Today, I had one heck of a schedule. Between multiple interviews and a late start after a late party at Jasperwood, I had to host a blogger luncheon at a terrific local Kurdish restaurant, Babani’s. Over 40 great bloggers descended on Babani’s today, courtesy of Verizon Communications, and I had the pleasure of kicking off the festivities (video courtesy of Eyeblast TV and Danny Glover):
Everyone had a great time, and the food was absolutely delicious. However, the best part of the luncheon for me was the tremendous story of Rodwan Nakshabandi:
Rodwan was born in 1959, the youngest child of a large Kurdish family with 6 children. He learned English and graduated from college with a degree in forestry and wildlife management in 1982. Immediately after graduation, he was forced into the Iraqi Army and sent to fight the Iranians as a tank driver. After two weeks of bitter fighting he escaped into the mountains to the old village of his birth. He stayed there until 1991. Immediately after the war to free Kuwait (Desert Storm), the Kurds rose up against the oppressive Iraqi government. Saddam Hussein’s government responded by attacking and destroying Kurdish villages. Rodwan and some 500,000 Kurds fled north across the border into Eastern Turkey. For two years Rodwan worked as an interpreter for a United Nations Relief Agency in a Turkish refugee camp. At the end of 1992, Rodwan was sponsored by the owners of Buca’s Restaurant to immigrate to the United States.
After settling in Minnesota he went to work as a cook at Buca’s. Finally in 1996, with the help of the owners of Buca’s, the Fuad family, Rodwan opened the nation’s first Iraqi Kurdish restaurant, Babani’s. Rodwan is a proud supporter of the Republican Party and has had the honor of meeting First Lady Laura Bush in 2004 in Saint Paul. Rodwan married his wife in 2002 and they are both American citizens. In 2003, prior to the start of the Iraq war Rodwan was a frequent guest on talk radio, but only under an assumed name and never mentioning his restaurant in fear for the life of his mother and other family members in Mosul, Iraq. Rodwan wants all Americans to know how grateful the Iraqi Kurdish people are to the United States and George W. Bush for liberating them from the tyranny of Saddam Hussain. Last year Rodwan took his family back to Iraq for the first time to visit relatives he had not seen since 1991. His love for America is great, but his heart still remains with his Kurdish heritage.
Rodwan exemplifies the American dream. What better way to celebrate the Republican National Convention in St. Paul?