I happened to pay a visit to Kurdistan region, Iraq last weekend. It was one of the most satisfactory visits I had recently.
I visited Sulaymaniyah and Erbil. I flew from İstanbul to Sulaymaniyah and travelled to Erbil by car to fly back to İstanbul. Between these two biggest cities of Kurdistan (it takes 3 hours to go) there are 5 checkpoints. A few years ago there were 17… There are also trenches all over to prevent bombed car attacks.
Iraqi Kurdistan is a safe haven in Middle East. The situation is definitely vulnerable but there is peace for the moment. If Mousul was not occupied by ISIS, the trade and nation building would continue unabated. Because of the ISIS threat, commerce had slowed down. Kurds dominate the region but there are so many ethnicities and religious beliefs. And there is an ongoing democratic experiment. A highly advanced pluralist constitution with a high degree of decentralization is at work. So far so good. ISIS or external powers, of course, might mess up this island of peace…
Speaking of external powers. Turkey is notorious. When Saddam was taking a revenge on Kurds after the Gulf War, Turkish soldiers distributed aid among Turkomans only. This is just one of the many issues of Turkey’s troublesome relation with the government. Most recent rapprochement with Turkey and Barzani is widely criticized but the latter is an all time power player and he is probably repositioning after the rise of PYD in Syria Kurdistand. While Barzani-ruled Erbil has better relations with Turkey, I hear that in Talebani-ruled Sulaymaniyah, Iran has more impact. In the mean time a new movement from Sulaymaniyah is rising: I have met some from the Gorran movement. It has 24 seats in the Kurdish Parliament (111 seats total). Left-democratic sensibilities, it had and it seems to be more intellectual and more independent of external powers. The party does not have armed forces- which might be a problem in the region (!).
Sulaymaniyah is more progressive but in general women are relatively more free than I expected in Iraqi Kurdistan. You can see women in public life. Not the ideal but better than many other places in the region.
Here is a photo gallery from my trip. Feel free to ask any questions since I was lazy to write explanations:(
In order to better understand the region.
A news appeared about a tea-house we visited: The teahouse that holds the history of Iraq’s Erbil
And eat… I have had the chance of tasting Kurdish Cuisine