Middle East must be re-designed

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By Payraw Anwar:

There has been no stability in the Middle East from the First World War until now; nothing has happened to remedy this. The Middle East, and the Arabian countries in particular, were divided and designed according to the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement by which three states (Britain, French and Russia) planned the division of the Ottoman Empire’s property.

Since creating this new political map, four issues emerged  – relating to religion, sectarianism, nationality and geography – and none has been solved yet, due to many reasons and, above all, because there was no real integration within those countries that were created according to the interests of the colonial powers.

Some countries have been multi-national, multi-sectarian and multi-religious, and this phenomenon has had an extraordinary impact in the domestic, regional and international arena, creating political dilemmas and continued unrest.  The diversity of political symbols and signs in the area has always been a cause of contradictions.

If we consider the political situation in Iraq in an historical context, we will realize that the invaders made a huge mistake in establishing such a state with its inherent tendency to paralysis. They did not consider any equations except their own interests; they wanted to organize their goals without reflecting and imagining would happen afterwards or what comes next politically. Drawing Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan etc… were outcomes of their mistakes.

Things will no longer stay according to this agreement and political map. This political marriage is done, it’s time is over, it does not work anymore. The Middle East should be re-designed; a new political map will be born soon; Iraq and Syria get divorces from their obligatory marriages.

The absence of key concepts – real democracy, tolerance, coexistence, handing over of power, freedom and fundamental rights – stymie the Middle East, with its lack of transparency and social justice, broad corruption and nepotism. Good governance and  reasonable livelihood standards must be part of the new political equation; additionally, not coercing nations and religions to live together if there is no real prospect of coexistence.

New states will appear based on nations, especially Shias and Sunnis. There is no choice except this option to provide stability. The Middle East must be redesigned once again, but correctly this time.

Payraw Anwar was born in Hawler, capital of the Kurdistan region, in 1989. He is a political writer and journalist.

Source: http://kurdistantribune.com/2014/middle-east-must-be-redesigned/

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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Australian Ambassador to Tehran commends Kurdistan for its role in defending its regions

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The representative of Kurdistan Regional Government in Tehran Nazim Omar Dabbagh, received today Australian Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Iran Paul Foley.

Both sides, during the meeting, discussed the current situation in Iraq and the region, where the Australian Ambassador commended Kurdistan Region for it’s the active role in defending its areas from terrorist attacks launched by insurgents belonging to the so called the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

Dabbagh for his part briefed the Ambassador on the current situation in Kurdistan Region and Iraq.

Source: http://176.28.52.138/EN/EN_Direje.aspx?Jimare=20898

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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John McCarthy in Iraqi Kurdistan

Ahead of a Radio Four documentary on Iraqi Kurdistan, John McCarthy visits the region and finds a pocket of calm in the tension-fraught Middle East.

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Kurdistan is managing to maintain its peaceful and secure atmosphere Photo: Alamy

The Machko teashop in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, feels as though it has been there for ever. Behind high, stained-glass doors, the main room is divided up by pillars and high arches hung with rugs and tassels. Between them are crammed wooden benches and low wooden tables. It’s early evening and the place is half full, but buzzing with conversation against a background of Arabic music from the PA system. Sweet tea and coffees arrive. My Kurdish colleague, Koshan, explains that the photographs covering the walls are of poets, artists and actors as well as of Kurdish leaders past and present. The tea shop has always been popular with artists and journalists, a place to sit, drink tea, smoke and exchange ideas and literature – there are bookshelves around the walls too. Older men in traditional baggy trousers talk less, concentrating instead on their backgammon, the clacking sound as they bang down their counters adding another rhythm. As we sip our tea a boy goes among the tables selling sandals.

It is early spring and the weather is warm. Outside on the terrace men sit smoking and looking across the square to where young couples and families walk between fountains or meander among the stalls of the market area.

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Men sit beneath the clocktower in Shar Garden Square, Erbil (Rex Features)

Next morning we return to the area and I see that each of the neighbourhood’s streets has its own focus: one contains only pharmacies, the next computers, another ironmongers. One lane is crammed with ceramics, another with second-hand furniture piled high on the pavements. Rising sheer above this area is the city’s ancient heart, the citadel. Claimed to be the oldest continuously inhabited town in the world, the citadel mound contains evidence of occupation as far back as the fifth millennium BC or even earlier. Sitting right at the heart of theMiddle East, Erbil has seen great civilisations come and go. The Assyrians, Medes, Romans, Parthians and Sassanid empires were here, and the Mongols seized the citadel before the Ottomans took control.

