Friday, November 7, 2008

Federalism an option

Obama's election victory is also a cause for celebration for many Iraqi Kurds, who appreciate Joe Biden's support for federalism in Iraq. A federal system is seen by many Kurds as the answer to managing deep rifts in the multi-ethnic and multi-religious country.

On the topic of federalism, the Kurdish DTP Party in Turkey recently published a booklet promoting the idea for Turkey:
"The 64-page brochure, titled "Democratic Autonomy Project" and printed in Turkish, English and Kurdish, proposes Turkey be divided into 20 to 25 regions with each region given the power to designate its own symbols and colors." (Hurriyet - English). This is seen as a way to protect Kurdish interests in south-eastern Turkey.
Joost Lagendijk, the co-chairman of the Turkey-EU Joint Parliamentary Commission, said the idea may find supporters in the EU.

The Iraqi Culture House has recently opened in Erbil, with the goal of strengthening ties between different ethnic and cultural groups in Iraq.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

New library in Erbil

The Zaytun Division of the South Korean army has now completed the US$4 million library set on an acre of land in the Sami Abdurrahman Park in Erbil. The library is expected to hold over 100,000 titles, greatly benefiting the academic community and all Iraqi Kurds with greater educational and research opportunities.
(Kurdish Globe)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Oktoberfest in Erbil

In Irbil, a city 350 kilometers (217 miles) north of Baghdad, German beer house owner Gunter Voelker wants to dispel the notion that Iraq isn't a holiday destination. In the north, at least, beer is bringing people together.

"It is good to have an area here in Iraq where we can make this festival in peace with friends," said Volker, whose restaurant, the Deutscher Hof Erbil, ended its three-night celebration of the famed German beer festival early Sunday.

-Kurdish Globe

In other news, Turkey has been bombing PKK targets in the Qandil mountains in Kurdistan - be sensible if travelling in the mountain areas.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Kirkuk & Mosul not exactly safe, Erbil powers up

Turkmen political party's Kirkuk office shot up (Hurriyet)'

Suicide bomb in Kirkuk (AP, Kurdish Globe)

Bombings kill 43 in Baghdad & Kirkuk (AP, Kurdish Globe)

Mosul is still freaking dangerous too, although it is claimed that terrorist attacks have been limited. (Reuters, Soma Digest)

But in much better news for Iraqi Kurdistan, Erbil is expected to have 24/7 electricity by the end of August, thanks to a new power plant financed by the Trade Bank of Iraq. (Kurdish Globe)

Historical Amedy (aka Amadiyya, Amadiyah, Amedi) city gets a write-up, in the face of social change. (Soma Digest)

World music day rocked Suly (Soma Digest), while apparently Erbil fashion is all about bling (Telegraph).

Meanwhile, a Kurdish expat in the US argues an absurdly protectionist line against foreign investment in Iraqi Kurdistan. (Kurdish Globe - opinion)

Monday, July 21, 2008

news & articles

Another sign of hope for Iraq, a new airport at Najaf: Work resumes at Iraq refinery in once-violent area (AP)

Kurdistan Region enters trade show season (KRG)

There are more and more pieces on tourism in Iraqi Kurdistan, including news that a Californian travel company, Distant Horizons, has run a tour to Kurdistan with more planned:

July: Northern Iraq's Kurdistan Region seeks tourists (Voice of America)

July: Mountains and waterfalls: an unconventional holiday in “The Other Iraq” (The Economist)

June: Tourists embrace an unexpected destination: Iraqi Kurdistan (Voice of America)

May: Visit to Kurdish area is like leaving Iraq (Huntsville Times)

April: Treading lightly in Iraq (Telegraph)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


In another sign that Iraqi Kurdistan is open for business and tourism, clothing brand Mango will soon open a store in Erbil. Also, the Slemani (Sulaymaniyah) Museum is working to preserve Kurdistan's heritage.

Soma Digest interviews the Lonely Planet writer who recently visited Iraqi Kurdistan.

France has recently opened a consulate in Erbil as well.

There is still violence between the Turkish military and the PKK, with the most recent incidents being in Turkey's Sirnak province. Meanwhile, three German climbers were last week kidnapped by the PKK while climbing Mt Ararat.

An optimistic writer for the Kurdish Globe compares Sulaymaniyah with Los Angeles, while another article lauds the benefits to Kurdistan of the trade in second-hand clothing. And the region's pro-growth investment law is promoting more foreign investment in Kurdistan.

