The New Erbil
Iraq (South Kurdistan) 2013
Ten years after the invasion of Iraq, in Erbil the abundant flow of oil money is boosting the real estate business, which employs very diverse social layers of Kurds: The rich businessman, the destitute Syrian refugee, the Arab worker who escaped the sectarian violence in the South. They all work towards the same dream. Preparing to meet a deadline of 2014, when (at least to its authorities) Erbil is set to become the main tourist destination in the region.
This process obviously is not victim free. Working standards are almost non-existent and wages shift depending on your country origin. Construction workers toil for long hours and even live in the same buildings they’re raising, often sharing eight beds in dim cells furnished only by the face of the Kurdish revolutionary Abdullah Ocalan and pictures of pin-up girls.
The rest of the city oozes growth but does not transmit a joyful vibe. The progress, self-evident at every corner, is surrounded by the chaotic Middle Eastern life-style where children lurk alone in the streets stinking of butchered animals. The city zoo is a prison for wild animals that seem to embody the apparent paradox of it all: advancement devoid of control.
The relative progress of the Iraqi Kurdistan region is visible in social rights too. More than a few minorities have found shelter in Kurdistan; fleeing from the violent frenzy that unravels across Iraq. Some of them have congregated in Ainkawa, a majority Christian district within an overwhelmingly Muslim city. Among those who have found refuge here is a robust population of Chaldeans and Assyrians, minorities with their own traditions and cultures that have often conflicted with many others in the Middle East.