The Other Iraq
November 15, 2005 7:16 AM   Subscribe

The Other Iraq: "The Government and the peoples of Kurdistan invite you to discover their peaceful region, a place that has practiced democracy for over a decade, a place where the universities, markets, cafes and fair grounds buzz with progress and prosperity and where the people are already sowing the seeds of a brighter future." via Sterling
posted by signal (32 comments total)
Iraq was pretty much developed by British imperialists and not the people actually living in Iraq. Its really three countries stuffed into one.
posted by j-urb at 7:32 AM on November 15, 2005

Thanks. That's a neat site about a very special and impressive people. They set a good example about what Could Be.
posted by dios at 7:33 AM on November 15, 2005

A positive Iraq post, nice one!

Now if we'd helped these guys properly after the Kuwaiti invasion we might be in a completely different situation right now.

Unfortunately these people will never get full autonomy as turkey would not be well pleased.

j-urb, you are right on the money. Iraq should not be a single state and it's unlikely it will ever succeed as a democracy because of this.
posted by twistedonion at 7:36 AM on November 15, 2005

sorry to any Turks, that should be a capital T
posted by twistedonion at 7:37 AM on November 15, 2005

But you have to credit the Kurds immensely with their concessions to Iraq. After Saddam went down, they had the opportunity to demand independence and had the only standing army in Iraq with which they could have assured it. But they didn't go that way. While they have struggled for their own country for decades, when they time came, they sublimated their desire for the good of Iraq and participated in the unification of it, only asking that they have some degree of local sovereignty---kind of like the US's federalism structure. I think these people should be applauded for their good will.
posted by dios at 7:42 AM on November 15, 2005

this reminds me of the fake site that chip set up with his latvian friend in the corrections.

this is another in a long link of countries (and cities, ie flint michigan) "offering themselves up" to investors (sometimes foreign, sometimes not) in a hilarious way, whoring themselves and whatever community they have to the vagaries of neoliberal development which inevitably will decimate local infrastructure (it obviously won't pay taxes, etc) and increase the gulf between rich and poor, in the name of "economic security."

Q. Is there already a trend among the youth that they 'must have' the latest mobile phones?

Yes, very much so. International visitors to Kurdistan are surprised to experience how modern, liberal and forward thinking the region is. We have education for all, equality in our schools and civil service and have had access to regional and international media for many years now. In the near future it will not be good enough to simply have a phone or home internet connection, Kurdish consumers, including the youth and businesses, will want the best and will be able to afford it.

posted by yonation at 7:43 AM on November 15, 2005

Right now, while Turkey is negotiating for entry into the EU, and the US is starting to realize the impossibility of the task it has taken on, would be the right time for Kurdistan to push for independence. Turkey will splutter and fume but do nothing, and the US will jump at the chance to say that a big chunk of Iraq has achieved self-determination and democracy, and gosh, it's all thanks to us dontcher know. But just because they can doesn't mean they should -- surrounded by hostility on all sides, leaving Iraq would mean moving out of the spotlght -- a tiny, landlocked country with few friendsm, not accessible except through someone else's territory -- they might not last long.

The middle course that they're taking now may be the wisest.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:47 AM on November 15, 2005

whoring themselves and whatever community they have

Better to whore yourself than be forcibly raped. At least a whore can pick and choose.
posted by twistedonion at 7:47 AM on November 15, 2005

I've long had a dream of moving out of the US and opening a tongue-in-cheek "american" style restaurant, but I never could decide where to start it, and what to call it...

Now I know, I'll start it in Kurdistan and call it "You're Welcome"
posted by illovich at 7:50 AM on November 15, 2005

Perhaps whore is incorrect, then. Everything on the site reads like prospectii for liberalizing former USSR republics in the early 90s, for argentina and much of south america in the 80s, and so forth. It is being raped, in a way, because in order to somehow gain traction in a world oriented towards money and derivatives-trading, they must offer "free trade zones" (unregulated, untaxed money havens often referred to as EPZ, export processing zones) as well as sell off all national assets to foreign investors in order to get loans from IMF and the world bank. these loans, which could do a lot of good, come with so many books of conditions and terms that they end up ruining the countries and causing economic meltdowns. see the condition of argentina, of russia right now, of burma and the phillipines, and how countries that used to be poorer at least had social services, and now they have none.
posted by yonation at 7:51 AM on November 15, 2005

I do completely agree with what you are saying yonation, my personal thoughts though are that they are at least attempting to work the system for the good of their people. What other option is there for them to take in the current climate?

