February 15, 2006

The Dream City of the Kurds

Dream City Children.jpg

ERBIL, IRAQ – Kurdistan is a place of the mind. It doesn’t exist on any maps unless the maps are made by the Kurds. Southern Kurdistan is known to the rest of the world as Northern Iraq. Northern Kurdistan is described as Eastern Turkey. Southwestern Kurdistan is Northeastern Syria. And Southeastern Kurdistan is Northwestern Iran.

In no country are Kurds closer to realizing their dream of freedom and independence than they are in Iraq. They are wrapping up the finishing touches on their de-facto sovereign state-within-a-state, a fact on the ground that will not easily be undone. And they’re transforming the hideously decrepit physical environment left to them by Saddam Hussein – a broken place that is terribly at odds with the Kurdistan in their hearts and in their minds – into something beautiful and inspiring, the kind of place you might like to live in someday yourself.

The heart of the new Kurdistan is soon to be known as the Dream City, a massive construction site going up on the outskirts of Erbil.

Dream City Construction Site.jpg

Dream City Model.jpg

The Baath regime’s agoraphobic totalitarian urban planning model will be replaced with a cityscape fit for human beings. Neighborhoods will be built for people, not cars. Tree-lined streets will be pleasant to walk along. Open public green space will beckon people outside their homes and into their community. Restaurants and shops will add the perfect grace notes. Erbil, as a city, is a hard city to love. That may not be true for very much longer.

Korek Tower.jpg

The Korek cell phone company is building a tower near the Dream City that will be the tallest building in all of Iraq when it’s finished. It certainly will be the country’s most aesthetically pleasing tall building. The sleek modern design looks more “Dubai” than it does “Baghdad.”

Dream City Towers.jpg

Not everyone in Iraqi Kurdistan can afford one of the nice houses being built at this time. They cost around 150,000 dollars apiece, and they have to be paid for in cash. The banking system is still in shambles, and mortgages are not available. But lots of people want to live in the Dream City. So a series of more-affordable apartment towers are already partly constructed.

American Suburban House in Iraq.jpg

One already-completed house next to the Dream City is a dead-ringer for a house in the American suburbs. It came complete with a garage and even an oversized yard.

Several Dream City Houses.jpg

Dream City House 1.jpg

The “Sheraton” hotel hosted a Dream City exhibit while I was a guest. 3-D models of the urban plan were set up on tables. Sketches of soon-to-be-real houses lined all four walls.

Dream City Kitchen.jpg

Two fully-stocked kitchens, the kind that will be installed in the houses, were set up in corners.

Nice Houses in Erbil.jpg

Some lovely new parts of Erbil are already finished.

Row Houses in Erbil.jpg

And the Dream City is only one massive construction site among hundreds. Reconstruction in Iraqi Kurdistan is absolutely explosive. These photos are only a miniscule sample of what’s going up right now as you read this.

It goes without saying that none of this was possible when Saddam Hussein did everything he could, with the fourth largest army in the world, to destroy these people. Even though Kurdistan has been free of Saddam since the Kurdish uprising drove out him and the Baath in 1991, real reconstruction wasn’t possible until 2003. When the embargo was lifted, and when everyone knew that the bastard could never come back, the Kurds finally had the nerve to build their dream country in earnest.

Postscript: If you enjoy my posts from Iraq, please don’t forget to hit the tip jar. I can’t do this for free. Thanks!

Posted by Michael J. Totten at February 15, 2006 01:54 AM

MJT, your little deceit about your schedule is forgiven. But you haven't yet told me enough about your Iraq trip to merit another contribution! Keep on writing.

Posted by: Solomon2 at February 15, 2006 03:46 AM

I'll keep writing, Solomon. Don't you worry. And thanks for the first contribution. :)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 15, 2006 04:51 AM

This is really fantastic!

Posted by: Andrew Brehm at February 15, 2006 05:34 AM


Beautiful photographs. It is good to see a people realize their dreams after being suppressed for so long.

Did you hear any mention on how the projects are being funded?

Posted by: SirGlubb at February 15, 2006 05:43 AM

Most of the project are being funded privately. The regional government is also buying nice houses for the Peshmerga who ousted Saddam from the region.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 15, 2006 05:46 AM

I think I saw that model home on Arrested Developmnet!

Posted by: jake at February 15, 2006 05:47 AM

In a couple of years this will be a popular place for western tourists. I know I'd like to visit.

Posted by: tefta at February 15, 2006 06:16 AM

wow. I wanna live in kurdistan now.
its much better than leb ... well it will be anyway.

Posted by: Wissam at February 15, 2006 07:13 AM

Michael, for your next trip you should consider going to "Northern Kurdistan" aka Eastern Turkey. That would be an interesting comparison. Turkey is a key player right now and doesn't get much attention in the press. It's a country stuck in the middle - between Islam and Europe, between democratic leanings and a strong neo-fascist element. It's still not clear which way it will go. Our liberation of Kurdistan is certainly one of the more unqualified bits of "good news" resulting from the US liberation of Iraq, but at the same time that very act has driven a deep wedge between the US and Turkey. Taking the pulse of the Kurds of Eastern Turkey would be worthwhile.

Posted by: Vanya at February 15, 2006 07:53 AM

They have created a nice home but it is still in the middle of a bad neighborhood. They must be cautious.

Then again if the Turks keep up with the anti-Americanism, Syria and Iran continue to be serious problems the Kurds might find their homeland expanded. Something I think a growing number of Americans would support.

Perhaps someone should tell the Turks, Syrians and Iranians they are making their own nightmare happen.

Posted by: rjschwarz at February 15, 2006 07:54 AM

I really love those Kurds. I think they'll be friends and allies for decades to come. It's rather nice that Israel is no longer our only friend in the Middle East. Instead of pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq,or stationing them "over the horizon" as Murtha suggests,I'd rather see a large base in Kurdistan. 500,000 U.S. soldiers aren't easy to move around the world,and we've had to do it twice in the last 15 years. That,and the fact we never know which Middle Eastern countries can be bribed for fly-over rights,are good enough reasons for a large permanent base in the world's most unstable region. But,most of all,I want Kurds to feel safe and secure. They deserve that much.

Posted by: Perry at February 15, 2006 08:39 AM

Very impressive. The good thing with Iraq is that it has a lot of oil and therefore can rebuild itself. Now that there's democracy, the money will be used to something other than building marble palaces. I wish the best to the kurds.

Posted by: Montreal at February 15, 2006 08:59 AM

When you say "private funding" do you mean local or international? Also, are the architects and designers local or international?

Posted by: Babs at February 15, 2006 09:09 AM


It's a mix of local and international. Most international construction companies seem to be Turkish.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 15, 2006 09:12 AM

“Most international construction companies seem to be Turkish.”

That’s fantastic news. The Turkish government was initially concerned about the Kurds living next door to them. A lessening of tensions is good for the region.

Posted by: David Thomson at February 15, 2006 09:48 AM

It's interesting to compare this region with Sub Saharan Africa for example (despite obvious differnces). I suppose it shows that stability is a more vital factor for development than amount of foreign aid. In a few years, when outside investors know this place is safe, I'd guess that the outlook for Kurds will only get brighter.

If you could Mr Totten, would you sometime be able to blog about the economy over there?

Posted by: Jonathan at February 15, 2006 09:58 AM

Michael, I just sent you a litle thank you via Paypal. I appreciate everything you are doing, which goes along way in explaining the donation. Stay safe

Posted by: Darleen at February 15, 2006 10:27 AM

I absolutely love the column. I am a little unfamiliar w/ the water supply in Southern Kurdistan but I noticed in the models the inclusion of several areas of green. I was curious as to where and how they are able to secure water and if this may become a political issue later?

