10 years after Iraq’s liberation, Kurdistan looks to the West
Kurds eager to end dependence on Iraq
Bridge" in English.
The 351 students start studying Kurdish, the native language of most, in third grade. Arabic is introduced last, in fourth grade.
The curriculum reflects the priorities of the school's founder, a member of Iraq's ethnic Turkmen minority. But it also suits Kurdish parents who believe their children's future is tied to Turkey.
Oddly, Turkish-Kurdish ties are flourishing at a time of continued cross-border violence.
Turkish warplanes routinely strike bases of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, a Turkish rebel group operating from the Qandil mountains of Iraq's Kurdish region. The PKK launches raids into Turkey from its mountain hideouts.
Both sides are simply keeping the two issues separate.
Turkey has stopped linking improved ties with Erbil to resolving Turkey's conflict with the PKK, a fight which has claimed thousands of lives since 1984. The Kurds keep quiet about Turkish airstrikes on their territory.
As problems with Baghdad fester, Kurdish officials say their region's departure from Iraq is inevitable. Many here dream of an independent Kurdistan, made up of parts of Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq, home to more than 25 million Kurds.
"As a people, we deserve that," said Bakir, the foreign policy official. "We want to see that in our lifetime."
But with key allies such as the U.S. and Turkey opposed to splitting up Iraq, the Kurds say they won't act with haste or force.
Asked if the Kurdish region would declare independence once it can export oil directly, Bakir said: "We will cross that bridge when we get there. At this time, we are still committed to a democratic, federal, pluralistic Iraq."
The five star Divan Hotel stands out in this picture in the exclusive neighborhood of Gulan district of Erbil.