MOORHEAD - With a #DefendKurdistan poster in her hands, 27-year-old Siham Amedy and her mother, Bayan, stood in solidarity on Veterans Memorial Bridge Tuesday evening, Oct. 17, with more than 60 other Kurdish-Americans.

The rally was in response to Iraqi government forces the day before sweeping into the Kurdistan region of Iraq, including the Kurdish-held, oil-rich city of Kirkuk. The majority of the Kurds protesting the military action Tuesday were children who encouraged one another to hold their signs of peace and prayers higher.

A mix of Kurdish and American flags were flapping in the warm October air that filled with frequent honks of support from rush-hour traffic.

Amedy, who still has family in Iraq, said the news of the latest conflict in her homeland was "frightening." She moved to Moorhead with her immediate family 20 years ago at the age of 7.

"We are always grateful to live here, but a part of us is always missing," she said. "It always hurts when things like this happen there because you have these memories."

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Newzad Brifki, founder and director of the Kurdish Community of America, a Moorhead-based group, said people within the Kurdish community here - a population of roughly 1,100 - came to him about hosting Tuesday's demonstration.

"This is all we can do, sad to say, hold a rally to let the greater community know and support," Brifki said. "As Kurdish-Americans, we are very upset. The Kurds are a great ally to the U.S."

But he said two of his cousins were just shot by "Iraqi thugs."

Brifki said the Kurdistan region has every right to secede from Iraq. This sentiment was overwhelmingly expressed on Sept. 25 during an independence referendum in which 93 percent of Kurds voted in favor of independence.

An existing resolution penned by Arizona's Republican Congressman Trent Franks says Kurdistan should "determine their status as a sovereign country."

Brifki said people should contact their representatives and urge the U.S. to take action. "We cannot be neutral," he said, criticizing President Donald Trump's decision not to pick sides in the Iraqi-Kurdish conflict.

"Kurdish people are probably the nicest people you'll ever meet. They are understanding and courageous and always optimistic things will get better," Amedy said. "In spite of it all, because Kurds are on the side of justice, I have hope."