ISO certificate given to the Tourism Board

The international certificate of administration of ISO by Sayi Global organization was awarded to the General Tourism Board of Kurdistan. The award has already improved the quality of the activities of the Organization.

Nadir Rosty, spokesman of the Tourism Board of the Region, told “Hewler” newspaper that during a ceremony held in the Hall of Directory of Human Developments that is subordinated under the Ministry of Municipalities and Tourism the award was given to the Tourism Organization.

According to Rosty, the certificate has been achieved by the hard work of the Tourism Board.

This kind of certificate is not easily given to boards or firms.

The company has to go through many stages; whether it is a public or private board; it needs to have some characteristics that is required from these organizations.

Arranging administration systems, minimizing management routines, executing the people’s work effectively, documenting all operations and keeping insufficiency to a minimum are the requirements that the boards need to meet.

Rosty said that after these requirements are met, the delegate of ISO international organization visits the board or the firm and examines all the places and later raises a memorandum for their organization.

If all the requirements are met in accordance with the international standards, then the ISO sends their delegate to the board to hold a certification ceremony.

The spokesman of the Board of Tourism regards the certificate as significant and believes it is going to be the reason for the Board to care more for the quality of their services.

In addition, the work is going to be divided better and the employees will know what their tasks are and whom they need to report to. Another impact of this certificate is that the jobs will be based on skills and qualifications of the employees.

The International Organization for Standardization is an international organization for standardization whose goal is to set the same qualifications and requirements to see the products and service in the same way globally.

9001 ISO is a special general measuring instrument just to set a global system that manages qualitative evaluation for all activities and operations in a public and private sector.

Mr. Rosty explained that at the moment they are busy making the Board’s internal daily routines electronic.

He emphasized on the fact that the Kurdish Region’s situation was the reason for not being able to be effective to the extent needed.

However, this certificate will create a more solid base to start working in a more modern way in the future for the tourists in Kurdistan.

Source: http://www.kurdishglobe.net/article/3C699B53962028B9B8F76695E6560B73/ISO-certificate-given-to-the-Tourism-Board.html

An Australian/Kurdish joint venture since 2009, Kurdistan Adventures combines local knowledge with Western tour operating management. We pride ourselves on immersing our small groups of travelers in Iraqi Kurdistan culture with safety, security and professionalism. Our 8 day escorted tour includes the 3 major cities of Dohuk, Erbil and Sulymaniyah. A dedicated local guide will take you to key historical sites, explain local customs, dine with you in traditional restaurants and allow you to experience this amazing culture. Citizens of many countries including Australia, New Zealand, the EU, Canada, the UK and the USA are granted a free visa on arrival.

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“Joyfully Defiant”: A Photographic Introduction to the Kurds

By Sam Hardy on December 2, 2014

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Spring Sandstorm Under Ararat, village of Kani Kork, eastern Turkey (2001) (all photos courtesy and © Rob Leutheuser)

Robert Leutheuser is an independent cultural photographer who has dedicated himself to documenting community life in the Middle East, focusing on Kurdish peoples. Perhaps most notably, his work has helped the international community to understand who the Yezidis are. (Yezidis are considered by most, but not all, to be ethnic Kurds.) And, as they face and fight genocide, his work preserves the memory of what the Yezidis have lost — and are losing — in the Sinjar. While I confirmed the destruction of the temples of Sheikh Sin and Sheikh Mikhfiya, we discussed why and how he achieves his results.

Sam Hardy: What first drew you to Kurdish society?

Robert Leutheuser: I first encountered the Kurds in 1997 during a travel through Turkey. I had pushed eastward as far as time and courage allowed, as the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party)–Turkish separatist war was still raging. In a vacant lot next to Şanliurfa’s bus station, a troop of 5 Kurdish men gathered in haste and began playing Kurdish music and dancing. A very few other men joined in. This expression of Kurdishness was absolutely forbidden at the time, and to be captured by the Turkish jandarme would have meant prison time, if not worse. They were joyfully defiant, and quickly sped away in a small taxi. This was my introduction to the Kurds.

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A Yezidi at home (nd)

Four years later I embarked in an extensive travel through the greater Middle East, and the intervening ceasefire allowed me full access to eastern Turkey (northern “Kurdistan”). The hardened landscapes were softened by spring, and the weary Kurds were beginning to relax a wee bit after a couple years of peace. I was smitten; how much I wouldn’t immediately know. Through theexploration of travel, my photography, and reading, I began to appreciate the perseverance and complexities of the Kurdish peoples. For 15 years now I have allowed myself to fall into their worlds. I continue to tumble, the most recent chapter being written with the Yezidis, accepted by many if not most to be ethnic Kurds.

SH: How have you gained the trust necessary to capture such expressive moments and intimate portraits?

RL: Thanks for your kind words about the photographs, Sam. There are two elements. The foundation is the nature of my travel; and then for me to have the confidence to include the camera in the relationships. I travel alone and slowly which is a fertile combination to seek out opportunities (or to allow opportunities to find me). And once in these situations, I have to be comfortable enough to actually take the photographs. This all is organically communicated. No trust, no photograph.

Although I deeply honor and appreciate “candid” photography (and I do my fair share of it), without exception my best photographs are those where the person is looking directly at me through the lens. The moments are extraordinary, and hopefully they are communicated to the viewers of the photographs. As time goes on I am most proud of the experiences with people that allow me to take the photographs.

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At the Candle Lighting Ceremony for Sere Sal, Lalish (2014)

SH: How does your photography affect your relationship with communities and vice versa?

RL: The camera has been a full partner in the my relationships with folks, but interestingly, as time goes on and my friendships and levels of inquiry deepen, the camera is less of a player for all of us. But initially the camera often is my ticket into the worlds I visit. A facet that is important is for the people I photograph is to know that my photographs will respect them. I always carry a small pocket-sized portfolio of photos from previous travels with me which I share with many for multiple reasons. But what matters the most is that people see that the photos honor the subjects. And with digital photography, I can immediately turn the camera around and show the person their photograph. The responses are (almost) universally positive, and I can go on shooting, the camera actually disappearing.

SH: I first saw your work when we discussed reports of Islamic State destruction of Yezidi shrines. Have politics and violence influenced your work or its future direction?

RL: I remain incredulous at the barbarity of the Sunni jihadists and the raw evil they shower upon the Yezidis and others. How it will affect my future photography I do not know, but I do know that I cannot and will not silently bear witness. These are my friends. I mean I have deep personal friendships among the Yezidis, and I mean the Yezidis as a people are my friends. I have spent years amongst them. So I am active — raising funds, writing letters, giving presentations, coordinating actions, etc. Of course it can never be enough. I am happy that my photographs have been used by many organizations and publications — primarily online — to inform and to mobilize actions to support the Yezidis. It is the smallest of values I can return to my friends, my hosts, my protectors.

Robert Leutheuser produces Beyond Borders Photography, where more of his photographs can be seen. His slideshow on “What the Yezidis Lost In the Sinjar” is available on YouTube.

Source: http://hyperallergic.com/165871/joyfully-defiant-a-photographic-introduction-to-the-kurds/

An Australian/Kurdish joint venture since 2009, Kurdistan Adventures combines local knowledge with Western tour operating management. We pride ourselves on immersing our small groups of travelers in Iraqi Kurdistan culture with safety, security and professionalism. Our 8 day escorted tour includes the 3 major cities of Dohuk, Erbil and Sulymaniyah. A dedicated local guide will take you to key historical sites, explain local customs, dine with you in traditional restaurants and allow you to experience this amazing culture. Citizens of many countries including Australia, New Zealand, the EU, Canada, the UK and the USA are granted a free visa on arrival.

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Pomegranates, not oil, the star of Iraqi Kurdistan’s rebirth

Shakhawan Mohammed

Hugh Naylor – October 4, 2014

HALABJA, IRAQ // For Shakhawan Mohammed the future of Iraqi Kurdistan lies not in oil but in pomegranates.

Mr Mohammed cultivates a dozen varieties of the fruit in his orchards in Halabja, a town better known for being bombarded by Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons during the 1980s than agriculture production.

Nearly three decades after the attacks, many Kurds, including Mr Mohammed, 40, a father of five, believe the pomegranates that he and other farmers in Halabja cultivate are the best in the world – and he wants to export them to the health food-obsessed markets of Europe and beyond.

“There are no pomegranates with the taste and quality of those from Halabja,” said Mr Mohammed.

Following the 2003 United States invasion that toppled Saddam’s regime, Kurds became known for the vast deposits of oil and natural gas in their autonomous region.

Those are the resources the Kurds are focused on protecting as ISIL militants in northern Iraq try to expand their area of control.

But it is the pomegranate that they see as something of a national symbol, similar to the olive in Palestine or Lebanon’s cedar trees.

They have farmed the ruby red, tangy fruit for generations and many residents have a tree or two in their backyards.

“It is our fruit, the Kurdish fruit. It grows everywhere here,” said Kamal Mohammed, 40, a grocer in Halabja.

It almost was not so. Saddam’s forces carried out their most notorious chemical weapons attack on March 16, 1988, with fighter jets dropping nerve agents and mustard gas on Halabja.

As many as 5,000 were killed, thousands more suffered health issues following the attacks. Witnesses recall victims vomiting violently or having uncontrolled laughing fits before dying.

Mr Mohammed remembers the plumes of gas smelled like apples. Following the attacks, he was blind for three months. The devastation was then compounded after local farming was almost completely shut down by imports of produce under the now-defunct United Nations oil-for-food programme imposed on Saddam’s regime in 1995 as part of international sanctions.

Today, the cases of miscarriages, birth defects and cancer among Halabja’s Kurds are still abnormally high. Yet, agriculture is recovering.

While some experts contend that chemical agents in the soil around Halabja have dissipated, others say more testing needs to be carried out.

“I expect for peace of mind, farmers and vendors would want the soil thoroughly tested as Halabja is synonymous with chemical weapons and it might put people off to buy the pomegranates without hard and fast assurances”, said Hamish de Bretton Gordon, a security consultant and former officer in Britain’s joint chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear regiment.

Yet pomegranate farming, in particular, has experienced something of a local boom in recent years. After the chemical attack in 1988, Mr Mohammed went to Iran for medical treatment and spent three years in refugee camps. When he and other residents returned to Halabja in 1991, the Iraqi military had torched many of the trees.

But he has planted 20,000 new trees on his 15 hectares of land and they are thriving.

The semi-arid climate is perfect for the fruit, labelled a “superfood” because of its high vitamin and mineral content, and their success stands as a symbol of Iraqi Kurdistan’s rebirth.

Mr Mohammed and agricultural officials in the area hope to capitalise on this by selling Kurdish pomegranates to a variety of foreign customers.

“We’re producing 25,000 tonnes of pomegranates from Halabja alone, using about 2,000 hectares of farmland,” said Star Mahmoud, who heads the agricultural section at the offices of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s interior ministry.

He said that number far exceeds peak levels of the 1970s, when relative stability in Iraq allowed a bustling trade in Halabja pomegranates with cities as distant as Basra, Mosul and Baghdad.

“It’s a huge increase and there is much potential abroad.”

Residents of other Kurdish cities already travel to Halabja for the fruit. Local farmers are now talking to foreign companies about exporting to the UAE and Britain. But they need financial backing to build storage facilities and organise international transportation.

“The key right now is getting foreign investment,” said Blund Khasraw, director of horticulture at the ministry of agriculture’s office in Halabja.

But the potential is certainly there. Slicing through a fruit he had pulled from a tree on a recent afternoon, Mr Mohammed boasted that any newcomer would be instantly hooked on Halabja’s pomegranates.

“If we’re able to show the world our pomegranates, people will not think of Kurds as an oil-producing people,” said Mr Mohammed, cutting into a freshly-picked pomegranate.

“We will be famous for pomegranates.”

Source: http://www.thenational.ae/world/iraq/pomegranates-not-oil-the-star-of-iraqi-kurdistans-rebirth

An Australian/Kurdish joint venture since 2009, Kurdistan Adventures combines local knowledge with Western tour operating management. We pride ourselves on immersing our small groups of travelers in Iraqi Kurdistan culture with safety, security and professionalism. Our 8 day escorted tour includes the 3 major cities of Dohuk, Erbil and Sulymaniyah. A dedicated local guide will take you to key historical sites, explain local customs, dine with you in traditional restaurants and allow you to experience this amazing culture. Citizens of many countries including Australia, New Zealand, the EU, Canada, the UK and the USA are granted a free visa on arrival.

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Iraq is a war zone, but for these Americans in Irbil, it’s quiz night

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Despite their proximity to the Islamic State front line, expats maintain their American lifestyle. Sept. 8, 2014 Players discuss the quiz questions at T-Bar in Irbil. Sebastian Meyer/For The Washington Post

For the first time since Islamic State fighters advanced to within 25 miles of this Iraqi city last month, T Bar Sports Lounge is hopping. Jimmie Collins takes a sip of white wine and brushes back a loose strand of hair. “Can you kill the music?” she asks the bartender, who turns down the dial on the stereo and passes her a microphone.

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to quiz night,” Collins says to the 60 customers, mostly Americans, at the bar. “Tonight’s the usual stuff. We’ll have two spoken rounds and three picture rounds.”

Outside of this city in northern Iraq, Islamist insurgents and Iraqi Kurdish forces, backed by American fighter jets and drones, battle for ground. But at this bar, the American version of life goes on. Oil workers cluster around flat-screen televisions tuned to National Football League games and women’s professional wrestling. They have returned after a brief evacuation, along with aid workers and English teachers who fill the tables by the bar’s windows, tinted so people outside can’t see in.

Then there’s Collins, who never left Irbil. At the moment, all eyes are on the 28-year-old Texan, who starts the quiz by asking, “What word links a group of whales with a group of peas?”

The crowd groans.

“Oh, c’mon you guys,” she says. “It’s an easy one.”

How do a bunch of Americans end up in a place like this at a time like this? For Collins, who taught English in Taiwan and the Czech Republic after college, it was a chance to seek adventure in the most foreign place she could imagine. That was two years ago, when the Iraqi Kurds, who occupy a semiautonomous region in the country’s north, were desperate to bring in Americans. They wanted U.S. companies to help explore their massive oil fields. Just as important, they understood that U.S. citizens such as Collins offered a measure of protection in the event that Iraq began to disintegrate.

As Kurdish Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, using a common acronym for the Islamic State, explained: “While ISIS was in Mosul, nobody cared. While ISIS moved on to Baghdad, nobody cared. But the moment ISIS moved on Kurdistan, the U.S. cared.”

American oil companies had invested billions of dollars in rigs and drilling contracts in Kurd­istan that in early August were suddenly at grave risk. So, too, were American lives. Within 48 hours of the Islamic State’s advance on Irbil, the U.S. military was dropping bombs.

“And that,” Talabani said, “is unprecedented.”

Fun and fundraisers

Collins works days as the office manager for a small oil company, but her passion is Irbil’s nighttime social scene. She helps oversee EPIC, which stands for Erbil Party International Circuit, an online information site for U.S. and European expats that has grown to about 12,000 members and organizes events such as quiz night and beer pong tournaments to benefit Syrian refugees.

Until recently, Collins was the co-host of the “EPIC Power Hour” on a local radio station. On Thursday afternoons — the beginning of the weekend here — her voice would float out over this city of ancient mosques and half-finished high rises with song dedications, shout-outs and advice on the best places to party. The show came to an end when she and friends got into an argument with the station owner over the relative effectiveness of the Kurdish peshmerga and Iraqi army forces.

Her latest project is a glossy new expat lifestyle magazine for Kurdistan. Publication, originally scheduled for September, was delayed when her printers fled Iraq for Beirut. They are back now, Collins said, and the 5,000-copy launch is imminent.

Collins’s longest-running gig in Irbil is hosting quiz night. “My baby,” she calls it. Tonight there are seven teams — about 60 people, up from two dozen the previous week.

A hand taps Collins gently on the shoulder. Her glass of white wine has gone warm, and Ayas Murad, 25, T Bar’s assistant manager, is standing just behind her with a freshly chilled replacement.

Like most of the staff at the sports bar, Murad is a Yazidi, a practitioner of a pre-Islamic faith whose adherents were targeted by the Islamic State fighters. During the August onslaught, when more than 10,000 Yazidis were trapped on a remote mountaintop, about half of the bar’s staff left to help their families escape. To the world, it was a humanitarian crisis; at T Bar, it was also a management challenge. “You couldn’t fire them because there was a genocide with their people happening,” said T Bar’s manager. “But you also had a business to run.”

Now the Yazidis are off the mountain, living in refugee camps, and Murad is weaving past tables full of $12 burgers and $8 plates of chicken wings. Someone calls out to him for a Corona with lime; someone else wants a check. Murad nods to his customers. He’s headed for the bar to mix up trays of multi-hued Stolichnaya vodka shots that quiz night contestants down between rounds.

Collins looks at her list of questions. A yellow rose tattoo, a tribute to her grandmother and her Texas roots, peeks through one of her sandals. “What part of the human body shares its name with a punctuation mark?” she asks. “Hint: It’s a bit of a rude one.” The teams whisper to each other and scribble down answers.

Planning their escape

Sometimes Collins finds it hard to believe that it has been only a few weeks since Kurdish pesh merga forces ceded the nearby cities of Makhmur and Gweir to radical Islamist fighters, setting off panic in Irbil. On that night, rumors swirled that the main checkpoint south of the city had been overrun and that radical jihadists were headed toward Irbil’s Christian district, a few minutes’ drive from Collins’s home.

Collins and some friends who work in the private security industry began planning for the worst. Most airlines were canceling inbound flights, and seats on the few planes headed out of the country were selling out fast. If the pesh merga couldn’t keep the insurgents back from Irbil, Collins and her friends decided they would flee north via back roads to the Turkish border.

Instead the enemy assault stalled, and now Collins is circulating among the seven quiz night teams, asking if they need her to repeat any questions. Murad follows closely behind with his tray of shots. She snatches a drink and throws it back. Her body gives a quick shudder as the iridescent blue liquid slides down her throat.

The teams trade their quiz sheets for scoring. Collins reads off the answers and officiates disputes. A British woman insists that a giraffe’s tongue is really more gray than blue.

“All right, I’ll give it to you,” she says.

A few feet away, an Iraqi Kurd who works in the warehouse at the U.S. Consulate complains about his stalled application for permanent U.S. residency.

“At least they didn’t reject you,” an American oil executive tells him. “I have a friend who waited seven years. You just have to be patient.”

“Iraq is all trouble,” the Kurd mutters. “Everywhere is bad. It’s just big trouble. I just want to change everything.”

Collins, meanwhile, is asking one last question — a tie-breaker — as the contest nears its end. “How many points are there on the sun on the Kurdish flag?” she asks.

“Twenty-one,” someone yells, and as Collins pronounces that team the winner, Murad hands them their prize: two bottles of Stoli vodka.

Collins sits at a table and tallies the night’s take, to be donated to a charity that provides aid to Iraqi and Syrian refugees. She’s just finished counting out $259 when an oil executive slips her a $100 bill. Murad cranks up the music and Collins offers the donor a quick thanks, her voice barely audible over the growing din.

The night goes on

Another quiz night is done, but Collins isn’t ready for the evening to end. She and a group of friends grab their purses and prepare to head to their cars, parked near the concrete shell of an unfinished shopping mall that since August has been home to about 700 Christian refugees.

Inside T Bar, the lights dim and Murad turns up the music even louder. Outside, near the entrance to the makeshift refu­gee shelter, a middle-aged man is bent over filling two five-gallon water jugs with a hose. Clutching the containers, he carefully walks a narrow metal beam that ­bridges a sewage puddle. Where he goes depends on his village. Families from Karemlesh and Bartella fill the top two levels. Refugees from Qaraqosh, the last to arrive, are staying in the fetid and often flooded basement.

Collins and her friends spill out onto the sidewalk just as the man disappears inside. Soon they are in their cars weaving through Irbil’s chaotic traffic, passing black banners memorializing pesh merga fighters killed in recent days on the front lines.

At traffic lights, Syrian children — part of the initial wave of refugees into Irbil two years ago — swirl around Collins’s car begging for spare change.

Many of the Syrians’ faces have become familiar to her, including the skinny kid with a chipped tooth who hovers just a few feet away. He pulls back his hand, slaps the car window and screams an expletive in English. Collins’s friend, who is driving, hits the gas and the car jerks forward.

A few minutes later they park and take the elevator to Sky Bar on the roof of the 10-story Noble Hotel. Collins gazes out at the city. Building lights sparkle. Traffic surges along a new six-lane highway built with revenue from foreign oil contracts. The chaos and tragedy of Iraq, which sometimes make her feel so helpless, fade.

She orders another round of drinks. The night is still young; the Islamic State fighters are nowhere to be seen. Time for karaoke.

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/iraq-is-a-war-zone-but-for-these-americans-in-irbil-its-quiz-night/2014/10/03/1e5e6e82-428d-11e4-b47c-f5889e061e5f_story.html

An Australian/Kurdish joint venture since 2009, Kurdistan Adventures combines local knowledge with Western tour operating management. We pride ourselves on immersing our small groups of travelers in Iraqi Kurdistan culture with safety, security and professionalism. Our 8 day escorted tour includes the 3 major cities of Dohuk, Erbil and Sulymaniyah. A dedicated local guide will take you to key historical sites, explain local customs, dine with you in traditional restaurants and allow you to experience this amazing culture. Citizens of many countries including Australia, New Zealand, the EU, Canada, the UK and the USA are granted a free visa on arrival.

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Will the Kurdish economy last for long on easy money?

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By Swara Kadir

Do lottery winners keep their money after they win, or do they usually lose it? What has this got to do with the Kurdish economy? Let me tell you.

Until recently the Kurdish economy has been getting easy (lottery) money from Baghdad for its share from the sales of crude oil. What was the easiest way to spend that money? By allocating around 70% of the annual budget to free handouts to people in the form of a big nanny state number of government paid employees.

This left little money for economic expansion and growth. Sectors like agriculture and tourism have significant economic potential and a distinct comparative advantage in the region. The plentiful water resources of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the fertile soil, the favorable moderate climate are just a few agricultural advantages.

Naturally flowing from this is the beauty of nature, variety of terrain, historic and touristic attractions are all great advantages for Kurdistan to become a booming tourist economy.

It seems the recent stoppage of the (lottery) money from Baghdad has taught the Kurds a lesson. Economic independence is a must, and easy money is never guaranteed.

The Kurdish economy cannot grow in its current form with its sole reliance on oil revenues. It must diversify into the other sectors mentioned above in order to have a sustainable economy.

Most of all, more investment is needed in Kurdish manpower through education and government action that will impel Kurds to get off their butt and begin work more.

Source: http://www.kurdishglobe.net/article/4650D387DAC8363967572D02BF257C00/Will-the-Kurdish-economy-last-for-long-on-easy-money-.html

An Australian/Kurdish joint venture since 2009, Kurdistan Adventures combines local knowledge with Western tour operating management. We pride ourselves on immersing our small groups of travelers in Iraqi Kurdistan culture with safety, security and professionalism. Our 8 day escorted tour includes the 3 major cities of Dohuk, Erbil and Sulymaniyah. A dedicated local guide will take you to key historical sites, explain local customs, dine with you in traditional restaurants and allow you to experience this amazing culture. Citizens of many countries including Australia, New Zealand, the EU, Canada, the UK and the USA are granted a free visa on arrival.

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Iraq, Syria and the Islamic State: why Australia has an obligation to act

In 2003, the objectives of our intervention in Iraq were flimsy. Today, the clear objective is to help the Iraqi government protect innocent civilians from atrocities.

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Displaced Iraqi children who fled from Islamic State violence in Mosul. Photograph: Ahmed Jallah/Reuters

On 6 April 1994, Hutu extremists began a shocking genocide of ethnic minorities in Rwanda. The world condemned it, but took no action. Just 100 days later, 800,000 people had been senselessly slaughtered.

Now, 20 years on, we grapple with the evil of Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria. But this time, I am hopeful that as an international community we won’t look back and say we did nothing in the face of mass atrocity crimes.

There are confirmed instances of IS engaging in widespread ethnic and religious cleansing, targeted killings, forced conversions, abductions, human trafficking, slavery, sexual abuse, and the besieging of entire communities. There are reports of thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths, thousands injured and almost two million people who have fled their homes. These reports are so serious that the United Nations Human Rights Council has authorised an investigation into mass atrocity crimes in Iraq.

The horror of Rwanda and similar tragedies have caused the world to consider what our responsibility is to protect civilians where their own government is unwilling or unable to. What emerged was a new international doctrine: the “responsibility to protect”.

Former Labor foreign minister, Gareth Evans, championed this idea,and its acceptance by the UN. He uses a set of criteria to judge when “responsibility to protect” should apply. On the current question of Iraq, these principles provide Labor a very useful framework to help guide whether we support Australian involvement – both now and into the future.

The criteria include whether there is just cause, the right intention, whether it’s a last resort, the action has legitimate authority, is proportionate, and has a reasonable prospect of success. On the current information, Labor’s assessment is that these criteria have been met for Iraq. Australia and the world have a responsibility to protect and an obligation to act.

