Iraqi Kurdistan: Wikis

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Kurdistan Region
Herêmî Kurdistan
إقليم كردستان
Kurdistan
Flag Coat of Arms
AnthemEy Reqîb
(English: "Hey Guardian")
Location of Iraqi Kurdistan (dark green) with respect to Iraq (light green) on a map of the Middle East.
Capital Arbil (Hewler)
36°11′N 44°00′E / 36.183°N 44°E / 36.183; 44
Largest city Arbil
Official language(s) Kurdish
Government Parliamentary republic
 -  President Massoud Barzani
 -  Prime Minister Barham Salih
Formation of Autonomous Region Date of Indpendence: July 17, 1892
 -  Autonomy accord agreement signed March 11, 1970 
 -  Autonomy accord collapsed March, 1974 
 -  Gained de facto independence October, 1991 
 -  The TAL recognized the autonomy of the KRG as full sovereignty. January 30, 2005 
Area
 -  Total 83,000 km2 (84th)
15,455 sq mi 
Population
 -  2010 estimate 8,031,631[1] 
 -  2003 census 4,621,578 
 -  Density 211/km2 (166th)
546.5/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2007 estimate
 -  Total 27 billion (not ranked)
 -  Per capita $10,400 
HDI  n/a (n/a) (not ranked)
Currency Iraqi Dinar is the official currency, American Dollar widely accepted in all business transactions and to a lesser extent the Euro. (IQD)
Time zone (UTC+3)
 -  Summer (DST)  (UTC+4)
Internet TLD Various
Calling code 964
This article is part of the
Kurdish history and Culture series
Early ancestors
Ancient history
Medieval history
Modern history
Culture

Iraqi Kurdistan or Kurdistan Region (Kurdish: Herêmî Kurdistanî, Arabic: إقليم كردستان, Iqlīm Kurdistān) also referred to as Southern Kurdistan as part of Greater Kurdistan (Kurdish: باشووری کوردستان, Başûrî Kurdistan) is an autonomous,[2] federally recognized region of Iraq. It borders Iran to the east, Turkey to the north, Syria to the west and the rest of Iraq to the south. Its capital is the city of Arbil, known in Kurdish as Hewlêr. The region is officially governed by the Kurdistan Regional Government.

The establishment of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq dates back to the March 1970 autonomy agreement between the Kurdish opposition and the Iraqi government after years of heavy fighting. After the agreement, wars between Kurdistan and Iraq had taken away much of the sovereignty the Kurds were entitled to. The Iran-Iraq war during the 1980s and the Anfal genocide campaign of the Iraqi army devastated the population and nature of Kurdistan. Following the 1991 uprising of the Kurdish people against Saddam Hussein, the Kurds were forced to flee the country to become refugees in bordering regions of Iran and Turkey. After the creation of the northern no-fly zone following the First Gulf War in 1991 to facilitate the return of Kurdish refugees, Kurdistan has been de facto independent. The 2003 invasion of Iraq by joint coalition and Kurdish forces and the subsequent political changes in post-Saddam Iraq led to the ratification of the new Iraqi constitution in 2005. The new Iraqi constitution stipulates that Iraqi Kurdistan is a federal entity recognized by Iraq and the United Nations.

Kurdistan is a parliamentary democracy with a national assembly that consists of 111 seats. [3] The current president is Massoud Barzani who was elected during the Iraqi Kurdistan 2005 elections that are held every four years. The three governorates of Duhok, Arbil and Sulaymania accumulate a territory of around 40,000 square kilometers and a population between 4 and 6.5 million. Disputes remain between the central Iraqi government and the Kurdish government about predominantly Kurdish territories outside the current borders of Iraqi Kurdistan.

As a major economic power in Iraq, Kurdistan has the lowest poverty rates and highest standard of living in Iraq.[4] It is the most stable and secure region of Iraq where not a single coalition soldier or foreigner has been killed, wounded or kidnapped since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.[5] Maintaining its own foreign relations, Kurdistan hosts a number of consulates and representation offices of countries most notably those of the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Israel and Turkey.[6][7]

Contents

Name

The name Kurdistan literally means Land of the Kurds. The term Kurd in turn is derived from the Latin word Cordueni, i.e. the of the ancient Kingdom of Corduene, which became a Roman province in 66 BC.

In the Iraqi Constitution, it is referred to as Kurdistan Region.[8]. The regional government refers to it as Kurdistan-Iraq (or simply Kurdistan region) but avoids using Iraqi Kurdistan.[9] The full name of the government is "Kurdistan Regional Government" (abbrev: KRG.)

Kurds also refer to the region as Kurdistana Başûr (South Kurdistan) or Başûrî Kurdistan (Southern Kurdistan or South of Kurdistan) referring to its geographical location within the whole of the greater Kurdistan region.

During the Baath Party administration in the 1970s and 1980s, the region was called "Kurdish Autonomous Region".

History

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Ottoman Period

The area today known as Iraqi Kurdistan was formerly ruled by three principalities of Baban, Badinan and Soran. In 1831, the direct Ottoman rule was imposed and lasted until World War I; afterwards the British influence increased in the region.

British Mandate

During World War I the British and French divided Western Asia in the Sykes-Picot Agreement. The Treaty of Sèvres, which was ratified in the Treaty of Lausanne, led to the advent of modern Western Asia and Republic of Turkey. The League of Nations granted France mandates over Syria and Lebanon and granted the United Kingdom mandates over Iraq and Palestine (which then consisted of two autonomous regions: Palestine and Transjordan). Parts of the Ottoman Empire on the Arabian Peninsula became parts of what are today Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Kurdish revolts

On December 1, 1918, during a meeting in Sulaymaniyah with Colonel Arnold Wilson, the Acting Civil Commissioner for Mesopotamia, Kurdish leaders called for British support for a united and independent Kurdistan under British protection. Between 1919 and 1922, Shaikh Mahmud Barzanji, an influential Kurdish leader based in Sulaymaniyah, formed a Kurdish government and led two revolts against the British rule. It took the British authorities two years to put down his uprisings. The first revolt began on May 22, 1919 with the arrest of British officials in Sulaymaniyah and it quickly spread to Mosul and Arbil. The British employed aerial bombardments, artillery, ground combat, and on one occasion, chemical gas, in an attempt to quell the uprising.[10] Then the British exiled Mahmoud to India. In July 1920, 62 tribal leaders of the region, called for the independence of Kurdistan under a British mandate. The objection of the British to Kurdish self-rule sprang from the fear that success of an independent Kurdish area would tempt the two Arab areas of Baghdad and Basra to follow suit, hence endangering the direct British control over all Mesopotamia. In 1922, Britain restored Shaikh Mahmoud to power, hoping that he would organize the Kurds to act as a buffer against the Turks, who had territorial claims over Mosul and Kirkuk. Shaikh Mahmoud declared a Kurdish Kingdom with himself as King, though later he agreed to limited autonomy within the new state of Iraq. In 1930, following the announcement of the admission of Iraq to the League of Nations, Shaikh Mahmoud started a third uprising which was suppressed with British air and ground forces.[11][12]

By 1927, the Barzani clan had become vocal supporters of Kurdish rights in Iraq. In 1929, the Barzani demanded the formation of a Kurdish province in northern Iraq. Emboldened by these demands, in 1931 Kurdish notables petitioned the League of Nations to set up an independent Kurdish government. Under pressure from the Iraqi government and the British, the most influential leader of the clan, Mustafa Barzani was forced into exile in Iran in 1945. Later he moved to the Soviet Union after the collapse of the Republic of Mahabad in 1946.[13]

Barzani Revolts 1960-1975 and their Aftermath

After the military coup by Abdul Karim Qasim in 1958, Barzani was invited by Qasim to return from exile, where he was greeted with a hero's welcome. As part of the deal arranged between Qasim and Barzani, Qasim had promised to give the Kurds regional autonomy in return for Barzani's support for his policies. Meanwhile, during 1959-1960, Barzani became the head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which was granted legal status in 1960. By early 1960, it became apparent that Qasim would not follow through with his promise of regional autonomy. As a result, the KDP began to agitate for regional autonomy. In the face of growing Kurdish dissent, as well as Barzani's personal power, Qasim began to incite the Barzanis historical enemies, the Baradost and Zebari tribes, which led to inter-tribal warfare throughout 1960 and early 1961. By February 1961, Barzani had successfully defeated the pro-government forces and consolidated his position as leader of the Kurds. At this point, Barzani ordered his forces to occupy and expel government officials from all Kurdish territory. This was not received well in Baghdad, and as a result, Qasim began to prepare for a military offensive against the north to return government control of the region. Meanwhile, in June 1961, the KDP issued a detailed ultimatum to Qasim outlining Kurdish grievances and demanded rectification. Qasim ignored the Kurdish demands and continued his planning for war. It was not until September 10, when an Iraqi army column was ambushed by a group of Kurds, that the Kurdish revolt truly began. In response to the attack, Qasim lashed out and ordered the Iraqi Air Force to indiscriminately bomb Kurdish villages, which ultimately served to rally the entire Kurdish population to Barzani's standard. Due to Qasim's profound distrust of the Iraqi Army, which he purposely failed to adequately arm (in fact, Qasim implemented a policy of ammunition rationing), Qasim's government was not able to subdue the insurrection. This stalemate irritated powerful factions within the military and is said to be one of the main reasons behind the Baathist coup against Qasim in February 1963. In November 1963, after considerable infighting amongst the civilian and military wings of the Baathists, they were ousted by Abdul Salam Arif in a coup. Then, after another failed offensive, Arif declared a ceasefire in February 1964 which provoked a split among Kurdish urban radicals on one hand and Peshmerga (Freedom fighters) forces led by Barzani on the other. Barzani agreed to the ceasefire and fired the radicals from the party. Following the unexpected death of Arif, where upon he was replaced by his brother, Abdul Rahman Arif, the Iraqi government launched a last-ditch effort to defeat the Kurds. This campaign failed in May 1966, when Barzani forces thoroughly defeated the Iraqi Army at the Battle of Mount Handrin, near Rawanduz. At this battle, it was said that the Kurds slaughtered an entire brigade.[14] Recognizing the futility of continuing this campaign, Rahamn Arif announced a 12-point peace program in June 1966, which was not implemented due to the overthrow of Rahman Arif in a 1968 coup by the Baath Party. The Baath government started a campaign to end the Kurdish insurrection, which stalled in 1969. This can be partly attributed to the internal power struggle in Baghdad and also tensions with Iran. Moreover, the Soviets pressured the Iraqis to come to terms with Barzani. A peace plan was announced in March 1970 and provided for broader Kurdish autonomy. The plan also gave Kurds representation in government bodies, to be implemented in four years.[15] Despite this, the Iraqi government embarked on an Arabization program in the oil rich regions of Kirkuk and Khanaqin in the same period.[16] In the following years, Baghdad government overcame its internal divisions and concluded a treaty of friendship with the Soviet Union in April 1972 and ended its isolation within the Arab world. On the other hand, Kurds remained dependent on the Iranian military support and could do little to strengthen their forces.

The Algiers Agreement

In 1974, Iraqi government began a new offensive against the Kurds and pushed them close to the border with Iran. Iraq informed Tehran that it was willing to satisfy other Iranian demands in return for an end to its aid to the Kurds. With mediation by Algerian President Houari Boumédiènne, Iran and Iraq reached a comprehensive settlement in March 1975 known as the Algiers Pact. The agreement left the Kurds helpless and Tehran cut supplies to the Kurdish movement. Barzani went to Iran with many of his supporters. Others surrendered en masse and the rebellion ended after a few days. As a result Iraqi government extended its control over the northern region after 15 years and in order to secure its influence, started an Arabization program by moving Arabs to the oil fields in Kurdistan, particularly the ones around Kirkuk.[17] The repressive measures carried out by the government against the Kurds after the Algiers agreement led to renewed clashes between the Iraqi Army and Kurdish guerrillas in 1977. In 1978 and 1979, 600 Kurdish villages were burned down and around 200,000 Kurds were deported to the other parts of the country.[18]

Iran–Iraq War and Anfal Campaign

During the Iran–Iraq War, the Iraqi government again implemented anti-Kurdish policies and a de facto civil war broke out. Iraq was widely condemned by the international community, but was never seriously punished for oppressive measures, including the use of chemical weapons against the Kurds[19], which resulted in thousands of deaths. (See Halabja poison gas attack.)

