Kani Xulam is a native of Kurdistan.
He studied International Relations at the University of Toronto, holds a BA in history from the University of California Santa Barbara and an MA in the International Service program at American University.
At the University of Toronto, he represented Kurdistan at the Model United Nations, which passed a nonbinding resolution recognizing the right of the Kurdish people to self-determination.
At the University of California Santa Barbara, he was part of a group of peace activists who protested the first Gulf War by taking part in a sit-in at Chancellor’s office in January 1991. Everyone was arrested. Mr. Xulam pled not guilty, defended himself, and was sentenced to 18 hours of community service to plant saplings in Santa Barbara.
In 1993, at the urging of Kurdish community leaders in America, he left his family business in Santa Barbara, California to establish the American Kurdish Information Network (AKIN) in the nation’s capital. AKIN is a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering Kurdish-American understanding and friendship.
In his capacity as AKIN’s director, Mr. Xulam has worked closely with members of the U.S. Congress and their staff to seek the freedom of Kurdish parliamentarians imprisoned in Turkey, with a particular focus on the case of Leyla Zana.
In 1997, he took part in a hunger strike on the steps of the Capitol urging members of Congress to use their good offices on behalf of their imprisoned Kurdish colleagues. 153 members signed a letter urging President Clinton to intervene on the matter. Mr. Xulam, on the advice of his physician, ended his fast on the 32nd day.
His advocacy work on behalf of the Kurdish people, and his efforts to resist legal harassment in the U.S. instigated by the Turkish authorities, were highlighted in a documentary, “Good Kurds, Bad Kurds: No Friends But the Mountains”, a film that Stephen Holden in the New York Times praised as “searing … delves deeply into the history and politics of Kurdistan.”
In 2001, Mr. Xulam undertook an around-the-clock vigil in front of the Turkish Ambassador’s residence in Washington, DC to highlight the plight of imprisoned Kurdish parliamentarians. The vigil, kept in a replica of a Turkish prison cell, lasted 221 days.
Mr. Xulam is an occasional commentator on the plight of the Kurds and Kurdistan on the pages of Rudaw, an online multilingual daily with headquarters in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan.