Kurdish economy

The KRG Economy in 2014
If a place’s current economic status is marked by the number of cranes dotting its skyline, then Erbil is booming. Erbil’s moniker of the ‘City of the Citadel and the mosques’ could today more appropriately be changed to ‘the city of the citadel and the construction cranes’.
Since the war of 2003, the formerly oppressed Iraqi Kurds have seen their homeland transform itself from being cut-off and under-developed into a powerhouse of economic prosperity and security. Despite sharing borders with some of the most troubled nations in the region (Iran, Iraq, Syria) as well as Turkey, in which the Kurdish population have a long and troubled history with the Turkish establishment, the KRG exists as an island of stability and tolerance, and is seeking to capitalize on its location, forging a name for itself as a sort of regional power broker. The economic successes below illustrate Kurdistan’s rampant growth in the past 10 years:
 GDP per capita has increased by 1,400% since 2003
 GDP in Kurdistan was $23.6 billion in 2011, with an annual GDP growth rate of 10%
 Total investment from 2006-2013 was $30.5 billion8
The region’s economic rebirth is marked by the potential of its oil and natural gas industry, but the composition of its GDP shows promise in other areas of its economy. The extractive industries sector can tap into the growing global demand for crude oil, natural gas, and minerals. The industrial, trade and agriculture sectors, though damaged by conflict, are built on millennia-old foundations.
Reliable statistics on employment data in various sectors is difficult to access. Hence, this evaluation uses contribution to GDP as an initial means to gauge growing market sectors (in terms of employment potential). Figure 2 illustrates the key sectors’ contribution to KRG’s GDP9.
7 Mercy Corps. Syrian Refugees in the KRG, Assisting non-camp communities. July 2013
8 Invest in Group. The Kurdistan Region 2013. Accessed 27 February 2014.
9 Invest in Group. The Kurdistan Region 2013. Accessed 27 February 2014.
Figure 2: Sectors of KRG Economy
Based on GDP Composition 2013
Services ($7.1B)
Public Services ($4.8B)
Agriculture ($4.1B)
Trade & Transport ($3.1B)
Mining & Manufacturing ($2.2B)
Construction ($1.7B)
Youth Labor Market and Entrepreneurship Opportunities Assessment in the KRG May 2014
Moreover, the following sectors are currently growing:
 Oil and gas
 Agriculture
 Construction (particularly housing)
 Services (including tourism)
 Trade and transport infrastructure
Oil and gas lies at the heart of Kurdistan’s economic development. There are 57 discovered oil and gas fields, with estimates of 45 billion barrels of reserves and 25 billion barrels of potential reserves. To make the most of these resources, KRG’s Ministry of Natural Resources has plans to increase production capacity 1 million barrels per day (BPD) by 2015 and 2 million BPD by the end of the decade. Approximately 40 oil and gas companies are now active in the KRG, with large international firms such as Chevron, ExxonMobil and Total already having an established presence. Other companies are interested in a total of 11 oil and gas exploration blocks. Despite continued disputes with Baghdad’s central government over revenues from the export of Kurdish oil, the KRG continues to forge ahead in developing the industry. A new pipeline exporting oil via Turkey is expected to earn the KRG up to $1 billion per month according10. Such an eventuality would allow the region to earn more from its own oil resources than it would from its share of the total Iraqi revenues authorized by the central government. The Ministry of Natural Resources estimates that the KRG has up to 3% of the world’s total reserves, which serves as a clear indicator of potential future prominence in the region. The KRG plans to first meet domestic power demands and industrial usage, and then export the surplus (which could begin as early as 2016)11.
Despite underpinning the burgeoning KRG economy, the oil and gas sector is not a large employer, employing a tiny percentage of the labor force. The industry might be leading the private sector resurgence and can help to put the government budget back into surplus, but it does not address KRG’s lack of employment, nor does it help to normalize people’s daily lives12. Nonetheless, the wealth created by oil and gas has helped the development of other economic sectors, notably the services sector, as the newly-formed Iraqi Kurdish middle class seek an outlet for their new found wealth in shops, restaurants and tourism facilities.
The agricultural industry has the potential to be revived and a dynamic contributor to KRG’s economy. Despite its mountainous terrain, the KRG has more arable land proportionately (28% of its total surface area) than the majority of Middle Eastern countries.13 The agriculture sector contributed 10% to the national economy in 2013, and employed 7.1% of the region’s active workforce14.
Unfortunately, KRG’s agricultural sector is currently facing severe difficulties. While Iraq has traditionally been a major exporter of agricultural produce, most food is now imported and much of the land remains un-used or under-utilized because of the damages of war, loss of qualified manpower and issues of decreased supply and quality of irrigation water15. To counter an increasing trend towards urbanization, the KRG seeks to encourage people to move back to their villages and resume farming, but rural income and infrastructure are generally inadequate and remain below those found in urban areas. As a result, youth are moving to the urban centers and leaving older people on the farms. Without a strong, revitalized agricultural sector, migration from rural to urban areas will continue adding to the country’s and the region’s social problems and further affecting unemployment.
10 Invest in Group. The Kurdistan Region 2013. Accessed 27 February 2014.
11 Invest in Group. Overview: Iraqi Region of Iraq Energy. Accessed 27 February 2014.
12 Jordanian Scandinavian Business Club .Private Sector Development in Iraq. January 2011.
13 Atroush, Lorin. Invest Kurdistan Iraq. Acccessed 14 April 2014.
14 Invest in Group. The Kurdistan Region 2013. Accessed 27 February 2014.
15 Jordanian Scandinavian Business Club .Private Sector Development in Iraq. January 2011.
Youth Labor Market and Entrepreneurship Opportunities Assessment in the KRG May 2014
A great variety of cereals and vegetables have traditionally been grown in the KRG, with wheat and barley the most common. Rice has more recently been given growing preference, and it is displacing bread as the basic food of choice of the Kurdish middle class. Cash crops like tobacco, sugar beets, and cotton are playing a growing role in the local economy. Wild berries, particularly black and white mulberries, are found in almost every village, with production for market increasing each year16. Mulberries, and to a lesser extent barberries, are currently the berries of choice. Dried, they are used throughout the year. Fruits, including grapes, are grown in large tracts of land. Some quantity is also collected from wild stands. Both berries and fruits play an important role in the Kurdish diet, particularly in their dried forms.
Based on an Economic Development Assessment implemented by RTI International for USAID in 2008, the following trades within the agricultural sector offer opportunity for development17:
 Poultry
 Soybean production
 Fruit, nuts, and vegetables (but require modern agro-processing technology)
 Organic production
 Dehydration and the processing of certain vegetables (e.g., tomatoes)
 Beekeeping
Beekeeping is a traditional industry that has been repeatedly mentioned as one with the potential for expansion, particularly with entrepreneurship in mind, and is starting to rise. There is a real demand for pure honey, for which both domestic and international consumers pay up to $60 per kilogram18. Microfinance options exist to help young entrepreneurs pursue this as an option; for example, “Friends of Kurdistan, a small Canadian NGO provides $150 start-up grants to people to start bee keeping.19
The Economic Development Assessment also recommended that collaborative relationships between sectors (e.g., agriculture, extractive industries, and education) and within sectors (horizontal integration, particularly with small- and medium-sized agricultural enterprises) be pursued.
The Government of Iraq and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) agreed on a strategic plan for 2008 – 2013, which rests on 3 pillars: policy reform to enable a market-based agriculture sector; improved capacity of public agricultural institutions; and investment in irrigation, local markets, farm inputs, extension and animal health services. Agriculture is potentially a huge source of employment and income in Iraq and is a government priority area for development20.
A key informant interview with the General Director of Agriculture in Duhok Governorate disclosed a new government-funded project centered on agribusiness loans with favorable repayment rates. In an effort to promote small private farming projects through this program, loans are provided to farmers with long-term repayment schemes in place. Examples of potentially-funded include: greenhouses, wells, provision of tools, beekeeping, cold storage, animal feed, poultry rearing and fish rearing. So while governmental programs are in place to revitalize the sector through financial support, there is no planned programming to specifically provide agricultural skills to youth. The Director also noted the great potential for developing larger agricultural projects (poultry, for example) as a means by which to encourage wider youth employment.
16 Atroush, Lorin. Invest Kurdistan Iraq. Acccessed 14 April 2014.
17 RTI International. Kurdistan Region Economic Development Assessment. December 2008.
18 The Leeds Beekeepers Association (LBKA). May 2013 Newsletter 26
19 Friends of Kurdistan Foundation. http://friendsofkurdistan.com/micro-credit. Accessed 20 February 2014.
20 Jordanian Scandinavian Business Club .Private Sector Development in Iraq. January 2011.
Youth Labor Market and Entrepreneurship Opportunities Assessment in the KRG May 2014
The construction industry constituted 7.6% of KRG’s GDP and employed 16.6% of its workforce in 201321. Within industry in KRG, construction dominates, accounting for approximately 76% of industrial employment; manufacturing, on the other hand, accounted for only 9.4% of industrial employment but less than 2% of all employment in the KRG (in 2012)22.
As a result of demographic shifts and increased urbanization, various construction developments are required to meet the growing need for residential and commercial real estate in the KRG. This development is self-evident, with high profile examples visible of each of the three governorates. In Erbil, for example, the Empire World project has a budget of $2.3 billion and scheduled to finish in 2017, will include 88 high-rise towers, 300 luxury villas, a five-star hotel and various commercial structures. The potential for such projects to provide employment both in the construction stage and latterly in the service sector once the project is completed (in the hotel, commercial establishments for example) is great. Emaar Properties, a UAE property developer, provides another example of the impact of development on the region. It hopes to create 45,000 jobs from its debut project, a $3 billion ‘Downtown Erbil’ development.23 The construction project is yet to begin but is expected to last for five years. The company was also reviewing a $2 billion contract for a touristic city project in Sulaymaniyah.24
Figure 3 illustrates the breakdown of housing construction projects and their values in each of the three governorates: Figure 3: Housing Contruction Projects in the KRG (2006-2012) Governorate # of Projects Value (USD in billions)
The growth of a construction sector spurred the development of associated sectors, including construction materials. Currently construction materials are imported from abroad; however, there is now a drive from the KRG to support the production and extraction of these materials locally through financial support for private sector factories. According to Investingroup, local plants are now producing steel and concrete and have plans to increase production capacity and export to neighboring countries.
The service industry is a vital part of the KRG economy, whether considered through GDP contribution or number of people that the sector employs. In this assessment, the term ‘services’ is used to describe the retail, restaurant, hotel and tourism sectors. In 2012, 77.3% of all employment in the KRG was found in the services sector, according to the Kurdistan Regional Statistics Office25. Nonetheless, it is difficult to accurately gauge sector growth and employment opportunities in a sector founded largely on small-scale restaurants, shops and hotels.
Erbil is experiencing a burgeoning of Lebanese restaurants that have introduced Levantine cuisine – shawarma, falafel, hummus. Many Syrian refugees have taken up jobs as chefs and waiters, introducing a touch of Syrian flavor and hospitality; they have also sought work at many of the new cafes


