Iraqi Kurdistan at the Crossroads: A Report on Civil Society

June 21, 2017
03:00 pm - 04:30 pm

About the Event

With a referendum on independence in speculation for autumn 2017, Iraqi Kurdistan stands at a crucial political juncture that has global implications. The increasing autonomy of the region promises to have a significant impact both on longstanding international efforts to stabilize Iraqi democratic institutions and attitudes. U.S. security policy, which relies on Kurdish forces in Iraq and Syria as vital allies in the fight against ISIL, may also be affected. Amid these high stakes, it is yet unclear whether civil society in the region is sufficiently independent and democratically minded to facilitate crucial social dialogue about the political future of Iraqi Kurdistan. In his presentation, journalist and political commentator Nawaf Haskan will draw on his experiences with Kurdish civil society to trace its evolution from the 2003 American-led international coalition intervention of Iraq to the upcoming independence referendum. Reporting on the state of civil society in Iraqi Kurdistan, he offered recommendations for how domestic and international actors can most effectively facilitate positive change. Comments from Sherizaan Minwalla followed.


Nawaf Haskan, Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow

with comments by

Sherizaan Minwalla, Practitioner-in-Residence, Washington College of Law at the American University

moderated by

Sally Blair, Senior Director of Fellowship Programs, National Endowment for Democracy


About the Speakers

Mr. Nawaf Haskan is a Yezidi journalist from Iraq currently based in the DC area, where he worked as a cultural advisor and translator for RYOT and the Huffington Post. From 2015 to 2016, he served as a business development officer for the International Organization for Migration. Before graduating from the American University of Iraq–Sulaimani (AUIS), he founded several youth-based civic education initiatives in the Sinjar district of Ninewa province, where he sought to strengthen the principles of pluralism through regular workshops in local villages. As a journalist, he has discussed issues related to sectarian conflict and democratization in several major and local news outlets, including Public Radio International, Iraqi1001 Thoughts, Iraq Oil Report, and Niqash. During his fellowship, Mr. Haskan is working to develop methods of teaching Iraqis about the rights and responsibilities of democratic citizenship and provide a forum for independent reporting on issues vital to civic engagement. In coordination with AUIS, he hopes to distribute civic education materials and news articles throughout Iraq in Arabic, Kurdish, and English.  

Sherizaan Minwalla is a Practitioner-in-Residence at the Washington College of Law in the International Human Rights Clinic at the American University. Professor Minwalla is an experienced human rights lawyer who advocates for survivors of gender-based violence in the US and the Middle East. She has spent much of the last decade living in Iraq, where she has run human rights, development, and humanitarian programs with Heartland Alliance International (HAI), the International Rescue Committee, and Mercy Corps.

Twitter: Follow @ThinkDemocracyand use #NEDEvents to join the conversation.