High walls of ochre-coloured stone ring the area. At first I assume these form a vast fortress, but in fact the walls are of individual houses. I walk along narrow, grassy lanes into courtyards and through decaying wooden doorways into chambers with arched windows looking out across the plain and the modern city below.

The citadel is now a Unesco World Heritage site and, while the rest of the city is developing ultra-modern architecture, here an army of workers are restoring the old buildings which were abandoned over the last century as people moved down to the newer areas.

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A Kurdish bulk foods grocer in Erbil’s bazaar district tends to his wares

Looking out from the edge of the citadel, modern Erbil spreads in all directions, with ring roads, matching the circular shape of the citadel hill, marking the continuing, rapid growth of the city. Just 20 years ago, most of this was open land and Erbil a very small city with open drains running through dusty streets.

Apartment and office blocks, hotels and malls are being built everywhere and many more are planned. The roads are busy with traffic, the armadas of the latest models of cars further evidence that Iraqi Kurdistan is enjoying economic growth.

Nevertheless, as the Mercedes and Land Rovers pause at the traffic lights, very young children tap on the windows hawking phone cards, lottery tickets and lighters. And for all the new malls and showrooms, there are still people sifting through the litter bins. The good times are not here for everyone.

The economic boom is largely based on the region’s oil wealth – Erbil has been described as being a new Dubai. But unlike Dubai and the other Gulf States, where the native population is small, with a vast number of foreign residents, here there are few visitors. The Kurds are friendly and confident, seeing themselves as a stable community in the midst of the growing conflict around them.

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Dokan lake and dam (Alamy)

Since my visit the situation in Iraq has become far more unstable and yet, for all the tension and violence in other parts of Iraq and in neighbouring countries, Kurdistan is managing to maintain its peaceful and secure atmosphere. While the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against all but essential travel to the rest of Iraq, the Kurdistan region is still deemed safe. Erbil has even been elected the Arab Tourism Capital for 2014.

As we hit the highway out of town it’s something of a shock to see road signs to Baghdad and Mosul, names that are redolent of conflict and chaos. We leave early, bound for the city of Suleymania. A roadside cafe offers a rather daunting breakfast of “soup”, a heavy stew of meat, onions and chillies. I opt for some bread and yoghurt. The cafe is a nondescript modern building, popular with truck drivers, served by youths under the command of a fierce, moustachioed man barking orders in a series of harsh shouts.

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John McCarthy in Kurdistan (Geoff Dunlop)

The highway crosses a landscape of rolling hills as we head south towards the deserts of Iraq. Oil wells dot the area, their gas flares burning bright into the blue sky. I’m alarmed to pass a sign saying “Welcome to Kirkuk”. At the time of my visit, in early March 2014, Kirkuk, though under the nominal control of the Iraqi army, was a lawless place racked by bombings and kidnappings. Koshan calmly points out another cafe that has recently been blown up. Today, of course, Kirkuk is in the hands of the Kurdish peshmerga militiamen, and peace, at least for the time being, has come to the town.

Suleymania is smaller than Erbil. Surrounded by mountains it feels more established, not a building site like so much of the capital. The modern city was established toward the end of the 18th century and has always been a centre for Kurdish artists and historians, as well as a focal point for Kurdish nationalism. Narrow streets, lined with stone buildings, follow the contours of the hillsides. On the edge of town lies Chavi Land, a massive theme park dominated by a Ferris wheel. Tourism has been growing here, mainly with visitors from other parts of Iraq, eager to escape the volatile atmosphere at home.

Walking the streets of central Suleymania at night, after an excellent meal of grilled fish served by uniformed and hair-netted waiters, we stop off at a tea shop filled with men smoking water pipes. Stared at for a moment or two, we are then given a friendly nod as the clientele go back to their pipes and cards.

The warm spring weather turns cooler and a drizzle of rain sets in as we head north from Suleymania, into the Zagros mountain range that forms a massive natural border between Iraq and Iran to the east and Turkey to the north. In the villages, old men wearing rankoochohar - traditional, loose-fitting overalls, the Kurdish equivalent of a shell-suit – and white turbans sit drinking tea, watching the world go by.

