NOTES FROM THE FIELD: IRAQUI KURDISTAN

It was by chance that I found myself in Kurdistan. Earlier, personal, professional and world events would have it that I would not be able go to Iran as planned, so when the chance to go to Kurdistan presented itself, I felt it was the perfect opportunity to visit a country that most have feared, yet few, including myself know much about and have even less first hand, on the ground experience with it's people to warrant such beliefs.


Shrouded in mystery and danger, Kurdistan is not the first place that comes to mind as a destination and we certainly don't get many, or any requests to do work there. Indeed, decades of scaremongering headlines of war, genocide, ISIS, and Peshmergas, had ensured that Kurdistan was not on my bucket list and certainly not on the radar of the global brands we work with.

While I, admittedly, knew nothing about Kurdistan, and had no first, or even second hand experience, I was surprised to find that those around me, those who we could consider part of the privileged, liberal elite, were all perplexed as to why I would consider risking my safety, possibly my life, by visiting such a dangerous dusty backwater without an exploitable market economy to speak of. Even my family, almost forbade me to go, stating that I would be going into "One of the world's most politically unstable and dangerous countries!"  A whirlwind of images of women shrouded in burqas, Peshmergas and terrorists riding around in white Toyota pickup trucks brandishing swords, ISIS flags and AK47s declaring war on women and the West, clouded their imaginations and to some extent, even my own. "I am definitely going to need to register with the embassy," I thought. And I did.

It is unfortunate that two decades later, unless one has been to Kurdistan, that these images remain imprinted in our collective memory and surface almost automatically as fact, a given, when we think of the Middle East's less shiny and glitzy cousins. You don't know what you don't know, and I realized how much I didn’t know. 

So it came to be, that this pseudo-ethnographer, driven by an unquenchable need to understand the people and cultures that we share our globalized planet with, mildly fearless at times yet always curious, went off to discover Kurdistan and it's people.



ERBIL, KURDISTAN

Flying into Erbil, suddenly the surrounding plains give way to the bright lights of the city rising out from the darkness of Kurdistan’s past. Immediately, I am blown away by all of the bright lights and the sheer size of this metropolis. Clearly not the backwater I had envisioned, but instead a dynamic and thriving city, proudly showcasing its prosperity and growth, and I can't wait to take it all in.