One hundred years ago, in the aftermath of World War I, Britain, France, Turkey, and other nations signed the Treaty of Lausanne, which divided Kurdistan between what are today Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, and blocked the national aspirations of the Kurdish people. Since then, Kurds have endured persecution, war, cultural genocide, and mass killings.

As a result of these conditions, many Kurdish people have fled their homeland, and some have received asylum in the United States. One such asylee is Kani Xulam, who is now the director of the American Kurdish Information Network.

To call attention to the 100th anniversary of the partition of Kurdistan, Mr. Xulam recently walked from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC to the United Nations in New York City. His journey covered more than 300 miles and took 24 days.

Mr. Xulam hopes that his walk will help raise awareness for the situation in Kurdistan, and that the United Nations will appoint a Special Representative to address the plight of 50 million stateless Kurds. He writes:

An international conspiracy condemned the Kurds to a life of subjugation. An international effort guided with the better angels of our nature can free them from it. My walk is a call for the right of a people to call themselves Kurds, and their homeland, Kurdistan.

Mr. Xulam's story was feature on Democracy Now, which you can see below.

In some ways, Mr. Xulam's story is typical of many asylum seekers in the United States. They were political or human rights activists in their home countries and they remain active here. Indeed, the very purpose of asylum is to protect people like Mr. Xulam. Like so many other asylees, his values are our values: Democracy, freedom, self determination.

On the 100th anniversary of the partition of Kurdistan, we should remember the plight of the Kurdish people and we should support the effort to protect them. We should also be grateful that our country serves as a safe haven for people like Kani Xulam, and allows him to continue his important human rights work from our shores.

Originally posted on the Asylumist: