Erbil: In a conversation with Al Majalla, former Iraqi foreign minister and leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party Hoshyar Zebari provides a detailed account of the run up and aftermath of the US-led invasion of Iraq which toppled the regime of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and its impact on the Kurdish peoples of the country.
Following the invasion, the Kurdish party moved its headquarters from Erbil to Baghdad (in 50 armoured cars) for the first time in 12 years — in a symbolic display of the change in fortunes.
Since 1991, the Kurdish areas of Iraq — the governorates of Sulaymaniyah, Erbil, and Dohuk — had been entirely out of the regime's control. The autonomous region operated separately from Iraq’s ruling regime and was fully equipped with the political, military and economic structures of a sovereign state.
Zebari — one of the few members of the Kurdish political elite who had long-term, intimate, emotional, social, and political ties and bonds with Arab Iraq — explains how, when he arrived, it was the first time he felt safe walking in the streets of Baghdad.
However, the state of the capital had significantly deteriorated since the last time he was there. After years of estrangement from the nation’s capital, Kurdish politicians were shocked and horrified by what they saw when they arrived.
The effects of extreme poverty and poor public health were seen on people’s faces and the streets were strewn with garbage. The global isolation of Baghdad was evident — much different than the lives of those who lived in the Kurdish regions.
Better standard of living
Despite not being officially recognised by the Iraqi regime, neighbouring countries, or even the international community, the Kurdish regions enjoyed a far superior standard of living than the rest of Iraq — which was suffering from the effects of prolonged economic blockade.