Or rather Iraqi Kurdistan, which is something completely different!
30.08.2013 - 20.06.2014 19 °C
In late August 2013 I return home to Denmark after travelling Central Asia for seven months. I had finished my trip in Istanbul, but had also been delayed – something that is unavoidable backpacking off the beaten track. Rushing back to begin my master’s I had to take a direct bus to Istanbul from Tabriz in Iran, skipping both Iraqi Kurdistan and Eastern Turkey in the process.
Hence have I this summer chosen to redeem myself; spending a month visiting what I had to skip the last time around. And hopefully finishing this blog off from where I left it.
“You’re going to Iraq? Of course you are…” was one of my friends instant reacting once he heard my destination for this year’s summer holiday. Followed by a big sigh. To be fair I had yet to tell him I was heading to Kurdistan. And while thing can change fast when you are travelling on the outskirts of war zones like Syria and the rest of Iraq, Kurdistan is a country in its own right everywhere, but on the map.
Iraqi Kurdistan has been relatively peaceful since the establishment of a “No-Fly Zone” doing the first Gulf War. Even during the heights of the starting in 2003 Kurdistan was rarely dragged into the bloodshed.
Even now, with the advancement into north and eastern Iraq by the fanatic Islamist group ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) – a group so extreme they got kicked out of Al-Qaida – have Kurdistan been spared. This is largely explained by the fact that the military force of the Kurdish Regional Government, the Peshmerga is the most experienced and best trained armed force in Iraq.
The Kurds even managed this recent outbreak of chaos in the rest of Iraq to grab the oil-rich region of Kirkuk from the central Iraqi government, as the Kurds sees the region as part of their historic homeland. This last piece of information is definitely what concerns me the most. For if the Iraq army manage to regroup and force ISIL to a quick retreat, might there not be anything stopping them from an assault on Kirkuk. And while I am not planning any visits to Kirkuk any time soon, it would be a conflict that could spread further into the Kurdish region.
Then again, the Turkeys border is never further than a 200 dollars taxi ride away – 200 dollars that I have safely sewn into my pants. So should anything seriously happen can I always abandon everything, throw myself into the nearest car and flee north…