Posts Tagged ‘Talabani’

Iraqi Kurdistan’s rollerskate ride – Byline Times

April 5, 2023 1 comment

How are things going in Iraqi Kurdistan? I enjoyed ten days there this winter and – even though I know people often take a very dim view of the region’s prospects – the piece below published in the Byline Times is my attempt to give a fair answer the question.

I was lucky to be travelling with Jonathan Randal, author and former grand reporter at the Washington Post, whose energy in travelling to the ends of the earth to nail down sources remains undimmed at the age of 90. We visited inspiring volunteers in community radio stations, dissident journalists in hotel cafes, past and present militia bosses in their gilt-chair-filled reception rooms and (perhaps somewhat lonely) leaders in their glittering palaces.

It’s hard to judge a place when being shown unfailing help and hospitality, being constantly offered tables groaning with delicacies and being witness to the enormous respect in which Jon is held among Iraqi Kurds of all stations.

My favourite moment came when visiting a media company (above) and Jon was introduced to the economics editor. “You should read my book about that,” Jon urged him as a familiar topic re-emerged. “Oh, but I have,” replied the editor. “In fact, I’ve read it twice.”

Here’s the top of the piece, anyway. There seems to be no paywall, so just click at the end if you want to continue reading.


Hugh Pope in the Byline Times, 3 April 2023

English Channel crossings that end in tragedy highlight how many Iraqi Kurds have been willing to take dramatic, expensive risks to reach a dream of prosperity and stability in richer countries in Europe. But 10 days spent in Iraqi Kurdistan reveals another, parallel, reality: a small but still significant number of Kurds who are obliged or ready to return.

“You should see my house in Erbil – it’s absolutely fantastic!” an Iraqi Kurd said as we chatted in the slick and shiny airport of Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital. “Sure, I’ll stick to my car wash business in Manchester for a couple more years but I plan to come back here with my family and set up a car repair place. In Britain, you can never really save money.”

Who is making the right move?

It has always been tough knowing what future to bet on in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, a shape-shifting homeland for some six to seven million people. Hopes and opportunities have to be weighed against the repeated experience that everything can change at lightning speed.

“How many collapses have we seen in our lifetimes? Three, four? No, many more!” joked former Iraqi Kurdish government minister Hussain Sinjari over dinner one evening. [Pictured above].

In a strange contrast to the serenity of his hosts’ elegant home – where the walls were hung with fine Iraqi Kurdish modern art – guests chimed in to count the catastrophes: the failure of the first modern Kurdish rebellion in the 1960s; the collapse of another Kurdish revolt in the mid-1970s; the Halabja chemical attack and Iraqi ‘Anfal’ murders of more than 50,000 Kurds in the 1980s; the 1.5 million refugees forced to flee after the Gulf war of 1991; the inter-Kurdish civil conflict of the mid-1990s; and the sudden shock when advancing Islamic State fighters were on the point of taking Erbil airport in 2014.

For its critics, Iraqi Kurdistan has wasted its chances and once again failed to prepare for a possible new perfect storm. The threats are rising again: regional meddling, a possible withdrawal of US bases, rampant domestic corruption, newly violent internal divisions, rising inequality, popular frustration and economic breakdown.

“Iraqi Kurdistan is like a country living on roller skates,” said another of the dinner guests, Jonathan Randal, a veteran reporter and author of After Such Knowledge, What Forgiveness? My encounters with Kurdistan. “There’s always a chance it’ll fall flat on its back.”

That’s why everyone in Iraqi Kurdistan takes precautions…

For more, please click on this link to the Byline Times site, no paywall spotted so far. If you want still more on the Kurds, here’s an appraisal I did in 2014: The Zig-zagging Rise of the Kurds.