Hundreds of demonstrators lined three blocks of Broadway on Wednesday to call on the United States to offer more support for Kurdish independence.
The rally came at a fraught time for their movement: The recent collapse of ISIS has triggered fighting in Iraq between Kurds and the national government.
The midday rally was designed to call attention to a recent referendum supporting Kurdish independence and the taking of the Kurdish-held city of Kirkuk by Iraq's Shi'a-led army and militia. Protesters packed sidewalks outside the federal courthouse for more than two hours. They waved placards and honked car horns. Dozens of Kurdish flags flapped in the autumn wind.
"It's something that our parents have fought for all their lives," said Peyman Noman, a Kurdish woman from Nashville who took part in the demonstration. "And the reason that we are here is because of the Iraqi government."
As a child, Peyman Noman was forced out of northern Iraq with her family. Like thousands of other Kurdish refugees, they settled in Nashville. She said now it's time for the Kurds' plight to be recognized by the international community.
Noman cited conflicts between Kurds and the Iraqi government going all the way back to Saddam Hussein's rule in the 1980s. Those are what led many Kurds to flee Iraq for Tennessee and to work with the American government through two wars.
Several protesters brought up that relationship. Reebs Merani said the Kurds' Peshmerga forces have been consistent supporters of the U.S. military, including in the fight against ISIS.
"We are the true allies of America and the West. And what we need now is their support," Merani said. "We're in a big mess right now. We're in big trouble, and we need everyone to support us."
President Trump's administration opposed the Kurdish independence referendum. Critics say Kurdish leaders called it to shore up their popularity.
But supporters of the referendum hope rallies like the one in Nashville will convince the U.S. to throw its weight behind Kurdish separation.