‘Where Bars and Mosques Coexist Freely’


Last week marked a terrible return to violence for Iraqis living in Baghdad after a thunderous wave of truck bombs killed 95 and injured more than 1000 people. In one of the bloodiest days of violence in almost a year, Sunni insurgents sent a Nouri al-Maliki’s government a clear message that they are far from being a spent force. They make it easy to be pessimistic about the future.

After all, British and American forces are reducing their numbers and leaving the region. Coupled with their departure, al-Maliki had recently announced that he would downscale most of the blast barriers and security fencing that have turned parts of Iraq into a fortress in recent years. The aim was to return Iraqi’s to life as normal – but for al-Qaeda it simply meant a return to business as usual.

Yet, while the turmoil in Baghdad frequently demands our attention it is easy to forget the great victories being won elsewhere in Iraq. The BBC has a report from Erbil, believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and the third-largest in Iraq after Baghdad and Mosul.

Erbil is based deep inside Kurdistan – the ‘other’ Iraq. Unfortunately the BBC clip cannot be embedded so you’ll have to click here to view it – but it is well worth watching in full.

This short film underscores a remarkable outcome, albeit a limited one, from what sometimes seemed like a hopeless mission in Iraq. It provides the clearest evidence yet that secular liberal values might be starting to take root with Arab Muslim interviewees talking about pluralism, tolerance and demonstrating a ‘live and let live’ attitude that is much too sorely missing in that part of the world. Notably, it is not just passersby accosted for a vox-pop who say this – but the imams from Erbil’s mosques too.

You don’t just have to take the BBC’s word for it. This clip is produced by the Kurdistan regional government and explains the freedoms they are now enjoying:

The flourishing of Kurdistan in post-Saddam Iraq is an unsung success story of the allied invasion in 2003. It deserves more attention. My co-author on this blog, Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, visited the region not too long ago so I hope he’ll follow up this post with some of his own views.

Kurdistan could yet provide the germinating seeds of a new history for the Arab future.

Underrated: Abroad

The ravenous longing for the infinite possibilities of “otherwhere”

The king of cakes

"Yuletide revels were designed to see you through the dark days — and how dark they seem today"