Dreaming of a Homeland

More than a decade after the allied invasion of Iraq, the semi-autonomous north of the country, commonly known as Iraqi Kurdistan, is facing its toughest challenge yet. Famed for its security and prosperity compared to the rest of the country, the Kurds are now fighting to maintain their hard earned reputation and continue on their path towards nationhood. Thanks to oil revenues and previously unfathomable trade and business links with Turkey, it is easy to find luxury hotels, shopping malls and fast cars in the regions capital, Erbil. Extremely tight security has meant the North has become a safe heaven for both national and international business in a country that is still racked by sectarian violence and now the expanding threat of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria).

The apparent stability and rapid development of the region is now more finely balanced than ever due to the emergence of the ISIS. The Peshmerga, Iraqi Kurdistan's independent armed forces, have been drawn into heavy fighting to protect their territory and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis from other parts of the country have flooded to the North, adding to the huge numbers of Syrian refugees already seeking refuge there. The war is sapping the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) resources.

Although the current fighting with ISIL is by far the greatest threat the autonomous regions's existence, Kurdistan was built on fragile foundations from the start. The violence that has racked the rest of Iraq since the allied invasion, and more recently the war in Syria, was always in danger of spilling over its borders. In addition to this, Turkish war planes were, until recently, regularly bombing Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas who have many of their bases in the mountains of Northern Iraq.

It is remarkable, therefore, that the KRG has managed to build a sanctuary of development and stability with the constant spectre of violence and instability hanging over it. It is this juxtaposition that this body of work seeks to examine. It shows the seamless transition from Erbil's built up and bustling centre to refugee camps near the border with Syria or a training camp for young Kurdish fighters in Syria and their Iraqi counterparts who are playing computer games in one of Erbil's shopping malls. This part of Iraq, a country so blighted by over a decade of violence, is a place of many contradictions. A harsh, beautiful and often treacherous place.

Read the Full StoryClose the Story