The Al-Anfal Campaign constituted a systematic genocide of the Kurdish people in Iraq. The first wave of the plan was carried out in 1982 when 8,000 Barzanis were arrested and their remains were returned back to Kurdistan in 2008. The second and more extensive and widespread wave began from March 29, 1987 until April 23, 1989, Iraqi army under the command of Ali Hassan al-Majid carried out a genocidal campaign against the Kurds, characterized by the following human rights violations: The widespread use of chemical weapons, the wholesale destruction of some 2,000 villages, and slaughter of around 50,000 rural Kurds, by the most conservative estimates. The large Kurdish town of Qala Dizeh (population 70,000) was completely destroyed by the Iraqi army. The campaign also included Arabization of Kirkuk, a program to drive Kurds out of the oil-rich city and replace them with Arab settlers from central and southern Iraq.[20] Kurdish sources report the number of dead to be greater than 182,000.[21]

After the Persian Gulf War

The Kurdistan Region was originally established in 1970 as the Kurdish Autonomous Region following the agreement of an Autonomy Accord between the government of Iraq and leaders of the Iraqi Kurdish community. A Legislative Assembly was established in the city of Arbil with theoretical authority over the Kurdish-populated governorates of Erbil, Dahuk and As Sulaymaniyah. In practice, however, the assembly created in 1970 was under the control of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein until the 1991 uprising against his rule following the end of the Persian Gulf War. Concern for safety of Kurdish refugees was reflected in the United Nations Security Council Resolution 688 which gave birth to a safe haven, in which U.S. and British air power protected a Kurdish zone inside Iraq.[22] (see Operation Provide Comfort). While the no-fly zone covered Dahuk and Erbil, it left out Sulaymaniyah and Kirkuk. Then following several bloody clashes between Iraqi forces and Kurdish troops, an uneasy and shaky balance of power was reached, and the Iraqi government withdrew its military and other personnel from the region in October 1991. At the same time, Iraq imposed an economic blockade over the region, reducing its oil and food supplies.[23] The region thus gained de facto independence, being ruled by the two principal Kurdish parties – the Kurdish Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan – outside the control of Baghdad. The region has its own flag and national anthem.

Elections held in June 1992 produced an inconclusive outcome, with the assembly divided almost equally between the two main parties and their allies. During this period, the Kurds were subjected to a double embargo: one imposed by the United Nations on Iraq and one imposed by Saddam Hussein on their region. The severe economic hardships caused by the embargoes, fueled tensions between the two dominant political parties: Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iraq (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) over control of trade routes and resources.[24] Relations between the PUK and the KDP started to become dangerously strained from September 1993 after rounds of amalgamations occurred between parties.[25] This led to internecine and intra-Kurdish conflict and warfare between 1994 and 1996. After 1996, 13% of the Iraqi oil sales were allocated for Iraqi Kurdistan and this led to a relative prosperity in the region.[26] Saddam had established an oil smuggling route through territory controlled by the KDP, with the active involvement of senior Barzani family members. The taxation of this trade at the crossing point between Saddam’s territory and Kurdish controlled territory and then into Turkey, along with associated service revenue, meant that who ever controlled Dohuk and Zakho had the potential to earn several million dollars a week.[27] Direct United States mediation led the two parties to a formal ceasefire in Washington Agreement in September 1998. It is also argued that the Oil for Food Program from 1997 onward had an important effect on cessation of hostilities.[28]

Since 2003 and Operation Iraqi Freedom

Construction of new hotels and Mosques. Since 2003, Sulaymaniyah and other cities of Iraqi Kurdistan have seen an economic boom.

Iraqi Kurds have played an important role in the 2nd Gulf War, “Operation Iraqi Freedom" Kurdish parties joined forces against the Iraqi government in the Operation Iraqi Freedom in Spring 2003. The Kurdish military forces known as peshmerga played a key role in the overthrow of the former Iraqi government,[29] however Kurds have been reluctant to send troops into Baghdad since, preferring not to be dragged into the sectarian struggle that so dominates much of Iraq.[30] The Iraqi Kurds may be seen in two ways. The first and the most common way is to view the Kurds as victims, both of the central government in Iraq and of neighboring powers - particularly Turkey. The second opposing position is to see them as an agent provocateur, acting as proxy forces for states opposed to the incumbent Iraqi regime.[31] This polarised notion of their status may be too simple, when one considers that there are opposing agendas within Iraqi Kurdistan with regard to issues such as the relationship with Turkey, nationalist aspirations and relations globally.[32]

KDP and PUK have united to form an alliance with several smaller parties, and the Kurdish alliance has 53 deputies in the new Baghdad parliament, while the Kurdish Islamic Union has 5. PUK-leader Jalal Talabani has been elected President of the new Iraqi administration, while KDP leader Massoud Barzani is President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Since the downfall of the regime of Saddam Hussein, the relations between the KRG and Turkey have been very tense on one hand but close on the other. Tensions marked a high stage in late February 2008 when Turkey unilaterally took military action against the PKK and violated the sovereignty of the Kurdistan Region. The incursion which lasted 8 days could have involved the armed forces of Kurdistan into a broader regional war. However, relations have been improved since then, and Turkey now has the largest share of foreign investment in Kurdistan.

Politics

Since 1992, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has been based in Arbil. The KRG has a parliament, elected by popular vote, called the Iraqi Kurdistan National Assembly, and a cabinet composed of the KDP, the PUK and their allies (Iraqi Communist Party, the Socialist Party of Kurdistan etc.). Structurally and officially, the two parties exhibit few differences from each other. Both of their international organizations are similar and both have a similar structure of authority, but one can recognise many differences between the region that PUK used to control from that of PDK, nearly all the free press is based in Sulaymaniyah, and the public enjoys more freedom expressing its ideas in Sulaymaniyah.[33] Nechervan Idris Barzani, Massoud’s nephew, has been prime minister of the KRG since 1999. The KDP become increasingly coloured by Barzani family members. Masrour, Massoud’s son, is now in the Political Bureau. Nechervan is Prime Minister and as tensions in Iraq increase so has the centralist tendencies of the KDP. The KDP is not very popular in Sulaymaniyah, as the recent elections held in 25/7/2009 showed only 30% voted for Barzani for president, while more than 60% voted for Dr. Kemal Meraoudeli. Meraoudeli is a writer of philosophy and he was relatively unknown to the ordinary Kurdish population [34] This structure of Kurdish politics is a result of region's tribal structure. According to Bruinessen, the traditional structure of Kurdish social and political organization was inherently tribal, with a tribe being a socio-political unit with distinct territorial limits and membership based on kinship. Tribal power is widespread in Arbil and Dahuk. And one must recognize the cultural differences between Arbil and Sulaymaniyah to understand the political nature of the region.[35]

The Council of Ministers building situated next to the Kurdistan National Assembly building in Arbil

After the 2003 Liberation of Iraq Kurdish politicians were represented in the Iraqi governing council. On January 30, 2005 three elections were held in the region: 1) for Transitional National Assembly of Iraq 2) for Iraqi Kurdistan National Assembly and 3) for provincial councils.[36] The Law of Administration for the State of Iraq for the Transitional Period recognized the autonomy of the Kurdistan Regional Government during the interim between "full sovereignty" and the adoption of a permanent constitution.

