Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Perspective: Iraqi Arabs Seek Sanctuary in Kurdistan

Sulaimaniyah in Northern Iraq

SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq - Some 2 million Iraqis have fled to neighboring countries in the past three years and up to 3,000 more go abroad every day, according to the U.N. refugee agency. But Umm Ali and her husband, Hussein Jawad, are among nearly 85,000 Iraqi Arabs who have sought refuge in the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq.

Here, they find themselves in what feels like a foreign country: Kurdistan has been autonomous since 1991, and Kurds run their own affairs. While Arabic is an official language, it is all but eclipsed by Kurdish.

As snow fell outside, the smell of frying eggplant and onions burned Umm Ali's eyes as she cooked in her kitchen - which doubles as the family bathroom. There's not much else: one other room for her, her husband and four children. Still, she says, it's better here than at the family's home in Baghdad, 180 miles south, at the center of Iraq's bloodshed.

"Even if we were living in a tent, without a real roof over our heads in this snowy weather, we'd still be happy to be away from that intimidation," said the 41-year-old Shiite.

Read the rest at the Herald