The Future of Iraqi Kurdistan, the Kurdish Independence Referendum, Women’s Rights, and What Happened under ISIS in Iraq

The Future of Iraqi Kurdistan, the Kurdish Independence Referendum, Women’s Rights, and What Happened under ISIS in Iraq
(Sarwah Abdulwahed Qadir, September 13, 2017)

Transcript available below

Watch her speaker playlist

About the speaker

In 2014, Sarwah won a seat in the Iraqi Parliament as a member of the Goran (Change) party. Defending women’s rights and democracy in Kurdistan and the Iraqi Parliament, Sarwah recently became the head of the Goran party bloc in parliament. She will talk about the Kurdish independence referendum, women’s rights, and suffering under ISIS.


Robert R. Reilly:


As you know, our speaker tonight, Sarwah Abdulwahed Qadir, is going to speak on the future of Iraqi Kurdistan, women’s rights and what happened under ISIS in Iraq.

However, I’m going to cede the privilege of introducing Sarwah to an old friend of mine, Entifadh Qanbar, who I’ve known for many years, who is himself an Iraqi. He’s an Iraqi Army veteran. He was also a veteran of Saddam Hussein’s prisons. I first met Entifadh in his capacity as the Washington director of the Iraqi National Congress. Now those of you who worked on this issue will know that that was the group that had pulled together so many sectors of Iraqi society, planning for what we had all hoped then would be a better future for Iraq.

So I will surrender the floor now to Entifadh with the introduction. He will also be helping with the translation for Sarwah’s introduction. I will say one thing about her of which I’m very proud. We both are veterans of the Voice of America because Sarwah has a rich background as a journalist. Entifadh?

Entifadh Qanbar:


Good evening. Thank you, Bob. I’ve known you now for a decade and a half. And me and Bob were working on the liberation of Iraq in 2003, the good old days. Some of the things turned to be bad. Some of [the] things turned to be good. One of the goods we have a young woman who is a member of Parliament of Iraq. By the way the Iraqi Parliament 25% are women. And she’s a voice of civil society Iraq and a voice of a secular Iraq and she’s a very active and rising star in the Iraqi Parliament. Sarwah – I have known when she was the- she was the Voice of America and Al Hurra correspondent in Kurdistan. She was my colleague.

Every time I go to Erbil I- We are bringing Sarwah through a foundation that I have started recently. My wife, Hiba, is also a member of this foundation, and we have people in Iraq also. The foundation is called Future Foundation. We are trying to build bridges between Iraqi secular and Iraqi civil politicians, non-Islamist, there’s underline to come to Washington, meet and connect to the American people, to the U.S. government, to the U.S. Congress and to empower the seculars in Iraq versus the Islamists, who believe they have basically destroyed the dream of democracy in Iraq, not totally but for a big part of it.

So my first client per se is Sarwah. We invited her, she came to Washington, and we are honored to have her, and you are going to see a flow of Iraqi politicians coming. We are, at the same time, simultaneously convening a conference in Iraq of more than 105 parties of secular and civil parties, non-Islamist, again, to empower parties, including Dr. Iyad Allawi, who Bob knows very well. He was the Prime Minister of Iraq and now he is the Vice President of Iraq. And by the way, my wife Hiba works as an advisor to the Vice President of Iraq, Dr. Iyad Allawi.

So I’m honored to have Sarwah here and I hope she will give you an important perspective. You know Kurdistan now is going through a very, very dangerous and critical juncture. There is supposed to be a on the 25th of this month a referendum on the independence of Kurdistan. It is not independence. It is a referendum on independence.

Sarwah belongs to a party which is Gorran, which was basically established a few years ago and it is a rising party. It has gained huge popularity among young men and women in Kurdistan, and she is one of those people who are opposing this referendum, so she is going to focus a good portion of her presentation on why she is opposing this referendum and why she thinks this referendum is not timed in a wise way.

And I would just like to also emphasize that the opinions and the things that Sarwah is going to mention tonight have nothing to do with the opinions and political ideas of the Future Foundation, though her comments represent herself and her party. Welcome, Sarwah.

Sarwah Qadir:

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for inviting me here. I am very delighted to be with you and I hope I can explain and convey to you the ideas of the Kurdish people in Iraq. I am going to start with what is going on in the Kurdish area of Iraq. First of all, I would like to talk about the Goran, the change movement, which started in 2009. I am honored to be one of the leaders of this movement.

The Goran movement was established in 2009 after twenty-one years of ruling divided by two parties in Kurdistan, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP). We have the honor to be established as an opposition party. The purpose of establishing the party was first to fight and stop corruption.

After twenty-six years of autonomous ruling government in Kurdistan, we still have an almost independent economy and army. We are also still facing very difficult problems in Kurdistan. We do not know, for example, how much the revenue of oil in Kurdistan is getting. It is estimated that Kurdistan is exporting one million barrels of oil per day, but unfortunately we do not have an account for how much money this is generating, and if it is going to the Treasury.

The parliament has been disassembled or disbanded for two years, and the parliament was supposed to legislate a law to regulate the presidency of Kurdistan, but unfortunately before the parliament was able to legislate this law, the parliament was dissolved.

See her Westminster talk…