Driving across a wide valley where herds of sheep graze on grass of brilliant green, we suddenly slow down. Freshly gouged tracks lead to an overturned car beside the road. An elderly woman clambers from the vehicle, stands up and waves at us, apparently quite relaxed about this calamity.

Later, skirting the great lake of Dokan we pass road-side stalls, tended by women in black robes, selling large fish – perch, Koshan thinks – that are tied up with string. Further on, boys hold up bunches of narcissi for sale.

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The Chavi Land theme park attracts visitors from across Iraq

Sangasar is a thriving little market town, but it is also a place that is still shadowed by the horrors of Saddam Hussein’s treatment of the Kurds. The local mullah takes time out from preparing his address for Friday prayers to tell us that in the late 1980s his village, along with thousands of others, was regularly attacked by Saddam’s forces and that ultimately all the inhabitants were forced on to trucks and taken south and dumped in the desert wastes of Iraq. Before being shipped out they had to watch the destruction of their homes. This was all part of the dictator’s plan to remove the Kurds from the areas bordering his enemy, Iran.

The story is harrowing and heartbreaking. Yet the family and their neighbours outlasted Saddam and have returned and rebuilt their town and are welcoming to strangers. No wonder the Kurds are confident – their resilience and commitment to their homeland has placed them on the threshold of establishing their own independent state.

In times of trouble the Kurds have always found sanctuary in the mountains. Driving up narrow gorges past woods of dwarf oaks, with the snow still on the peaks high above us, I can easily understand how a people would find safety in these remote places, and appreciate their love of this beautiful, rugged landscape.

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Square with water fountains below the citadel of Erbil

Their confidence comes not only from a clear and strong sense of their identity and their belonging here, but from the prospects of a bright future. The roots of prosperity, so clearly on show in Erbil, can be seen at the border town of Zakho. Here thousands of trucks cross to and fro between Kurdistan and Turkey. Political relations between the Kurds and the Turkish government have improved greatly and that is due, in large part, to the developing trade connections. Turkey is buying Kurdish oil, and exports of goods to Kurdistan are an important part of the Turkish economy.

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Giant statue of Mubarek Ahmed Sharafaddin in front of the citadel of Erbil. Photo: Michael Runkel/Robert Hardin/REX

Having marvelled at the lines of trucks heading in both directions and reeling somewhat from the diesel fumes, we have lunch of grilled chicken and salad at a restaurant on the banks of the Little Khabur River. From our table we enjoy the beautiful span of the Delal Bridge, which dates back to Roman times. On the cobbled approach to the bridge a dozen young men, students from University of Zakho, gather around their cars. Music starts and the youths line up, arms around each other’s shoulders. And they move from side to side, turning and clapping in a traditional Kurdish dance. Kurdistan is a happy, vibrant place.

John McCarthy’s documentary, Kurdistan: A State of Uncertainty, will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 8pm on Tuesday July 22.

Packages

Tour operators offering escorted group trips and tailor-made tours to Iraqi Kurdistan include Explore (0843 634 6519), Adventures Abroad (+1 800 665 3998), Wild Frontiers (020 7736 3968) and Patrick Syder Travel (01903 879737). As John McCarthy explains, the FCO advises against travel to much of Iraq, but currently imposes no restrictions on travel to the Kurdistan region (Erbil, Suleymania and Dohuk provinces).

Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/middleeast/iraq/10968129/John-McCarthy-in-Iraqi-Kurdistan.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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Reporter’s Notebook: The Soul of Kurdistan, Preserved

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A view of the citadel in central Irbil. (Jeffrey Young July 15, 2014 2:56 AM)

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Irbil, Kurdistan, northern Iraq today is a gleaming city growing daily toward the sky. But the soul of this city, and of Kurdistan, is held in a special place high above today’s frenetic development and streets filled with new luxury cars.

More than 4,000 years ago, maybe longer, people in what is now Kurdistan, looked up at a steep hill and decided that it would be the perfect place to build a citadel, and within it, establish a settlement.

Long before the time of the Prophet Mohammed, and many of those spoken of in the Bible, this place on the hill was named in honor of four Gods that people there worshipped.  This settlement was called “Arba Ilo” – Arabic for “Four Gods” – which, of course, became the name Irbil. Or, as spelled sometimes, Erbil.

