A suicide attack took away her father and brother. But it gave her a voice.

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Iraqi refugees, who fled from the violence in Mosul, walk inside the Khazer refugee camp on the outskirts of Arbil, in Iraq's Kurdistan region, June 27, 2014.

Iraqi refugees, who fled from the violence in Mosul, walk inside the Khazer refugee camp on the outskirts of Arbil, in Iraq's Kurdistan region, June 27, 2014.

Ahmed Jadallah

Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman always worried about the safety of her father.

"We sort of sometimes thought that our father might be killed because he was in the forefront of the Kurdish movement," recalls Abdul Rahman.

Her father, Sami Abdul Rahman, was the deputy prime minister of the Kurdish regional government and his activities in the Kurdish movement made him a target under Saddam Hussein's rule.

Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the Kurdistan Regional Government Representative to the US.

Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the Kurdistan Regional Government Representative to the US.

Credit:

Courtesy of Kurdistan Regional Government

In fact, both he and Abdul Rahman's mother were sentenced to death for their political activities.

Sami Abdul Rahman survived the death sentence, but not a suicide attack that ripped through Erbil in early 2004. Abdul Rahman and his son were two of the 98 people who died that day. Hundreds more were injured.

The events of that day changed Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman's life. "It galvanized me to be more proactive to serve the people of Kurdistan," she explains.

Abdul Rahman and her family moved to Britain when she was 11.

“I was born into a family that was very active in the Kurdish liberation movement for two or three generations,” she explains. “I was 11 years oldm but I think politically, I was probably 28. I used to talk about Kissinger and my 11-year-old British friends didn’t know who Kissinger was.”

Abdul Rahman became a journalist and reported for the Financial Times in Britain and Japan. Just before her father was killed, she was considering a change in profession. She wanted to quit journalism and become more politically active. She talked about it with her father.

"We were discussing how I could go to Kurdistan and use my skills as a journalist, as an English speaker and so on,” she explains, “and then suddenly he was taken away from us.”

The death of her father and brother did push Abdul Rahman to make the move into politics, but she says she would rather focus on their lives. "It's their lives that inspire me," she says, "not their deaths."

Last year Abdul Rahman moved to Washington, DC, to become the Kurdish regional government's representative to the US. Her new role comes at a difficult time for Iraq and Kurdistan. ISIS continues to wreak havoc and the wounds of the US war haven't healed yet.

The Kurdish fighters, also known as the Peshmerga, have made some important gains, though. “We have pushed back ISIS out of all the areas that we consider to be Kurdistani areas,” explains Abdul Rahman.

But a lot of challenges remain.

The Kurdish government has had to take in hundreds of thousands of refugees. It lacks the infrastructure and financial support to deal with the influx of people.

Abdul Rahman points out that if the international community helps improve the lives of refugees in the Middle East, that would slow down their migration to Europe.

"It's all linked," she says. "If you’re a parent, you see there’s not enough food on the table, your children have been out of school for one or two years, of course you’ll give up everything and try to put everyone on a boat, risk their lives to go to Europe."

Meanwhile, Abdul Rahman says no matter how big the challenge, she is not one to stop.

She will continue to fight to bring international attention to Kurdistan and the plight of its people.