Posted by: Mantis at February 15, 2006 10:33 AM

You're off to a great start. Thanks for the honest and refreshing point of view. I'll be contributing this coming payday.
(sarcastic tone on)
As a general observation regarding the Dream city, it's a good thing there are no "evil" Walmarts being built in these new communities or we would have to withdraw immediatly.
(sarcastic tone off)

Posted by: FloridaSteve at February 15, 2006 10:35 AM

I'm wondering if this "dream" for Kurdish Iraq is the same kind "dream" for downtown Beirut that Solidere is.

Dubai = good?

Cookie cutter Edward Scissorhands-style homes that no one can afford = good?

London/NYC-style tower-block housing projects = good?

It's obvious that you talked to some very convincing salesmen, real-estate developers, and marketing executives about this project, but I'd like to read about what some actual citizens think of this.

Posted by: bye.nova at February 15, 2006 11:29 AM

Bye.Nova: I'd like to read about what some actual citizens think of this.

Everyone who mentioned it wanted to make absolutely sure I knew about it and went out and looked at it. People are excited, and proud.

That "cookie cutter" house is a cookie cutter house in Kansas. But it stood out in Iraq. That's why I took a picture of it.

Dubai = good?

Aesthetically speaking, compared to totalitarian Iraq, yes absolutely. Have you ever seen Iraq? The new stuff is critiqueable, but the old stuff is brutal and hideous.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 15, 2006 11:39 AM

Great dreams! Thanks.

Mortgages only started taking off in Slovakia a couple of years ago, over 10 years after the 89 ousting of the commies.

We bought our first flat for cash -- BEFORE it was completed. There were quite a few scams of developers taking full price deposits, starting something, and taking off. Or "running out" of money.

Our second, larger, flat was also bought for cash in 1999. A few banks were starting to test the mortgage market. Now all the banks are pushing "hypoteky" (Slovak for mortgage, similar to German).

Mortgages take secure private property rights, and courts willing and able to enforce foreclosures for non-payment -- which is always a tragedy for those who lose their houses. (I had a sister lose her S. Cal. house, when her husband was out of work.)

Mortgages also take some kind of stable money, and fairly low interest rates. In the US.

I'm wondering how the Muslims will handle that without interest? I understand a lot of Muslim banking is based on equity/ risk investment; and also on implicit interest rates through "fixed" exchange rates that include a "time value."

Michael, did any of the Kurds explain future payment systems on time? Naturally the first customers will be paying cash. That's how trickle up works.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Libertay Dad at February 15, 2006 11:53 AM


Muslim countries do have banks with interest. The Kurds, especially, are not ideologically opposed to such things as modern banks. They are extraordinarily pro-Western there in Kurdistan. They just don't have a system up and running yet. One reason is that no one there knows how to do it. They need help from outside, and they are trying to get it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 15, 2006 11:59 AM

Posted by: xyz at February 15, 2006 12:17 PM


Very glad to see you on the latest beat. We're all lucky to have you wandering about.

Our military men and women may be putting their lives on the line to make this possible, but you lay your life on the line to keep the successes visible.

Keep up the good work!

Posted by: Dadmanly at February 15, 2006 12:30 PM


A nice home in a bad neighborhood begins the change from bad to good.

Keep the reports coming, Michael. Hope to see something on anything that you might have observed on the lives of the Kurdish women.

Posted by: DodgerGirl at February 15, 2006 12:35 PM

Fascinating reporting Michael. One concern is that Dream City might be replicating Portland's nightmare of traffic congestion. Building a city for people, not cars, sounds nice and fuzzy, but the reality is that as prosperity increases the Kurds, like others around the world, will want the personal freedom that four wheel vehicles allow.