The founders of Arba Ilo were smart strategists.  As you can see in the photos, the citadel’s hill is so steep that horses could not climb it to enable attacks. And, the height of the hill made arrows useless.  Gunpowder, and cannons to use it, only came in the last 500 years. So for some 3,500 years, the only way to defeat those in the citadel was to starve them out.  In the 1300s, Mongol invaders laid siege to the citadel for 45 days without success, though the part of Irbil at the foot of the mount was shattered.  Life was fairly secure.

The citadel was built of mud brick, baked in ovens until strong.  The weather was kept out of its buildings and homes with roofs made of thick limbs from trees, covered with palm fronds in crisscrossed layers, and covered again with other vegetation and earth.  So close to the sky, yet, sealed from its intrusions.

From the citadel, roads fanned out to Turkey and Persia, placing Irbil in the crossroads of regional commerce, which gave Irbil purpose, and prosperity.  Fertile valleys not far away provided the food that nourished this settlement, while the Tigris flows nearby to the west.

Countless generations walked the narrow streets of the citadel, their children becoming the parents of more.  And, slowly, the ground around the steep mount began to become filled with more inhabitants as the city evolved into the predecessor of itself today.

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A view from inside the citadel.

As time went on through the centuries, the citadel remained the center of Irbil, though its importance slowly declined. By the 20th century, it still held inhabitants, but fewer and fewer as the decades went on.

I first climbed the hill to the citadel and walked its streets in 2004.  There were still families there, along with their chickens and a few goats. The buildings by then had been worn down by wind and time, some of them now collapsed into crumbles.  But to all in Irbil, it was still the center of their city, and history. Walking about, I deeply felt the soul of this place, and sensed the footsteps of thousands, over the millennia, who also scuffed the dust that had been there since Ibrahim.

When I returned in 2005, I saw families there again, but even in one year there had been more of it lost.  It was a place where those remaining were largely poor, unable to buy into the prosperous city that lay at the citadel’s base.

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Another view from inside the citadel.

Wanting to begin the arduous challenge of restoring this most ancient place, the Kurdistan Regional Government decided in 2007 that it was time to empty the citadel of its inhabitants.  The government provided new places for them to live, and other assistance. And once they departed, the citadel was left for the winds to carry little grains of it to places far away.

Preserving and restoring something 4,000 years old of hard mud was an arduous challenge.  Slowly, carefully, its gates and buildings had to be taken apart brick by brick, and then reassembled with new mortar and wood.  Everything, of course, is so fragile – so each little piece had to be worked on by hand. The tap of a hammer could be fatal.

By 2014 the work was well underway.  Significant parts of it, such as its massive main gate, have been reconstructed to look the way they’ve always been. But there are still many crumbled parts to put back together.

Just recently, the efforts of the citadel’s preservationists have been given a profoundly important recognition.  UNESCO, the United Nations agency, has now declared Irbil’s citadel to be a World Heritage Site. This brings new energy, money, and attention to the task of bringing the citadel back to life.

Source: http://www.voanews.com/content/reporters-notebook-soul-kurdistan-preserved/1957609.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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Remains of Long-Lost Temple Discovered in Iraq

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Life-size human statues and the remains of an ancient temple dating back some 2,500 years have been discovered in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. The region’s hilly environment, shown here. Credit: Photo courtesy Dlshad Marf Zamua

Life-size human statues and column bases from a long-lost temple dedicated to a supreme god have been discovered in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq.

The discoveries date back over 2,500 years to the Iron Age, a time period when several groups — such as the Urartians, Assyrians and Scythians — vied for supremacy over what is now northern Iraq.

“I didn’t do excavation, just archaeological soundings —the villagers uncovered these materials accidentally,” said Dlshad Marf Zamua, a doctoral student at Leiden University in the Netherlands, who began the fieldwork in 2005. The column bases were found in a single village  while the other finds, including a bronze statuette of a wild goat, were found in a broad area south of where the borders of Iraq, Iran and Turkey intersect. [See Photos of the Life-Size Statues & Other Discoveries in Iraq]

For part of the Iron Age, this area was under control of the city of Musasir, also called Ardini, Marf Zamua said. Ancient inscriptions have referred to Musasir as a “holy city founded in bedrock” and “the city of the raven.”

