Jiyayi Suleyman, a Kurdish refugee resettled in Nashville as a young child with his parents and siblings in 1991, was dismissed from the Metro Nashville Police force after it was discovered that “he lied on his application about who he was” and about his involvement with the Kurdish Pride Gang.
Suleyman became a Metro Nashville police officer in 2012.
His sister Remziya Suleyman, also made her mark in Nashville. Trained by the TN Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC), she organized opposition to a 2011 anti-terrorism bill but failed to stop it from being passed into law. Her efforts did, however, result in establishing the American Muslim Advisory Council with assistance from the Haslam administration.
Former Nashville mayor Karl Dean made elevating “new Americans” a priority during his term. Early on he established the New Americans Advisory Council with participation from Conexion Americas and TIRRC. The MyCity Academy program designed to politically empower refugees and immigrants followed.
In 2014, Dean established the Mayor’s Office of New Americans and the Parent Ambassador Program whose volunteers would serve as advisors to Metro schools. Without hesitation Dean praised the self-segregation in “growing enclaves” of new Americans that keep them separated from assimilating into and adapting to the American culture. Many of those Dean referred to during a city celebration were brought to Nashville by federal refugee resettlement contractors:
The number of foreign-born residents in Nashville has more than doubled over the past decade. And today our city is the proud home of the nation’s largest Kurdish population, as well as growing enclaves of immigrants from Somalia, Sudan and all over the world.
Disgraced former mayor Megan Barry expanded Dean’s efforts relying on recommendations from her transition committee whose members included TIRRC trained refugee advocate Kasar Abdulla, Nashville Chamber of Commerce official Debbie Dale Mason, and Renata Soto, executive director of Conexion Americas and board chairman of the National Council of La Raza. Based on the Metro Human Relations Commission Inclucivics report which analyzed the “diversity and equity” of 50 Metro Nashville departments including the Metro Nashville Police Department, the committee recommended appointing and empowering a Chief Diversity Officer in the Mayor’s office.
“Diversity and equity” are considered foundational to social justice movements.
Megan Barry appointed the city’s first diversity officer. She highlighted the deliberate effort of the Metro Nashville Police Department to diversify its ranks, noting that the 2017 class included trainees from countries including Haiti, Brazil, Afghanistan, Serbia, Kurdistan, Ivory Coast and Mexico.
MNPD’s logo “The Colors of Our Community” reflects a popular approach to policing, the goal of which is for police departments to mirror the communities they serve.
When Suleyman joined the Metro Nashville police force in 2012, he was lauded by local media and the Muslim community for becoming the first Kurdish police officer in the city.
Two years into Suleyman’s policing career, a BBC News article featuring “Little Kurdistan” in Nashville, portrayed him as conflicted about his allegiances:
“He patrols Nashville’s toughest neighbourhoods, where Yemenis and other Middle Easterners run many of the shops. He says it would be difficult to police his own neighbours.
‘You then have to face your community saying, ‘Why’d you arrest this young Kurdish guy? Or, why did you do this, why did you do that?'”
According to News4, Suleyman resigned from the Metro police force in March 2018, and is the subject of a criminal investigation stemming from his past and current involvement with the Kurdish Pride Gang:
Police said he lied on his application about who he was and who he hung out with.
Once on the inside, he used the TBI’s computer program to look up fellow gang members which is against the rules…
Investigators said they caught Suleyman associating with other gang members at House of Kabab.
Even after police arrested those gang members for selling drugs and guns they said Suleyman continued to associate with them.
A search warrant revealed pictures of Suleyman flashing gang signs and wearing gang colors before he ever joined the force.
Federal refugee resettlement contractor Catholic Charities of TN brought the first Kurds to Nashville in 1976. They were joined by some Iranian Kurds and then Kurds fleeing Saddam Hussein’s regime. Between refugee resettlement and “secondary migration” Nashville’s Kurdish community is estimated at about 11,000.
In 2007, the Kurdish Pride Gang (KPG) that established itself in Nashville, exposed a different side of the Kurdish community. Police described gang members as “increasingly vicious and brazen” and reputed to deal in guns and drugs. Gang experts warn that gangs made up of people that come from war-torn countries pose a “unique problem” because they are desensitized to violence and dismissive of authority.
Several years ago, Metro police used a new tactic to break the KPG gang. A judge ruled the gang a public nuisance and issued an injunction preventing the gang from gathering together in public places.
Ofc. Suleyman’s sister Remziya who launched a Nashville-based organization called the Muslim American Center for Outreach (ACO), issued a statement criticizing police and prosecutorial action against the Kurdish Pride Gang.
Before being forced to resign, Barry tweeted about Suleyman:
MNPD Ofc. Suleyman is one of many refugees who came to Nashville and made our city stronger and safer.
Mayor David Briley has continued the New American initiatives and the “diversity and inclusion” agenda.