Trump Fish: Iraqi restau­rant spells out Kur­dish faith in pres­i­dent-elect The new­est en­ter­prise bear­ing Trump’s name

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

The new­est en­ter­prise bear­ing Don­ald Trump’s name is not a five-star ho­tel or an ex­clu­sive golf club. It is a restau­rant in north­ern Iraq serv­ing fire-roasted carp for $10 a kilo which the US pres­i­dent-elect prob­a­bly doesn’t even know ex­ists. Trump Fish, whose logo fea­tures the busi­ness­man-turned-politician’s dis­tinc­tive yel­low mane, opened about 10 days ago in the Kur­dish city of Duhok, an hour’s drive from the lat­est bat­tle against Is­lamic State mil­i­tants in Mo­sul.

Owner Ned­yar Zaw­ity says he reg­is­tered the Trump name months ago with Kur­dish au­thor­i­ties. The 31year-old en­tre­pre­neur in­sists the brand­ing is more about turn­ing a profit than en­dors­ing pol­i­tics, but he likes Trump’s strong per­son­al­ity and rep­u­ta­tion as a suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man. Above all, he ap­pre­ci­ates the pres­i­dent-elect’s prom­ise to ramp up sup­port to the Kurds and their pesh­merga fight­ers, a sen­si­tive propo­si­tion in a coun­try where com­pet­ing pro-gov­ern­ment forces vie for West­ern back­ing. “I per­son­ally love Trump for this,” Zaw­ity said. “The name Trump is beloved in Kur­dis­tan.” The Kurds, op­pressed un­der suc­ces­sive Arab gov­ern­ments in Iraq, are per­haps the big­gest vic­tors of the new or­der born out of the US-led in­va­sion that top­pled Sad­dam Hus­sein in 2003.

While Iraqi Arabs fur­ther south have been gripped by sec­tar­ian con­flict for more than a decade, Kur­dis­tan re­mained rel­a­tively safe, en­joyed an eco­nomic boom and steadily de­vel­oped its au­ton­omy. More re­cently, Kur­dish pesh­merga fight­ers - whose name lit­er­ally means “those who face death” - have proven vi­tal US al­lies in the war against Is­lamic State, which seized a third of the coun­try in 2014 when Iraqi forces col­lapsed. The Kurds have pushed for years to re­ceive di­rect sup­port in­stead of aid fun­neled Kurds will be hop­ing that his en­dorse­ment of their military prow­ess will trans­late into po­lit­i­cal sup­port for the long-held ambition of state­hood for their au­ton­o­mous re­gion, which re­lies heav­ily for in­come on for­eign aid and oil sales.

The Trump name has helped at­tract cus­tomers, ac­cord­ing to Zaw­ity, in­clud­ing Western­ers who say they don’t nec­es­sar­ily sup­port the Repub­li­can figure but dine here for nov­elty’s sake. “He is an Amer­i­can, maybe he is not my fa­vorite, but he is still Amer­i­can. So I’m happy to try a restau­rant with an Amer­i­can name with Kur­dish-Iraqi food,” said David Hirsch, a li­brar­ian at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Los Angeles.

Yet it has also gar­nered en­mity from some quar­ters, in­clud­ing on­line crit­ics who ac­cuse Zaw­ity of be­ing an Amer­i­can or Is­raeli agent and have sent him threats. Some cus­tomers upset with Trump’s cam­paign pledge to im­pose a tem­po­rary ban on Mus­lims en­ter­ing the United States have boy­cotted the restau­rant, he said. Echoing an opin­ion held by many Trump sup­port­ers in the re­gion, Zaw­ity at­tributes the pro­posed ban to the de­mands of cam­paign­ing and does not be­lieve it will be im­ple­mented.

He even hopes to take his Trump car­i­ca­ture logo to the United States and open an­other restau­rant there. “Give me a visa and I will go tomorrow,” he said with a chuckle. Zaw­ity could face re­sis­tance to such ex­pan­sion from Trump’s own op­er­a­tion, which re­lies heav­ily for rev­enues on brand­ing and mer­chan­dis­ing its name. The in­com­ing leader of the world’s su­per­power is less likely to chal­lenge an­other show of Kur­dish sup­port: Lo­cal me­dia re­ported last week­end that a pesh­merga fighter on the front lines against Is­lamic State had named his new­born son “Trump”. —Reuters

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