The Americanization of a Middle Eastern City

Iraqi Kurdistan has an amazing nature and beautiful parks. But the capital Erbil was long a city with little infrastructure because of the many wars, and has only started to build up the last decade. Where other cities in Kurdistan had roads, sidewalks and restaurants, Erbil is still in many of it’s neighborhoods a city someone called “The wild west”.

So what happens when a region starts to rise up, especially if it’s full of oil? The international companies enters big-time, most of them American – and the urban planning of tags along. Kuwait saw the same development after the Gulf War.

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So in a city that copies the big cities overseas, before you plant trees you build villas guarded by fence.

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Or high-rise buildings before you finish the roads.

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…and no supermarkets to add some life to the suburban blocks. Internationalization has its benefits, but also its doubts.erbil 4

Who Cares About a Dead Iraqi Anyways?

On a week like this, when 55 persons in Baghdad has been killed by bombs in a vegetable market; outside a mosque and in residential areas, I feel with the Iraqis, and I feel with the families of the assassinated civilian people that happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The 55 persons of yesterday were not the only ones: last month almost 1.000 people were killed all over Iraq.

And I’m relieved that I’m not working for an Iraq mission as I have in the past, even though safely tucked away in the comfort of Kuwait or Iraqi Kurdistan. Relieved because I don’t have to work Skype and the phone to make sure none of my Iraqi colleagues are among the murdered. Because what would happen if they were?

No one would be hunted down by the local police and tried in front of the justice system, where they would get their rightful punishment, that in turn would discourage others from committing the same crime. No office or NGO would close for the day or a minute of silence be demanded in order to respect the dead. No debriefing would be given to the other staff to help them cope with the loss. Work would carry on as normal and the organization would send their condolences to the family while starting the recruitment process for someone new. Years back in an Iraq mission, my expat colleague whose team member was taken from his own house under gunpoint by one of the many militias, and tortured for hours before being killed, was left on her own to choke back tears in front of her laptop after the murder. Because who cares about a dead Iraqi anyways?

The colleague of ours was actually a person, a real human being. He happened to be friendly and everyone in the office liked him. He had a family that loved him, a mother and a father, sisters and brothers that missed him deeply when he was gone. But in the eyes of many he was a nobody, just another dead Iraqi. I rest quite assured things remain the same for the Iraqis whose lives are lost today.