Ten years after the US-led invasion if Iraq, the Kurdish region is experiencing a tremendous economic growth. While the rest of Iraq is falling apart in terror and sectarian conflicts, Kurdistan is booming with oil and five-star hotels. In the mountains behind the city of Sulaymaniyah young couple challenge the conservative culture.
Engineer Sherwan J. Ibrahim has earned a fortune from selling security systems for buildings such as the airport, the Prime Minister’s office, the Parliament and international oil companies. The security situation in Kurdistan is the opposite of the situation in the Arab part of Iraq. The important factor why international companies dare to invest in Kurdistan is security, according to Ibrahim.
The soldier Ahmad Mawlood lives in the small town Kalak west of Erbil. From Kalak it wouldn’t take more than half an hour to drive to Mosul, one of Iraq’s most dangerous cities and a hotbed of Al Qaeda. But here in Kurdistan the situation had mostly been calm since 2003.
"I prefer that my future will remain as it is now. Because now it is very good", he said.
The regional government in Erbil provokes Baghdad by signing contracts with international oil giants on their own and by exporting oil to Turkey in trailers instead of using the centrally approved oil pipeline.
Trailer drivers Halmat Salam, Mohammed Aziz and Mohammed Qarani eating lunch and drinking whiskey while taking a few hours break at a restaurant close to the border with Turkey. The men transport oil to Turkey, a practice Baghdad defines as smuggling.
Kurdistan is in the process of building an oil pipeline to Turkey against the will of the central government in Baghdad. It will probably shift the economic and political balance in Iraq. U.S. and Iran are concerned that it will lead to a partition of Iraq.
Kurdistan has experienced tremendous economic growth over the past decade. All streets in the capital Erbil are new.
On Thursday nights Sherwan J. Ibrahim usually goes out on the town in Erbil, sometimes to legendary German pub where people from all over the world gather.
The surgeon Mazher Ali Amen has treated war victims in Baghdad for years. Now he has moved to Erbil, where he performs many beauty operations. With economic progress, many Kurds can afford to buy new noses and flatter stomachs.
Salem Karim Khan is one of the leading business men in Erbil. He sees several dangers of rapid economic growth.
The shopping centre Family Mall is full of Turkish goods and Arab families who have moved to Kurdistan from the troubled areas of Iraq.
Swedish-Kurdish engineer Sarbaz Othman is one of many Kurds who want to come home to help rebuilding the country. He just finished his PhD in traffic safety and wants to improve the safety on the Kurdish roads. In addition, he and his wife, who is a doctor, are also in the process of starting a private hospital.