Yizidies the minority groups in the Kurdistan

The Yazidis (also Yezidi, Êzidî, Yazdani) (/jəz’i:di:z/ ( ) yah-zee-dees) are a Kurdish ethno-religious community whose syncretic but ancient religion Yazidism (a kind of Yazdânism) is linked to Zoroastrianism and ancientMesopotamian religions.[16][17][18] They live primarily in the Nineveh Province of Iraq. Additional communities in Armenia, Georgia, and Syria have been in decline since the 1990s as a result of significant migration to Europe, especially to Germany.[19] The Yazidis are monotheists,[20] believing in God as creator of the world, which he has placed under the care of seven holy beings or angels, the chief of whom is Melek Taus, the Peacock Angel. The Peacock Angel, as world-ruler, causes both good and bad to befall individuals, and this ambivalent character is reflected in myths of his own temporary fall from God’s favor, before his remorseful tears extinguished the fires of his hellish prison and he was reconciled with God. This belief builds on Sufi mystical reflections on the angel Iblis, who proudly refused to violate monotheism by worshipping Adam and Eve despite God’s expressed command to do so.[21]Because of this connection to the Sufi Iblis tradition, some followers of other monotheistic religions of the region equate the Peacock Angel with their own unredeemed evil spirit Satan,[22][23][24][25] which has incited centuries of persecution of the Yazidis as “devil worshippers.” Persecution of Yazidis has continued in their home communities within the borders of modern Iraq, under fundamentalist Sunni Muslim revolutionaries.[26] In August 2014 the Yazidis were targeted by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in its campaign to “purify” Iraq and neighboring countries of non-

History of the Kurdish People

The Kurds are an ethnic group who have historically inhabited the mountainous areas to the south of Caucasus(Northern Zagros and Eastern Taurus mountain ranges), a geographical area collectively referred to as Kurdistan. Most Kurds speak an Indo-European language belonging to the Northwestern Iranian branch.

There are various hypotheses as to predecessor populations of the Kurds, such as the Carduchoi of Classical Antiquity. The earliest known Kurdish dynasties under Islamic rule (10th to 12th centuries) are the Hasanwayhids, theMarwanids, the Shaddadids, followed by the Ayyubid dynasty founded by Saladin. The Battle of Chaldiran of 1514 is an important turning point in Kurdish history, marking the alliance of Kurds with the Ottomans. The Sharafnameh of 1597 is the first account of Kurdish history. Kurdish history in the 20th century is marked by a rising sense of Kurdish nationhood focused on the goal of an independent Kurdistan as scheduled by the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920. Partial autonomy was reached by Kurdistan Uyezd (1923–1926) and by Iraqi Kurdistan (since 1991), while notably in Turkish Kurdistan, an armed conflict between the PKK and Turkish Armed Forces was ongoing from 1984 to 1999, and the region continues to be unstable with renewed violence flaring up in the 2000s.

