‘Kurdistan Region safety, security, and political leadership's keenness for development are 'impressive': Kuwait's CG to Erbil
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Dr. Omar Ahmed Al-Kanderi, the State of Kuwait's Consul General to Erbil, told Kurdistan 24 in an exclusive interview on Sunday that he is impressed by the Kurdistan Region's security, safety, and the keenness of its political leadership to build and develop the autonomous region.
"What impresses me is the security and safety that exists in the region, the keenness of the political leadership to build and develop it, and the young people keen to protect it," Al-Kenderi told Kurdistan 24. "What impressed me, in particular, was the role of the Peshmerga forces in confronting ISIS, protecting the region, protecting Iraq, and the wider region from this danger."
"We believe the Kurdistan Region, especially Erbil, where I work, is taking positive steps, through its activeness, government, and its youth's efforts to develop it, so it can hold the prestigious position we wish for it," he said. "The Kurdistan Region made a real leap through its plans and infrastructure."
"A massive opening happened when it became a destination for tourists," he added. "It was even was selected as the Arab capital for tourism."
Al-Kanderi expressed his delight at being in Erbil and getting to know the Kurdish community.
"Honestly, I got very happy when I heard that I was assigned to come to Erbil because of what I had heard about Erbil and its people and the social position it holds in the hearts of Kuwaitis," Al-Kanderi said. "During my past seven years in the Kurdistan Region, I had the honor of getting to know the Kurdish community with its beautiful diversity and beautiful tribal and religious mosaics."
Al-Kanderi told Kurdistan 24 about the similarities between Erbil and Kuwait, such as safety, diversity, and their conservative communities.
"There are many similarities between the State of Kuwait and Erbil city, which is known for being an area of peace and coexistence, where all of Iraq's different components come together and are treated with respect, appreciation, and safety," he said. "That is also the case in Kuwait which attracts many different nationalities because we don't discriminate. And we noticed that this is also the case in Erbil."
Al-Kanderi noted that the tribal society in Erbil is "very close to the tribal society in Kuwait."
He gave the example of Diwans, social gatherings in regions of Kuwait that play a significant role in bringing people together, discussing their issues, and deliberating in political, social, and cultural affairs.
"We noticed that the same thing exists here in Erbil through our visits to some Diwans. So, we believe that the conservative society in Erbil is very close to the Kuwaiti society," Al-Kanderi said.
The Kuwaiti diplomat went to talk about other commonalities between the Kurdish and Kuwaiti people.
"There are common denominators that bring together the Kurdish brothers from the Kurdistan Region and the people of the State of Kuwait," he said. "There are love and ancient historical ties between them. Perhaps some do not know that there are some Kuwaiti brothers of Kurdish origins living in Kuwait."
"There are many Kurdish families living in the State of Kuwait. There is also a famous street in Kuwait named the 'Kurd Street,' also known as 'Kurd Roundabout,'" he added.
Al-Kanderi also pointed out that is a mosque in Erbil called the Kuwait mosque that Mr. Al-Ayoubi, a Kuwaiti of Kurdish origins, built.
"This mosque has been there since the 1950s, and it is a very popular mosque among the residents of Erbil," he said.
He also pointed out that in the 1970s, many Kuwaitis traveled to the Kurdistan Region for tourism. They mostly visited the Kurdish resort towns of Shaqlawa and Saladin (Pirmam in Kurdistan).
"While the Kuwaitis were here in Kurdistan, they always found love and affection from our Kurdish brothers," Al-Kanderi said. "That is why we believe that there are common denominators and factors that bring the Kurdish brothers from the Kurdistan Region and the Kuwaiti people together."
The Kuwaiti diplomat also said he was impressed by the multiple social events and activities held across the Kurdistan Region throughout the year. He particularly likes the Kurdish New Year holiday of Newroz "when the weather becomes beautiful, and our Kurdish brothers go out to the resorts of the Kurdistan Region."
"I always try to play a role in participating in those social events," he said. "For example, here in our consulate, we celebrate Newroz wearing the traditional Kurdish outfit."
Al-Kanderi also enjoys Kurdish food and discussed some of his favorite dishes.
"Kurdistan Region has a lot of different dishes, but what Erbil is famous for is its yogurt, which I heard about even before I came to Erbil. Honestly, I adore Erbil yogurt," he said. "The Kurdish kitchen is very diverse because of the region's cultural diversity and its surrounding areas, including Nineveh province, Turkey, and Iran."
"Personally, my favorite two Kurdish dishes are 'Quraw' and 'Perda-plaw.'"
More generally, the diplomat said that Kuwait is "proud" of its relationship with the Kurdistan Region, something he says is "embodied by the opening of the Consulate General of the State of Kuwait in mid-2015."