The Kurdistan Regional Government currently has constitutionally recognised authority over the provinces of Erbil, Dahuk, and As Sulaymaniyah, as well as de facto authority over half of Kirkuk province and parts of Diyala, Salah ad-Din and Ninawa provinces.

Elections

Elections for the Kurdistan National Assembly are held every four years. The latest elections for the parliament of Kurdistan were held on 25 July 2009. The leading political alliance was the Kurdistani List which consisted of the two main political parties, PUK and PDK, and which won 59 seats. The new less popular competing movement, the Gorran List ("Gorran" means "change" in Kurdish) headed by Nawshirwan Mustafa won 25 seats, a quarter of all parliamentary seats. The Gorran List is very popular among Kurdish youth in AS sulaimanyia, and managed to beat the two main political parties in the city of Sulaymaniyah and the Sulaymaniyah governnorate, which was previously considered PUK's stronghold. The Reform List, consisting of 4 parties won 13 seats. In addition, the Islamic movement won 2 seats and 11 seats were won by minorities Turks (5 seats), Christians (5 seats) and Armenians (1 seat).

This election however attracted a great deal of criticism locally and by international obsevers. It has been reported by Gorran List that widespread and systematic electoral fraud has taken place in Arbil and Dahuk.

In the Presidential election Massoud Barzani was appointed President and won another term in 2009 by gaining 70% of votes. Dr. Kamal Miraudeli came second with 30% of votes.

Elections for the governorate councils are held every four years. Each council consists of 41 members. The last governorate council election of Kurdistan was held in 2009.

Foreign Relations

The Kurdistan Region is allowed to have its own foreign relations without referring to Baghdad. Kurdistan has had relations with a number of foreign countries for decades. Relations with the neighbouring states have always been tense because of the autonomous status of Kurdistan Region within Iraq. That status is seen as a threat to countries like Iran, Turkey and Syria, all having significant Kurdish populations within their borders.

Kurdistan houses numerous consulates, embassy offices, trade offices and honorary consulates of countries that want to grow their influence and have better ties with the Kurdistan Regional Government.[37] Despite having the largest share of Foreign Direct Investments in Kurdistan, Turkey has not opened a consulate in the Kurdistan Region but in a city in Arab Iraq.[38] The Kurdistan Regional Government has planned to open numerous representation offices in Europe.[39]

The representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government to the United States is the youngest son of Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, Qubad Talabani. The KRG's high representative to the United Kingdom is Bayan Sami Abdul-Rahman, daughter of Sami Abdul-Rahman who was killed in a terrorist attack on 1st of February 2004.[40]

Economy

The Kurdistan region's economy is dominated by the oil industry, agriculture and tourism[41]. Due to relative peace in the region it has a more developed economy in comparison to other parts of Iraq.

Prior to the removal of Saddam Hussein, the Kurdistan Regional Government received approximately 13% of the revenues from Iraq's Oil-for-Food Program. By the time of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the program had disbursed $8.35 billion to the KRG. Iraqi Kurdistan's food security allowed for substantially more of the funds to be spent on development projects than in the rest of Iraq. By the program's end in 2003 $4 billion of the KRG's oil-for-food funds remained unspent.

The Erbil International Hotel completed in 2004 marked the beginning of a construction boom in Arbil and the rest of Kurdistan

Following the removal of Saddam Hussein's administration and the subsequent violence, the three provinces fully under the Kurdistan Regional Government's control were the only three in Iraq to be ranked "secure" by the US military. The relative security and stability of the region has allowed the KRG to sign a number of investment contracts with foreign companies. In 2006, the first new oil well since the invasion of Iraq was drilled in the Kurdistan region by the Norwegian energy company DNO. Initial indications are that the oil field contains at least 100 million barrels (16,000,000 m3) of oil and will be pumping 5,000 bpd by early 2007. The KRG has signed exploration agreements with two other oil companies, Canada's Western Oil Sands and the UK's Sterling Energy.

The stability of the Kurdistan region has allowed it to achieve a higher level of development than other regions in Iraq. In 2004, the per capita income was 25% higher than in the rest of Iraq. The government continues to receive a portion of the revenue from Iraq's oil exports, and the government will soon implement a unified foreign investment law. The KRG also has plans to build a media city in Arbil and free trade zones near the borders of Turkey and Iran.

The region still gets a cut from Iraqi-Turkish trade, plus subsidies from the United States[citation needed] and Israel[citation needed].

Since 2003, the stronger economy of Kurdistan has attracted around 20,000 workers from other parts of Iraq.[42] According to Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, since 2003 the number of millionaires in the Kurdish city of Silêmani has increased from 12 to 2000, reflecting the financial and economic growth of the region.[43]

Infrastructure and Transport

Due to the devastation of the campaigns of the Iraqi army under Saddam Hussein and other former Iraqi regimes, the Kurdistan Region's infrastructure was never able to modernize. After the 1991 safe-haven was established, the Kurdistan Regional Government began with projects to reconstruct the Kurdistan Region. Since then, of all the 4,500 villages that were destroyed by Saddam Husseins' regime, 65% has been reconstructed by the KRG.[5]

Mobility

Front view of Erbil International Airport under construction in 2008

Kurdistan can be reached by land and air. By land, Kurdistan can be reached most easily by Turkey through the Habur Border Gate which is the only border gate between Kurdistan and Turkey. This border gate can be reached by bus or taxi from airports in Turkey as close as the Mardin or Diyarbakir airports, as well as from Istanbul or Ankara. Kurdistan has two border gates with Iran, the Haji Omaran border gate and the Bashmeg border gate near the city of Sulaymaniyah. Kurdistan has also a border gate with Syria known as the Faysh Khabur border gate.[44] From within Iraq, Kurdistan can be reached by land from multiple roads.

Kurdistan has opened its doors to the international world by opening two international airports. Erbil International Airport and Sulaimaniyah International Airport, which both operate flights to Middle Eastern and European destinations. There are at least 2 military airfields in Kurdistan.[45]

Geography

The Kurdistan Region is largely mountainous, with the highest point being a 3,611 m (11,847 ft) point known locally as Cheekah Dar (black tent). The mountains are part of the larger Zagros mountain range which is present in Iran as well. There are many rivers flowing and running through mountains of the region making it distinguished by its fertile lands, plentiful water, picturesque nature. The Zab rivers flow from the east to the west in the region. The Tigris river enters Iraq from the Kurdistan Region after flowing from Turkey.

