The Centre for Kurdish Progress hosts its annual Newroz celebration. Photo: CKP
LONDON, England — The Centre for Kurdish Progress, a campaigning group established by the well-known Kurdish entrepreneur and activist Ibrahim Dogus, tipped one day to become the first Kurdish Labour MP, held its Newroz event this week at the Commons.
Its voluntary advisory panel includes MPs Jeremy Corbyn, Joan Ryan, Kate Osamor and, for full disclosure, me.
The event, together with regular speaker meetings in parliament, has become an increasingly popular fixture on the political scene and was packed with parliamentarians and members of the Kurdish Diaspora in Britain. Dogus also organises the prestigious National Kebab awards each year to mark its multi-billion pound contribution to the British economy.
Raife Aytek, Director of the CKP, told the audience that "Tonight’s event like all the work of Kurdish Progress is for Kurds from any and all countries, to give them a voice and a platform. It is also to help non-Kurdish British people better understand Kurds and Kurdish issues, and to allow friendships to form between communities."
The CKP announced a variety of awards at its third annual event to prominent Kurds and friends in the UK. Awards for Extraordinary Contribution to the Kurdish Cause went to Baroness Jan Royall for her solidarity with Kobane, and to Conservative MP Jack Lopresti, whom I have accompanied to Kirkuk and Mosul in recent years and who is a stalwart supporter of the Peshmerga.
Jack Lopresti has written that “The Peshmerga powerfully symbolise the unity they need. We visited wounded Peshmerga to thank them for defending their homeland and being our frontline against a force that will turn on us even more if undefeated. Today we remember our war dead but we should also remember the fallen Peshmerga. The Kurds are our friends, and we owe them a huge debt of gratitude.”
Simon Dubbins, head of international affairs at the UNITE union and Stephen Smellie of the Unison union also received the prestigious award. As did Richard Wilding, a photographer and designer working internationally with museums, charities and governments, who specialises in documenting archaeology, architecture and costume in the Middle East. Wilding is Creative Director of Gulan, a UK charity which promotes Kurdish culture, and which will exhibit his photographs in the Commons in May.
Awards for successful business people were taken by Aysel Oldac Enguzekli, who runs an accountancy firm, and Sarbaz Barznji, whose building companies help the Kurdish community in the UK. Male role model of the year went to Professor Deiary Kader, a Consultant Orthopaedic surgeon, whose Newcastle-Gateshead Medical Volunteers takes surgeons and others regularly to the Kurdistan Region to literally put Kurds back on their feet through knee and hip operations that fill the gap in the region's medical service. The female role model was given to Councillor Makbule Gunes for her political work in North London.
Male Student of the Year was Ahmed Saleh, who supports the Kurdish community in Devon while the female award was taken by Nadia Mardan who provides face-to-face legal advice, and backs campaigns for women's rights.
Hussein Zahawy won the art award for his efforts to preserve and promote the music and cultural traditions of the Kurdish people while Della Murad, an image consultant and fashion designer in the UK, won the female award, for various collaborations with top museums and for promoting Kurdish food.
The Social Responsibility Award award went to Dr. Mohammad Tammo, who founded Kurds House in the north of England to support Kurds from Rojava.
Young Entrepreneur of the Year was was Zaynab Alikamal, a manager in the retail industry, who works for the KRG's High Commission of Human Rights and focuses on IDPs and Yazidi women. The male equivalent was taken by Dlair Kadhem, whose business focuses on bringing people and technology together.
Dr Ipek Demir won the female Press and Publication Award for her research on Kurdish and Turkish diasporas in Europe, while Ata Mufty took the male award for work that includes the London Kurdish Film Festival.
High profile guests included the KRG Foreign Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir, the KRG High Representative in London, Karwan Jamal Tahir and a wide range of MPs including Jeremy Corbyn.