Posted by: Steve Buckstein at February 15, 2006 12:36 PM

I would add Kuwaitis to your list of our friends in the Middle East along with the Kurds and Israelis.
Great photos and great stories! I bet there were times you just looked around and couldn’t believe you were actually in Iraq. I think the Kurds have a lot of potential, just as long as they focus on developing what they have in Northern Iraq and don’t get bogged down with Turkey and Iran. I sent you a paypal donation,

Posted by: John at February 15, 2006 01:01 PM


Thanks for the donation! Somehow I don't expect donations from personal friends.

How's Portland doin? Still there? It seems so far away. (I guess that's because it is. I'm ten time zones ahead here.)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 15, 2006 01:04 PM

And the civilized world smiles.

Posted by: Sirc_Valence at February 15, 2006 01:04 PM

Excellent work! The mortgage system of banking has begun to take hold in Turkey with big Western players such as HSBC and Citibank taking the lead, I believe. Housing prices in Turkey are primed for strong increases because until recently, homes were purchased only with cash, or on "installment" during construction. With mortgages, there will be a large array of peripheral services required: title searches, appraisals, inspections, insurance, etc. Housing is more affordable with a mortgage, but the prices will adjust accordingly and erase some of the advantage, as will the support industries which mortgages may require. I am sure that Northern Iraq is on the bankers's radar screens.

Posted by: Murat at February 15, 2006 01:13 PM

Okay, from my perspective, this is absolutely the most bizarre story you have reported. While I knew that the Kurds were better off, in various ways, than most others in Iraq and potentially Turkey and Syria, I had no idea that their status was anywhere near this level. No wonder so many people and/or countries can't stand the Kurds - they not only know what modern life is like, apparently they want to live it, too. It seems they don't wish to just survive, but defy!

Before reading your story, I imagined a Tijuana-style environment (no offense to Tijuana intended) where buildings often looked like crap, but where the Kurds had a decent supply of clothes, food, and probably some electronic items. There would be elements of modernity, but a lack of critical mass to do anything about it. I imagined that modernity was passing them by because of a certain level of isolation. Boy how I was wrong! I'm astonished at the Las Vegas-style development occurring. Where are they getting the cash for all of this? What is the business activity there? What is the social climate like?

I'm definitely interested in hearing more. Donation forthcoming ...

Posted by: John at February 15, 2006 04:13 PM

I'd like to know how much of this explosion of construction and the City of Dreams, etc. has been supported and was possible due to the good grace and generosity of EHMs. Economic Hit Men a la John Perkins.

Posted by: Axis of Evo at February 15, 2006 04:25 PM


Who is John Perkins?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 15, 2006 04:33 PM

To everyone who is asking me questions:

Most, if not all, will be answered in future posts. Better to address them on the main page. When I'm completely finished blogging about this place, I may run an open thread where questions I haven't answered can be asked and I'll answer them on the main page in a single post the following day. (If I know the answers, that is. I obviously don't know everything.) I do have a lot of loose material in my notebook that won't fit in blog posts and articles...

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 15, 2006 04:36 PM

The prospect of an authentically Muslim liberal democracy on par with Israel in the heart of the Middle East is almost too good to be imagined. For starters, it would put an end to the myth that we support states like Israel only for the fact they're not Muslim. I doubt we will see the likes of an independent, liberal, and thriving Kurdistan anytime soon...probably at least not for another generation...but it's a dream worth cultivating, none the less.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at February 15, 2006 04:50 PM

Great photos. They really give a completely DIFFERENT perspective to how some parts of the future might look in this troubled area.


Just as an aside, had I but known that you were merely a potential right-wing shill as postulated by tom, in a previous thread, I certainly would have curbed those unfortunate disagreements in the past.

We VRWC types have to stick together. :-)

Posted by: dougf at February 15, 2006 05:03 PM

John Perkins is the author of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.
He worked for a large "consulting" firm out of Boston whose job it was to get such huge loans through the IMF and World Bank for countries like Indonesia, Panama, Ecuador, etc. and put them so much in debt that they couldn't pay back. And use other means to advance US hegemony around the world. Well, I highly recommend the book.


