Thursday, May 25, 2017, 9:45 a.m. – 4:15 p.m., The National Press Club, Holeman Lounge, 529 14th St NW Washington, DC 20045
9:45 am Registration
10:10 am Opening Remarks by Deniz Ekici, Executive Director, Kurdish Policy Research Center
10:15 am – 11:45 am
Panel 1: Iran’s Internal Repression Overshadowed by Its Interventionist Foreign Policy
Ardishir Rashidi, Founder and President, Kurdish-American Education Society
Rebuar Reshid, Co-President, Kurdistan National Congress
Michael Rubin, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute
Moderator: Samira Ghaderi, Juris Doctor, International Affairs Expert
1:00 pm – 2:30 pm
Panel 2: The Changing Dynamics of Rojava in the Syrian Civil War
Salih Muslim, Co-Chair, Democratic Union Party *via Skype
Bassam Ishaq, President, Syriac National Council of Syria
Brandon H. Wheeler, Executive Director, Freedom Research Foundation
Moderator: Deniz Ekici, Executive Director, Kurdish Policy Research Center
2:45 pm – 4:15 pm
Panel 3: Turkey’s Deteriorating Governance and the Implication on the Kurds
Aykan Erdemir, Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Hisyar Ozsoy, Vice Co-Chair, The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP)
Dirayet Taşdemir, Member of Parliament, The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP)
Moderator: Aliza Marcus, Writer and expert on Kurdish issue
Deniz Ekici is the Executive Director at Kurdish Policy Research Center. He holds a Ph.D. from the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, Center for Kurdish Studies at the University of Exeter and an M.A. degree in Political Science from Brooklyn College, CUNY. He is a former visiting professor at Middle Tennessee State University where he taught such courses as Intro to the Middle East, Media in the Middle East, Nationalism in the Middle East, Kurdish Culture and Society and Kurdish Language Courses.
Dr. Aykan Erdemir is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former member of the Turkish Parliament. He is a founding member of the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief, and a drafter of and signatory to the Oslo Charter for Freedom of Religion or Belief (2014) as well as a signatory legislator to the London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism. In 2016, Dr. Erdemir was awarded the Stefanus Prize for Religious Freedom in recognition of his advocacy for minority rights and religious freedoms.
Samira Ghaderi holds a Juris Doctor and a Master’s in International Affairs from American University in Washington D.C. She has worked at Greenberg Traurig, LLP, assisting with legal and policy advice for the Kurdistan Regional Government. She has also worked at the Public International Law and Policy Group, where she focused on transitional justice, post-conflict constitution drafting & justice sector reform. In addition, she was a co-director of the American University’s International Refugee Assistance Project chapter, where she assisted Iraqi and Syrian refugees with resettlement in the United States.
Bassam Ishak is a Syrian opposition activist and the president of the Syriac National Council of Syria. He is the former executive director of the Syrian Human Rights Organization, a founder of the Syrian National Council, and a former member of the council’s general secretariat. Bassam is a native Hassakeh in northeast Syria. He earned his M.A. in ethno-political conflict management from Royal Roads University in Canada, and a B.S. in civil engineering.
Aliza Marcus is formerly an international correspondent for The Boston Globe and lives in Washington, D.C. She covered the PKK for more than eight years, first as a freelance reporter for the Christian Science Monitor and later as a staff writer for Reuters, receiving a National Press Club Award for her reporting. She is also a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation grant for her work (NYU Press).
Salih Muslim is the co-chair of the Democratic Union Party (PYD). He is also the deputy coordinator of the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change.
Mr. Ozsoy is currently serving as the Vice Co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in charge of Foreign Affairs and as a member of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (GNAT). He holds a B.A. in Sociology with distinction from Bogazici University and a M.A. and a Ph.D. in political anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a former assistant professor at the University of Michigan-Flint where he taught courses in political sociology, political anthropology, social and political transformations as well as courses on Middle Eastern cultures, histories and politics.
Mr. Ardishir Rashidi is a System and Products Design and Analysis Engineer. He is a founder of the Kurdish-American Education Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational information on Kurdish history. He also served as the Regional Director and as a National Board Member of the United Nations Association of the United States of America.
Mr. Rebuar Reshid is the Co-chair of the Kurdistan National Congress and a human rights activist. He holds a Bachelor degree in Social and Political Science from Stockholm University. Mr. Rashed is an author of numbers of articles on gender equality, democracy, corruption, racism and anti-Semitism.
Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute; senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Civil-Military Relations; and a senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly. He received a B.S. degree in biology from Yale University in 1994, and a Ph.D. in history from the same institution in 1999. He has previously worked as a lecturer in history at Yale University, Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and at three different universities in northern Iraq. Rubin currently provides academic instruction on regional issues for senior U.S. Army and Marine officers deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ms. Dirayet Tasdemir is a Kurdish politician and a member of the Turkish Parliament for Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). As a longtime women’s rights activist, she served as an advisor at Diyarbakir Metropolitan Municipality.
Brandon H. Wheeler
Mr. Brandon H. Wheeler, is the Executive Director of the Freedom Foundation. As a former marine he served in various places in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. His expertise is in counterinsurgency and unconventional warfare. He regularly briefs the members of the congress, ambassadors and other diplomats. He lived in Syria for many years where he studied Arabic. After the rise of ISIS he made numerous trips into Syria and Iraq and consulted leaders of Rojava and the KRG officials.