Speech by President Barzani Receiving the Atlantic Award in Rome
Ladies and Gentlemen I am very pleased and honored to be with you today.
This award has special significance to me. While it is a great honor for me to accept it here today, I consider this first and foremost an award that belongs to my people --to those who struggled and sacrificed so long for freedom. Ours was a struggle for basic human dignity, for the rights of everyone to live in peace and security, to choose their leaders and hold those leaders accountable for both their successes and failures, to live in a state of equality and fraternity with their fellow man.
This award is thus a tribute to every man and woman who helped build democracy in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq. It is a tribute to every teacher who teaches our young children the universal principles of human rights and tolerance. This award is a tribute to every Kurd, Arab, Turkman, Assyrian, Chaldean, Armenian, every Muslim and Christian and Yezidi. It is only through our shared commitment to one another, to our efforts to work together to uphold the values of tolerance and peaceful co-existence, that I am able to join you here today.
It is this shared commitment to one another and universal human values that have enabled the Kurdistan Region to make remarkable strides toward the political, economic, and social progress our people deserve. It is the foundation for our strong record of security and stability, and has made the Kurdistan Region a widely cited success story in Iraq and the Middle East.
It is why we have worked so diligently and consistently, why we have been willing to sacrifice so much, for the realization of a federal and democratic Iraq. We know that a state that is built on the rule of law and the dignity of all people, principles enshrined in the new Iraqi Constitution, holds the best hope for a strong and vibrant Iraq in the future. Our Constitution is the foundation for peace and prosperity, and sets the stage for Iraq to become a beacon of hope and progress in the Middle East.
As we have all watched events unfold recently in North Africa, it is these values and our long struggle that give us hope that a new dawn is coming. There is no doubt that these events will affect the whole region, and we are hopeful that they will lead to the establishment of more democracies. While the events that have led to these monumental changes are clearly inspiring, what happens next will be equally important. We all hope that this leads to a genuine institution and spread of freedom, and that any attempts by small groups with extremist ideologies to capitalize on the success of these broad-based movements for other ends, will be defeated by the overwhelming desire of the majority for a new and brighter future based in freedom and accountability. If changes are made in this direction, then this will strike a chord with our people, who also struggled so long to achieve freedom.
Ladies and Gentlemen
A federal and democratic Iraq based on the law of its Constitution, provides the mechanisms through which all of its citizens may feel secure and pursue a better life. The division of power that defines the federal relationship between the Kurdish Region and Baghdad, prevents the introduction of any new tyranny and creates the conditions necessary for the pursuit of common ends. We will always resist any attempt to destroy this system. Having sacrificed so much and realized the possibility for a better future, we will never accept a return to tyranny, totalitarianism, or dictatorship. As political leaders, we have a solemn duty to the sacrifices of our people to defend the liberty we have now found. This commitment means that we are steadfast in the pursuit of a federal, democratic Iraq and determined to continue in our own efforts to provide the people of our Region with new and better opportunities.
In Sudan, people who have long suffered were recently given the opportunity to peacefully and freely choose a new course for their future through the right of self-determination. This outcome is reassuring to any who have faced tyranny in the past or fear that they may once again do so in the future. As such, we believe in the exercise of this right.
Ladies and Gentleman,
We are determined that Kurdistan will continue to contribute to peace and stability in Iraq and our Region. As a result of its culture of tolerance, as well as the security and stability that prevail, Kurdistan has become a refuge for thousands of people fleeing violence in other parts of Iraq. People of different religions and ethnic backgrounds across Iraq find safety and peace in Kurdistan. This includes: Muslims, Christians, Yezidis, as well as Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Armenians and Syriacs.
Your continued political and moral support is important to our ability to uphold and spread these principles, and we look forward to the continued cooperation of our people to further institutionalize and realize these shared values. We are very grateful for the support that the international community and Italy in particular have offered in helping us develop the political and government institutions necessary for the support and realization of our common principles and values. It is through your support and assistance that we can make Kurdistan and Iraq a shining example of a pluralistic, multi-religious, multi-ethnic society, where freedom of expression and all other basic human rights are respected. We are unwavering in our commitment to this goal.
Ladies and Gentlemen
On behalf of the people of Kurdistan, I would like to once again thank you for this award.