Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

AFRICA NEWS

Virunga Park chief shot

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Algerian election: Bouteflika votes in wheelchair

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Algeria's media: a mixture of censorship and free speech

Read more

DEBATE

Algeria: What's the Choice? Incumbent Bouteflika Votes in Wheelchair

Read more

WEB NEWS

Nigerian web users call for end to violence

Read more

FOCUS

Bitcoin in the US: A monetary revolution?

Read more

ENCORE!

Fast cars and slow trains

Read more

WEB NEWS

Chile: online mobilization to help Valparaiso fire victims

Read more

FACE-OFF

François Hollande: France's most unpopular president

Read more

An in-depth report by our senior reporters and team of correspondents from around the world. Every Saturday at 8.40 pm Paris time.

REPORTERS

REPORTERS

Latest update : 2012-08-21

Iraqi Kurdistan: the downside to a success story

The semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan is held up as an example of stability and development in the Middle East, in large part thanks to its oil revenues. But the gap is increasing between a minority that is thriving, and those who are not reaping the benefits from this economic boom...

Under a baking sun, an immaculate white luxury car is parked in front of an architect’s home. Decorated with grey marble, the 600m² building is on sale for 1.125 million euros. We are in Iraq - but in Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Rasul, an estate agent for what is known as the "Italian Village", speaks in a conspiratorial tone. “We have very rich men in Kurdistan, they have millions!”

Iraqi Kurdistan has 19 billionaires, to be precise.

The region is enjoying an economic boom unique to the Middle East, thanks to security, oil revenues and financial incentives for investors. Around 2,000 foreign companies including Total, Exxon Mobile, and have now set up bases in the region.

However Himdad, a 26-year-old philosophy student, is not so happy about this Kurdish success story. Walking around the upmarket district nicknamed Dollarawa - “dollar-owned” - Himbad is disheartened. “The prices here are so high that only officials and rich people can afford it. Poor people really don't have the means”, he explains.

Himdad earns 400 dollars a month working as a night security guard, which is the average salary for a civil servant in the region. Like them, he cannot afford the new luxury flats nor the European products sold in the French-style department stores. Himdad lives in a small hut that he has built on the roof of the room he shares with five other members of his family.

Young Kurds - who make up over half the population - are highly critical of Iraqi Kurdistan society. “The old generation do not realise that the world is changing. They are trying to keep the old habits and traditions. But we want change,” Himdad tell us.

In a region where growth was estimated at 8% last year, the majority have yet to see any real benefits. Those benefiting are reportedly a minority close to the elite. “There is money coming in from oil revenues. The political groups have it. And they distribute it according to proximity, friendship, nepotism, sibling relationships”, explains Hosham Dawood, an anthropologist based in Erbil.

Kurdish society is now seeing the two systems collide. That of the Peshmerga leaders is based on unconditional loyalty to a clan. Meanwhile, the younger generation aspires to a more equal distribution of the region’s newfound wealth.

It’s a potentially explosive mix in a region which controls one fifth of Iraq’s oil supplies.

By Claire Billet

Comments

COMMENT(S)

 
 
Archives

2014-04-11 Algerian presidential elections

Is Algeria’s civil society mobilising?

Algeria goes to the polls on April 17th with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika vying for a fourth term. Yet the ailing 77-year-old president, who spent most of past year in hospital...

Read more

2014-04-04 United Nations

Rwanda: The last genocide of the 20th century

On April 6 1994, the Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana’s plane was shot down by a missile. Within a day, the country was gripped by a murderous wave of violence. Between...

Read more

2014-03-28 World Cup

Worked to death in Qatar for the 2022 World Cup

Every day Nepalese workers venture to the Gulf States in search of a better life. Some of these workers will not survive. Those who do receive little or no wages and are given...

Read more

2014-03-21 Sahara

Mali's peace caravan

In Mali, thousands of civilians are still displaced in neighbouring countries. In an effort to encourage their return, musicians have organised a huge caravan crossing the Sahara...

Read more

2014-03-14 Syria

The inside story on when Assad crossed the ‘red line’

A chemical weapons attack targeted the suburbs of Damascus in August 2013. The West threatened air strikes in response, and Syria agreed to destroy its chemical arms stockpile....

Read more