Notre Dame Dean meets Kurdish Prime Minister

Document Type

Media Release

Publication Date

Spring 23-11-2011

Publisher Name

The University of Notre Dame, Fremantle Campus

Publication Place



A Notre Dame academic has had a rare and unique opportunity to meet the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, His Excellency Dr Barham Salih, during the Fourth Annual Conference of the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA) held in Washington DC recently.

Professor Matthew Ogilvie, Mary Prindiville Professor of Theology and Dean of the School of Philosophy and Theology at the Fremantle Campus, said he was struck by the Dr Salih’s sincere dedication to the advancement of his people and his manifest commitment to human rights.

The theme of the 2011 ASMEA Conference was Out of the Past, Into the Future: Reflections on the Middle East and Africa. It focussed on understanding past events in the Middle East and ways of influencing future policy decisions regarding the region.

At the conference, Professor Ogilvie moderated a panel on the topic Failed States in the Grasp of Insurgents; a theme that reflects his own research interests in religiously motivated terrorism throughout the Middle East and Africa.

Bordered by Iran to the east, Turkey to the north, Syria to the west and further Iraq to the south, the Kurdistan Region and its people are slowly recovering from more than four decades of civil war and population displacement.

In his keynote address at the conference, Dr Salih spoke of the Kurdistan region's transition from a land ravaged by war and genocide to an open society and free market economy.

Dr Salih also highlighted the region's freely contested elections and his government's commitment to transparency, accountability and equal opportunity.

“The Achievements of Prime Minister Salih and his government are remarkable especially when you consider that, outside of Iraq and Kurdistan, the only other functioning democracy in the region is Israel,” Professor Ogilvie said.

“I expressed my admiration for him and his government’s commitment to progress from the Saddam Hussein era to a government that was freely elected, open and transparent, and dedicated to giving all people protection under the law.

“He gave all in the audience great hope for the future of Kurdistan.”

During their discussion, Professor Ogilvie received a personal invitation from Dr Salih to visit Kurdistan.

Professor Ogilvie expressed his desire to help promote higher education to the region’s students and told the Prime Minister about The University of Notre Dame Australia.

“Dr Salih was very interested in the University’s Catholic identity, commitment to the liberal arts tradition and dedication to justice,” Professor Ogilvie said.

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