Letters from old civilizations (7)


Bearing in mind the cautions by the taxi driver we had a long tour in Kirkuk without getting out of the car. Many of the streets had barriers and were closed. The canals and the water system were in a terrible state. The electricity for the town was provided through a generator. In the corner of every house there is a generator that can provide electricity for the vicinity, and these generators work 24 hours day and night.

Water is more expensive than petrol in this town. Calculating the water I consumed during the whole day from morning to the evening I found out that I drank 10 liters of water for $10, whereas the cost of petrol for my return journey from Arbil to Kirkuk by taxi only cost $12. Calculating this reminded me of the high cost of petrol in Turkey, the neighboring country to Iraq. While a liter of petrol costs 50 cent in Kirkuk, in Turkey it costs almost $3. I deduce from these calculations that Turkey must form good relations with its neighbors, and especially with the Kurds in northern Iraq, where it has some problems. Because as much as Turkey needs the petrol, so much so do northern Iraqis need Turkish goods.

We set off to Arbil two hours before it gets dark and we arrived in Arbil before it got dark. Arbil which is known by its Kurdish name as Hawler, where the parliament for the local government of northern Iraq is, develops daily and has become one of the most important trade cities of Iraq. The city has an international airport and Turkey´s Diyarbakir Airport connects the city with the world, which draws the attention of many of the foreign entrepreneurs. The rising new buildings, new vicinities change the city and to a certain extend resemble a Turkish city.

Comparison with Turkey

The taxi left me in Ankawa, which is the most modern vicinity of the town. In everywhere in Ankawa, all kinds of drinks from Turkey and from all over the world are sold and are consumed by the pools in a great enjoyment.

At night I sat with two people from Ankawa by the pool and we had steak and Turkish Efes Pilsen beer to drink and started to speak about the life in Iraq. They were curious about the life in America and Turkey, but I was bombarding them with my questions about Iraq. As everyone there these two young men too wanted to go to America or Europe. I said your situation is very good. Look you have BMW cars, whereas I cannot use this car in the U.S.

“Yes, I own a BMW,” says one of them. “But we don’t see the future. We cannot have a serious enterprise. There is no proper legal system. There is no proper education. Everything is bound by the words of the leaders. If one goes out and gets murdered, who can you go to to enquire about the murder? No one you can ask to enquire about it. That means you will die for nothing. This is not so in the U.S. and Europe. I don’t know because I haven’t lived there at all, but I think it is so there,” he continues to say.

The younger man was curious about the life in Turkey, especially in reference to the Turkish women who appear in the tabloid news. He asks whether that is the real life there. “Yes, it is true but that should not mislead you, it is not so all over Turkey. Look, the ruling party and the main opposition party in Turkey have divided the country into two groups – the believers and unbelievers – i.e. those from us and those from them. Both sides do not trust one another; this is why politics in Turkey is sensitive,” I said.

The BMW owner was not satisfied with the answer I gave, and said, “There is at least democracy there; there are efforts for the EU membership.” Agreeing with him I drank a bit of my Efes beer to cool myself from the enormous summer heat there.

Western fears still there

Leaving the place after we had our meals, two villas that were protected by armored vehicles and barriers drew my attention. I asked the people there about who owned them and why they need so much protection. The answer I received surprised me: The houses were owned by American diplomats and businessmen. Wondering about this I asked a passerby why would the Americans built their villas in the Christian vicinity rather than Kurdish vicinity. The answer I received was as I guessed: “They are afraid to live in the Kurdish vicinity,” said the passerby.

Here I recalled the words in my fourth letter by the American commander who said we have come here for the Kurds not for the Christians. Even though they may have come for the Iraqi Kurds, they still could not live among them. Whereas the Iraqi Assyrian Christians are being threatened and murdered just because the Americans who although have no relations with them are considered to be co-religious and co-operatives. This has forced hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Assyrians to flee Iraq.