A lost ancient temple

“One of the best results of my fieldwork is the uncovered column bases of the long-lost temple of the city of Musasir, which was dedicated to the god Haldi,” Marf Zamuatold Live Science in an email. Haldi was the supreme god of the kingdom of Urartu. His temple was so important that after the Assyrians looted it in 714 B.C., the Urartu king Rusa I was said to have ripped his crown off his head before killing himself.

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A 19th-century drawing of an ancient relief that depicts the sacking of the temple of Haldi by the Assyrians. Credit: Drawing by Eugène Flandin, in public domain

He “threw himself on the ground, tore his clothes, and his arms hung limp. He ripped off his headband, pulled out his hair, pounded his chest with both hands, and threw himself flat on his face …” reads one ancient account (translation by Marc Van De Mieroop).

The location of the temple has long been a mystery, but with the discovery of the column bases, Marf Zamua thinks it can be narrowed down. [Photos: Ancient Temple Discovered in Turkey]

Additionally, Marf Zamua analyzed an ancient carving of Musasir, discovered in the 19th century at Khorsabad. The carving, he found, shows hillside houses with three windows on the second floor and a doorway on the ground floor. Such a design can still be seen today in some villages, the bottom floor being used as a stable and storage area, he noted.

Life-size statues

This long-lost temple is just the tip of the archaeological iceberg. During his work in Kurdistan, Marf Zamua also found several life-size human statues that are up to 7.5 feet (2.3 meters) tall. Made of limestone, basalt or sandstone, some of these statues are now partly broken.

They all show bearded males, some of whom “are holding a cup in their right hands, and they put their left hands on their bellies,” said Marf Zamua. “One of them holds a hand ax. Another one put on a dagger.”

Originally erected above burials, the statues have a “sad moment” posture, Marf Zamua said. Similar statues can be found from central Asia to eastern Europe. “It is art and ritual of nomads/pastorals, especially when they [buried] their chieftains,” Marf Zamua said.

Mostof the newfound statues date to the seventh or sixth century B.C., after Musasir fell to the Assyrians, and during a time when the Scythians and Cimmerians were advancing through the Middle East.

Modern-day dangers and ancient treasures

Over the past few weeks, conflict in Iraq has been increasing as a group called the “Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant” (ISIS) has taken several cities and threatened to march on Baghdad. The Kurdistan area, including this archaeological site, is autonomous, and its militia has been able to prevent ISIS from entering it.

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Several life-sized human statues of bearded males, dating back to the seventh or sixth centuries B.C., have also been discovered in Kurdistan. Credit: Photo courtesy Dlshad Marf Zamua

Marf Zamuasaid there are risks associated with living and working in the border area. Due to the conflicts of the past few decades, there are numerous unexploded land mines, one of which killed a young shepherd a month back, he said. Additionally the National Iraqi News Agency reports that Iranian artillery recently fired onto the Iraqi side of the border, and there have been past instances where planes from Turkey have launched attacks into Iraqi Kurdistan.

Despite these risks, there are also terrific archaeological finds to be made. In addition to the statues and column bases, Marf Zamuafound a bronze statuette of a wild goat about 3.3 inches (8.4 centimeters) long and 3.2 inches (8.3 cm) tall. Researchers are now trying to decipher a cuneiform inscription on the statuette.

Marf Zamua presented the discoveries recently in a presentation given at the International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East, held at the University of Basel in Switzerland. In addition to his doctoral studies, Marf Zamua teaches at Salahaddin University in Erbil, which is the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Source: http://www.livescience.com/46674-remains-of-long-lost-temple-discovered-in-iraq.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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OP-ED: Iraqi Kurdistan: A Silver Lining in the Iraq Invasion

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By Sarah Sult

If you were to travel to Iraqi Kurdistan (which is safer than many neighborhoods of U.S. cities) you will not only see U.S flags and framed pictures of George W. Bush, you’ll actually meet younger generation Kurds named “Bush.”

It’s their way to thank the the United States, its military, and the U.S. President that gave 7 million Kurds their freedom from the iron hand of Sadaam’s psychopathic crime family.

All signs show that the Kurds are beginning to prosper, live in peace, and — are you ready?– are actually considering allowing workers to join labor unions.