The other issue is that they aren't an autonomous country so they probably don't have a direct say in the economics of their region (I may be wrong there though)
posted by twistedonion at 7:58 AM on November 15, 2005

Might I point out that this website *IS* a step towards independence.

Most of the world has no idea that Kurdistan exists. It's a country that's not on any map because of political reasons, but that's a small distinction. Otherwise it's self-contained and self-governing. (and hell, even Saddam left them alone) But no one outside of the region (or political geeks) really knows about it.

By putting up this site and trying to woo investors, they're basically attempting to increase recognition of themselves as a country and thus work towards official recognition. If they have major businesses partnering with "Kurdistan" rather than "Iraq" then they've made some serious steps forward towards official recognition.
posted by InnocentBystander at 7:59 AM on November 15, 2005

Potential Republican meme for Iraq in time for the 2006 elections: 1 out of 3 ain't bad.

The Kurds are an interesting people, but as long as America thinks it has an ally in Turkey, they're going to have to rely on themselves for development. Stuff like this seems like a pretty good idea.
posted by bardic at 8:17 AM on November 15, 2005

So this is what democracy looks like? hmm...
posted by nofundy at 8:24 AM on November 15, 2005

A maintenance guy at my former job was Kurdish. Best résumé ever: "Former occupation: Freedom Fighter".

He was utterly cynical about the Western powers, as any Kurd who knew history might be. In his lifetime, he had been labelled both a terrorist and freedom fighter by their security forces. He's a generally nice and literate person, but if you ask him about the Gulf War, he's fine with it, "as long as it kills Arabs!"

Not to take away from the achievements of Kurdistan, but The Other Iraq isn't all happy democratic kiddies either.
posted by brevity at 8:36 AM on November 15, 2005

Hey, is that Ahmad Chalabi in the first movie? The guy in the suit in the office.
posted by brevity at 8:38 AM on November 15, 2005

I had no idea Kurdistan was so cool! As soon as they open a Disney Park, I'm there.
posted by JeffK at 8:39 AM on November 15, 2005

I've always wanted to travel through wild Kurdistan.
posted by MotherTucker at 9:04 AM on November 15, 2005

<PointlessPedanticPoliticalPoint>Successes are not 1 of 3- The Kurds already had autonomy before we invaded and our occupation is irrelevant. As for the other 2, depends on how you count- The Shiites are doing well, and as they set up an Islamic state we can proudly claim to be Osama's star subcontractors. The Sunni area is a success for the U.S. military industrial complex- we wrecked their economy and gave them political chaos, so in steps Arab oil money and religious radicals. They'll make excellent cannon fodder for the never ending war on terror.</PointlessPedanticPoliticalPoint>

OK, back to the wry mefi angle and avoidance of political threads.
posted by efbrazil at 9:26 AM on November 15, 2005

The *other*, other Iraq:

Kind of a Hey!, we're here too! website.
posted by kablam at 9:29 AM on November 15, 2005

"But you have to credit the Kurds immensely with their concessions to Iraq."

Actually, no... no you don't. It's an error to suggest that they could've just separated from Iraq after the war, as they had tens of thousands of Turks on the border with heavy weaponry who were mobilized and ready to invade. The Kurds, comparatively, had little to no heavy weaponry, and most of what they did have was outdated. They also had next to no air force.

Instead, the Kurds have been playing for time, courting the Americans to get themselves armed, equipped, and capable of defending themselves. They have still yet to receive any substantial amount of heavy weaponry, however.

To suggest that they are "only asking that they have some degree of local sovereignty" is uninformed and disingenuous. They want independence. They also want to establish themselves as the rulers of Kirkuk, a city rich in oil where they are currently a minority. This may change, however, as thousands of Kurds are reportedly moving to the city, dislocating others who settled there in the past.
posted by insomnia_lj at 10:12 AM on November 15, 2005

That is incorrect insomnia. One has to only look at the actual concessions to know that you are wrong.

They did in fact make concessions. They didn't refuse to come to the table and demand independence. They are working hard to develop a Constitution for Iraq that is pluarlistic and utilizes federalism.