Demographics of the Kurdish people in the Iraq

Due to the absence of a proper population census, the exact population of Iraqi Kurdistan as well as the rest of Iraq is unknown, but the Kurdish government has recently started to publish better population figures. Iraqi Kurdistan has a young population with an estimated 36% of the population being under the age of 15.[86]As of 2014, the population of Kurdistan has reached 5.2 million people.

The ethno-linguistic make-up of Iraqi Kurdistan is diverse and includes Kurds and some large ethnic minorities: Arabs, Assyrians, Turkmens, Shabaks and Yezidis.


The Kurdistan Region’s official languages are Kurdish and Arabic[87] but Kurdish is the most widely spoken language. The two main dialects of Kurdish are Soraniand Kurmanji in its Bahdini variant, but a part of the population also speaks Hawrami, especially in the Halabja region.

Arabic, Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, Iraqi Turkmen, Armenian are also spoken by their respective communities.[87]


Iraqi Kurdistan has a diverse religious population. The dominant religion is Islam, adhered to by the majority of its inhabitants. These include Kurds, Iraqi Turkmen, and Arabs, belonging mostly to the Shafi’i school of Sunni Islam. There are also Shia Kurds. Christianity is adhered to by most Assyrians, and Yezidis make up a significant minority.[88] Yarsan, Mandean, and Shabaki religions are also followed.


Since the overthrow of the regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iraqi Kurdistan has witnessed massive immigration from the rest of Iraq (particularly from Kurds, Assyrians, Armenians, Mandeans, Shabaks and Roma), as well as from South Asia. Because of the stability and security, Kurdistan has witnessed non-Kurdish or non-Iraqi immigrants.

Widespread economic activity between Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey has given the opportunity for Turks to seek jobs in Iraqi Kurdistan. A Kurdish newspaper based in the Kurdish capital estimates that around 50,000 Turks are now living in Kurdistan.[89] Reports about immigrants from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan have been published as well.


As of December 2014 there were approximately 2 million refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan from surrounding areas. There were about 335,000 in the area prior to 2014 with the rest arriving in 2014 as a result of unrest in Syria and attacks by the Islamic State.[90]


Main articles: Iraqi culture and Kurdish culture

Kurdish culture is a group of distinctive cultural traits practiced by Kurdish people. The Kurdish culture is a legacy from the various ancient peoples who shaped modern Kurds and their society, but primarily Iranian. Among their neighbours, the Kurdish culture is closest to Persian culture. For example they celebrate Newrozas the new year day, which is celebrated on March 21. It is the first day of the month of Xakelêwe in Kurdish calendar and the first day of spring.[91] Other peoples such as Arabs, Assyrians, Armenians, Shabaks and Mandeans have their own distinctive cultures.


Main articles: Iraqi music and Kurdish music

Traditionally, there are three types of Kurdish classical performers – storytellers (çîrokbêj), minstrels (stranbêj) and bards (dengbêj). There was no specific music related to the Kurdish princely courts, and instead, music performed in night gatherings (şevbihêrk) is considered classical. Several musical forms are found in this genre. Many songs are epic in nature, such as the popular lawiks which are heroic ballads recounting the tales of Kurdish heroes of the past like Saladin. Heyrans are love ballads usually expressing the melancholy of separation and unfulfilled love. Lawje is a form of religious music and Payizoks are songs performed specifically in autumn. Love songs, dance music, wedding and other celebratory songs (dîlok/narînk), erotic poetry and work songs are also popular.


Football is the most popular sport in Iraqi Kurdistan, overseen by the Iraqi Kurdistan Football Association. KFA submit an application for membership in FIFA. The Kurdistan Premier League is a Kurdish professional league for men’s association football clubs. At the top of the Kurdish football league system, it is the country’s primary football competition. Contested by 14 clubs, it operates on a system of promotion and relegation. October 2012, Kurdistan Kickboxing Association (KKA) was officially announced as the new member of World Kickboxing and Karate Association (WKA). Also member of World Kickboxing and Karate Union (WKU). In 2012 Kurdistan won the Viva World Cup as the host of the tournament.


Before the establishment of the Kurdistan Regional Government, primary and secondary education was almost entirely taught in Arabic. Higher education was always taught in Arabic. This however changed with the establishment of the Kurdistan autonomous region. The first international school, the International School of Choueifat opened its branch in Iraqi Kurdistan in 2006. Other international schools have opened and British International Schools in Kurdistan is the latest with a planned opening in Suleimaniah in September 2011.

Iraqi Kurdistan’s official universities are listed below, followed by their English acronym (if commonly used), internet domain, establishment date and latest data about the number of students.

