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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid