A HUDDERSFIELD couple have become education and business ambassadors for Kurdistan.
Kamal Draey and his wife Rasheda have become key figures for bringing Kurdish students to Britain and foreign businesses to Kurdistan.
This week the couple hope to meet Huddersfield University chiefs to establish links between the university.
They met Kirklees Council leader Clr Mehboob Khan on February 15 to discuss how to attract the region’s manufacturing industries to invest in the northern Iraqi state.
A meeting with Huddersfield Chamber of Commerce is also planned for this week.
It is vital work as Kirklees’ Kurdish community is now several thousand strong, possibly as many as 10,000.
The Draeys, who have four children living in Huddersfield, spend most of the year in the Kurdistan capital Arbil but spend two months each year in their second home in Brackenhall.
Mr Draey, 46, was born in Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan, northern Iraq. He fled to London in 1981, to escape persecution under Saddam Hussein’s regime.
He read civil engineering at Queen Mary College, London University, where he met Huddersfield-born Rasheda.
After a year in Kurdistan in 2001, the couple moved to Huddersfield, where Rasheda became a teacher at Huddersfield Technical College, while Kamal took a job with the Home Office.
Working with the British Council, Kamal and Rasheda founded a link between Huddersfield Technical College and Sulaymaniyah College, bringing 10 teachers and college managers over from Kurdistan universities.
In 2006, three years after Saddam was deposed, the pair returned to Kurdistan to help its coalition government rebuild the state’s education system.
Rasheda became director of international relations for the Kurdistan Ministry of Education while Kamal became one of its advisers.
In 2007, Kamal set up three Britannia English language colleges in the Kurdistan cities of Arbil, Sulaymaniyah and Duhok.
He became Iraqi director of Into UK University Partnerships, which helps foreign students learn English before taking courses at English and American universities.
Rasheda is now director of international relations at Soran University, a university funded by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which was opened in September.
Using their links with KRG and the Iraqi private sector, the couple now work to forge links with Kurdistan colleges and universities and their equivalents in the UK.
They also work to attract investment in the oil and mineral rich Iraqi state.
Under Saddam’s regime Kurdistan was largely prevented from economic and educational growth.
But after his government was toppled the region has grown rapidly.
Kamal said: “It was always my dream to go back and help build the country, especially in education.
“I like Huddersfield and Kurdistan, so I like to serve both sides.
“Kurdistan has a lot of opportunities for business in Kirklees.
“The rate of growth in Kurdistan is fast. You go away for just one month and you will see a difference.
“There are supermarkets, private universities and public universities. HSBC and PricewaterhouseCoopers are there. There are French and Italian businesses there, but not British businesses.
“Kurdistan is very rich. There’s a lot of wealth and not many people leave the country, so the wealth tends to stay there.
“Whatever you do today in Kurdistan will happen in Baghdad tomorrow. Kurdistan is developing much faster than most of Iraq at the moment.”
For more information on business opportunities in Kurdistan email Kamal firstname.lastname@example.org