Posted by: Axis of Evo at February 15, 2006 05:36 PM

great work keep it up!

Los Angeles


Posted by: Los Angeles at February 15, 2006 06:17 PM

The condos (?) in the 2nd-to-last pic: let me build those in the near-north side of Chicago, and I'll sell every one for a handsome profit.

That photo says a lot about the sense of style and proportion of Kurdish architecture. I really enjoy all the little touches.

Thank you, Michael, for the reporting.

Posted by: Steve White at February 15, 2006 06:24 PM

This is so absolutely fabulous it almost brings a tear to my eye! Imagine the pride these people are taking in rebuilding their community. All these years of oppression...being forced to suppress their natural human instincts of freedom and creativity. Now FREE! To build. To create. To invent. To LIVE. It's exhilerating!!!

Posted by: Megs at February 15, 2006 07:01 PM

Wake up and smell the roses. Kurdistan never has been and never will be a reality. NE MUTLU TURKUM DIYENE!!

Posted by: Ata at February 15, 2006 07:42 PM


A friend of mine is running a company that will go public soon that takes Television Stations from around the world and broadcasts them via the Internet to usually expats living around the world.

He was recently traveling all throughout the Middle East including Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Dubai. In Iraq he was traveling with the Iraqi Oprah he called her, though I forget her name. He got around Iraq/Beirut many times via a cab like anywhere else he said.

He mentioned a few things -

1) In the Middle East typically the regular guy on the street is much more radical than the Rulers or Royal Family like in Jordan and more so than the businessman, whose interests are just like any other businessman's anywhere else. We both agreed that this is a very bad omen, see Cuba 1955.
2) Iraq he found not to be anti-semitic that he could see at least and in many parts very secular.
3) Dubai is building a Manhattan over night and has the most cranes in the world there right now. He said outside of Israel it is the most developed country in the Middle East.
4) The hottest girls by far he said were in Lebanon.
5) King of Abdullah, who he feels is a very modern and reasonable guy when it comes to the West and Israel does not get credit for making peace with Israel and having a quiet secure border, but gets knocked for this. SEE AGAIN #1.

Thought you'd appreciate that.


PS My friend is a Sephardic Jew and could easily blend in as an Arab.

Posted by: Mike Nargizian at February 15, 2006 07:45 PM

This is very interesting news. Thank you for informing people about what's going on in your side of the world when obviously CNN wont. It seems like you are reaching a lot of people through your site and I just want to encourage you to continue. Good news is always exciting to read.

Posted by: Jordan at February 15, 2006 07:54 PM

"Neighborhoods will be built for people, not cars."

Non-sequitor. If you're going to build neighborhoods for people, then you're going to build them to accomidate the most powerful expression of human freedom, which is the car.

Posted by: Greg D at February 15, 2006 09:50 PM

Thanks for this, Michael. Pay day is next week. I'll see what I can do to help.

Posted by: Patrick at February 15, 2006 10:39 PM

The trends in Iraq are pretty obvious to anyone willing to see reality. It's easy to imagine that a shadowy opponent has infinite man-power and infinite resources and is thus invincible (no matter how deep their losses) ... right up to the point where they run out of man-power and resources. The war is being won by the Iraqis and by the Americans, and Iraq is not just being rebuilt but newly built beyond anything that has gone before. Unless there's some dramatic upset (and with a continued American presence, that's hard to see happening) Iraq will be a much different place in the future. In 10, 20, 30 years westerners will be taking vacations and business trips to an Iraq that will be almost inconceivably (to those without perspective or foresight) wealthy and modern (and peaceful) compared to the Iraq of today and of the recent past.

Cf. Germany, Austria, Japan, France, South Korea, Taiwan, Poland...

Posted by: Robin Goodfellow at February 15, 2006 11:16 PM

The commies built up huge, low cost, "rabbit hutch" (V. Havel) apartments. For people, not cars. And it's true that my kids walk to school; I can easily shop at a decent almost-super market every day; there's a fine common courtyard where the kids play.

