US, KRG envoys honor sacrifices of US, Kurdish forces; hail friendship between two peoples

“Your courageous family members, who made the ultimate sacrifice for their countries did not do so in vain,” Palladino said at a memorial ceremony in Erbil to honor the sacrifices of American and Kurdish soldiers.
Robert Palladino, US Counsel General in Erbil, speaks at a memorial ceremony honoring the sacrifices of American and Kurdish soldiers on Nov. 21, 2021. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)
Robert Palladino, US Counsel General in Erbil, speaks at a memorial ceremony honoring the sacrifices of American and Kurdish soldiers on Nov. 21, 2021. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)

WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – A moving memorial ceremony was held in Erbil on Sunday to honor the common sacrifices of American and Kurdish soldiers.

The event was organized by the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG.) Its purpose was to express a shared—US and Kurdish—appreciation for the fallen soldiers, as one part of the KRG’s welcome for a visiting group of mothers and spouses of US troops who have died in Iraq.

The Americans were brought to the Kurdistan Region by two US associations: Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) and Spirit of America.

Robert Palladino, US Counsel General in Erbil, and Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, KRG Representative to the US, both spoke at the event and expressed themselves in similar terms, stressing the common debt of the American and Kurdish peoples to the fallen soldiers; the shared interests and values of the two peoples; and the ensuing, and enduring, friendship between them.

Robert Palladino: Their Heroism Endures Through You

“Your courageous family members, who made the ultimate sacrifice for their countries did not do so in vain,” Palladino told the audience. “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself, and each of your loved ones did exactly that, and they are heroes.”

Palladino suggested that their heroism had helped create new bonds and friendships that would last long beyond the passing of the fallen soldiers themselves.

His words were a strong and poignant reminder that the impact of our deeds—for better or worse—may well last long beyond our own time on this earth.

“Your loved ones’ sacrifices have brought you together today,” Palladino told the group. “Families who never knew each other before can find solace in one another. Their legacies live through you.”

“That’s the power and the beauty of this pilgrimage,” he said, drawing on the significance of that word, “that you gather together in search of expanded meaning: help, hope, healing, and higher good.”

Making the Kurdistan Region What it is Today

Without the heroism of those prepared to sacrifice their lives and those that actually did, as Palladino observed, the Kurdistan Region would not be the place it is today.

Today, the Kurdistan Region shelters an extraordinary number of people who have fled genocide and persecution, both religious and political. They total nearly one million.

The Kurdistan Region is, as Palladino observed, an oasis of tolerance, in an intolerant part of the world.

It is a place “where all people of faith: Shi’a, Sunni, Christians, Yazidis, and many others—can practice their religion in peace,” he said.

He also hailed the Region’s “democratic, inclusive government,” which involves women being active in public life, along with a vibrant civil society that allows media, art, and culture to flourish.

“Although there is still much to be done,” Palladino continued, “there is recognition for reforms across all the sectors” and “a strong desire for partnership with the United States.”

The US is now in the process of “building the largest consulate in the world, right here in Erbil,” he said, “because we recognize the partnership between the Kurdistan Region and the United States must grow ever larger, because the United States and the Kurdistan Region are better together.”

Although ISIS no longer controls territory, it remains a threat, and “together we continue to battle ISIS terrorists,” Palladino affirmed, and “the United States will continue to support the brave Peshmerga fighters, because we’re committed to an enduring defeat of ISIS.”

Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman: Shared Friendships, Shared Sorrows

The KRG envoy to Washington, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, spoke, in terms similar to Palladino, of the bonds of friendship between the Kurdish and American peoples, forged in a common struggle.

Working in the US, “I see every day, Americans who are grateful for the sacrifices of the Peshmerga,” while as a Kurd, “I see every day how the people of Kurdistan are proud of our friendship and partnership with the United States of America,” she said.

“How we want more American engagement in Kurdistan, more partnership, whether it’s through security, commercial ties, cultural ties, or humanitarian,” she continued.

Abdul Rahman recounted the long, bitter suffering of the Kurds, which only began to ease following the 1991 Gulf War and Operation Provide Comfort— which brought the Kurds down from the mountains, where they had fled, fearing Baghdad would use chemical weapons against them after President George H. W. Bush called an early cease-fire to that war, ending it with Saddam Hussein still in power.

Read More: Masoud Barzani hails Operation Provide Comfort, even as he warns of current dangers

“We have sacrificed our lives in genocide at the hands of terrorists fighting Da’esh [ISIS], fighting Saddam Hussein, the sacrifices are many,” Abdul Rahman said. “There are so many families in Kurdistan that have lost a loved one, if not many loved ones, through these acts of sacrifice, but we know that Americans, too, have given sacrifice, and many of them in Iraq.”

Abdul Rahman understands well of what she speaks. Her own father—Sami Abdul Rahman, a prominent figure in the Kurdish liberation movement and in 2004 the KRG’s Deputy Prime Minister—was killed, along with her brother in a suicide bombing early that year.

“What has brought us here and what has united us is our shared sorrow,” she told the group. “But I also believe there is a shared friendship. There is a love for each other,” born of a shared struggle against a common foe.

“Your sons and daughters that were sacrificed are our sons and daughters, and our sons and daughters who were sacrificed are your children too,” she said.

Addressing those who have given their lives to protect the Kurdish people, Abdul Rahman concluded, “Everything that we do is for you. Whatever we do is not enough, and we hope that your children will grow up to fill the shoes of their fathers, brothers, sisters who were sacrificed.”