News / Middle East

Reporter's Notebook: Is a New Day Dawning in Iraqi Kurdistan?

A fruit stand in a market in Irbil. (VOA/Jeff Young)A fruit stand in a market in Irbil. (VOA/Jeff Young)
x
A fruit stand in a market in Irbil. (VOA/Jeff Young)
A fruit stand in a market in Irbil. (VOA/Jeff Young)

On Sunday morning, the light poured around the edges of the drapes in my hotel room at 5 a.m.  Morning here comes as a command, much like the Azan –the Islamic call to prayer - its echoes bouncing about the city.

This is my first daybreak this time in Irbil, the capital of Kurdistan, and perhaps soon, the capital of a new independent state. 

It is Ramadan now. In other times of the year, Irbil would be up to frantic pace by seven in the morning. But now, with the long, long days between Fajr and Iftar, much of the city slowly awakens and appears.  By night, it is bustling like any major city at the peak of its day.

By 8 a.m., the pace quickens, the traffic building into a fast stream of metal and tires.  Unlike the United States or Europe, navigating across these streets is a video game experience.  Vehicles whoosh by so close one’s hair is tossed about.

Though no one has eaten, or let a drop of water cross their lips since Fajr, the first call at the start of dawn, people here go about life as usual. 

Most intoxicating are the shops selling fruits and vegetables.   Passing them is to breathe a perfume of peaches, apricots, grapes, cherries, and all of what is gathered in the orchards and vineyards in the valleys not far from here. 

I have been to Irbil and Kurdistan before, in 1991, and then again in 2004 and 2005.  The difference between then and now is astonishing – a transformation one could not believe a decade ago.

The rough-hewn city of ages past is being overtaken by the glint of glass and bright stainless reaching skyward. It’s everywhere one looks.

Walking alone, my feet shuffled in dust as old as Ibrahim. Then, striding across the polished marble and granite of new edifices, my feet crossed the threshold into this century. The separation between the two eons is but a matter of steps.

Atop the city stands the Citadel, a fortress perhaps 4,000 years old. And atop that edifice flies a huge Kurdistan flag, its sun radiating both the warmth of the people here, and their aspirations for a day when the flag will rise above a state of its own.


Jeffrey Young

Jeffrey Young came to the “Corruption” beat after years of doing news analysis, primarily on global strategic issues such as nuclear proliferation.  During most of 2013, he was on special assignment in Baghdad and elsewhere with the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR).  Previous VOA activities include VOA-TV, where he created the “How America Works” and “How America Elects” series, and the “Focus” news analysis unit.

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid