The Kurds Go Their Own Way
Two hours into my first tour of Erbil, my guide for the day taught me to feel lucky. “If we were doing this in Baghdad, we would be dead by now,” he said.
Our driver nodded vigorously.
“It’s that dangerous?” I asked.
“With your face,” my guide replied, “and with our Kurdish license plates on the car, we could not last two hours.”
So goes the capital of Iraq. But I was touring the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, where the war is already over.
There are no insurgents in Kurdistan. Nor are there any kidnappings. A hard internal border between the Kurds’ territory and the Arab-dominated center and south has been in place since the Kurdish uprising at the end of the 1991 Gulf War. Cars on the road heading north are stopped at a series of checkpoints. Questions are asked. ID cards are checked. Vehicles are searched and sometimes taken apart on the side of the road. Smugglers, insurgents, and terrorists who attempt to sneak into Kurdistan by crossing Iraq’s wilderness areas are ambushed by border patrols.