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Iraqi Kurds Hold Memorial for Fmr. Israeli President Peres, Who Recognized Kurdish Democracy

Iraqi Kurds held a memorial service for former Israeli President Shimon Peres on Wednesday, hours after the veteran statesman passed away at the age of 93, according to various Kurdish news sources.

Kurds in the Duhok region, which is north of Mosul in Iraq, reportedly held a half hour service in honor of Peres, who in June 2014 advised President Barack Obama to recognize the reality of Kurdish separation from the rest of Iraq.

“The Kurds have, de facto, created their own state, which is democratic. One of the signs of a democracy is the granting of equality to women,” Peres said while briefing reporters on the meeting.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu echoed Peres’ sentiment shortly afterwards, saying that Jerusalem must “support the Kurds’ aspiration for independence.”

Bayar Zawitayi, a Kurdish activist who spoke to the media, said that the memorial service was meant to express condolences to Peres’ family and gratitude for his friendship.

In addition to recent expressions of support from Israeli officials, the Jewish state played a role in helping establish the modern Kurdish army in the 1960s. Sherzad Omer Mamsani, the Kurdish Regional Government’s first director of Jewish affairs, told The Tower in May that Kurds “have really a soft heart towards Israel.”

“While we have 23 Muslims and Arab countries around us, none of them recognized or supported the Kurdish existence, or the Kurdish idea, or the Kurdish identity,” he explained. “Only Israel.”

In Say it Again. Kurdish Independence Now, which was published in the September 2013 issue of The Tower Magazine, Jonathan Spyer commented on the shared political values of Israel and the Kurds:

Indeed, other than Israel, the KRG in northern Iraq is the most pro-Western of all the non-monarchical governments in the region. The ruling KDP is openly and outspokenly pro-Western and pro-American. And unlike the Arab monarchies, its pro-Western orientation is deeply rooted in popular sentiment.

[Photo: William John Gauthier / Flickr ]