Representatives of Iraq’s most peaceful province, the autonomous and oil-rich Kurdistan, visited San Francisco on Thursday to increase the region’s profile and promote American investment as part of a national media campaign.
"While it is true there is violence and instability in Iraq, there is the other Iraq," said Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the daughter of a slain Iraqi deputy prime minister and the non-executive chairman of the Kurdistan Development Corp. "The other story, which is rarely told, is that there are parts of Iraq that are stable."
The company, half owned by the Kurdish Regional Government and half owned by private individuals, seeks to promote Kurdish Iraq’s image and act as a venture partner for development in the region. Most foreign companies doing business in Kurdistan presently are of Turkish and other Arab origin, and even these Middle Eastern construction firms are doing work with Iraq’s money rather than investing their own resources, according to Pratap Chatterjee, the program director of the nonprofit group CorpWatch, who recently visited the region.
The visit came as the company launched "The Other Iraq," a series of national advertisements as well as regional commercials in Washington, D.C., the Bay Area and Portland, Ore., the three stops on Rahman’s tour. The tour also allowed members of the Kurdish Development Corp. to meet with "four or five" investment groups, including one in the Bay Area, according to Sal Russo, whose political publicity firm ,Russo Marsh & Rogers, is promoting the campaign and the tour. Russo and Rahman declined to say how much the campaign costs and said the money comes from the regional government.
Rahman spent part of her time in San Francisco thanking parents of several soldiers who had died in Iraq during a press conference at the Fior d’Italia Restaurant in North Beach. She invited them to visit Kurdistan.
"Their liveshaven’t been lost in vain," said Rahman, who lost a brother as well as her father due to the war.
Kurdistan long suffered under the reign of Saddam Hussein, whose government destroyed Kurdish villages, eliminated more than 150,000 people and razed a great deal of its forests. Today, part of the corporation’s challenge is working with investors even as headlines point out the remaining unease between the national government in Baghdad and the Kurdish government, which says it has the authority to cut business deals for the region independently under the Iraqi constitution.