there is something stunningly mundane about traveling to a war zone. with media keeping a sharp eye on the very edge of the front lines, a doomsday picture was painted – scaring all, my friends, family and me. and obviously, danger is not to be underestimated -i am sure isis mean business-, but having been in erbil for two days now, i can not help but note that life is incredibly ‘normal’.
at that, i appreciate the differing account of some independent reports, showing life as it is going on in an everyday rhythm: people hiding from the heat in air conditioned homes or shopping malls, jumping from the cool car into the cool house and just gasping in the transition – underground parking has never been more appreciated! but the best part happens when the sun sets and people gather in the park. just today i enjoyed a wonderful picnic in sami abdul-rahman park, with eating, laughing, singing and dancing. the kurdish flag was dancing with us in the soft wind.
only sometimes there is a shadow covering peoples eyes. but it is not current events that burden them. it is more the totality of suffering over the many years. while western media might be quick in picking up ‘three bombs in kirkuk kill twenty’ and presenting it as another death toll to the recent happenings, people in kirkuk, while moaning the dead, are not shaken by the event; for them this is not news because it is not new. several bombs blasted in kirkuk every day for the past years. the only difference now is the global media coverage.
now one can think of the one sided and mostly biased media coverage whatever one wants, but just recently a scam interview with an australian show aimed at uncovering just this lack of well funded knowledge of the ground in nowadays journalism. a man who posed as isis military leader abu omar al-shishani gave an interview at an australian news channel, declaring all sort of atrocities and upsetting statements. the news went viral, until voices from people on the ground started questioning the reliability of the source. turns out, the man is actually a kurd living in scandinavia; he created an al-shishani twitter account (in english!) to sarcastically portray and critique isis and when he was contacted by the australian news channel he agreed to the interview in order to expose how bad journalism works in the west. well, that worked.
at the same time it needs to be mentioned that it is due to the journalistic coverage, whether it is from the ground of from afar, that set into motion a global awareness of the kurdish issue and the kurdish people. more than that it even pushed ‘the west’ into both picking a side and taking a stand – a move without which everyday life in erbil would probably look quite differently today.
there can be no doubt that kurdish peshmerga have the heart of a warrior – but even the bravest hero dies on the field without the right equipment. with us air-support taking out the heavy armored equipment of the islamic state and (mainly european) weapon supply flowing in from all sides – from italy, norway, germany, sweden, france, britain, albania, and canada – the kurdish peshmerga seem to have a fighting chance to protect their territory and people against isis. even other kurdish territories joined into the kurdish front; coming from all sides of bakur, roshawa and roshhela, the alphabet soup of kurdish parties pdk, puk, pyd, kdpi and pjak is perfected.
with these basic parameters given, one can only hope that it is enough for life in erbil to stay this ‘surprisingly normal’.