When Australians hear their government talk of involvement in Iraq, they have good reason to be cautious. The disaster of the 2003 invasion colours every debate. And we should never forget its lessons.

As I said in a letter presented to then US secretary of state Condoleeza Rice back in 2003 – the Bush administration, the Blair administration, and our own Howard administration rushed in. They went in on the basis of false claims about weapons of mass destruction, and before weapons inspectors had time to complete their work.

US marines of the 3rd infantry batallion are marching to a morning exercise, on 15 March 2003, at Camp Coyote in Kuwait. More than 150,000 American and British soldiers are currently situated in the northern desert of Kuwait. According to the US Defense D

US marines of the 3rd infantry batallion are marching to a morning exercise in March 2003. Photograph: Alamy

The result? Nearly a decade of conflict, hundreds of thousands dead, and significant instability in the region. In the context of this history, it is right that people urge caution now.

But while history should inform our actions, it should not cloud a sober assessment of the facts of the current situation. The situation today is very different from 2003.

In 2003, Australia was one of four countries to take action in Iraq. Today, we’re one of about 40, including many countries from the Middle East, and countries that did not sign up to the 2003 invasion.

In 2003 we went in against the wishes of the government of Iraq and against the wishes of many Iraqis. Today, we’ve been asked by the democratically elected government of Iraq to help fight off an immediate threat to its citizens – and action has the backing of the UN secretary-general.

In 2003, the objectives of our intervention in Iraq were flimsy. Today, the clear objective is to help the Iraqi government protect innocent civilians from mass atrocity crimes.

Labor has supported Australia’s involvement so far. But that support comes with important considerations.

We’ve been clear that we do not support the deployment of Australian ground combat units to directly engage in fighting IS. We believe Australia’s military involvement in Iraq should continue only as long as is necessary to place the Iraqi government and its forces in a position to take full and effective responsibility for their own security.

We believe that if the Iraqi government and its forces adopt policies or engage in actions that are unacceptable to Australia, or if our involvement is ineffective – our support should cease.

And as an important accountability, if Australia’s engagement was to continue beyond a matter of weeks, Labor will ask the prime minister to formally update the parliament at least every three months. Each update should detail what our efforts have achieved and what progress we have made towards the conclusion of our involvement.

And there’s of course, the broader geopolitical context. The conflict in Syria has fed the rise of IS. Around 200,000 people have been killed in Syria. The scale of the humanitarian disaster has seen the impacts spill over into the region. More than 9m displaced Syrians have to go somewhere, and that has seen neighbours such as Lebanon and Jordan take in millions of refugees.

Mideast Iraq

Displaced Iraqis from the Yazidi community gather for food at the Nowruz camp in Derike, Syria. Photograph: Khalid Mohammed/AP

But Labor does not support taking action in Syria similar to that being taken in Iraq. There is no clear evidence that such Australian involvement could successfully provide relief to the humanitarian crisis that is occurring in Syria. It’s not clear which of the forces on the ground we could support. And there is no clear international support or authority for that kind of action.

Our immediate efforts in Syria should focus on increased humanitarian assistance, and the international community should continue to work, including through the Security Council, to end the fighting in Syria.

The UN has called for $6.5bn in aid for the Syria crisis, the largest ever appeal for funds. Australia, under the Coalition, has pledged just $30m or so in aid – a sadly inadequate response to an enormous humanitarian need. And we have agreed to take just 2,200 refugees from Syria and 2,200 from Iraq (as part of our regular intake) when millions are displaced from their homes.

Labor believes Australia should be doing more. We can give greater financial support. We can take more refugees from the region. In government, Labor increased the humanitarian refugee program to 20,000 places.

The Abbott government took a backward step and cut our humanitarian program to 13,750 places. This limits Australia’s ability as a good global citizen in times like this to be able to assist people fleeing violence and persecution. Certainly, Labor believes the intake of 4,400 refugees from Iraq and Syria announced by the government should be in addition to the existing 13,750 places in its scaled back humanitarian program.

As a party of social justice and compassion, Labor believes there are circumstances where Australia has a responsibility to protect. The current situation in Iraq is one such circumstance.Labor will work constructively with the government, but as an opposition we also have a responsibility to question – to carefully scrutinise the approach put forward by the government. We’ll look at the facts and make sensible judgments at every step. Labor’s shadow national security committee is meeting regularly to carefully work through these complex, difficult issues.

National security is above politics, but such important decisions are never beyond question, interrogation, or criticism. We have supported debate in the parliament and will continue to do so. We have also requested the government keep the Australian people abreast of the circumstances and the effectiveness of our involvement.

The decision to send Australian men and women into harm’s way should never be taken lightly, and Labor never will. Our responsibility to the people of Iraq is to ensure any action Australia is involved in leaves the place better, not worse. On the current facts, Labor sees no option but to act. To do otherwise could condemn innocent Iraqis to the same fate as the 800,000 Rwandans brutally murdered in just 100 days, two decades ago.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/18/iraq-syria-and-the-islamic-state-why-australia-has-an-obligation-to-act

An Australian/Kurdish joint venture since 2009, Kurdistan Adventures combines local knowledge with Western tour operating management. We pride ourselves on immersing our small groups of travelers in Iraqi Kurdistan culture with safety, security and professionalism. Our 8 day escorted tour includes the 3 major cities of Dohuk, Erbil and Sulymaniyah. A dedicated local guide will take you to key historical sites, explain local customs, dine with you in traditional restaurants and allow you to experience this amazing culture. Citizens of many countries including Australia, New Zealand, the EU, Canada, the UK and the USA are granted a free visa on arrival.

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The right Iraqi invasion

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United States President Barack Obama deserves unconditional support for his decision to use military force to protect the persecuted Yazidi minority from threatened genocide by marauding Islamic State (IS) militants in northern Iraq. The United States’ action is completely consistent with the principles of the international responsibility to protect (R2P) people at risk of mass-atrocity crimes that was embraced unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly in 2005. The US military intervention touches all the necessary bases of legality, legitimacy and likely effectiveness in meeting its immediate objectives.

Unlike the original military intervention in Iraq, which touched none of these bases, the current US action, though lacking Security Council authorisation, is being taken at the request of the Iraqi government, so no question arises of any breach of international law. And it would clearly seem to satisfy the moral or prudential criteria for the use of military force, which, though not yet formally adopted by the United Nations or anyone else, have been the subject of much international debate and acceptance over the last decade.

