This Morning In Kurdistan


When I first arrived in Iraq, I hid in a hotel room for a week. I didn’t understand that the Kurdistan Region is the ‘other Iraq’, the safe Iraq. My new employers had assured me, but then left me to my own devices in a grotty hotel under the citadel. I would take a brief walk every day, scoping my surroundings and getting used to the entirely new world of the Middle East. I had never planned to be here, and in those early days I thought only of my next move.
Over the following months, when I accepted that I was indeed in the safe Iraq, I started to make friends, both local and expats. I very quickly came to understand that to be Kurdish or Iraqi was to have a troubled recent history, and without exception families are scarred by loss resulting from one of the many terrible conflicts to have befallen the place over the last 40 years.
And now, personally affected by the current conflict, the advice of everyone I speak to is, “get out, go home, why would you stay when you have a British passport?”
For the first time, I’m considering leaving. As much as I love and respect those that have welcomed me over the last three and a half years, this isn’t my war. It isn’t theirs either, but I have an option. There is a new nervousness amongst expats, a feeling that perhaps the Peshmerga aren’t as skilled as we’ve been led to believe. More worryingly, Islamic State seems to be far more organised than anyone predicted. The ease with which they have pushed back Kurdish forces in Sinjar and surrounding areas, and the following horrors, is extremely disturbing. And if they take control of Mosul Dam, their power over anywhere downstream on the Tigris is complete. They can easily stifle agriculture. They can flood entire cities – and this is the frightening thing. Cities could be flooded by design, fuck knows these people are capable of such a monstrosity, but more likely by accident as they fail to maintain a dam so fragile that it needs constant maintenance and regrouting.
In the basement newsroom where I copy edit, this morning has been a grim roll call of Yazedis massacred in Sinjar (88 today alone), up to 2,000 women missing, and 8 children dying overnight on Sinjar Mountain, where those that have fled the town find themselves without food, water, medicines and the phone coverage cut by IS.
Yes, if I get offered the evacuation plan by my employer, I think I’ll take it.

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