Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

FOCUS

How Senegal is leading the fight against AIDS in West Africa

Read more

EUROPE NOW

A year of crucial elections in Europe

Read more

ENCORE!

Music show: Blues legend Lucky Peterson & Lollapalooza Paris

Read more

EUROPE NOW

One year after Brexit, where is the EU headed?

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Oil-producing nations meet as cracks emerge in production deal

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

Head of French armed forces quits; Six months of President Trump

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Man vs Shark: Michael Phelps loses 'race' to great white

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Chris Froome 'almost' among the greats with fourth Tour de France win

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

International Francophone Games kick off in Abidjan

Read more

REPORTERS

An in-depth report by our senior reporters and team of correspondents from around the world. Every Saturday at 9.10 pm Paris time. Or you can catch it online from Friday.

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

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2017-07-21 Asia-pacific

Video: Afghans live in fear as kidnappings soar

Last year, more than 300 people were kidnapped in Afghanistan. Although abductions of foreigners by the Taliban tend to make the headlines, more than 90% of the victims are in...

Read more

2017-07-14 Asia-pacific

China dreams of superpower status on the football pitch

China has been redrawing the world's football map in recent months. Thanks to virtually unlimited funds, players and coaches from some of the best European clubs are flocking to...

Read more

2017-07-13 Middle East

Exclusive: Storming Raqqa, IS group's cursed capital in Syria

The city of Raqqa in northern Syria has been held by the Islamic State group since early 2014. But the terror group's Syrian headquarters is on the verge of liberation. Snipers...

Read more

2017-07-07 European Union

Poland’s love-hate relationship with the EU

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party, is a maverick. On civil rights, justice and the environment, Poland is increasingly breaking away from EU...

Read more

2017-06-30 Saudi Arabia

Women in Saudi Arabia: A long road to equality

In Saudi Arabia, women are considered second-class citizens. They cannot drive or travel without the authorisation of a male guardian: a brother, father, cousin or even a son....

Read more