But now the small streets are choked with cars, and there's almost an hour of bumper-to-bumper surface street traffic into the main city.

Middle class people need car friendly architecture and city planning -- or else the cars will take over the sidewalks and other "walking" space.

This will be even MORE true in an Iraq which subsidizes, rather than taxes, gasoline.

Michael, what was the price of gas? (less than 50 cent/gal ?) And exhange rates?

Posted by: Tom Grey - Libertay Dad at February 15, 2006 11:37 PM

I just got back from Kurdistan and this project is massive.

Beautiful City.

Lawk Salih

Posted by: Lawk Salih at February 16, 2006 06:20 AM

www.info-surgeres.com c'est le meilleur site du monde cree par Monsieur Frederic Chognot.

Merci l'Amerique (I thank America) !

Posted by: Frederic Chognot at February 16, 2006 08:24 AM

great stuff Michael,

as a Kurd, I expect better stuff than what you kindly review.

we think if there was %50 less corruption in Kurdistan, it would be 20 times better than the current status.

we can do better!

Posted by: hiwa at February 16, 2006 01:36 PM


Which is why the US is dissolving debts in Africa and recently in Afghanistan? To expand "hegemony"? Or why we were giving more in foreign aid to poor countries than the amounts they had to pay in debts anyway? You do realize the author also writes stuff about mystical spirits and shamans (check him out on Amazon) and thinks pre-industrial cultures are the wave of the future? He's a moonbat. Actually you can sort of tell by the new slick cover of the book: some guy in a trenchcoat, edgy typeface, praise quotes from Chavezistas like Doug Palast, etc.

Posted by: Dax at February 16, 2006 09:35 PM

I've been to this place. It's just outside of Phoenix, Arizona.

Posted by: Ringo the Gringo at February 16, 2006 09:38 PM

Before you all get carried away with how wonderful it is for a poor Not-in-America city to look just like America, you ought to read this.
or this
or this
or lots of others.

It defeats me how anyone who purports to be some kind of journalist can be so massively un-objective. And it is a damning indictment of the American educational system that so many readers know so little about other countries that they think that all you have to do is make the country 'free' as you amusingly term it and at once all the locals will move into nice big houses just like in America and be happy. Please.

Please don't start thinking that the USA is actually doing any good in the world, or that we are all terribly grateful to you.

Posted by: peter at February 17, 2006 01:07 AM


Read your first link. Some of it's true, some of it isn't. Some of it was true when it was written and is no longer true.

I'm not finished writing about Kurdistan anyway. I'm just getting started. So why don't you wait until I'm finished before you accuse me of not writing about everything.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 17, 2006 01:47 AM

I think it is a damning indictment of your knowledge and education to make so many erroneous statements. I certainly think making a people free is a good start, but I saw no one make that statement in such simplistic terms, except for you. I certainly saw nothing on this thread but genuine happiness for a people enjoying and thriving in a democracy, in it's infancy. As to where gratitude is concerned, no one asked you or anyone else for it. Perhaps the worlds ills can be assuaged by your lilliputian asseverations, rhodomontade, America-bashing and kindergarten sophistry?

Posted by: Steni at February 17, 2006 01:54 AM

For those of you out, you need to remember that in journalism, there is a concept called the inverted pyramid. Lead with most important and put least important later on. Michael has started with what is most important, the Kurds are free and optimistic about the future. That they have stuff that we recognize as middle class lifestyle is surprising, but not to be denigated. The government's corruption and the lack of... fill in the blank has to wait until later.

Michael, your form of journalism is akin to the subscription method used in the 1600's and 1700's to publish books. It is by my standards more honest than the present system where we as consumers let the journalist tell us what we should consume. By telling everyone before hand what you were going to do, you let those interested in project to back it.

