Arts, Culture & Media

Invisible Nation

QL says many Kurds still have bitter memories about what happened after the First Gulf War: the Kurds thought America was going to back them and then they realized that wasn't going to happen and then Saddam Hussein started to slaughter them so then the entire Kurd population started to emigrate towards Turkey and Iran and what happened after was the first humanitarian intervention in history when Britain and the US and France reinvaded Iraq in 1991 to create a safe zone for the Kurds. (So fast forward to George W. Bush, why were the Kurds so trustful of him?) I think they found that there was no other choice. Many Kurds today say they love the guy because he took out Saddam and this guy actually did it. (That was five years ago. This is a clip from Irbil where you describe the reaction of Kurds watching the statue of Saddam being torn down in Baghdad.) [Clip.] (If the Kurds have been waiting for a long time for this day, what were they expecting?) The Kurds thought they'd died and gone to heaven, and the people coming in, the Americans, looked to be great friends of the Kurds. The Kurds had a mixed feeling about Paul Bremer. The Kurds thought his mistakes were perfect, such as abolishing the army. (You spent a lot of time in northern Iraq and you met a man who was forced to leave his house by Saddam Hussein and first off tell us why.) The Kurds had been rebelling against the Iraqi state and against Saddam and eventually in the mid-1980s Saddam decided Kurdish rebels weren't the problem but the Kurds themselves so he implemented a genocidal campaign, raising villages to the ground and using poison gas and he started evicting Kirkuk so when Kirkuk fell in 2003, many refugees returned looking for their homes. [Clip.] What we've seen since then in Kirkuk has been interesting: Kurds thought they'd be able to take their houses back and just evicted many Saddamists who had moved there. (We should say that Kurds are not Arabs.) They are Sunni Muslims but ethnically they are not Arabs. It's hard to define what a Kurdish person is. They've never had their own country. (How has the fate of the Kurds been unlike anything else we've seen in Iraq?) Covering Iraq was personally a heartbreaking experience. I caught some of the optimism for the Kurds before the war. things were so bad for them under Saddam. Going up to Kurdistan you see a sense of optimism. The nightmare scenario is that the civil strife we've seen in Iraq could go regional and then the Kurds wouldn't be able to protect themselves from others. I hope in this one corner of Iraq things continue to go well and the rest of Iraq can stabilize.

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