Sunday, June 24, 2012

Poland, Taiwan and Kurdistan

For many years, Kurdistan had been the Poland of the Middle East, a people left partitioned and divided among bigger regional players (Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria).  But being in this portion of Kurdistan, I have a feeling that these days, at least in terms of Iraqi Kurdistan it is more akin to Taiwan- a self-governing state that is independent in almost everything but name.

Kurdistan seemingly exists in quite an independent fashion, with many of its own laws, rules and customs.  While I feel like I am in a Middle Eastern country, the fact that my Arabic only gets me so far makes it feel different.   Kurdistan has its own President (Masoud Barzani) and its own (semi-)diplomatic representation abroad.  It has even conducted its own PD campaign "The Other Iraq," which I will write about more at length later.  Meanwhile, I was able to receive a 15 day visa on arrival at the airport, but if I had tried to go straight to Iraq I would need a more serious visa.

To be sure, Taiwan still has more trappings of authority (its own currency, passports, independent recognition) but the Kurdistan Miracle is in full effect.  There is a real boom going on here.  Everywhere you look there is construction taking place.  New cars lining the newly paved roads- new Toyotas, Audis and the like.  And Duhok is a little more backwater in terms of Kurdistan, so I can only imagine what is going on in the bigger cities. 

For states with have issues of diplomatic recognition, I have always respected pragmatic functionality.  Celebrate what you have, and do so quietly.  Build and build all the trappings, and make it a long-term question.  Facts on the ground, if you will.  I will be revisiting the issue of Kurdistan and its trappings of sovereignty throughout the trip.

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