As I said before you went on the trip, I am desperate to know whether they have gotten a tourist industry up and running. The place where Kurdistan was supposed to be a tourist stop for rulers for the last 5000 years. I know that sounds crazy, but that is what I had heard. Is the place as safe as say Washington, D.C. (murder capital of the world)? Do they have plans for ski resorts? Have they gotten the hydroelectric projects started yet? Have they started the archelogical digs yet?

Sorry, sorry. I know you will be get to this in due time, but this is an area of the world I am interested in and no one has covered it. By my standards, we owe the Kurds a debt of blood. The story I get is that just like in Hungary in 1956, we intimated that we would back the Kurds if they revolted... and then didn't... three times, 1960's, 1970's, and 1980's. They like the Hungarians got their ass kicked. That they still like us after such bad treatment in the past quite astonishes me. Be that as it may, we should be promoting the Kurds anyway we can. We cannot change the past. We should attempt to do something in the future to help.

If the Kurds have a set of hotels up and running and the place is as safe as Washington, D.C., then it should be touted as a tourist Must See.

Posted by: H. Alan Montgomeryt at February 17, 2006 09:02 AM

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Posted by: Anil at February 17, 2006 12:59 PM

Excellent article, we've put you up at the front page!

The WesternCiv Daily

Posted by: The WesternCiv Daily at February 17, 2006 01:47 PM

This is excellent work!! i as a kurd living in london is proud of your work. I am happy to see the name kurdistan coming to relisation that there is such a place in the heart of every kurd. There are plenty tourist sites such as breath-taking scenery of the amount of waterfalls and mountains you will see in this fertile country. I myself is planning to return this summer, for which i will be visiting the many beutiful areas. Someone talked of archeology, well kurdistan is a tresure in itself. IN erbil is the famous citadel which is the centre of the only countinously civilised city in the world for 8,000 years. check out on google. As last time i heard there are planes for a ski resort which will be connected with a hotel via a telecar thingy (i've forgotten what its called, the ones you see skiers go on, i think its cable cars)funded by a local businessman who is funding the hotel which is to cost in the region of 60-80 millionUSD. Hopefully you will get round to discussing these points. BUT i am not happy with the goverment it can do so much better. I would love to fund the great work you are doing for my country but i'm only 16 and i'm being truthful. We might be the only people in the Middle east to be pro-american and pro-israel and thats tanks to their being 100,000 kurdish jews living in israel. Our posperity is due to our secularism towards Islam and the great role we provide to women. i hope you get round to finding out that women in some areas have more respect than men unlike any country in the middle east.

Posted by: rosh at February 17, 2006 04:08 PM

Some dreams come true; others crumble before they are realised. From baggy trousers and a three-yard headgear to a pressed suit and shiny shoes to match the city style of elegant houses, high rising buildings and Ford/Toyota/benz is beyond their capability. The higher their dreams and their buildings, the harder they fall. Man proposes, God disposes. There are people there that have been denied the very basics, and whose wealth and land stolen, in the name of democracy. I wonder on whom the circle will eventually close and pay the price of their treachery?

Posted by: FPIsaac at February 18, 2006 08:42 AM

Sounds too good to be true. And when the Yanks stop behaving like Mr Nice Guy ["rescuing" Iraq] and start doing what they do best how long will it be before the jack-booted marines are laying waste to this wonderland and killing more innocents?

Posted by: Robert H Mercer at February 18, 2006 07:58 PM

Robert, don't be an ass. Why on earth would the Marines blow up the Dream City of their friends and allies? They're as likely to "lay waste to" Sydney as Erbil.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 19, 2006 01:46 AM

If the plans for the Dream City go well— and why shouldn't they?— I can well imagine it being the Next Big Thing of tourism.

I can already see the marketing: Come See the Cradle of Civilization... Yesterday's and Tomorrow's. :)

Posted by: B. Durbin at February 19, 2006 11:40 AM

Bob Mercer

My good friend in Arbil says the US army units who he has met and got to know are the best thing that ever happpened to Kurdistan.