The mountainous nature of Kurdistan, the difference of temperatures in its various parts, and its wealth of waters, make Kurdistan a land of agriculture and tourism. In addition to various minerals, oil in particular, which for a long time was being extracted via pipeline only in Kurdistan through Iraq. The largest lake in the region is Lake Dukan. In addition, there are several smaller lakes such as the Duhok Lake.

In the western and southern parts of the Kurdistan Region, the area is not as mountainious as the east. It is rolling hills and sometimes plains that make up the area. The area however is greener than the rest of Iraq.

The term "Northern Iraq" is a bit of a geographical ambiguity in usage. "North" typically refers to the Kurdistan Region. "Center" and "South" or "Center-South" when individually referring to the other areas of Iraq or the rest of the country that is not the Kurdistan Region. Most media sources continually refer to "North" and "Northern Iraq" as anywhere north of Baghdad.

Administrative divisions

The levels of the administrative divisions of Kurdistan
Territories currently administrated by the KRG

Kurdistan is divided into three governorates (Parêzge in Kurdish) excluding other Iraqi governorates potentially becoming part of Kurdistan. The governorates of Duhok, Erbil and Sulaymaniya form the current Kurdistan Region. Each of these governorates is divided into districts with a total of 26 districts. Each district is divided into sub-districts. Governorates have a capital city, while districts and sub-districts have district centers.

Governorates

Iraqi Kurdistan is divided among seven governorates of which currently three are under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government. These governorates are called in Kurdish parêzge. Particularly in Iraqi government documents, the term governorate is preferred.

  • The governorates wholly under the Kurdistan Regional Government are:
1. As Sulaymaniyah (Slêmanî)
2. Erbil (Hewlêr)
3. Dahuk (Duhok)
  • The governorates claimed totally or in part by the Kurdistan Regional Government are:
4. Kirkuk (Kerkûk) - (all)
5. Diyala - Kifri, Khanaqin and Baladrooz districts
6. Ninawa - Akra, Shekhan, Al-Shikhan, Al-Hamdaniya, Tel Kaif, Tall Afar and Sinjar districts
7. Salah ad Din - Tooz-Khur-Mati district
8. Wasit - Badrah district

A referendum was scheduled to be held on 15 November 2007 to determine whether these governorates, or parts of them, will be included in the Kurdish Regional Government. The referendum is intended to cover all districts of Kirkuk Governorate, the Khanaquin and Kifri districts of Diyala Governorate, the Touz-Khur-Mati district of Salah ad Din Governorate, and the Akra and Shekhan districts of Ninewa Governorate. This referendum has been postponed, first to 31 December 2007, and subsequently for up to a further six months. Kurds insist that the referendum be held as soon as possible.

Cities

The Kurdistan Region has an increasing urban population with still a significant rural population. The following list is an incomplete list of the largest cities within the three governorates which are currently de jure and de facto under control of the Kurdistan Regional Government.

The capital city of Arbil
The 8 largest cities in Iraqi Kurdistan
City Population Governorate
Silemanî 1,190,251 Sulaymaniya Governorate
Arbil 759,508 Erbil Governorate
Duhok 241,033 Duhok Governorate
Zaxo 186,129 Duhok Governorate
Rawanduz 102,399 Erbil Governorate
Halabja 79,824 Sulaymaniya Governorate
Sêmêl 49,995 Duhok Governorate
Ranya 80,257 Sulaymaniya Governorate
  • Population data from World Gazetteer 2009 estimates
  • Population data not verifiable

Demographics

Due to the absence of a proper population census, the exact population of Kurdistan as well as the rest of Iraq is unknown. However by 2009, Iraq had an estimated population of around 30 million as estimated by the IMF. Within the three governorates of Duhok, Arbil and Sulaymaniya the population is 5,549,842. These numbers exclude the Kurds living in the disputed provinces such as Ninawa, Kirkuk and Diyala as well as Kurds living in Arab Iraq. Kurdistan has a young population with an estimated 40% of the population being under the age of 15.

The ethnic make-up of Kurdistan is diverse and includes Ethnic Assyrian Christians, Iraqi Turkmens, Arabs, Armenians, Yezidis, Shabaks and Mandeans next to the Kurdish majority.

Immigration

Since the overthrow of the regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iraqi Kurdistan has witnessed massive immigration from Arab parts of Iraq as well as from Turkey and South Asia. Because of the stability and security Kurdistan has witnessed, non-Kurdish Iraqi immigrants are settling in Kurdistan for jobs and protection, fleeing from the relatively insecure Arab Iraq. Estimates begin at 100,000 to 250,000 non-Kurdish Iraqis in Kurdistan since 2003.

Widespread economic activity between Kurdistan and Turkey has given the opportunity for Turks to seek jobs in Iraqi Kurdistan. A Kurdish newspaper based in the Kurdish capital estimates that around 50,000 Turks are now living in Kurdistan.[46] Reports about immigrants from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan have been published as well.

Language

The official language of instruction and institutions is Kurdish. Arabic still has some uses because of its domination under former Iraqi regimes. Kurdish has now taken that position as the dominant language in schools, government institutions, ministries and television channels.

For the minority groups in Kurdistan, such as the Assyrian Christians (Aramaic speakers),Shabaks, Arabs and Iraqi Turkmens, their languages are official in the municipalities where they make up a majority. The constitution of Kurdistan recognizes these languages as official in the areas dominated by these minority groups. There are a number of Assyrian and Turkmen towns and villages, as well as sections of cities where they are the majority. Armenian is also used,there are one or two Armenian villages and a number of Shabak villages also.

Mandean Aramaic,and Arabic are also spoken.

Religion

Kurdistan has a diverse religious population. The dominating religion is Islam, adhered by most of its inhabitants. These include Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs being divided into the Sunni and Shia branch of Islam for all of these three ethnic groups. Christianity and Yezidism are adhered to also, and Assyrian (aka Chaldo-Assyrian) Christians make up a sizeable minority. A small group of Kurdish Jews live in Iraqi Kurdistan.

There are also Shabak, Mandean and Yarsan religious minorities.

Culture

Kurdish culture is a group of distinctive cultural traits practiced by Kurdish people. The Kurdish culture is a legacy from the various ancient peoples who shaped modern Kurds and their society, but primarily of two layers of indigenous (Hurrian), and of the ancient Iranic (Medes).

Among their neighbours, the Kurdish culture is closest to Iranian culture . For example they celebrate Newroz as the new year day, which is celebrated on March 21. It is the first day of the month of Xakelêwe in Kurdish calendar and the first day of spring.[47]

Music

Traditionally, there are three types of Kurdish classical performers - storytellers (çîrokbêj), minstrels (stranbêj) and bards (dengbêj). There was no specific music related to the Kurdish princely courts, and instead, music performed in night gatherings (şevbihêrk) is considered classical. Several musical forms are found in this genre. Many songs are epic in nature, such as the popular lawiks which are heroic ballads recounting the tales of Kurdish heroes of the past like Saladin. Heyrans are love ballads usually expressing the melancholy of separation and unfulfilled love. Lawje is a form of religious music and Payizoks are songs performed specifically in autumn. Love songs, dance music, wedding and other celebratory songs (dîlok/narînk), erotic poetry and work songs are also popular.

Military

Peshmerga is the term used by Kurds to refer to armed Kurdish fighters, they have been labelled by some as freedom fighters. Literally meaning "those who face death" (pêş front + merg death e is) the peshmerga forces of Kurdistan have been around since the advent of the Kurdish independence movement in the early 1920s, following the collapse of the Ottoman and Qajar empires which had jointly ruled over the area known today as Kurdistan.

The Peshmerga fought alongside the US Army and the coalition in the northern front during Operation Iraqi Freedom. During the following years, the Peshmerga played a vital role in security for Kurdistan and other parts of Iraq. Not a single coalition soldier or foreigner has been killed, wounded or kidnapped in Kurdistan since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The Peshmerga have also been deployed in Baghdad and al-Anbar governorate for anti-terror operations.

The Kurdistan Region is allowed to have its own army under the Iraqi constitution and the Iraqi army is not allowed to enter the Kurdistan Region by law.

Role in capturing Saddam Hussein

The Peshmerga is believed to have been the responsible force for capturing the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in December 2003. The Sunday Herald reported that the Kurdish intelligence service lead to the direct capture of Saddam Hussein with Kurdish special forces sealing off the area of the al-Dwar farmhouse before the arrival of US troops. [48]

An Israeli intelligence source who was in company of high-ranking Kurds at a meeting in Athens early on December 14 reported how one of the Kurdish representatives burst into the conference room in tears and demanded an immediate halt to the discussions. "Saddam Hussein has been captured," he said, adding that he had received word from Kurdistan before any television reports.[48]

Education

During the rule of former Iraqi regimes prior to the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein, education in Kurdistan was very limited. Institutions of education were largely denied. Very few primary and secondary schools were present and in some cases in remote areas, they were not even built. Kurds that wanted to attend higher education were often denied because of their identity[citation needed].

Before the establishment of the Kurdistan Regional Government, primary and secondary education was almost entirely taught in Arabic. Higher education was always taught in Arabic. This however changed with the establishment of the Kurdistan autonomous region. The first international school, the International School of Choueifat opened its branch in Kurdistan in 2006. Kurdistan’s official universities are listed below, followed by their English acronym (if commonly used), internet domain, establishment date and latest data about the number of students.

Institute Internet Domain Est. Date Students
Salahaddin University (SU) http://www.suh-edu.com 1968 7,048 (2007)
University of Sulaimani (US) http://sites.google.com/site/universityofsulaimani 1968 (3,067) (2006)
University of Dohuk www.uod.ac 1992 1,689 (2007)
University of Koya (KU) www.koyauniversity.org 2003 (?) (2006)
University of Kurdistan www.ukh.ac 2006 400 (2006)
American University of Iraq - Sulaimani www.auis.org 2007 50 (2007)
Hawler Medical University (HMU) www.hawlermu.org 2006 (?) (2006)
Business & Management University (BMU) www.bmu-me.net 2007 (?) (2007)

Other parts of Kurdistan

See also

References

  1. ^ http://www.world-gazetteer.com/wg.php?x=&men=gadm&lng=en&des=wg&geo=-105&srt=pnan&col=abcdefghinoq&msz=1500
  2. ^ Viviano, Frank (January 2006). "The Kurds in Control". National Geographic Magazine (Washington, D.C.). http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/features/world/asia/iraq/iraqi-kurds-text. Retrieved 2008-06-05. "Since the aftermath of the 1991 gulf war, nearly four million Kurds have enjoyed complete autonomy in the region of Iraqi Kurdistan...". 
  3. ^ http://www.krg.org/uploads/documents/About_Kurdistan_Regional_Government__2008_09_10_h13m52s30.pdf
  4. ^ http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30849286/
  5. ^ a b http://www.krg.org/articles/detail.asp?smap=03010300&lngnr=12&anr=23911&rnr=140
  6. ^ [www.iraqupdates.com/p_articles.php/article/24761]
  7. ^ http://soma-digest.com/Details.asp?sid=115&stp=4
  8. ^ Full Text of Iraqi Constitution
  9. ^ Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)
  10. ^ http://libcom.org/history/1904-2003-history-of-iraq Libcom History of Iraq 1904-2003
  11. ^ C. Dahlman, The Political Geography of Kurdistan, Eurasian Geography and Economics, Vol.43, No.4, 2002, p.286
  12. ^ Saad Eskander, Britain's Policy in Southern Kurdistan: The Formation and Termination of the First Kurdish Government, 1918-1919, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Vol.27, No.2, 2000 pp.151,152,155,160
  13. ^ G.S. Harris, Ethnic Conflict and the Kurds, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, p.118, 1977
  14. ^ See Edgar O'Ballance, The Kurdish Revolt, 1961-1970; Kenneth M. Pollack, Arabs at War;
  15. ^ G.S. Harris, Ethnic Conflict and the Kurds, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, pp.118-120, 1977
  16. ^ Introduction : GENOCIDE IN IRAQ: The Anfal Campaign Against the Kurds (Human Rights Watch Report, 1993)
  17. ^ G.S. Harris, Ethnic Conflict and the Kurds, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, p.121, 1977
  18. ^ M. Farouk-Sluglett, P. Sluglett, J. Stork, Not Quite Armageddon: Impact of the War on Iraq, MERIP Reports, July-September 1984, p.24
  19. ^ Death Clouds: Saddam Hussein’s Chemical War Against the Kurds
  20. ^ Human Rights Watch Report About Anfal Campaign, 1993.
  21. ^ [1]
  22. ^ L. Fawcett, Down but not out? The Kurds in International Politics, Reviews of International Studies, Vol.27, 2001 p.117
  23. ^ M. Leezenberg, Iraqi Kurdistan: contours of a post-civil war society, Third World Quarterly, Vol.26, No.4-5, June 2005, p.636
  24. ^ H.J. Barkey, E. Laipson, Iraqi Kurds And Iraq's Future, Middle East Policy, Vol. XII, No.4, Winter 2005, pp.67
  25. ^ Stansfield, G.R.V., Iraqi Kurdistan, Routledge: New York, 2003, p.96
  26. ^ M. M. Gunter, M. H. Yavuz, The continuing Crisis In Iraqi Kurdistan, Middle East Policy, Vol. XII, No.1, Spring 2005, pp.123-124
  27. ^ Stansfield, G.& Anderson, L., The Future of Iraq, Palgrave Macmillan: New York, 2004, p.174
  28. ^ M. Leezenberg, Iraqi Kurdistan: contours of a post-civil war society, Third World Quarterly, Vol.26, No.4-5, June 2005, p.639
  29. ^ Title page for ETD etd-11142005-144616
  30. ^ http://www.iwpr.net/?p=icr&s=f&o=329243&apc_state=heniicr200702
  31. ^ Stansfield, G.& Anderson, L., The Future of Iraq, Palgrave Macmillan: New York, 2004, p.155
  32. ^ http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=3241&l=1
  33. ^ Stansfield, G.R.V., Iraqi Kurdistan, Routledge: New York, 2003, p.119
  34. ^ Stansfield, G.R.V., Iraqi Kurdistan, Routledge: New York, 2003, p.182
  35. ^ Stansfield, G., Iraq, Polity Press: Cambridge, 2007, p.65
  36. ^ H. Walker, T. Clark, Election in Iraq - 30 January 2005:An Assessment, Journal of Asian Affairs, Vol.36, No.2, July 2005, p.182
  37. ^ http://www.aknews.com/en/aknews/4/39230/
  38. ^ http://www.economist.com/world/mideast-africa/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13145898|is based in Mosul, a dangerous city in Arab Iraq, rather than in Erbil, in the safety of Iraqi Kurdistan.
  39. ^ http://www.kurdishglobe.net/displayArticle.jsp?id=41553A6C82A718E53EF61407D36D36FC
  40. ^ http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/bayan_sami_abdul_rahman/profile.html
  41. ^ British agency Hinterland Travel has recently started small scale tourism tours to the region [2].
  42. ^ H.J. Barkey, E. Laipson, Iraqi Kurds And Iraq's Future, Middle East Policy, Vol. XII, No.4, Winter 2005, p.68
  43. ^ Jalal Talabani, in a letter to the people of the United States, September 2006 [3]
  44. ^ http://www.upi.com/Energy_Resources/2008/06/13/Iraq-federal-Kurd-region-oil-chiefs-informally-agree-on-exports/UPI-47301213371522/
  45. ^ http://www.milaircomms.com/iraq_maps.html
  46. ^ http://www.economist.com/world/mideast-africa/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13145898
  47. ^ Cultural Orientation Resource Center
  48. ^ a b http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/0104-01.htm

