Wilting in the Kurdish Sun: The Hopes and Fears of Religious Minorities in Northern Iraq

The Middle East Institute (MEI) is pleased to host a panel discussion featuring Jomana Qaddour and Crispin Smith (USCIRF), who will present the findings and policy recommendations from this report. Denise Natali (Institute for National Strategic Studies) will join as a discussant, and MEI’s Vice President for Policy Analysis, Research, and Programs Paul Salem will moderate the discussion.

Speaker Biographies:
Denise Natali

Director and Distinguished Research Fellow, Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS) Center for Strategic Research
Denise Natali is the director and distinguished research fellow of the Center for Strategic Research at INSS where she specializes on the Middle East, Iraq, trans-border Kurdish issue, and post-conflict stabilization. Natali joined INSS in January 2011 as the Minerva Chair, following more than two decades of researching and working in the Kurdish regions of Iraq, Turkey, Iran, and Syria.  At INSS, Natali provides Middle East security analyses and strategic support to senior leaders at the Department of Defense, unified combatant commands, State Department, intelligence communities, and the broader national security community.  She is a subject matter expert and part of the Senior Advisory Group for the strategic assessment of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in support of the Joint Staff, SOCCENT and CENTCOM. Natali is the author of numerous publications, op-eds, and short analyses on Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Kurds, and countering ISIL.  Her books include; The Kurdish Quasi-State: Development and Dependency in Post-Gulf War Iraqand The Kurds and the State: Evolving National Identity in Iraq, Turkey and Iran, which was the recipient of the Choice Award for Outstanding Academic Title (trans. to Turkish Kurtler ve Devlet: Iraq, Turkiye ve Iran’da Ulusal Kimligin Gelismesi). Natali is currently writing a second edition of The Kurds and the State to include chapters on Syria. Natali also specializes in post-conflict relief, reconstruction, and stabilization.  She worked as the director of cross-border operations for a non-governmental organization in Peshawar, Pakistan (1989-1991), specialist for the American Red Cross Gulf Relief Crisis Project in Washington D.C., and information officer for the Disaster Assistance Relief Team, U.S Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance in northern Iraq in support of Operation Provide Comfort II (1993-1994).  Natali returned to post-Saddam Iraq (2005-2010), where she engaged in research, teaching, and university start-ups in the Kurdistan Region, including positions as Associate Professor, director of Research Institutes, and Dean of Students at the American University of Iraq-Sulaimaniya.

Jomana Qaddour
Policy Analyst, USCIRF
Jomana Qaddour is a policy analyst at USCIRF, where she focuses on religious freedom in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. Previously, she served as a senior associate and project manager at the conflict analysis firm Caerus Associates, where she provided government clients with information on developments in Syria. Prior to joining Caerus, she was a senior research assistant and publications manager for the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World in the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, where she focused on Syria, Egypt, Palestinian politics, and Islamist movements. Qaddour also co-founded Syria Relief & Development, a humanitarian organization that provides direct emergency and ongoing humanitarian relief for Syrians since 2011. She is currently working on her LLM at Georgetown Law Center, and she holds a JD from the University of Kansas School of Law. She has published pieces focused on Syria, including topics relating to international trade, civil society organizations, the Syrian opposition, and the Alawite minority.

Crispin Smith
Candidate for Juris Doctor, Harvard Law School
Crispin M. I. Smith is a British researcher working on foreign policy and international law, with a particular focus on Iraq and Kurdistan. He has researched and consulted for government agencies, NGOs, and international organizations working in Iraq, Syria and the wider region. He also advises working groups in the U.K. House of Lords, and has briefed representatives of various governments on related policy issues. In 2016 Smith led a research team for USCIRF, investigating minority rights in the KRI. The public findings were published in 2017 in a report entitled "Wilting in the Kurdish Sun: the Hopes and Fears of Religious Minorities in Northern Iraq." His work on the legal status of the Kurdish Peshmerga is due to be published in volume 59 of the Harvard International Law Journal as "Independent without Independence: the Iraqi-Kurdish Peshmerga in International Law."

Paul Salem
Vice President for Policy Analysis, Research, and Programs, MEI
Paul Salem is vice president for policy analysis, research, and programs at MEI. He focuses on issues of political change, transition, and conflict as well as the regional and international relations of the Middle East.  He has a particular emphasis on the countries of the Levant and Egypt. Salem writes regularly in the Arab and Western press and has been published in numerous journals and newspapers. Salem is the author of a number of books and reports including Bitter Legacy: Ideology and Politics in the Arab World (1994), Conflict Resolution in the Arab World (ed., 1997), Broken Orders: The Causes and Consequences of the Arab Uprisings (In Arabic, 2013), “The Recurring Rise and Fall of Political Islam” (CSIS, 2015), “The Middle East in 2015 and Beyond: Trends and Drivers” (MEI 2014). Prior to joining MEI, Salem was the founding director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, Lebanon between 2006 and 2013.  From 1999 to 2006, he was director of the Fares Foundation and in 1989-1999 founded and directed the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, Lebanon's leading public policy think tank.

Event Date: 
Thursday, September 21, 2017 - 15:00