This is the next guest post in a series by Kevin Post. If you want to guest post on Go Backpacking, please read more here.
Upon arriving in Arbil, the dust cleared and gave way to an incredibly strong sun.
It must have been roughly 42ºC (107ºF) that Spring morning in Arbil, but it felt hotter due to the power of the sun beaming down on my black long-sleeved shirt.
I called my host from the driver’s cell phone and he seemed happy that I had arrived.
I hugged my driver goodbye, thanked him for the conversation and began walking. It was a mere five or six blocks from were the driver dropped me off to my host’s house in the north of Arbil
After walking a few blocks, my host’s brother accompanied me to the house.
He didn’t speak a word of English, knew no Turkish and spoke a dialect of Kurdish I wasn’t familiar with called Soranî. “All of that Kurmancî Kurdish for nothing,” I thought slightly joking.
As we arrived to the front door the brother gave me the international ” I don’t have the keys” gesture.
Waiting by the front door with my host’s brother was the best Soranî Kurdish lesson I could ask for. I learned a lot about the alphabet, basic Soranî phrases and how to read the numbers.
After spending nearly a half hour in blazing midday heat practicing Soranî Kurdish, my host finally arrived.
It was strange meeting my host because on the phone he seemed happy that I arrived but meeting him in person he was expressionless as he shook my hand, as if I were causing him a great inconvenience. He let us in the house and offered me some water and left because he had to work outside of town. I greatly appreciated receiving shelter.
The house was three stories and had at least six bedrooms. It turns out that it was a house for an engineering company where they housed their workers.
I unpacked what little I had, and spoke with a Turkish engineer who lived there six months each year.
He greeted me with the friendliness that Turks are famous for, and came off as a very nice older gentleman.
However, he was about to significantly change the way I viewed the Kurdish region of Iraq for the worse.
You see, I arrived in Iraq at a bad time, as Turkey had recently invaded Northern Iraq to attack PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) guerrillas fighting for an autonomous region in Turkey.
This created an atmosphere of fear throughout the region as Turkish special forces bombarded the Quandil Mountains near the boarders of Iran and Turkey.
I spent about an hour listening to him explain how horrible and dangerous Arbil and the rest of Iraqi-Kurdistan was.
He even told me that taking photos of the city could get me jailed. Foolishly, I took his advice, and as a result, I have very few photos to show of my trip to Arbil.
Just like the Turkish soldiers on the Turkish side of the border, he told me that I have a high risk of being killed.
The way he spoke, and the stories he told me, made me fear venturing further into Northeastern Iraq. Shortly afterward, things seemed to go from bad to worse.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Series: The Road to Halabja
- Part I – Border Crossing
- Part II – No Turning Back
- Part III – Arbil Awaits
- Part IV – A Bad Time to Arrive
- Part V – Penniless in Iraq
- Part VI – Should I Stay or Should I Go
- Part VII – A True Muslim
- Part VIII – Iraqi Road Trip
- Part IX – Iraqi Hitchhikers & A Life of Prayers
- Part X – Kurdish Farewell
- Part XI – Smuggler's & Turkey's Loving Embrace