NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A program that connects Nashville with people all across the world could be growing.
A large delegation from the Kurdistan region of Iraq is currently visiting Nashville. The group consists of elected officials and residents, and they have been touring the city and meeting with elected officials. With the help of a translator, the Governor of Erbil made his pitch to Metro Council members at Tuesday's meeting.
"We are here as the first city from the Middle East to form a sister city partnership with city of Nashville," he said. "We are trying to implement the values of human rights and democracy, and we want your help."
Nashville currently has nine Sister Cities across the globe — Belfast, Northern Ireland; Caen, France; Edmonton, Canada; Kamakura, Japan; Magdeburg, Germany; Mendoza, Argentina; Chengdu, China; Taiyuan, China and Tamworth, Australia.
Supporters said it makes sense to add a partner in the Middle East.
"More Kurdish people live here than anywhere else outside of Kurdistan," said Patsy Cottrell, a board member with Sister Cities of Nashville. "They make huge contributions to our city, so there is a real connection."
Sister Cities International was created by President Eisenhower in 1956. The mission says the program creates relationships based on cultural, educational, information and trade exchanges, and creates lifelong friendships that provide prosperity and peace.
In order for Erbil to become an official Sister City, the Sister Cities of Nashville Board has to sign off on the proposal, and the Mayor and Metro Council have to approve the agreement as well.
While the process is still underway, members of the visiting delegation said they felt like things were off to a strong start.
"There’s lots of similarities, common ground between Erbil and Nashville," said Krmanji Othman, the Ministry of Justice for Kurdistan Regional Government – Iraq. "It will be a great starting point to expand exchanging of culture."
After leaving Nashville, the Kurdish delegation was going to visit Washington, D.C. Nashville Vice Mayor Jim Shulman said the city would also work on sending a delegation to visit Erbil.