External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Asia : Middle East : Iraq : Iraqi Kurdistan
Travel Warning

WARNING: Although the Kurdistan Regional Government administered area has significantly greater stability and statistically a lower risk of terrorism compared with the rest of Iraq, this does not include Kirkuk or remote areas bordering Turkey. If you must visit these areas consult your embassy and see War zone safety.

Kurdistan refers to portions of Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria, however only the Iraqi region of Kurdistan is discussed here. See the articles on Turkey, Iran, and Syria for information regarding the other regions of Kurdistan.

Regions

Iraqi Kurdistan refers to the 4 Kurdish northern Iraqi Provinces, which are autonomous of the central Iraqi government and ruled by the Kurdistan Regional Government. These provinces achieved de facto independence after an uprising in 1991 and their autonomy has now been enshrined into the Iraqi federal constitution. The 4 Kurdish Provinces are, Arbil, At-Ta'mim, As-Sulaymaniyah, and parts of Diyala and Ninawa.

Cities

The major cities controlled by the KRG are:

Other destinations

Kurdistan is, at certain times of the year, a land of rugged beauty, characterised by mountains, ravines, waterfalls and natural water springs. It has long been famed in Middle Eastern literature as a paradise on earth, owing to its plentiful scenes of natural beauty which are in such contrast to the somewhat arid scenes so prominent in surrounding areas. However, don't expect particularly beautiful landscapes in the dry summer.

  • Hawler Citadel: There is a 4,000 year old castle right in the middle of the Kurdistan regional Capital, Hawler (also known as Erbil). Hawler is one of the world's contenders for the most ancient continuously inhabited city, having a history stretching back to the days of ancient Babylon. The site of the famous battle between Alexander the Great and King Darius, is also a short drive from Arbil city and can be fascinating for history buffs. Nowadays, the citadel (controlled officially by the Peshmerga - Kurdistan military) continues to be the main attraction, along with some slightly confusing souks beneath. The city is expanding in all directions, with the recent development of a huge shopping mall.
  • Parastaga Zardasht: A recently discovered ancient Zoroastrian/Mithradate temple in Duhok province.
  • Chemi Rezan: The famous caves in which the earliest human ceremonial burial site was discovered by german archeologists. The area is now carefully protected, however access is still possible.
  • Kirkuk citadel: The ancient citadel of the city of Kirkuk, another millenia old monument. - Note that Kirkuk is not considerd safe at present.
  • Haj Omaran: A ski resort in the north of Hawler province.
  • Gali Ali Bag: The highest waterfall in the middle east.
  • Bexal: Another beautiful waterfall.
  • Jinokan: Yet another waterfall.
  • Zakho bridge: The oldest example of a open arch brdge in the middle east, dating back to Abbasid times.
  • Dokan lake: A large lake laying at an altitude of 900m.
  • Lalish — "Holy See" of Yazidis
  • Numerous religous sites: Especially of the Judeo-christian faiths, such as the tomb of the prophet Daniel in Kirkuk province, the 9th century St. Thomas monastery and Jewlakan, Jewish quarter of Silamani, with its numerous newly renovated synagogues.
  • Gondik — ancient cave paintings
  • Amedi — a 4,000 year old town perched on the peak of a mountain, rumored home of the Biblical Magi, and confirmed home to Assyrian ruins

Understand

Having been spared the war of 2003, Kurdistan-Iraq is a very different place from southern Iraq. With a minimal level of terrorist activity and massive economic development, Kurdistan is fast becoming a "gateway to Iraq" with high levels of foreign investment and development of infrastructure.

Be careful when discussing nationalist issues which many Kurds feel strongly about. Also read up on the Al-Anfal campaign by Saddam Hussein to exterminate droves of Kurds in the late 80s - although this was over twenty years ago, the event coloured the last few decades of Kurdish history. There are several powerful reminders of it, such as the Amna Suraca prison in Suleymaniyah.