They could have sat the whole thing out. But they didn't. They are working for a strong Iraq. But your logic is that they want that, then they are going to try to for indepedence? Nonsense.

Kurdistan has its own army. Whether they could defend against a Turkish envasion is questionable. But they also have support from the US there, and it is for damn certain that Turkey was not going to invade Kurdistan to grab it with the US army there and with Turkey making a push to join the EU.

The fact remains, the Kurds had the golden opportunity after Saddam fell. They could have demanded sovereingty safe in the knowledge that the US was there to protect them and that there was no government in place. Along the way they have had plenty of opportunities to sabatoge the whole process. But they didn't. Instead, they have made concessions and worked hard to build a unified Iraq.

Those are the facts.
posted by dios at 10:53 AM on November 15, 2005

The Barzani family and Talabani have ruled their Kurds virtually unchallenged for the longest time. Democracy does not exist up there.

As for the Turks on the border, they are, and have been inside of Kurdish Iraq for years. Seen it with my own two eyes.
posted by gman at 10:54 AM on November 15, 2005

Democracy does not exist up there.

What are you talking about? They have a democratically elected parliment.
posted by dios at 11:11 AM on November 15, 2005

Not sure if you are talking about the farce which took place earlier this year, or the fact that prior to this, there were only two real parties - KDP and PUK. Depending on your geographic location, you either wore a red kafia to show your support of Barzani, or a black one for Talabani. Either way, really.
posted by gman at 11:38 AM on November 15, 2005

oh, and btw, the Peshmerga are a rag tag army capable of defending nothing from the Turks who are already inside Northern Iraq.
posted by gman at 11:43 AM on November 15, 2005

gman, since 1992 there has been an entity called the Iraqi Kurdistan National Assembly. There were more political parties than the KDP and PUK. But I will point out the silliness in suggesting that there is something undemocratic about there being two main parties, and that they may self-identify as Red states vs Blue states Black. But there are multiple parties, including a communist party. And these parties run candidates, just like other democratic places. And women were ran and were elected. Women ran for judgeships and won spots on the bench (they have an indepedent judiciary there, too).

The Peshmerga is a military that, as I said, was the only military in Iraq after Bremer's action. It could have defended itself in a declaration of independence against Iraq. On the other hand, your continued suggestion that the Turks were (you are saying now are?) ready to invade and grab Kurdistan is incorrect in that the US made it clear the US would repulse such an invasion. The Turks aren't going to start a war with the US to grab Iraqi Kurdistan, nor are they going to shoot their bid for EU membership in the foot for it.

What do you benefit from downplaying the positive realities of Northern Iraq that have developed since 1992? It is something to be applauded, but you seem dead set on discrediting it.
posted by dios at 12:34 PM on November 15, 2005

"only two real parties - KDP and PUK"

Not like America, right?
posted by lalochezia at 12:35 PM on November 15, 2005

"The Peshmerga is a military that, as I said, was the only military in Iraq after Bremer's action."

That is only true if you discount the paramilitary forces of the Badr Brigades and of Sadr's Mahdi Army.

As for democracy in Kurdistan, it should be pointed out that everyone in that place are forced by institutional pressure to have a picture up in their houses/businesses of Talabani / Barzani, whose forces rule over their turf with a significantly authoritarian grip. I know several people who have worked in Arbil, and though they are glad for the security, to suggest that the place is some sort of great bastion of democracy is overlooking the all-too-obvious trappings of a police state.
posted by insomnia_lj at 2:51 PM on November 15, 2005

Yeah, well I have read sources which effectively say your lj friends are wrong. So, what are we going to do?
posted by dios at 3:01 PM on November 15, 2005

I trust my friends. They've been there, and lived there.

If you're curious about the state of affairs for Kurdish democracy, you need look no further than the Kurdish parliament to determine what democracy actually means there.

Barzani and Talabani basically decided for themselves that their two respective parties should split the power. They did this by giving each other 42 seats each in parliament. The balance of the seats were shared amongst the other parties, who complained vehemently about the status quo, but who had no immediate way to address the problem.
posted by insomnia_lj at 4:24 PM on November 15, 2005

Kurdistan - democracy Dubya style!
posted by nofundy at 6:48 AM on November 16, 2005

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