Those criteria of legitimacy are that the atrocities occurring or feared are sufficiently serious to justify, prima facie, a military response; that the response has a primarily humanitarian motive; that no lesser response is likely to be effective in halting or averting the harm; that the proposed response is proportional to the threat; and that the intervention will do more good than harm.

The available evidence is that the many thousands of men, women and children who have sought refuge in the Sinjar mountain range of northern Iraq are indeed at risk. They face death not only from starvation and exposure, but also from genocidal slaughter by the rapidly advancing IS forces, who regard the Yazidis as apostates and have already perpetrated atrocities unrivaled in their savagery. The US motive in mobilising air power to protect them is unquestionably humanitarian. It is clear that no lesser measures will be sufficient, and the only question about proportionality that arises is whether the air strikes and supply drops will do too little, rather than too much, to address the emergency.

Unlike the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, this is not a case where it can be argued that external military intervention will be likely to cause more harm than good. It should be at least as effective in protecting the Yazidis (and Kurds and others in nearby Erbil) as was the intervention in Libya in 2011 to stop the threatened massacre by Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces of the people of Benghazi.

Whether it will contribute to reversing the major gains already made by IS forces in northern Iraq, and to re-establishing the territorial integrity of the Iraqi state, is a different question. As the Obama administration has made clear, that will depend, above all, on whether the disastrously divisive leadership of Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s Shia prime minister, gives way to a more inclusive regime, and whether, in that context, the ineffectual Iraqi army can get its act together.

Though some conservative American voices are already calling for more to be done, no case can be made for the US, Europe, or  Australia sacrificing further blood and treasure trying to prop up a regime so demonstrably unable and unwilling to help itself hold the country together.  As I have argued previously, the only possible justification – moral, political, or military – for renewed external military intervention in Iraq is to meet the international responsibility to protect victims, or potential victims, of mass atrocities.

It is a little frustrating to those of us who have worked to embed R2P principles in international policy and practice that US leaders remain reluctant to use that terminology – a reluctance that partly reflects the perceived domestic political risk in relying on anything coming out of the UN. But it would be churlish to complain when, as here, Obama talks of “upholding international norms” and in practice moves to do exactly what the R2P norm requires.

There are also, of course, American voices – like that of the foreign-policy realist Stephen Walt – arguing for less to be done, on the ground that US interests are insufficiently engaged to justify any military intervention, however limited. But this is to adopt a narrowly traditional view of the national interest – focusing only on direct security and economic advantage – and to ignore a third dimension, reputational advantage, which increasingly determines the extent to which countries respect and relate to one another. It is in every country’s national interest to be – and to be seen to be – a good international citizen.

There can be no better demonstration of good international citizenship than a country’s willingness to act when it has the capacity to prevent or avert a mass atrocity crime. Obama has recently been criticised, in the context of his attitude to the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, as being “cerebral in a part of the world that’s looking for the visceral.” His response to the plight of the Yazidis in Iraq has been both cerebral and visceral, and both America and the world are better for it. This is one American military enterprise which Australia should have no hesitation in supporting in any way we can.

Gareth Evans, a former Australian foreign minister and past president of the International Crisis Group, chairs the New York-based Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect.

Project Syndicate

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/the-right-iraqi-invasion-20140812-10327k.html

An Australian/Kurdish joint venture since 2009, Kurdistan Adventures combines local knowledge with Western tour operating management. We pride ourselves on immersing our small groups of travelers in Iraqi Kurdistan culture with safety, security and professionalism. Our 8 day escorted tour includes the 3 major cities of Dohuk, Erbil and Sulymaniyah. A dedicated local guide will take you to key historical sites, explain local customs, dine with you in traditional restaurants and allow you to experience this amazing culture. Citizens of many countries including Australia, New Zealand, the EU, Canada, the UK and the USA are granted a free visa on arrival.

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Flood of requests for help follow promises of Australian aid for Kurds

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Erbil: As Islamic State militants continue to wage their campaign of terror throughout northern Iraq and Syria, Kurds have expressed strong support for an international coalition including Australia that is designed to back them in their fight.

With militants from the Islamic State holding towns and villages within 100 kilometres of Erbil, Kurdish military leaders say they need all the help they can get, with both strategic assistance and hardware.

Hoshang Waziri, an analyst based in Erbil, says international support for the Peshmerga forces, including Australia’s involvement, was “100 per cent welcome by the Kurdish people”.

“We have to acknowledge that the Kurds are the only ones fighting the Islamic State on the ground here and in Syria,” Mr Waziri said. “Anything that can help the Kurds fight ISIS [Islamic State] will be welcomed by Kurds from all political parties.”

Even as the third consignment of Australia-delivered munitions arrived in Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region in Iraq’s north last week, requests for further support came from all quarters.

Australia’s next contribution, hatched after discussions between Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, and soon to be deployed to the United Arab Emirates, will include up to eight Super Hornet aircraft, an early warning and control aircraft, and aerial refuelling aircraft. It will also include a contingent of Special Forces troops, Mr Abbott said.

Up to 600 personnel will go into Iraq as military advisers to the Iraqi Army and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, Mr Abbott said.

Australia has already committed C130 Hercules transport aircraft and a C17 to the multinational effort including the US, Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Along with weapons and ammunition, Kurdish forces were also in need of training, both in the use of modern weaponry but also in terms of military strategy and capacity building, the former deputy prime minister of Iraq and now finance minister Dr Rowsch Shaways told Fairfax Media.

“The countries that supply the hardware will also provide the training and we welcome military advisers and trainers to Kurdistan – we need all kinds of support: weapons training, academic and strategic studies.”

In an interview with Minister for Peshmerga Affairs Mustafa Sayed Qadir late last week, Dr Shaways said: “We are requesting more support from Australia and we hope they send more … this war will take a long time to reach its end.”

Along with his role in Baghdad, Dr Shaways has resumed his role as a Peshmerga commander on the frontline near the border of Erbil  and Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq and the first to fall to the Islamic State on June 10.

“With international support there is now the possibility that the Peshmerga can do counter-attacks and free much more territory [from the Islamic State militants],” Dr Shaways said.

Since early June Islamic State has expanded its hold through eastern Syria and across the border into northern Iraq, seizing cities, towns, army bases and heavy weaponry in Iraq, as Iraqi Army soldiers deserted in their thousands.

Kurdish Peshmerga forces stepped in to secure many key towns but they have been badly overstretched, suffering a significant drought of weapons, ammunition and strategic ability.

