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This is Kurdistan
Photo essay: Northern Iraq


January 27, 2007

Day one in Vienna. It's snowing here and so far it's been a rough ride. My dad got really ill yesterday and I nearly canceled everything. Actually, I did, but rebooked the flight and with some guilt decided to make the trip. This is the last time. If I can control my madness. Iraq's the end of line for me. After this trip I have visited every hot spot in Middle East. From West Bank, Israel, Lebanon and Syria to Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. No mas after this!

Anyway ... I'm at the hotel lobby, tired as hell waiting for my room to be ready. Nazzy my partner in crime should arrive sometime this afternoon. I'd like to get some sleep before she gets here. The plane ride sucked up to here. Those horrible seats are a violation of human rights. It's worse than tiger cages during Nam.

One more thing I need to add. I was looking forward towards the end of this trip because we're stopping in Beirut for a few days. I love Lebanon. This is my 5th trip there including the 2 weeks during war with Israel. Figured if I can make it out of Iraq ... then Lebanon's a cake! Not so.

For the last 2 days Lebanon's become complete anarchy. So much for the "Cedar Revolution" and birth of democracy in mid-east (not to mention winning hearts and minds of Iraqis)! I smell another civil war. Masked men blocking the road to the airport and 100s injured from violence. I read 2 or 3 were dead from yesterday's clash and it seems like my trip to Iraq's taking the cake. Lebanon's icing on top. Hope there won't be any cherry on top of that.

I just tried to plug my camera charger in and the outlet almost blew-up. anyway I'm in Eerbil right now. Arrived a few hours ago in the Kurdish part of Northern Iraq and it's an awesome experience. It's awesome because I'm in a new place in this little tiny planet and it's already different from elsewhere. Iraq sounds scary these days and it is ... however, I'm in a zone where Iraq's been a nonexistent state for a decade. Erbil has been independent of Iraqi government since the end of first gulf war. This is part of what we called "no-fly-zone" and ruled by native Kurds since early 90's.

I'd have to admit this is the only minority place that's had anything to gain from this horrible invasion. Just imagine what the Kurds have had to endure up to this point! This is Kurdistan. The minute I arrived I saw nothing but red, white, green Kurdish flags ... don't sleep on the golden sun in the middle. This place is 100% protected by Kurdish fighters known as "Peeshmarg", which means self- sacrificing soldier, in Kurdistan. Wow...I'm here right now. All night I've been telling everyone that I'm 100th generation Kurdish because someone, someday in my family said part of my father's background may ... or may not have come from Kurdistan. I used the same tool in Lebanon when I told people I were 100% Shia!

Tonight we were debating about making a few trips to few "unsafe" parts of the country which is still up in grabs. Of course I'd never do anything too stupid but this place is way too peaceful to expect from the real Iraq! We shall wait and see. Cool part is ... we have no phone lines and a horrible internetZ connection to type this junk up. It'll do for now. I'll keep you posted.

Peace ... never in the Middle East. I'll try to explain that later... but it's true... the Shia-Sunni thing's getting serious.

PS. I've searched and searched and searched since the age of 9 and believe me ... there is no God.

Click on photo to see 17

Click on photo to see 17

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