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 Iraqi Kurds grateful for U.S. presence 

  Opinion 
  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author

 


Iraqi Kurds grateful for U.S. presence  5.9.2011  
By Roopa Gogineni





September 5, 2011

CHARLESTON, West Virginia, In early August, I traveled overland from Turkey into Iraqi Kurdistan. Shortly after I left the region, Turkey launched airstrikes against suspected Kurdish insurgent bases in Iraqi Kurdistan. These were in response to a previous attack on Turkish forces by the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party), designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. The bombings in Kurdistan have killed several civilians.

These attacks remind of us of the precarious autonomy of Iraqi Kurdistan. The Kurdish people, numbering nearly 30 million, are a nation without a state. Most Kurds reside in the Middle East and represent significant minority populations in Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran. Iraqi Kurdistan, composed of the three northernmost regions of Iraq, is administered by a separate regional government recognized by the 2005 Iraqi constitution. It is the closest the Kurds have come to self-rule. The stability and growth seen in Iraqi Kurdistan stands in sharp contrast to continued unrest in the rest of Iraq, but this peace is now under threat.

As we near the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, there will undoubtedly be much critical reflection on the wars it brought. Traveling in Kurdistan, I saw for the first time in all my Middle Eastern travels, a people thankful for American intervention in Iraq. Kurdish fighters, known as the Peshmerga, fought alongside U.S. soldiers and the coalition of the willing in Operation Iraqi Freedom.         

Gogineni is a freelance journalist from Charleston. She recently completed a master's degree in African studies at the University of Oxford and will be based in Nairobi, Kenya.
Portraits of George W. Bush hang in homes next to those of Massoud Barzani, the current president of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, and Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish president of Iraq.

One afternoon in the town of Amadiya, I snuck into an alleyway to eat a peach. I was traveling during Ramadan and took care to not eat or drink in public. A man appeared from a doorway and I quickly threw the half-eaten fruit behind me. Ayad spoke no English, but he motioned for me to follow him.

I spent the afternoon with his wife and five children. Their home was large; each child had a bedroom, and air-conditioning blew throughout the house. The family's income is subsidized by monthly reparations -- all three of Ayad's brothers were murdered by Saddam Hussein's regime during the genocidal Al-Anfal campaign in the late 1980s. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Kurds lost their lives at the hands of Saddam and his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, nicknamed "Chemical Ali" for his use of chemical weapons. Upon learning that I was American, nearly every Kurd I met mentioned the role the U.S. played in bringing down Saddam and the Ba'athist regime.

Another striking feature of the region is its booming growth. Iraqi Kurdistan is oil-rich, controlling 17 percent of the country's reserves. Its relative stability is now attracting heavy foreign investment. The capital city Erbil is beginning to resemble Dubai,www.ekurd.netwith sprawling shopping malls and high-rise hotels. The economic development has been made possible by Iraqi Kurdistan's status as an autonomous region. It is free from the insecurity caused by the Iraq War.

In the four days I spent in Kurdistan, I was offered a home to sleep in every night. I did not pay for a single meal, despite my protests. I am not sure whether this hospitality was extended to me because I was American, but I suspect this was at least partly the reason.

U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East has largely failed, but there are some redeeming outcomes. The story of Iraqi Kurdistan is one such success, but the friendship of Iraqi Kurds is not unconditional. As U.S. troops pull out of Iraq, the Kurds will be less protected. In the face of continued interference by Turkey and Iran, their fate in Iraq is tied to the fate of Kurds in the greater region, and the United States cannot afford to remain silent on the issue.

Gogineni is a freelance journalist from Charleston. She recently completed a master's degree in African studies at the University of Oxford and will be based in Nairobi, Kenya.
 

Copyright , respective author or news agency, wvgazette.com 

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  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author

 
 

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