Institute Internet domain Established Students
University of Sulaimani (UOS) http://www.univsul.org/ 1968 25,900 (2013)
Salahaddin University (SU) http://www.suh-edu.com 1970 20,000 (2013)
University of Dohuk www.uod.ac 1992 14,000 (2014)[92]
University of Zakho www.uoz-krg.org 2010 2,600 (2011)[93]
University of Koya (KU) www.koyauniversity.org 2003 4260 (2014)
University of Kurdistan (UKH) www.ukh.ac 2006 400 (2006)
The American University of Iraq – Sulaimani (AUIS) www.auis.edu.iq 2007 50 (2007)
American University Duhok Kurdistan (AUDK) www.audk.us 2014 (?)
Hawler Medical University (HMU) www.hawlermu.org 2006 (?) (2006)
Business & Management University (BMU) www.bmu-me.net 2007 (?) (2007)
SABIS University www.sabisuniversity.edu.iq 2009 (?) (2009)
Cihan University www.cihanuniversity.org 2007 (?)
Komar University of Science and Technology – Sulaimani (KUST) www.komar.edu.iq 2012 (?)
Hawler Private University for Science and Technology hpust.com ? (?)
Ishik University (IU) www.iu.edu.iq 2008 1,700 (2012)
Soran University www.soran.edu.iq 2009 2200 (2011)
Newroz University www.nawrozuniversity.com 2004 (?)
Human Development University  ? ? (?)
Sulaimani Polytechnic University (SPU) www.sulypun.org/sulypun 1996 13000 (2013)

Petroleum and mineral resources[edit]

KRG-controlled parts of Iraqi Kurdistan contain 4 billion barrels of proven oil reserves. However, the KRG has estimated that the region contains around 45 billion barrels (7.2×109 m3) of unproven oil resource.[94][95][96][97] Extraction of these reserves began in 2007.

In November 2011, Exxon challenged the Iraqi central government’s authority with the signing of oil and gas contracts for exploration rights to six parcels of land in Kurdistan, including one contract in the disputed territories, just east of the Kirkuk mega-field.[98] This act caused Baghdad to threaten to revoke Exxon’s contract in its southern fields, most notably the West-Qurna Phase 1 project.[99] Exxon responded by announcing its intention to leave the West-Qurna project.[100]

As of July 2007, the Kurdish government solicited foreign companies to invest in 40 new oil sites, with the hope of increasing regional oil production over the following 5 years by a factor of five, to about 1 million barrels per day (160,000 m3/d).[101] Gas and associated gas reserves are in excess of 100×1012 cu ft (2,800 km3).[citation needed] Notable companies active in Kurdistan include Exxon, Total, Chevron, Talisman Energy, MOL Group, Genel Energy, Hunt Oil, Gulf Keystone Petroleum, and Marathon Oil.[102]

Other mineral resources that exist in significant quantities in the region include coal, copper, gold, iron, limestone (which is used to produce cement), marble, andzinc. The world’s largest deposit of rock sulfur is located just southwest of Arbil (Hewlêr).[103]

In July 2012, Turkey and the Kurdistan Regional Government signed an agreement by which Turkey will supply the KRG with refined petroleum products in exchange for crude oil. Crude deliveries are expected to occur on a regular basis.

Kurdistan Regional Government

Since 1992, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has been based in Arbil. The KRG has a parliament, elected by popular vote, called the Kurdistan Parliament, and a cabinet composed of the KDP, the PUK and their allies (Iraqi Communist Party, the Kurdistan Socialist Democratic Party etc.). Structurally and officially, the two parties exhibit few differences from each other. Both of their international organizations are similar and both have a similar structure of authority. Nechirvan Idris Barzani, Masoud’s nephew, was prime minister of the KRG from 1999 to 2009, including presiding over the first KDP-PUK unified cabinet from 2006 to 2009.

Mesud Barzani.jpg Nechervan Barzani May 2014 (cropped).jpg
Masoud Barzani
President since 2005
Nechervan Barzani
PM since 2012

Masrour, Masoud’s son, is now in the Political Bureau. Nechirvan, as Prime Minister, spearheaded unprecedented social and economic reforms, including attention to violence against women, improvements in infrastructure, and a focus on the private sector and foreign investment. He has also been at the forefront of the rapprochement with Turkey and the active development of oil and gas fields in the Region. According to Bruinessen, the traditional structure of Kurdish social and political organization was inherently tribal, with a tribe being a socio-political unit with distinct territorial limits and membership based on kinship. Tribal power is widespread in Arbil and Dahuk. And one must recognize the cultural differences between Arbil and Sulaymaniyah to understand the political nature of the region.[56]

After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Kurdish politicians were represented in the Iraqi Governing Council. On January 30, 2005 three elections were held in the region: 1) for Transitional National Assembly of Iraq 2) for Iraqi Kurdistan National Assembly and 3) for provincial councils.[57] The Law of Administration for the State of Iraq for the Transitional Period recognized the autonomy of the Kurdistan Regional Government during the interim between “full sovereignty” and the adoption of apermanent constitution.

