Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sulaymaniyah, Duhok and Erbil

A bird nesting in the porch lamp at our house in Suly.
Today is Saturday, the last day of the weekend here.  It is hot -- in the 100's -- but not as hot as in Baghdad, which is about 120 -- and it is dusty.  I heard it called the black cloud, but luckily the thin layer of dust that spreads a fine film over everything is not black but tan.  It is almost ALWAYS sunny (sort of like Arizona but without the cacti, though I imagine there is some somewhere) except during April and May when it rains (which, of course, we just missed).  And it will get hotter I am assured.  However, there's a nice breeze and with ceiling fans and "splits" (air conditioners) it's very pleasant -- until the electricity goes out and then we just wait a little while before we trip the generator.

The UNDP A2J (Access to Justice) project is in three cities and their regions.  Heartland-Iraq is covering Sulaymaniyah and Duhok and a local NGO, WEO, is in Erbil.  In addition to the cities, our mobile clinics will also go into the respective governates (regions) as part of the outreach aspect of the program.  This coming week I will be visiting Erbil to meet my counterpart at WEO and to meet with Department of State representatives to discuss Rule of Law Issues.  Then I will be going to Duhok to meet our Duhok A2J team.

It will be interesting to compare the three different cities and areas.  Erbil is the capital of the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Governate) and home to various consulates, including the British consulate, and a beautiful new airport with service to various cities, including Vienna via Austrian Air and Frankfurt via Lufthansa (and then on to other European cities), Amman, Dubai, Beirut, Istanbul and Abu Dhabi.  Suly is said to be the most "modern" city, with Duhok being more conservative.
PUK poster
There are two major political parties in Kurdistan: the PUK -- Patriotic Union of Kurdistan -- and the KDP -- Kurdistan Democratic Party (recently a third party, Goran -- meaning reform -- has emerged).  A couple of days ago the PUK celebrated its 36th anniversary and Suly, the headquarters of the PUK, partied like it was 1975.  With all the fireworks, etc., I thought it was Suly's equivalent of the Fourth of July until someone pointed out that some of the bursts may have been gunfire (in celebration nonetheless) so perhaps a bit of Guy Fawkes Day thrown in (we expats were advised to stay inside).  Erbil and Duhok are KDP country.

Even though in 2006 the PUK and the KDP signed a unification agreement (and I am told they have been brought closer together by the Goran party which threatens their dominance), in the mid 1990's a civil war broke out between the two parties with the PUK looking to Iran for help while the KDP turned to Saddam Hussein.  In 1998 the two sides stopped fighting but not before hundreds of civilians were killed. 

So each region in Kurdistan is different in many ways and I look forward to exploring those differences. However, each region shares many of the same problems, including a lack of access to justice for all citizens, and I hope the A2J program will begin to sucessfully confront the human rights issues that unfortunately continue to permeate this country. 

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