Trip to Armenia, Turkey & Kurdistan (Iraq)
One Free World International
August 24 – September 1, 2014
Brad Butt, MP, Mississauga-Streetsville and two other Conservative MPs joined a delegation of One Free World International – a Canadian based human rights organization – for a trip to Armenia, Turkey and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The purpose of the trip was to meet with officials on the ongoing Armenia-Turkey conflict and to see first-hand the effects of the ISIS attacks in Iraq on religious minorities.
August 24, 2014
The delegation left Toronto Pearson Airport for Moscow, Russia where we changed planes and headed to Yerevan, Armenia where we arrived on the afternoon of August 25, 2014.
August 25, 2014
After arriving in Yerevan, Armenia we met with Dr. Hranush Hakobyan, Minister of the Diaspora of the Republic of Armenia. There are close to 8 million Armenians living outside of the country that is only a population of 3 million itself. The meeting detailed the work they do on the Armenia genocide and in keeping the country’s attachment to these people.
The delegation then met with Mr. Edward Nalbandian, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Armenia who provided a detailed update on the Armenia-Turkey relations and efforts to open the border between the two countries. There continues to be quite a bit of tension between the nations due to the outstanding genocide issue as well as problems with neighbouring country Azerbaijan.
August 26, 2014
We visited the Armenian Genocide Memorial where we paid tribute to the millions affected by this event in 1915, laid flowers and a wreath and toured the site and museum of archives accompanied by Mr. Hayk Demoyan, Director of the Museum of the Armenian Genocide.
The delegation then proceeded to the Armenian Parliament Building where we met with Mr. Galust Sahakyan, President of the National Assembly and members of the Armenia-Canada Parliamentary Friendship Group.
The group then met with Mr. Artashes Emin, Honourary Consul General that provides consulate services to Canadians in Armenia.
We visited and toured the TUMO Centre – an advanced technology centre for youth aged 12-18 to explore various technologies as an after-school program. The Centre was donated by a businessman to help get Armenian children better technological skills.
The group then visited the Holy See of Ejmiatsin and toured the very historic buildings of the Armenian Church.
We attended a dinner hosted by members of the National Assembly that are part of the Armenia-Canada Parliamentary Friendship Group.
August 27 & 28, 2014
Very early in the morning, we flew back to Moscow, Russia and got a connecting flight to Istanbul, Turkey. Due to the ongoing problems between Armenia and Turkey, there are no flights between the two countries.
The group met with Turkiye journalist Ceren Kenar who provided an excellent overview of the Armenia-Turkey conflict and the state of governance and politics in Turkey.
We then met with Professor Erhan Erkut, formerly a professor at the University of Alberta, on his perspectives of the Armenia-Turkey issue and the genocide issue. He also facilitates student exchange between Canada and Turkey and encouraged even greater numbers in the future benefitting both countries.
That night we attended a dinner hosted by Mr. Rusen Cetin, Chairman of Tureks and a member of the Canada-Turkey Business Council.
August 29, 2014
The delegation met with Dr. Yilmaz Arguden, Chair of the Canada-Turkey Business Council who detailed the trade and economic relationship between our two countries and opportunities for the future.
The group visited Kultur University where we met with Professor Dr. Mensur Akgun, Director of the Global Political Trends Centre who provided a very detailed assessment of the Turkey-Armenia conflict.
We then proceeded later that night to the airport to fly to Erbil, Iraq.
August 30, 2014
The delegation arrived in Erbil, Kurdistan (Iraq) and was met by Mr. Fahmi Mansoor, President of the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council and members before proceeding to our hotel.
We then visited with Archbishop Bashar Warda of the Chaldean Diocese of Erbil and toured the refugee camps they are hosting on their property and spoke with many of the international displaced persons (IDPs) living in the tents and buildings in the area.
The delegation met with His Excellency Bruno Saccamoni, Canadian Ambassador to Iraq and Jordon and officials to discuss the IDP issue and ongoing Canada-Iraq relations. The Ambassador noted that a Visa office is due to open in Erbil later in September.
The group then visited the largest IDP United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) camp in Erbil, housed primarily in an abandoned industrial building and surrounded by tents, that is supported by the Government of Canada through the World Food Program.
August 31, 2014
The delegation travelled for 2 ½ hours to visit the city of Duhok, Kurdistan which has the single largest number of IDPs as a result of the attacks of ISIS on religious minorities in Iraq. Duhok is approximately 70 km from the city of Mosul which is ground zero for ISIS in Iraq.
We met with Mr. Behzad Ali Adam, Deputy Governor of the Kurdistan Regional Government and several other parliamentarians including Dr. Nezar Ismet Taib, Director General of Health for Duhok on the health and medical needs of the IDPs.
The group, accompanied by Yazidi Leader Shekh Shamo Shekho, Chairman of the High Corporation of Cultural & Social Ialish Centre visited the IDP camp housed in many half-finished school buildings that have been temporarily converted to refugee housing. We spoke with many of the residents there about their plight and treatment at the hands of ISIS. They continue to suffer greatly with many having family members brutally killed in the attacks and others that have been unable to even locate family members.
We concluded our visit to Duhok with a meeting at the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council where they detailed the thousands of years history of their people in this region of Iraq that still face religious persecution to this day.
September 1, 2014
Myself and the Rev. Majed El Shafie, Founder and President of One Free World International, flew from Erbil, Iraq to Istanbul Turkey, to Frankfurt, Germany and then to Toronto home.
I would like to express my sincere thanks to our hosts One Free World International and the many on the ground agencies in Armenia, Turkey and Kurdistan that provided such great hospitality and support. This was an important mission in advancing reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey as well as being a witness for the current genocide taking place against religious minorities at the hands of ISIS.
No public taxpayer money was expended for this trip.