There are no death squads, no roadside bombs, no beheadings, no eye gouging, or stoning.

They have a representative form of government, emancipated women, scientific inquiry, and religious tolerance.

True, there are reported incidents of corruption, cronyism, and a handful of extremists in parts of Kurdistan — things that are alive and well in our 238 year old Republic. Still, good news.

Now the bad news for many mainline Protestant denominations:  Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani recently discussed strengthening relations with Israel by possibly opening a consulate in Erbil.

While many of my Christian friends are hurrying to reconvene their national conventions to condemn Kurdistan and add it to their list of divestments for recognizing Israel, others — myself included — will be welcoming Kurdistan to the list of civilized regions of the world.

Admittedly this is a — if not the only — silver lining in the Iraq invasion of 2003.

Source: http://www.huntingtonnews.net/90733

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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Kurdish-American Filmmaker Brings Kurdistan to Hollywood

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Kurdish-American filmmaker Jano Rosebiani (center) with actors Ghazi Ghefur (priest) and Ismail Salih (Mella Issa). Photo courtesy of Evini Films By Joshua Thaisen

LOS ANGELES – The premier of two Kurdish films in Hollywood this week may help bridge the cultural divide between Kurdistan and the West. Kurdish-American filmmaker Jano Rosebiani touches on topics of equality, love, relationships and the progressive attitudes of youth culture in Kurdistan.

“Chaplin of the Mountain” and “One Candle, Two Candles” are the first English-language films to be shot in the Kurdistan Region, an autonomous Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq, and the war-torn country’s only peaceful and prospering portion. Both movies are honest reflections of daily life in Kurdistan, and highlight its natural beauty.

“All these scenes could be real, I wanted to show life as is, and therefore the idea was to shoot documentary style,” Rosebiani told Rudaw.

Strong female leads in both films highlight the growing pains of feminine identity, through conflict with conservative opinions in Kurdistan.  As director, Rosebiani weaves a local and foreign cast into stories that transcend borders and take on a globalized view of social issues.

“Americans see it as an American film and Kurds describe it as a Kurdish film,” the filmmaker said. He emphasized that his effort is to try and steer away from the traditional style of Kurdish cinema, which is “usually about atrocities and trying to gain viewer sympathy.”

“Chaplin of the Mountain” is about two American film students running a social experiment, screening Charlie Chaplin films in remote villages in the Kurdish mountains. They run across a half-French, half-Kurdish girl who is on a quest to find her family’s village. The story highlights a journey of friendship and self-discovery through authentic interactions with local communities in the mountains.

“One Candle, Two Candles” spotlights the sexual revolution of Kurdish women who are fighting for marriage equality and empowerment. The film follows the story of a young woman who is resisting conservative culture in her exploration of love.

Rosebiani predicts that the themes of love and life will be received well by Kurdish audiences.

“Life without love is death,” he said. “The Kurds have always been threatened by death, but nonetheless, they’re resilient, they get on their feet. It’s always about the continuation of life,” he explained.

And he has an optimistic outlook on the future of Kurdish cinema.

“I think, because we have so many stories to tell the world, Kurdish people in my view are very creative. I spent eight years in Kurdistan, where many young people were making short films left and right, without any prior education. I don’t see that even here, in America!” he said.

“I think the future is bright. But it takes a little time for it to find its base, because the politicians, government, and institutions have to understand the value of cinema. There has to be better support. Kurdistan is still in the making in every aspect of life.”

Despite living in the United States, Rosebiani still identifies strongly with his Kurdish roots.

“I grew up in a small town called Zakho, on the border of Turkey and Iraq. I left and joined the 1974 uprising at 14. At 15 I was a refugee, and at 16 I was in the States under political asylum. I didn’t lose my Kurdishness, and did not forget the language.”

Rosebiani returned to Kurdistan after the 1991 Gulf War so he could “relearn the cultural aspects of the Kurds,” and begin retelling their stories in motion theatre.

Both films are currently previewing in theatres, and are expected to screen in Kurdistan in late July.

Source: http://rudaw.net/english/culture/27062014

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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Kurdish zone an oasis of ‘good news’ in beleaguered Iraq

ERBIL, Iraq — Sectarian fighting of a most ruthless kind is occurring literally down the road from here in Mosul and Tikrit, where Sunni ultra-fundamentalists with a brutal medieval credo have taken over.