Lastly, author Andrew Collins has written a book about Kurdistan's role in the birth of civilization.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Lonely Planet article

A new story on Iraqi Kurdistan has gone up on the Lonely Planet website. Don't forget to check out the great photo gallery as well- there are some spectacular photos of Amadiyah and mountain locations along the famed Hamilton Road.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Safety update

There were reports on Thursday that Turkey was again massing troops near the Iraqi border, followed by a report today that they killed 15 PKK members in northern Iraq yesterday. Be sensible. And it would be wise to avoid any political demonstrations in Turkey's southeast. Apart from that, it seems that all is well in the main cities of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Meanwhile, in the rest of Iraq, there is some kind of civil war going on, with the Mehdi Army's ceasefire broken. There have been clashes between militias and Iraqi government forces in Basra, Baghdad (especially Sadr City), Kut, Karbala, Hilla and Diwaniyah.

Detailed reporting on violence is at Iraq War News Today.

In other news, Soma Digest has an interesting report on the challenges of getting the free market functioning in Iraqi Kurdistan, and insight into the Turkish businesses working there.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Turkey still shelling

Reports are out that despite pulling its troops out of Iraq, they are still shelling some remote mountain locations, the one mentioned being Dashti Barzji, in the mountains of Erbil province.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Border open, Turks going home?

I have it on good authority that the border between Silopi and Zakho is still open, despite the Turkish military action in the region.

Peshmerga are reporting that Turkish troops are beginning to pull out of northern Iraq, over the border and back into Turkey. This is despite the Turks saying on Wednesday that there was 'no timeframe' for withdrawal.

Meanwhile Iraqi Kurds, who a year ago were very pro-US, now seem to be disillusioned with the US's neutral stance on Turkey's incursion. I know that when I was there in February last year I saw many US flags for sale and on display, as well as framed pictures of George W. Bush and Tony Blair.

And a some Turkish thoughts on the 'Kurdish question'.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Today's news on Turkey's invasion

Today's war news from Iraq, including info on the Turkish army's actions against the PKK in the Qandil mountains.

Kurds dig in against invasion, says this Washington Post/Reuters article, including that a Turkish helicopter was shot down.

[The Qandil mountains are a] rugged and largely inaccessible swath of mountains along the border, an area inside Iraqi territory but uncontrolled by any nation...

"If Turkey comes farther than they are now, then 100 per cent we will stop them," said Major-General Hashim Sitae, a peshmerga commander in the northern city of Dahuk.

Is Kirkuk in the Turkish line of fire? asks Kurdish Aspect. I doubt it.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Turkey invades, border virtually closed

On Thursday February 21, Turkey's military sent ground forces across the border into Iraqi Kurdistan, with the aim of hunting and killing PKK militants. Please carefully consider any travel into the region and don't go anywhere stupid.

News today reports bombing 'around' the town of Amadiyah, which is a town in the mountains east of Dohuk, and just south of the Turkish border. There are also reports of fighting in the areas of Hakurk and Sidekan on the Iraqi side of the border across from the Turkish town of Cukurca.

It's reported that Turkish troops are patrolling towns near the border (eg. Cizre and Silopi), and that the Habur border gate (the one between Silopi and Zakho) is virtually closed to civilian traffic, since the Turkish military is being given priority. This is a very tense and sensitive situation and you should seriously reconsider even going into that region of Turkey right now.

Kurdistan Regional Government president Massoud Barzani is reported to have visited the area where the military operation was launched and "no order of clashes with the Turkish forces has been given to the peshmerges [KRG military]."

The Turkish army's ground incursion against separatist Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq is limited in scope, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday.

"The target, purpose, size and parameters of this operation are limited," Erdogan said in televised remarks, underlining that the incursion targeted only rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party.

"Our armed forces will come back in the shortest time possible as soon as they achieve their objectives," he added.

"Several hundred, possibly a battalion of Turkish special forces, went in to pursue (rebels) in what they think is a PKK area," the official told Reuters.

The KRG has also condemned the invasion as a violation of Iraqi sovereignty and called for "immediate four-party talks between Washington, Ankara, Baghdad and Erbil" to discuss the issue of the PKK.

I understand that the fighting is restricted to the mountains (which are difficult to get into with the snow anyway) and that the major cities of Dohuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah are not affected. But it's still a difficult situation and you should exercise all caution if considering visiting the region in the near future.