ABOUT KURDISTAN REGION OF IRAQ
These are a few pictures of the beautiful Kurdistan Region. Special thanks to a very talented photographer, Mr. Farhad Ahmad Sharif for allowing us to use his images of the breathtaking Kurdish nature. The pictures of Erbil Citadel come from the High Commission for Erbil Citadel Revitalization.
The Kurdistan Region is an autonomous part of Iraq which borders Syria to the west, Iran to the east, and Turkey to the north. With a population of 5.2 million, it covers an area of approximately 40,000 square kilometers and comprises of three governorates of Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, and Duhok. The capital of the region is Erbil, a city known in the Kurdish language as Hawler (KRG, 2015).
PEOPLE AND LANGUAGE
The people living in the Kurdistan Region include Kurds as well as Assyrians, Chaldeans, Turkmen, Armenians, and Arabs. Apart from Iraq, there is a large population (estimated 25-35 million) of Kurdish people living in Turkey, Syria, Iran, and Armenia (KRG, 2015).
The Kurdistan Region’s official languages are Kurdish and Arabic but linguistic diversity and rights are supported and other languages are spoken by their respective communities. The majority of people in the Kurdistan Region are Sunni Muslims but there is also a large number of Christians and members of other religions such as Yezidism. The Kurdistan Regional Government protects people’s freedom to practice their religion and promotes inter-faith tolerance and the region is known for a peaceful cohabitation of people of various ethnic and religious backgrounds.
The ancient Erbil Citadel, an 8000-years-old settlement that is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, makes the city one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the world (UNESCO, 2015). The region is geographically diverse with hot and dry plains as well as cooler mountainous areas, and semi-arid continental climate with very hot and dry summers and cold and wet winters with snowfall at higher altitudes. The natural resources, especially oil and gas are substantial and represent an important part of region’s economy.
The contemporary history of Kurdish people is defined by a continuing struggle for autonomy. A 1920 treaty creating the states of Iraq, Syria, and Kuwait included a clause for an independent Kurdistan which was never implemented. The effort that followed by the Kurds to achieve independence failed and during the totalitarian regime of Saddam Hussein their situation worsened. The era was marked by oppression, persecution, ethnic cleansing, and genocide of the Kurds. During the Anfal campaign (1987-1989), the Iraqi government orchestrated the deaths of an estimated 180,000 Kurds and the destruction of 2000 Kurdish villages.
The retaliation against a Kurdish uprising in 1991 resulted in the displacement of tens of thousands of people. The UN enabled the return of many of the Kurdish people and in 1992, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) was established. A failure of power sharing agreements led to a four year civil war that ended in 1998.The fall of Saddam Hussain’s rule in 2003 and a national referendum of 2005, that recognized the Kurdistan Region's institutions including the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Kurdistan Parliament, strengthened the position of the region as an autonomous part of Iraq.
During the decade following 2003 change of regime the Kurdistan Region witnessed rapid economic growth that improved the standard of living and changed the position of Iraqi Kurdistan in the Middle East. Extensive business opportunities attracted national and international investment and transformed the region into a growing economic ‘hub’ of Iraq.
The development of the region was, however, interrupted again in 2014 by worsening political situation in Iraq and especially by a rise of a self-proclaimed radical Islamist group known as Islamic State (IS) which has seized large swathes of territory in Syria and across northern and western Iraq. Between 2015 and 2017 the regional situation was characterized by the national budget and political crisis between Kurdistan and Iraqi governments. In 2017 the Iraqi government declared victory against ISIS and the country started a process of recovery over again. Despite the complexity of the circumstances, the Kurdistan Region strives to continue its journey of development of a tolerant, democratic society that ensures peace and prosperity for all its citizens