For the last month the United States has already carried out more than 150 air strikes on Islamic State positions in northern Iraq and sent hundreds military advisers to assist Iraqi and Kurdish forces, but has so far ruled out sending ground troops.

Germany has also announced it is preparing to send about 40 soldiers to northern Iraq to train Kurdish fighters battling against militants from the Islamic State, Agence France Press reported the German army as saying. Additional teams will be “temporarily” deployed to Iraqi Kurdistan, with up to 30 Kurdish soldiers travelling to Germany in exchange, it said.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has been touring the Middle East over the weekend to sign up governments to a “broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat”.

Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon as well as the Gulf Co-operation Council – an alliance of the Sunni Arab Gulf nations, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates – have committed to “stand united” against the Islamic State.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/national/flood-of-requests-for-help-follow-promises-of-australian-aid-for-kurds-20140914-10gudt.html

An Australian/Kurdish joint venture since 2009, Kurdistan Adventures combines local knowledge with Western tour operating management. We pride ourselves on immersing our small groups of travelers in Iraqi Kurdistan culture with safety, security and professionalism. Our 8 day escorted tour includes the 3 major cities of Dohuk, Erbil and Sulymaniyah. A dedicated local guide will take you to key historical sites, explain local customs, dine with you in traditional restaurants and allow you to experience this amazing culture. Citizens of many countries including Australia, New Zealand, the EU, Canada, the UK and the USA are granted a free visa on arrival.

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Statement on Security Situation – Sep 2014

Kurdistan Adventures wishes to make an updated statement regarding the current security situation in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

As per our previous statements, it is again important to recognise that the Kurdistan Region has continued to maintain its territorial integrity since the insurgency in Federal Iraq commenced in May 2014. More recently the Kurdish Security Forces – mainly the Peshmerger and supported by U.S. air strikes have retaken the predominantly Kurdish towns and villages to the south of the Kurdistan border and pushed the insurgents further south into Federal Iraq. This has allowed most residents who fled their homes to return to these areas now that they are back under Kurdish Peshmerger control.

Kurdistan Adventures welcomes recent U.S. Government statements that they intend on continued support to the Iraqi Government particularly the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) by providing military advisors, supplies and ongoing air strikes against the insurgents in Federal Iraq. This will further reinforce the already excellent security provided by the KRG and thus ensuring that Kurdistan remains a peaceful, stable and prosperous region for all to enjoy.

Subsequently, the U.K. FCO travel advice for Iraq was recently downgraded from advising against all travel to Erbil to allowing essential travel to Erbil and the rest of Kurdistan. This is clearly in recognition that the recent threat to the region has been lifted and business is as normal.

Kurdistan Adventures has been able to operate small group tours safely for nearly five years and in turn share the wonderful region of Kurdistan with people from all around the world. Furthermore, we remain confident of being able to do so into the future.

Kurdistan Adventures will continue to monitor the situation and will communicate any updates as needed. Should you have any questions or concerns, please contact us immediately.

Source: Kurdistan Adventures

An Australian/Kurdish joint venture since 2009, Kurdistan Adventures combines local knowledge with Western tour operating management. We pride ourselves on immersing our small groups of travelers in Iraqi Kurdistan culture with safety, security and professionalism. Our 8 day escorted tour includes the 3 major cities of Dohuk, Erbil and Sulymaniyah. A dedicated local guide will take you to key historical sites, explain local customs, dine with you in traditional restaurants and allow you to experience this amazing culture. Citizens of many countries including Australia, New Zealand, the EU, Canada, the UK and the USA are granted a free visa on arrival.

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Iraqi Kurdistan capital’s prosperity, tolerance threatened by Islamic State

IRBIL, Iraq — Neon lights up the night. Young people of both genders mingle freely in bars. Shoppers stroll by smart shops offering gleaming new cars and appliances.

The relative normalcy of Irbil, the capital of the thriving Middle Eastern oil hub of Iraqi Kurdistan, seems strange given the proximity of Islamic State militants whose reign of terror has included mass murder, torture and rape in the city of Mosul, less than 50 miles to the northwest.

Unlike other parts of Iraq plagued by Sunni-Shiite violence since the U.S. invasion in 2003, self-ruled Kurdistan has gone from strength to strength as oil money has flowed into the economy. Kurds have developed infrastructure to support the thriving service, agriculture and tourism sectors.

All this wealth and the tolerance the Kurds are known for are at risk from the Islamic State, which threatens Kurdistan as well as the rest of Iraq.

The advance of the Islamic State to within a 20-minute drive of the city limits last month was a shock to many living here. As the militants approached, foreign workers headed for the airport, leaving heavy trucks, cranes, pipes, drill heads and other oil industry equipment piled up along the sides of a dusty street on the outskirts of town.

“I drove our foreign staff to the airport myself,” said San Kaka, 30, a Kurdish coordinator for an oil service firm who is one of the few employees still working in the industrial zone.

There was fear in the eyes of workers from the United States, New Zealand, Canada and Britain as they headed for planes out of the country, but nobody panicked and local nationals weren’t evacuated, Kaka said.

“They (the terrorists) were so close, though — just 20 minutes’ drive away — but I never believed they would be here,” he said. “That’s why I never left.”

In recent weeks, Kurdish fighters known as peshmerga, helped by U.S. airstrikes, have pushed the Islamic State further from the city.

The U.S. military support is low key, and it’s not clear how many personnel are in Irbil, where the U.S. has a consulate. Locals report that a U.S. flag that flew above a military facility in Irbil was recently taken down. Military flights are often scheduled at night and go unnoticed by most people.

At the U.S. consulate compound — which covers several city blocks and is surrounded by concrete “T-walls” and protected by Iraqi troops — streets and buildings were empty last month because many staff members had evacuated.

Kaka said some foreign oil workers are still in Kurdistan, and that some drill operations never shut down. Other foreign workers were planning to return, but that was delayed after a car bomb went off in Irbil on Aug. 23, he said.

In the meantime, he and the other local employees are keeping an eye on the equipment until things get back to normal. For the Kurds, who are already selling oil independently of the Iraqi government in Baghdad, that can’t happen soon enough.

The prosperity of oil

In the south of the region, hulking new irrigation machines water once-barren fields where tongues of orange fire flare from drill sites on the horizon. That Kurdistan has oceans of oil beneath its fertile farmland is evident from a map in the air-conditioned shed where Kaka works.