The Kurdistan Regional Government has constitutionally recognised authority over the provinces of Arbil, Dahuk, and Sulaymaniyah.


Elections for the Kurdistan National Assembly are held every four years. The latest elections for the parliament of Kurdistan were held on 21 September 2013. The leading political alliance was the Kurdistani List which consisted of the two main political parties, PUK, which held 18 seats and the PDK, which held 32 seats. The newer and less popular competing movement, the Gorran List (“Gorran” means “change” in Kurdish) headed by Nawshirwan Mustafa won 24 seats, a quarter of all parliamentary seats. The Gorran List had a strong showing in the city of Sulaymaniyah and the Sulaymaniyah governorate, which was previously considered PUK’s stronghold.

In the presidential election, Masoud Barzani was appointed President and won another term in 2009 by gaining 70% of votes. Dr. Kamal Miraudeli came second with approximately 30% of votes.

Elections for the governorate councils are held every four years, however the last ones being held in 2005. Each council consists of 41 members.

Foreign relations[edit]

Iraqi Kurdistan houses numerous consulates, embassy offices, trade offices and honorary consulates of countries that want to increase their influence and have better ties with the Kurdistan Regional Government.[58] As of October 2010, there were 20 diplomatic representations in the Region, including Turkey.

The representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government to the United States is the youngest son of Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, Qubad Talabani. The KRG’s high representative to the United Kingdom is Bayan Sami Abdul-Rahman, daughter of Sami Abdul-Rahman who was killed in a terrorist attack on 1 February 2004.[59]

According to the World Food Programme, in the span of one week in August 2013, 37,000 Syrians fled to Iraq, 15,000 of them arriving at the Kawrgosk camp in Kurdish Northern Iraq.[60]


Main article: Peshmerga

Peshmerga is the term used by Kurds to refer to armed Kurdish fighters; they have been labelled by some as freedom fighters. Literally meaning “those who face death” (pêş front + merg death e is) the peshmerga forces of Kurdistan have been around since the advent of the Kurdish independence movement in the early 1920s, following the collapse of the Ottoman and Qajar empires which had jointly ruled over the area known today as Kurdistan.

Peshmerga Special Forces

The Peshmerga fought alongside the US Army and the coalition in the northern front during Operation Iraqi Freedom. During the following years, the Peshmerga played a vital role in security for Kurdistan and other parts of Iraq. Not a single coalition soldier or foreigner has been killed, wounded or kidnapped in Kurdistan since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The Peshmerga have also been deployed in Baghdad and al-Anbar governorate for anti-terror operations.

The Kurdistan Region is allowed to have its own army under the Iraqi constitution and the central Iraqi army is not allowed to enter the Kurdistan Region by law.

Human rights[edit]

In 2010 Human Rights Watch reported that journalists in Kurdistan who criticize the regional government have faced substantial violence, threats, and lawsuits, and some have fled the country.[61] Many journalists faced trial by political figures because of their reports and threatening to jail them if continue doing reports about the corruption in the region.[awkward]

Human Rights Watch reported that female genital cutting is practiced mainly by Kurds in Kurdistan; reportedly 60% percent of Kurdish women population have undergone this procedure, although the KRG claimed that the figures are exaggerated. Girls and women receive conflicting and inaccurate messages from public officials on its consequences.[62] The Kurdistan parliament in 2008 passed a draft law outlawing the practice, but the ministerial decree necessary to implement it, expected in February 2009, was cancelled.[63] As reported to the Centre for Islamic Pluralism by the non-governmental organization Stop FGM in Kurdistan, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, on 25 November, officially admitted the wide prevalence in the territory of female genital mutilation (FGM). Recognition by the KRG of the frequency of this custom among Kurds came during a conference program commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.[64] On 27 November 2010, the Kurdish government officially admitted to violence against women in Kurdistan and began taking serious measures.[65] 21 June 2011 The Family Violence Bill was approved by the Kurdistan Parliament, it includes several provisions criminalizing the practice.[66]

British lawmaker Robert Halfon sees Kurdistan as a more progressive Muslim region than the other Muslim countries in the Middle East.[67] The region has populations of Assyrian Christians, Yazidi, Yarsan, Mandean and Shabak faiths.

