Syria three months later when the Turkish army attacked Afrin, another Kurdish city, this time with a hoodwinking from Russia. Again, it was quiet in the city on the Potomac.

But not in Manhattan.

After Mr. Trump called Mr. Rashidi, Mr. Kurd, some of the assembled journalists took umbrage at President Trump referring to one of their colleagues as Mr. Kurd with tweets that went viral.

Mr. Rashidi wasn’t one of them. He tweeted, “I’m #MrKurd & very proud. #TrumpPressConference. Thanks Mr. @POTUS for recognizing Kurdistan’s contribution in the fight against ISIS #rahimrashidi”

One unhappy woman mused:

“Good for you. But if you think Trump understands anything about the history of the Kurdish struggle for independence or actually cares beyond how Kurds can be used by Americans as ‘good fighters’ , I have a bridge to sell you.”

I was tempted to forward her message to President Trump with these words, “Our adversaries take us for fools for helping you conquer two Arab cities while we lost two of ours. Not good. Mr. America, please don’t compound our woes.”

I didn’t do it. Edward Gibbon stopped me: “Persuasion is the resource of the feeble; and the feeble can seldom persuade.”

Kani Xulam is a political activist based in Washington D.C. He runs the American Kurdish Information Network (AKIN). 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rudaw.


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pre-Boomer Marine brat | 9/10/2018
Today, Gibbon might say the same thing about the vaunted Social Media.
JR | 9/10/2018
the two Mr. Kurds had the oportunity to hurl the question of Kerkuk and Afrin and President T. It seems they were'nt perfectly prepard.
Kay | 9/10/2018
Well that's one witty perspective, another is a decade ago there was no major Kurdish representation in Washington let alone several Kurdish media in White house briefings. Two decades ago most of the American establishment thought "Kurd" was some kind of lemon flavored dessert. Three decades ago "Kurds" were on no ones radar. Just Saying
AzadAzadi | 10/10/2018
words meaningless without action
AzadAzadi | 10/10/2018
Kirkuk was taken over by pro-Iranian militia with US’s prior knowledge. Salah Muslim (former YPD leader) has been denied visa to enter US. PKK still on US terror list. Kurdish parliamentarians are still in Turkish prison. Iraqi government continues to Arabization (ethnic cleansing) polices in Kurdistan region outside of KRG territory. Iranian clerical rulers continue hanging Kurdish activists. Action what Kurds need.

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