"This interest stems from the close relationship that links the State of Kuwait with the Republic of Iraq and the Kurdistan Region," Al-Kanderi said.
The Kuwaiti diplomat started his work in the Kurdish capital back in 2015, which he recalled was a difficult year for him given the Islamic State war and the humanitarian crisis in the region.
However, Al-Kandari said that the support of the political leadership in the Kurdistan Region made his job much easier.
"I started work here in Erbil in June 2015, and honestly, it was a difficult year for Iraq, especially the Kurdistan Region. I faced many challenges, but what made my work here less difficult was the strong support I received from the political leadership in the Kurdistan Region," he said. "The opening of this consulate coincided with the terrorist acts carried out by ISIS in Iraq, and the large numbers of refugees and displaced people who came to Kurdistan Region."
"Thank God we were able to start our work in the humanitarian sector, and we made all the efforts to extend all cooperation bridges between Kurdistan Regional Government and the State of Kuwait," he added.
Kuwait provided humanitarian support to the Kurdistan Region through the humanitarian program 'Kuwait by Your Side'. Al-Kanderi said that the Kurdistan Regional Government helped facilitate this humanitarian initiative.
"Under the directives, at that time, of Sheikh Ahmad Al-Sabah, may God rest his soul, there was an initiative known as 'Kuwait by Your Side' to support our brothers in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region and the large numbers of the refugees and displaced people," he said.
He went on to add that Kuwait's greatest experience in humanitarian work was in Kurdistan Region.
"We allocated a large amount of money that exceeded $200 million of humanitarian assistance to the health and education sectors," he said. "We helped with assisting the first waves of displaced peoples by providing tents, medical aid, and ready-to-eat food."
"I want to emphasize an important issue, which is the humanitarian work in Iraq would not have succeeded without its launch from the Kurdistan Region and support the Kurdistan Regional Government," he added.
That support came from "the Kurdistan Region prime minister and president, as well as the governors of the region's provinces, and through the true partnership with the Barzani Charity Foundation, which was able to implement many projects in cooperation with the Kuwaiti institutions."
Al-Kanderi said that Kuwait Fund for Development has a strong presence in Kurdistan Region. In cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), it implemented many projects for the Syrian refugees in the Kurdistan Region province of Duhok and other provinces in the region.
"Recently, they established a registration center in Erbil. The Kurdistan Regional Government provided the land, but the fund and the implementation were done by Kuwait Fund for Development," he said. "Here I would also like to mention the presence of Kuwait Relief Society, Kuwaiti Zakat House, Kuwait Red Crescent, General Secretariat of Kuwaiti Endowments, and the International Islamic Charitable Organization in the region and their role in implementing many humanitarian projects for the displaced people, the refugees, and civil society."
Al-Kanderi described Iraq as "a big opportunity for investment" for Kuwaiti investors and revealed that he has been strongly encouraging Kuwaiti investors and businessmen to come and invest in Iraq and Kurdistan Region.
"There is no doubt that the Republic of Iraq as a neighboring country to the State of Kuwait is considered a big opportunity for investment, attracting the Kuwaiti private sector and businessmen to look for investment opportunities there," Al-Kanderi said. "Through our presence in the Kurdistan Region, we had a role in encouraging businessmen from the Kurdistan Region to visit the State of Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and bring Kuwaiti businessmen to the region to look for investment opportunities, which are ample in the region."
There have already been successful Kuwaiti investment in the region, including in "food industries, opening shops, building iron factories, partnership of reputable Kuwaiti companies in the field of communication in the Kurdistan Region, and there are some banks in the Kurdistan Region that have partnerships with Kuwaiti banks."
"These efforts culminated in the International Conference for Reconstruction of Iraq held in Kuwait, focusing on the affected areas in Iraq, and the Kurdistan Region effectively participated in this conference, through its businessmen and investors," Al-Kanderi said. "The goal of this conference was to create investment opportunities through international donors, and many humanitarian institutions participated."
"Kuwait's Iraq Reconstruction Fund, in cooperation with Kuwait Fund for Development, implemented many projects in the affected areas in Anbar, Nineveh, and the Kurdistan Region," he added.
Kuwait has also contributed to international efforts to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic. It has provided a financial grant to the Republic of Iraq through the World Health Organization (WHO) to help its health sector battle the pandemic.
"We also provided medical equipment, vaccines, and training," Al-Kanderi said. "The Kurdistan Region provinces of Duhok, Sulaimani, and Erbil also got some of this assistance, and recently we provided medical equipment to Kurdistan Region's Ministry of Health to help it confront the pandemic."