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Turkey and Iraq: Opportunity and Oppression in a Divided Kurdistan
Iraq's Kurds are in business while Turkey and its own Kurdish population are at war. Will success in Iraqi Kurdistan ease tension in Turkey, or will it break an ethnic bond?
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Launched June 21, 2012
Last October, when an earthquake devastated Turkey's Kurdish southeast, relief crossed borders. For Iraqi Kurds it was more than neighborly. "Real Kurds," wrote an Iraqi journalist, "are those who have donated their money and clothes to other civilians in Turkey."
The border between Turkey and Iraq slices through an unrealized Kurdish nation. Diyarbakir, the symbolic capital, is in Turkey. In its mayor's office hangs a photo of Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan. Kurds on either side of the border struggle with an ethnic identity that clashes with a national one. But unlike in Turkey, where Kurds are embroiled in a decades-long war with the Turkish state and a generation of disenfranchised youth see little alternative to fighting, Iraq's Kurds are thriving. This is thanks, in no small part, to the Turkish government.
Erbil, a bustling city in Iraqi Kurdistan, was built by Turkish construction, and Turkish companies account for more than half of the foreign corporations there. Eighty-percent of local goods are Turkish. A proposed pipeline through Turkey will link oil-rich Iraqi Kurdistan to Western markets. But while Iraqi Kurdistan's wealth makes it a valuable partner, its autonomy makes it a dangerous example. Turkey's embrace is also a tourniquet.
As Erbil grows, will the border bridge together pieces of Kurdistan, or wall in Turkey's southeast? Will neighboring prosperity offer a new future for Turkey's Kurdish youth? Is it a sign of hope or of betrayal?
Today, negotiation with its Kurdish minority is Turkey's most important challenge. An alliance with Erbil could help ease violence in Turkey. Or, it could further isolate Turkey's Kurds, creating disaster instead of providing relief.
Jenna Krajeski
Grantee
Jenna Krajeski is a journalist based in Istanbul. From March 2010 to June 2011, she lived in Cairo, Egypt, where she worked as an editor and reporter for the English language version of the Egyptian...
Region
Asia, Europe
Country
Iraq, Turkey
Topics
Conflict, Culture, Displaced Peoples and Refugees, Economy, Ethnicity , Human Rights, Poverty
Subjects
Regional/border disputes, The Political and Social Conditions of Developing Nations
GATEWAYS
Recently​Video​Articles​Slideshows
September 23, 2012 / The New Yorker
The Fight for Kurdistan
JENNA KRAJESKI
In Iraq's Domiz Refugee Camp, Syrian refugees are preparing to fight for their country: Kurdistan.
September 20, 2012 / Untold Stories
Iraq: Made In Kurdistan (Not)
JENNA KRAJESKI
Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan is booming and there is plenty to buy, from trinkets in the old bazaar to designer clothing in the Family Mall. But there are some things hard to find: local products.
August 29, 2012 / Untold Stories
Between Turkey and Iraq: The Kurds of the Makhmour Refugee Camp
JENNA KRAJESKI
While Turkey's Kurds see hope across the border in Iraqi Kurdistan, the region's veteran transplants remain skeptical about the future of Kurdistan.
August 15, 2012 / Untold Stories
Emergency Care: Medical Tourism in Kurdish Turkey
JENNA KRAJESKI
For Kurds in Iraq, Turkey's Kurdish region is famous for two things: decades of armed resistance to the Turkish state and excellent hospitals.
June 26, 2012 / Untold Stories
Entering Kurdistan
JENNA KRAJESKI
The Habur Gate border crossing between Turkey and Iraq is a lifeline for Turkey's border towns and, for the Kurds who live in them, the gateway to a free Kurdistan.
June 21, 2012 / The Atlantic
Turkey: Meet the 12-Year-Old Girl Who Risked Prison to Revive Her People's Language
JENNA KRAJESKI
The Turkish government recently lifted a decades-long ban on the Kurdish language in schools, but a young Kurdish activist says they still have a long way to go.
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