Okay, time to come clean.
Kurdistan is not a country.
Kurdistan ("Land of the Kurds".; old Curdistan; ancient Corduene) is a roughly defined geo-cultural region wherein the Kurds form a prominent majority population, and Kurdish culture, language, and national identity have historically been based.
… Contemporary use of Kurdistan refers to parts of eastern Turkey (Turkish Kurdistan), northern Iraq (Iraqi Kurdistan), northwestern Iran (Iranian Kurdistan) and northern Syria .
Thanks Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurdistan).
Okay, okay, in all fairness, I wouldn’t have known either.
The part of this region I am traveling to is Northern Iraq…and that is the really only the second part of my trip. The first part is full blown Iraq. Nasiriya to be specific.
I shared this detail with a handful of people but for the most part when asked where I was going, I stuck to “the Middle East.” Upon further questioning, Kurdistan became my answer.
I really hate lying. I am really uncomfortable doing it in fact. But I didn’t want’ to freak people out. And I didn’t want to hear peoples opinions that would likely be formed in a few moments after I had given a great deal of serious consideration to the proposition of traveling to these locations.
So how did I arrive at the ultimate decision? To go. There.
First off. I feel safe. I know the people who made the decicion to travel and work in this location. And I can honestly say, with conviction, that I do not believe that this organization would willingly risk the lives of their volunteers. I talked to people who had been there. I asked the questions about safety and security. And I was satisfied with the answers.
Iraq is a big place. Yes, shit happens. People get killed there. People also get killed on I-5. People drown in the ocean. People asphyxiate in the concrete coffins created by snowy avalanches. Climbing gear fails. Planes crash. People sometimes even just drop dead. Turns out, life is pretty freaking hazardous.
But you can’t live in fear. Or at least I can’t.
This is an important part of the world. Iraq is often considered the “Cradle of Civilation.” Writen language, agriculture, a model for modern societies…these were all born there. And today, it is a region marked by political turmoil. But it is turmoil that is remote in the extreame to most of us.
And I want to understand. I want to see it for myself. I want to meet the people who build lives there.
My intensivist friend form Belaruse told me that Iraq is “the most exotic place” he has ever been. He described Iraqis as possessing “generosity without borders.” I want to meet these people.
I also want to offer them what I can. I want to help them mend little hearts but more importantly, I want them to someday do it independently.
In a different sense.