In general, people are very friendly, so be open to new experiences.

Get in

Citizens of the EU, the US, Canada, Japan and Australia are given a free stamp on arrival. Most other nationalities must produce a valid "Iraq - Kurdistan Region" visa on arrival. However, you will have to report to the Residency Office within 10 days of your arrival. This involves many forms to fill out, around $30 USD in fees as well as a compulsory blood test to check for Hep C and HIV. Be prepared to wait for around 2-3 hours throughout this whole process.

Border control is fairly strict (understandably). If you have a contact in Kurdistan, come armed with their name and address. If you don't, make sure you have a very good idea of what exactly you will be doing and where you will be staying. You are also more likely to get in if travelling with someone else, and if you are well-dressed.

By plane

Kurdistan is subserved by 2 international airports:

There aren't many flights (very few to Europe) but give the internet a trawl and you might find something. It'll be expensive, too.

By bus

You can take buses from Istanbul to Silopi, the closest town on the Turkish side, and then take a shared taxi across the border to Zakho, the closest town to the border on the Iraqi side. If coming from Syria, don't attempt to cross straight from Syria to Iraq - extremely bad idea. Instead, get to Al-Qamishli in Syria, walk across the border to Nusaybin, and ask around for a bus to Silopi. To get to Al-Qamishli from Damascus is about 9 hours, and to get from Nusaybin to Silopi is about 4 hours.

Further advice on entry on these routes can be found at:

Get around

By taxi

Take a shared taxi from the garages at each city. Buses are not safe/may go through Kirkuk or Mosul. Taxis are not that cheap - sometimes as much as 30,000 IQD - but they are basically the only way around.

By plane

Air travel between Silamaniya and Hawler is available and cheap (around 100$ for a round trip), although this is only a 2 hour trip by road.

By train

The railway is not yet operational, although there are plans to refurbish this line which was once the final leg of the "orient express" railway.

Talk

Kurdish is the official language and most widely spoken. You will be able to find people to understand basic Arabic and basic English. Also, higher learning institutes produce teenagers eager to practise their foreign language "skills" in many towns and a large number of expat Kurds have returned home, bringing with them languages as diverse as Swedish and Japanese.

Food

Meat! As with many other middle eastern people, Kurds are voracious carnivores. Local foods include: Kebab, dolma (stuffed grape vines), yaprax (assorted stuffed vegtables ranging from onions to courgettes, shila u brinc (the Kurdish national dish, composing rice alongside a soup, which is made from many vegtables such as okra "bamiya", and the infamous gipa (much like scottish haggis).

However, it's not exactly going to be haute cuisine. Be prepared to have a fairly grubby food experience. The shawarma shops are surprisingly tasty, with slicings of meat served in very nice samoon breads - but they aren't exactly A* cuisine. Apart from that, there are a lot of kebab or roast chicken restaurants where you will get some bread, some rice, some soup and some meat.

The less adventurous traveler will be reassured to know that some Western-style food establishments are now open in the major population centres, such as Domino's Pizza and numerous fried chicken and burger joints. However, it's not that easy to find them and they won't be much better than the local food.

Drink

Bottled water is widely available. For some reason, it's basically impossible to find large bottles - you'll just have to buy lots of small ones (250 IQD each give or take a little). They'll be sold by vendors on the street who keep them in buckets full of ice, because electricity is very inconsistent in the whole area. Make sure they are sealed when you buy them. Don't drink the tap water - what's the point in risking it?

It is a Muslim nation so alcohol is not particularly widely available or freely consumed. However, if they can find it, visitors are advised to try the Kurdish "Arak" (there are loads of Araks throughout the Middle Eastern countries - Lebanon, Syria etc. and Kurdistan has its own version), a concoction of fermented dates and aniseed which can, as local tradition has it, "make the dryest eye cry". European beers, lagers and ales are also obtainable as are locally produced wines, which make up for what they lack in sophistication with character. Or in other words, are disgusting.

Where alcohol is found, however, such as in the Irbil suburb os Ainkawa (A Christian village originally accessible by a short taxi ride from downtown Irbil), the travelor will find a fairly wide selection of liquor and the prices are quite reasonable.

You wouldn't really go to Kurdistan to get drunk though - you won't find many drinking companions, if any. If you want companionship, find yourself a coffee shop to sit in.

Stay safe

While Kurdistan Iraq is a reasonably safe place, the journey can become dangerous if you cross into the areas of Iraq outside of Kurdistan regional government control. Southern Iraq is extremely unsafe as compared to Kurdistan, with bombings and attacks on foreigners commonplace. The border is well demarcated by the Kurdish security services.

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Simple English

Iraqi Kurdistan
Herêma Kurdistan
هه رێمى كوردستان
إقليم کردستان العراق
File:Flag of File:Kurdistan
Official flag Coat of Arms
National information
National motto: Unknown
National anthem: Ey Reqîb
About the people
Official languages: Kurdish, Arabic
Population: (# of people)
  - Total: 5,500,000
  - Density: 40 per km²
Geography / Places
Here is the country on a map.
Capital city: Arbil
Largest city: Arbil
Area
  - Total: 80,000 km²
  - Water:? km²
Politics / Government
Leaders: President Massoud Barzani, Prime Minister Nechervan Idris Barzani
Economy / Money
Currency:
(Name of money)
Iraqi Dinar (IQD)
International information
Time zone: +3
Telephone dialing code: 964
Internet domain: Various

Iraqi Kurdistan also known as Kurdistan Region (Kurdish: ههريمى كوردستان, Herêma Kurdistan, Arabic:إقليم كردستان العراق) is a partial self-governing region north of Iraq, south of Turkey east of Iran and west of Syria. Its capital is Arbil and it's called Hewlêr in Kurdish.

The area is 80,000 km² and 5,500,000 people live there.

Geography

Iraqi Kurdistan is a huge mountain range, where the highest point is 3.611 meters, known as Cheekha Dar. The biggest lake is Dukan.

Iraqi Kurdistan is divided into 6 provinces.

  • 3 of the provinces that are under control of Iraqi Kurdistan are:

1.As Sulaymaniyah (Silemanî)

2.Arbil (Hewlêr)

3.Dahuk (Duhok)

  • The provinces that is a part of Iraqi Kurdistan are:

4.Diyala

5.Kirkuk

6.Ninawa

Demographics

The population in Iraqi Kurdistan is about 5-6 million. Most of these people are Sunni Muslims. There are also many Yazidis, Kakeyís and Christians. Kurds make the ethnic majority in the region while the Turkmen, Assyrians, Armenians and Arabs make up the rest of the western part of the area.



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