Although the Kurdish regional parliament has officially recognised other minorities such as Assyrians, Turkmen, Arabs, Armenians, Mandeans, Shabaks and Yezidis, there have been accusations of Kurdish discrimination against the aforementioned minorities. The Assyrians have reported Kurdish officials’ reluctance in rebuilding Assyrian villages in their region while constructing more settlements for the Kurds affected during the Anfal campaign.[68] After his visit to the region, the Dutch politician Joël Voordewind noted that the positions reserved for minorities in the Kurdish parliament were appointed by Kurds as the Assyrians for example had no possibility to nominate their own candidates.[69]

The Kurdish regional government has also been accused of trying to Kurdify other regions such as the Assyrian Nineveh plains and Kirkuk by providing financial support for Kurds who want to settle in those areas.[70][71] The KRG defend their actions as necessary compensation for the hundreds of thousands of Kurds that have been forced out of the same areas by previous Iraqi governments.


Agriculture is one of the main occupation of the people

The Kurdistan region’s economy is dominated by the oil industry (with potential reserves of around 45 billion barrels),[72]agriculture and tourism.[73][74] Due to relative peace in the region it has a more developed economy in comparison to other parts of Iraq.

Prior to the removal of Saddam Hussein, the Kurdistan Regional Government received approximately 13% of the revenues from Iraq’s Oil-for-Food Programme. By the time of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the program had disbursed $8.35 billion to the KRG. Iraqi Kurdistan’s food security allowed for substantially more of the funds to be spent on development projects than in the rest of Iraq. By the program’s end in 2003 $4 billion of the KRG’s oil-for-food funds remained unspent.

Kirkuk – Ceyhan oil pipeline

Following the removal of Saddam Hussein’s administration and the subsequent violence, the three provinces fully under the Kurdistan Regional Government’s control were the only three in Iraq to be ranked “secure” by the US military. The relative security and stability of the region has allowed the KRG to sign a number of investment contracts with foreign companies. In 2006, the first new oil well since the invasion of Iraq was drilled in the Kurdistan region by the Norwegian energy company DNO. Initial indications are that the oil field contains at least 100 million barrels (16,000,000 m3) of oil and will be pumping 5,000 bbl/d (790 m3/d) by early 2007.[citation needed]

The stability of the Kurdistan region has allowed it to achieve a higher level of development than other regions in Iraq. In 2004, the per capita income was 25% higher than in the rest of Iraq. The government continues to receive a portion of the revenue from Iraq’s oil exports, and the government will soon implement a unified foreign investment law. The KRG also has plans to build a media city in Arbil and free trade zones near the borders of Turkey and Iran.

Since 2003, the stronger economy of Iraqi Kurdistan has attracted around 20,000 workers from other parts of Iraq.[75] According to Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, since 2003 the number of millionaires in the Kurdish city of Silêmani has increased from 12 to 2000, reflecting the financial and economic growth of the region.[76]

Iraqi Kurdistan currently has the lowest poverty rates in Iraq.[77] According to the KRG website, no coalition soldier has died nor any foreigner been kidnapped since the 2003 invasion of Iraq in areas administered by the KRG

Kurdish revolts under British control

Mahmud Barzanji – leader of a series of Kurdish uprisings against British Mandate of Iraq

During World War I, the British and French divided Western Asia in the Sykes-Picot Agreement. The Treaty of Sèvres (which did not enter into force), and the Treaty of Lausanne which superseded the former, led to the advent of modern Western Asia and the modern Republic of Turkey. The League of Nations granted France mandates over Syria and Lebanon and granted the United Kingdom mandates over Palestine (which then consisted of two autonomous regions: Mandatory Palestine and Transjordan) and what was to become Iraq. Parts of the Ottoman Empire on the Arabian Peninsula were eventually overtaken by Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Kingdom of Kurdistan in 1923.

The Barzani revolt, June 1932

On December 1, 1918, during a meeting in Sulaymaniyah with Colonel Arnold Wilson, the Acting Civil Commissioner for Mesopotamia, Kurdish leaders called for British support for a united and independent Kurdistan under British protection. Between 1919 and 1922, Shaikh Mahmud Barzanji, an influential Kurdish leader based in Sulaymaniyah, formed a Kurdish government and ledtwo revolts against the British rule. It took the British authorities until 1924 to put down his uprisings. The first revolt began on May 22, 1919 with the arrest of British officials in Sulaymaniyah and it quickly spread to Mosul and Arbil. The British employed aerial bombardments, artillery, ground attacks by Anglo-Indiantroops and Assyrian Levies, and on one occasion, chemical gas,[citation needed] in an attempt to quell the uprising.[22] Then, with the collapse of the Kurdish forces the British exiled Mahmud Barzanji to India. In July 1920, 62 tribal leaders of the region called for the independence of Kurdistan under a British mandate. The objection of the British to Kurdish self-rule sprang from the fear that success of an independent Kurdish area would tempt the two Arab areas of Baghdad and Basra to follow suit, hence endangering the direct British control over all Mesopotamia.[citation needed] In 1922, Britain restored Shaikh Mahmud to power, hoping that he would organize the Kurds to act as a buffer against the Turks, who had territorial claims over Mosul and Kirkuk. However, defiant to the British, in 1922 Shaikh Mahmoud declared a Kurdish Kingdom with himself as king. It took two years to the British to bring Kurdish areas into submission, while Shaykh Mahmud found refuge in an unknown location. In 1930, following the announcement of the admission of Iraq to the League of Nations, Shaikh Mahmoud started a third uprising which was suppressed with British air and ground forces.[23][24]