But all is serene in Iraqi Kurdistan which is guarded by the Peshmerga militia, whose reputation across the Middle East as ferocious warriors is akin to how Nepal’s renowned Gurkhas have long been regarded.

Whether the Kurdish autonomous region sticks with Iraq or, as virtually every Kurd hopes, bolts and declares its independence from Baghdad, the midterm and long-term economic prospects of this mostly mountainous region are dazzling.

It’s all about oil, of course. Vast proven reserves have been waiting to be exploited in foothills that look identical to those west of Calgary. And a huge pool of even cheaper-to-reach oil is still being discovered.

“Every day there is the surprise of more good news,” said Hiwa Hiwa Arif Haziz, general manager of Mapcom, a Kurdish company that supplies major oil companies with environmental and mapping services as well as topographical land surveys. “It turns out there is much more oil than anybody suspected.”

That prospect informs a recent report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, part of the company behind The Economist magazine, that paints a guardedly optimistic future for the six million Iraqi Kurds.

Even before Sunni extremists with dreams of an Islamic caliphate seized nearly a third of the country, Kurdistan was rated higher than Iraq in six categories examined by the EIU. Kurdistan was judged to be something like China, Thailand, Brazil or Argentina, while Iraq was ranked alongside Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Afghanistan.

Despite being in one of the most volatile parts of the Middle East, “people come in and out all the time and feel safe,” said John Downe, the British managing partner of Azure Serviced Offices, which has contracts in Erbil with leading Asian, European and North American companies involved directly or indirectly in the energy business.

Because of estimated reserves of 45 billion barrels, the big international players such as Exxon, Chevron, Total, Gulf Keystone, Marathon and Gazprom have invested as much as $20 billion over the past few years, helping to fuel an annual growth rate of about eight per cent.

Two Calgary-based companies, Talisman Energy and WesternZagros Resources, have significant interests in two Kurdish oilfields. WesternZagros expects to be producing 10,000 barrels a day of light, sweet oil by the end of the year from one field and has discovered about one billion barrels of oil in an adjacent field, according to a company statement.

In another sign that the Kurdish part of Iraq is considered a reasonable place to do business, Canada opened a trade office in February at a luxury hotel in Erbil.

“What is happening is that this region is moving from a development boom to a production boom,” Downe said. “That is a transition that needs to take place.”

With no visa required for western visitors to the Kurdish part of Iraq, a dozen airlines — including heavyweights such as Lufthansa, Emirates Airlines and Turkish Airlines — now have direct flights.

Until very recently the Kurds have had serious problems because the government in Baghdad has regarded itself as the master of Kurdistan’s energy resources. But Iraq’s claims were gravely weakened two weeks ago when its army, rather than face Sunni extremists, deserted its posts around the vast oilfields at Kirkuk, a majority-Kurdish city just outside the Kurdish autonomous zone. The Peshmerga, who number nearly 200,000, seamlessly filled the defensive gap, which has effectively put Kurds in charge of everything.

“It is a transitional state coming out of a conflict situation, but there is pre-Mosul and post-Mosul and there is no going back now,” Downe said of the political earthquake that has occurred since Mosul was lost to the insurgents.

Relations with Turkey, which has long been in conflict with its own Kurdish minority, have suddenly thawed over the past year with a few senior Turkish officials hinting for the first time that their country would recognize an independent Iraqi Kurdistan. This shift in sentiment has allowed Iraqi Kurds to open a pipeline to Turkey. Their first tanker shipload of crude was sold to Israel, via Turkey, with Ankara taking an undisclosed cut.

“I think that relations with Turkey are perfect now. It was never like this before,” Haziz said. “Thousands of Turkish companies have investments here. Because of these economic ties, they are interested in keeping good relations.”

Washington has long been opposed to Kurdish independence because of the U.S. preference for a united Iraq. But since the disgraceful performance of Iraq’s army this month, the United States has acknowledged that the map of Iraq is being drastically redrawn.

“Just look at where the Peshmerga is now compared to where they were two weeks ago,” a State Department briefer has been quoted as telling reporters during Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Baghdad Monday. “Not so much out of a deliberate move, but out of just the exigency of the situation. Some facts on the ground can be created that might not be reversed.”

