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March 8, 2018 4:07 pm

‘Justice for Kurds’: French Intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy and US Environmentalist Thomas Kaplan Launch New Kurdish Rights Advocacy Group

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A street in the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Erbil bedecked in flags one week before the Sept. 27, 2017 independence referendum. Photo: Reuters / Alaa Al-Marjani.

One of France’s most prominent intellectuals has joined forces with a leading American environmentalist to launch a new advocacy group urging greater support for the Kurdish cause from Western democracies.

Justice for Kurds (JfK), which describes itself as a “Franco-American initiative,” was launched in Washington, DC on Tuesday night by long-standing associates Bernard-Henri Lévy — the French-Jewish philosopher and human rights advocate — and Thomas S. Kaplan — a New York-based investor and environmental advocate.

Lévy has spent much of the past decade as a vocal advocate for the Kurds – a nation of some 25 million people divided between Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria in the wake of World War I — documenting the Kurdish fight against ISIS in his 2016 film “Peshmerga,” and giving frequent media interviews, including with this publication, on the subject.

Kaplan told The Algemeiner on Thursday that he was drawn to the Kurdish cause because, “simply put, the Kurds are a force for good.”

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“I was raised on the principle that what counts are deeds, not words,” Kaplan said. Pointing to the role played by the Kurds as allies of the US in the region, he added that it “behooves us all to honor that rare civilization with whom we share not only common interests, but common values.”

A number of American legislators joined Kaplan, Lévy and US representatives of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) at Tuesday’s launch of the new group — which “hopes to inspire many to become ambassadors for Kurdistan, and raise their voices with public officials and communities all around the US,” Lévy explained.

Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-LA), who serves as co-chair of the Kurdish American Congressional Caucus, told the launch that he had visited the Kurdish frontlines in Iraq, where he saw first-hand “young people who have the hearts of lions.”

Rep. André Carson (D-IN) urged US voters who support the Kurds to pressure “elected officials to speak truth to power and fight for what is right.”

JfK’s mission statement — signed by Lévy and Kaplan and published as an advertisement in Thursday’s print edition of The Washington Post — described the Kurds as an “ancient people who constitute a force for stability and exemplify moderate and enlightened Islam.”

“The Kurds today are surrounded by military and religious dictatorships,” the statement declared. “Despite such tyranny of geography, they have built a free, open and tolerant society in which all faiths co-exist in harmony and where women and men enjoy equal rights.”

JfK’s goal is to raise public awareness of the Kurds’ precarious position through “public programs, campaigns to increase understanding, and initiatives to build solidarity and friendship between Kurdish youth and rising generations in western democracies,” the statement said.

The group’s upcoming activities include an address by Kaplan to a conference in Washington, DC, on March 13, organized by the KRG, to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the genocide committed by the former regime of Saddam Hussein against the Kurds in northern Iraq.

A conference at the French Senate in Paris on March 30 will shed light on the situation of the Kurds following their victories against ISIS, and the subsequent assaults on Kurdish areas of Syria by the Turkish government, and of Iraq by Iraqi government forces and Iranian-backed Shia paramilitaries.

An Iraqi and Iranian-backed blockade on flights between Iraqi Kurdistan and international destinations has been in force since the partial defeat of Kurdish forces in northern Iraq in late 2017, following a Kurdish referendum on Sept. 27  in which over 90 percent of participants voted for independence.

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