By 1927, the Barzani clan had become vocal supporters of Kurdish rights in Iraq. In 1929, the Barzani demanded the formation of a Kurdish province in northern Iraq. Emboldened by these demands, in 1931 Kurdish notables petitioned the League of Nations to set up an independent Kurdish government. In late 1931, Ahmed Barzani initiated a Kurdish rebellionagainst Iraq, and though defeated within several months, the movement gained a major importance in the Kurdish struggle later on, creating the ground for such a notable Kurdish rebel as Mustafa Barzani. During WWII, the power vacuum in Iraq was exploited by the Kurdish tribes and under the leadership of Mustafa Barzani a rebellion broke out in the north, effectively gaining control of Kurdish areas until 1945, when Iraqis could once again subdue the Kurds with British support. Under pressure from the Iraqi government and the British, the most influential leader of the clan, Mustafa Barzani was forced into exile in Iran in 1945. Later he moved to the Soviet Union after the collapse of theRepublic of Mahabad in 1946

Iraq Kurdistan

Iraqi Kurdistan or Southern Kurdistan (Kurdish: باشووری کوردستان / Başûrê Kurdistanê), also known as theKurdistan Region (Kurdish: هه‌رێمی کوردستان / Herêmî Kurdistan) is an autonomous region in Northern Iraq.[5] It borders the Kurdish regions of Iran to the east, Turkey to the north, and Syria to the west, along with the rest of Iraq to the south. The regional capital is Erbil, known in Kurdish as Hewlêr.[6] The region is officially governed by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Kurdistan is a parliamentary democracy with a regional assembly that consists of 111 seats.[7] The current president is Masoud Barzani, who was initially elected in 2005 and re-elected in 2009. In August 2013 the parliament extended his presidency for another two years. The new Iraqi constitution defines Iraqi Kurdistan as a federal entity of Iraq, and establishes Kurdish and Arabic as Iraq’s joint official languages. The four governorates of Duhok, Hawler, Silemani, and Halabja comprise around 41,710 square kilometres (16,100 sq mi) and have a population of 8.35 million (2013 estimate). In 2014, during the 2014 Iraq Crisis, Iraqi Kurdistan’s forces also took over much of the disputed territories of Northern Iraq.

The establishment of the Kurdistan Region dates back to the March 1970 autonomy agreement between the Kurdish opposition and the Iraqi government after years of heavy fighting. The agreement however failed to be implemented and by 1974 Northern Iraq plunged into another round of bloody conflict between the Kurds and the Arab-dominated government of Iraq. Further, the 1980-8 Iran–Iraq War and especially the Anfal genocide campaign of the Iraqi army devastated the population and nature of Iraqi Kurdistan. Following the 1991 uprisingof Kurds in the north and Shia’s in the south against Saddam Hussein, the Peshmerga succeeded in pushing out the main Iraqi forces from the north. Despite significant casualties and the crisis of refugees in bordering regions of Iran and Turkey, the Peshmerga success and establishment of the northern no-fly zone following the First Gulf War in 1991, created the basis for Kurdish self-rule and facilitation of return of Kurdish refugees. As Kurds continued to fight government troops, Iraqi forces finally left Kurdistan in October 1991, leaving the region with de facto autonomy. In 1992, Kurdish major political movements of KDP and PUK established the semi-autonomousKurdistan Regional Government. The 2003 invasion of Iraq and the subsequent political changes led to the ratification of a new Constitution of Iraq in 2005.

As of 2014, Iraqi Kurdistan is in dispute with the Federal Iraqi government, on the issues of territorial control, export of oil and budget distribution and is functioning largely outside Baghdad’s control. With the escalation of the Iraqi Crisis and fears of Iraq’s collapse, Kurds have increasingly debated the issue of independence. In June 2014, the Kurdish President announced plans to hold an official independence referendum “within several months”