Source: http://o.canada.com/news/kurdish-zone-an-island-of-good-news-in-beleaguered-iraq

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 Jun 2014

Kurdistan Adventures wishes to make a statement regarding the recent wave of violence in Iraq.

Firstly it is important to recognise that the Kurdistan Region has maintained its territorial integrity since the latest terrorist insurgency swept though cities and towns south of the agreed border between Iraqi-Kurdistan and Federal Iraq. Kurdish Security Forces mainly the Peshmerger have actually moved forward past the recognised southern border and occupied a number of cities and towns to create an increased buffer zone to shield Kurdistan from the violence taking place between the Islamic insurgents and the central government led Iraqi Army. A number of public statements have been made from the insurgent leadership that their fight is not with the predominantly Sunni Kurdistan Region but with the Shia led government in Baghdad.

You will note that most of the primary news agencies are broadcasting their news reports from Erbil the capital of the Kurdistan Region for one reason only, because of the continued safety and security the Kurdistan Region offers. Having said that, Kurdistan Adventures fully understands that the ongoing situation will be a cause of concern for our partners and this in turn may cause stress to pending or future clients considering travel to Kurdistan and we anticipate cancellations in the short term as a result of this unfortunate situation. This is totally understandable.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) continues to highlight the fact there has not been a single security incident against any foreigners in the Kurdistan Region since the initial U.S. led invasion in 2003.

Kurdistan Adventures has been able to operate safely for nearly five years and in turn share the wonderful region of Kurdistan with people from all around the world and we are confident of doing so into the future.

Finally, it is worth noting that the none of the US, UK, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand governments have changed their travel advice for the Kurdistan Region and that they continue to recognise the security situation is distinct from the rest of Iraq.

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.

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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Kurdistan Hopeful of Adding Erbil Citadel to UNESCO Heritage List

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More than 300 of the Citadel’s ancient houses are being restored according to precise architectural standards, and excavation is underway to dig deeper into the city’s history. Photo Rudaw

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Kurdistan Region of Iraq, which is trying to develop as a tourist destination, hopes to add the ancient Citadel of Erbil to UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.

“The High Committee for Erbil Citadel states that it is still hopeful for the UNESCO World Heritage Sites to include the ancient Citadel of Erbil in their well-regarded list as the UN body convenes later this month,” said the committee in a statement.

It also denied news that UNESCO has rejected Erbil’s bid for membership before the June convention.

“In recent days, the Kurdish media outlets reported that the non-governmental organization of ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) has rejected Erbil Citadel’s bid for membership, since the Citadel did not meet the criteria required for such association,” said the statement.

It explained that, while ICOMOS is associated with UNESCO, it does not take the decision to include a site or a monument in the UNESCO list.

The statement also added that ICOMOS representatives had visited the Kurdistan Region and completed a report on behalf of UNESCO about the Erbil Citadel, in which they made recommendations to Kurdish authorities about preservation and promotion of the Citadel.

“The High Committee for Erbil Citadel will continue its work, but also implement the recommendations of the ICOMOS. It is our aim to include the Citadel in the list of the World Heritage Sites as soon as it becomes possible. The World Heritage Sites will convene in June this year, but even if the decision is not made then, we hope it will include our Erbil Citadel into its list in the future conventions,” the statement said.

The Erbil Citadel is recognized as the world’s longest continuously-inhabited city, dating back more than 7,000 years. In addition, Kurdistan has a rich heritage of 3,000 known archaeological sites.

In 2007, officials established the High Commission for Erbil Citadel Revitalization, which subsequently signed an agreement with UNESCO to implement a “Conservation Master Plan.”   More than 300 of its houses are being restored according to precise architectural standards, and excavation is underway to dig deeper into the city’s history.

Erbil has been nominated the Arab Tourism Capital of 2014. The Kurdistan Region envisages luring seven million visitors in a strategic plan for 2013-2025, with expected earnings of $2.17 billion from tourism.

The number of tourists visiting the Kurdistan Region has already risen by 30 percent and among them are more Europeans and Americans, according to data from the Kurdistan Board of Tourism.

Kurdistan remains an anomaly for its security, stability and economic boom, as the rest of Iraq writhes in an unending cycle of violence and devastation.

Source: http://rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/030620142

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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