US: Kurdish activist Kani Xulam tells
students of threatened culture
Kani Xulam, the founder of the American Kurdish
Information Network speaks to students about the
plight of the Kurdish people in Kurdistan (Turkey, Iraq, Iran
October 27, 2009
CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee, U.S., — Kurdish
activist Kani Xulam sat silently inside the Baylor
School chapel with a sign that read "A Kurd" taped
to his tie and gray bandages with red tape wrapped
around his head.
He waited several minutes for about 650 upper school
students to find their seats. After a brief
introduction he slowly removed the bandages and sign
as his audience watched in silence.
"Our culture is slated for extinction," he told the
group after saying there are about 35-40 million Kurds
around the world, the majority in Turkey.
"We are the indigenous
people of the Middle East," he said as he stood in
front of a podium covered with the red, white and
green Kurdish flag.
Mr. Xulam, which means public servant in Kurdish, is
the director of the American Kurdish Information
Network, a nonprofit organization in Washington,
to increase awareness about the Kurds.
Kani Xulam, an ethnic Kurd living in America,
founder of the American Kurdish Information Network
(AKIN) speaks to students at Baylor School about the
plight of the Kurdish people in Turkey, Iraq, Iran
Video: Kani Xulam speech at Baylor School.
"My personal hope is to see a free and independent
Kurdistan," he said before his talk. "We have the
dubious distinction of being the largest stateless
people on the face of the earth."
That amazed Junnie Kwon.
"It's surprising that there are so many people in
the world who are Kurdish and yet no one recognizes
them as people, as a community," added the
16-year-old junior, who wants to start writing
encouragement letters to Kurdish girls in Turkey.
Forest Manis said he had never before heard of the
"The first thing I thought was how millions of
people can exist without us knowing about it," said
the 17-year-old senior.
Mr. Xulam, who changed his name from his Turkish
assigned name, Namet Gunduz, left Turkey when he was
19 and migrated with his family to the United
Asked about his upbringing in a country where
speaking Kurdish was banned until 1991, he says his
memories are not good.
"I remember being fearful of expressing myself," he
said. "I remember, for example, in elementary
school, kids, my classmates, peeing on themselves
(from fear) if they hadn't done their homework."
Children spoke Kurdish at home, but when they
started school they were expected to speak Turkish,
At the end of his talk Mr. Xulam told the students
he didn't share the story of the Kurds for them to
be sad but to "make them a little bit angry so
tomorrow when they are big, in positions of power,www.ekurd.netperhaps
they will make this world a little more gentle for
people whose voice has been muffled."
Kani is a native of Kurdistan. He has studied
international relations at the University of Toronto
and holds a BA in history from the University of
California, Santa Barbara. He was recently awarded
an MA by the International Service Program at
American University. At the University of Toronto,
he represented Kurdistan at the Model United
Nations. In 1993, at the urging of Kurdish community
leaders in America, he left his family business in
California to establish the American Kurdish
Information Network in the nation’s capital.
Copyright, respective author or news agency,
timesfreepress com | baylorschool org
does not take credit for and is not responsible for the content of news
information on this page