Stuart Gibson is an international consultant with over 20 years’ experience working with cultural organizations and governments undergoing economic and political transition and post-conflict development.

Gibson has worked extensively in the countries of the former Soviet Union, Eastern and Central Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East. He is a UN senior international expert on museum management and organization, cultural policy, and the financing of culture.

He is currently Secretary to the International Advisory Board of the State Hermitage Museum (St. Petersburg, Russia), a UNESCO advisor to the Uzbekistan Ministry of Culture and Sport on the development of museums and tourism, and advisor to the Kurdish Regional Government (Iraq) on museums and archaeology. Gibson is a frequent speaker and lecturer on cultural and management issues.

The talk will explore Kurdistan and its quest for independence. The events of the past couple of years have changed the Iraqi landscape possibly forever. These events have simultaneously brought into question many geopolitical assumptions not only about Iraq but the Middle East and beyond. One crucial element in this unfolding drama is the autonomous region of Kurdistan in northern Iraq – its role in combating ISIS, its turbulent relationship with the Baghdad government, its evolving relationship with Iran, Syria, and Turkey, and its longstanding aspirations for independence.

Kurdistan, which has been an unflinching ally of the United States for over 20 years, is a pluralistic society embracing Kurds, Armenians, Turkmen, Yazidis, and Christians. Its capital Irbil is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world dating back to 6,000 BCE. Despite suffering horribly under the Saddam regime, it nevertheless remained steadfast in its resistance to that repressive rule. Since the end of the first Gulf war it is been unwavering in reclaiming its heritage and cultural identity and erecting a viable political and economic social order as an independent region in Iraq. Since the emergence of ISIS, it has been transformed into a haven for those persecuted and disowned throughout the region and has also emerged as a key player in confronting the ISIS threat.