The map includes drill sites run by Hunt Oil Co., of Dallas; ExxonMobil Corp., of Irving, Texas; Chevron Corp., of San Ramon, Calif.; Total SA, of France; Repsol YPF SA, of Madrid; Gazprom, of Moscow; and Tawazun Precision Industries, of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The sites have security teams, and oil workers often travel in armored cars protected by hired guns. But the relative peace and stability in Kurdistan mean vehicle accidents are the biggest risk, according to local security contractors.

The prosperity that oil brings is on display during a drive into town from Irbil’s gleaming new airport. Roads that were little more than dirt tracks a decade ago are being turned into four-lane highways filled with new American cars, especially Dodge Chargers — the well-to-do Kurd’s ride of choice. Neighborhoods of adobe huts have been replaced by high-rise condos, shopping malls and luxury hotels.

In Irbil’s Ankawa district, store windows display beer, cigarettes, cellphones and mannequins sporting the ripped jeans and form-fitting T-shirts popular with Kurdish youngsters.

It’s easy to spot the displaced people who have crowded into vacant buildings and schools in the neighborhood as they comb through donated clothing and food in front of churches. One displaced child had scored a T-shirt depicting Darius Rucker, lead singer of Hootie and the Blowfish, though he had never heard of the band.

Communal tensions

The influx of tens of thousands of Christians and Yazidis, driven north by the Islamic State militants, has led to communal tensions.

A large bible sits on the desk of Ankawa Mayor Jalal Habeeb Aziz.

He and his staff are struggling to deal with water and power shortages brought on by the influx of 40,000 displaced people into a neighborhood that was home to 35,000 Assyrian Christians. Police don’t have time to sort out quarrels among drunken neighbors, he said, explaining his justification for imposing a ban on over-the-counter liquor sales after 8 p.m.

The displaced want to return to their homes in Mosul and on the Nineveh plains, on Kurdistan’s southern border, but they need protection, he said.

The longer the displaced stay in Kurdistan, the more tension builds with locals. There have been lines for cooking gas and rising food prices, and there’s growing animosity toward Sunni Arabs — the Islamic State’s constituency.

Only a small Arab population lives in Kurdistan, but in recent weeks there have been demonstrations by Kurds who want them expelled. Anti-Arab graffiti has appeared on walls around Irbil, and restaurants have put up signs stating that Arabs won’t be admitted, Aziz said. However, that does not apply to Christians, whom the Kurds do not perceive as Arabs.

“People are mad,” Azizi said. “They say, ‘We give you (Arabs) residency and then you bomb us.’ ”

Kurdish President Massoud Barzani has refused to expel the Arabs, and officials have reminded concerned citizens that records are kept of every Arab resident in Kurdistan, Aziz said.

“Some Arabs here support Daash, but everything is under control,” he said, using the local acronym for the Islamic State group. “We aren’t going to kick them out, unless they are here illegally.”

Tourism is Kurdistan’s other big industry after oil. The region is famous throughout the Middle East for snow-capped mountains, waterfalls and picnic spots.

The Irbil Citadel — a World Heritage site in the center of the city — has protected its inhabitants for millennia and, until recently, was billed as the planet’s oldest inhabited structure. Its residents were recently moved out to make way for renovations that appear aimed at creating a tourist site to rival the Acropolis.

A souq, or market, at the base of the citadel buzzes with shoppers, and street musicians entertain tourists in a park filled with fountains.

One of those browsing the merchandise there recently was Zahraa Nadhim, a Shiite who moved to Irbil from Baghdad with her family a few years ago. Dressed in a black singlet and jeans, the office administrator wouldn’t look out of place in a U.S. shopping mall, although there are plenty of more modest female shoppers in Irbil who prefer a headscarf and full-length dress.

A sense of safety

Nadhim said she was a little upset when the Islamic State got close and foreign workers from her company started leaving.

“They didn’t have an evacuation plan for us locals, but I knew it was safe,” she said.

The roads into Irbil from the south appear well-guarded. Driving to the city from the direction of areas controlled by the Islamic State involves passing through numerous checkpoints manned by the peshmerga.

“The media make it a big deal, but we know they (the Islamists) are not going to come here,” Nadhim said. “They were pretty close but they couldn’t get in.”

There’s a half-built camp for displaced people across the road from Babylon FM, a radio station that broadcasts Western pop music out of a two-story building in Ankawa. The building, which is filled with recording equipment, musical instruments and a wall display of expensive-looking video cameras, feels like it could be in any major U.S. city.

Station manager Noor Matti, 30, an Assyrian Christian, spent much of his youth in Detroit before returning to his hometown six years ago to start a business.

“Irbil is safer than Detroit,” he said. “It’s a fact.”

The city’s Christian and Muslim communities are tolerant of their differences, he said.

“People who don’t drink respect my right to drink,” he said. “We don’t have that in other parts of Iraq, where they have become more religious and extremist. Here, people are more open.”

Irbil today is the way all of Iraq was before the U.S. invasion, Matti said.

“There were bars all over the country,” he said. “My mom went on her honeymoon in Basra and wore a miniskirt.”

In his free time, Matti is raising funds from ex-patriot Assyrian Christian communities through a group he founded — the Shlama Foundation — to help the displaced arriving from the area around Mosul, where most of the Yazidis and Assyrians are from. Why not encourage them to stay in Kurdistan?

“These people aren’t rich enough to buy homes here,” Matti said. “They come from towns where the average house costs $25,000, and in Irbil the average is closer to $150,000.”

A better option would be an international force to secure the Nineveh plain, using the Tigris River as a natural barrier against the Sunni extremists, he said. If foreign governments aren’t willing to send peacekeepers, the U.S. should at least arm the peshmerga and provide them with air support to do the job, Matti said.

Source: http://www.stripes.com/news/iraqi-kurdistan-capital-s-prosperity-tolerance-threatened-by-islamic-state-1.301931

An Australian/Kurdish joint venture since 2009, Kurdistan Adventures combines local knowledge with Western tour operating management. We pride ourselves on immersing our small groups of travelers in Iraqi Kurdistan culture with safety, security and professionalism. Our 8 day escorted tour includes the 3 major cities of Dohuk, Erbil and Sulymaniyah. A dedicated local guide will take you to key historical sites, explain local customs, dine with you in traditional restaurants and allow you to experience this amazing culture. Citizens of many countries including Australia, New Zealand, the EU, Canada, the UK and the USA are granted a free visa on arrival.

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