He says the no fly zone enabled the Peshmarga to destroy Saddam's attempts to destroy Kurds.

He says now if the US could remove the leadership of Kurdish lands, leaders who are compared to Ouday and Qusay, leaders who are Saddams former agents, leaders who are not elected but handed power because thats what gangster families do, keep the wealth and incestuous ignorance all in the family.

My friend Ismail, born and raised and living in Arbil, says he would love to see some US Marines come dig out the gangsters, the way the Army did Saddam.

Posted by: justdanny at February 20, 2006 09:35 AM

thnx two much micheal about this nice article about kurdistan,,we are need very much friends like u to tell the whole world the facts about kurdistan and friendly kurdish poeple.although the enemies tried to destroy every thing related with kurdistan but they can any more because we are exist and nobody can steal our dreams from us because we have a faith in kurdistan .

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Posted by: cialis at February 21, 2006 01:48 AM


I don't want to believe that you have ulterior motives calling a region in Turkey "Northern Kurdistan", but it's certain that there is an ignorance. Turkey faces terrorism for more than 2 decades and lost more than 30.000 people in a bloody aim to seperate a region from Turkey and call it Kurdistan. The terror is still ongoing and it's diredted from Northern Iraq. The terrorist group "PKK" is in the terrorist list of both US and EU. I am sure that you will not desire to have the same speech with a terrorist. You should show a sensitivity against PKK, which you showed against Al Qaeda. Supporting a terrorist is all in all, a terrorism.

Another note is, without looking ethnical origins, everyone has freeedom in Turkey, so the Kurds. In Turkey there are different ethnic origins, but together we are a nation.

Posted by: Hakan Bulut at February 22, 2006 07:45 AM


The PKK is disgusting. I meant know endorsement of them whatsoever when I wrote "Northern Kurdistan." I was just explaining to Westerners (who might now otherwise know) where Kurds live.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 22, 2006 07:52 AM

I meant to write "who might not otherwise know" above.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 22, 2006 07:55 AM

Now, what's WRONG with this picture?

Just about everything!!! There are few areas that I will claim expertise in...but this is one of the few. I was a general contractor for years and years...I built low income housing in the Middle East for 9 or 10 years...built a couple thousand houses in Iraq. First, from this `look at the good things we are doing in Iraq' article or blog...

"Not everyone in Iraqi Kurdistan can afford one of the nice houses being built at this time. They cost around 150,000 dollars apiece, and they have to be paid for in cash. The banking system is still in shambles, and mortgages are not available. But lots of people want to live in the Dream City"

How about that for starters...How many of the Kurds (who have been persecuted for hundreds of years) have $150,000 lying around? The answer is...NOT MANY...just the political bosses and the smugglers...every one else is going to be on the outside looking in. But they don't WANT in.

They want a wall around their home..., which in Iraq right now may not be such a bad idea. That's my point...this design...which would be fine if it were in a suburb of Springfield or Houston...completely ignores the culture of the Kurds!!! Now, you may not have the same culture or beliefs, but such things take years to change. Homes there feature an entrance hall to greet guests, a walled off interior room to entertain male friends while shielding family from prying eyes. Where are the servant's quarters?
The kitchen is all wrong.

Well, I could go on and on here, but the point is we need a little cultural sensitivity here if we are EVER to make friends in this part of the world. I am reminded of the Bush Administration's brilliant plan following the downfall of Sadam to flood the country with hordes of Christian missionaries...remember how well THAT worked out?

Posted by: Richard at February 23, 2006 04:22 AM

How can you divide an utopian country (that was not established and will never be exist until the last blood of Turks all been exhausted)as Northern Kurdistan? Where's this god damned Northern Kurdistan?
Can I have a change and is it possible to define Texas or other southern cities of US as Northern Mexico or Northern Republic of Zapata's Mexico or vice versa?
if somebody who is living miles miles away from your country and never reside in your country pretend the same things about your country like mentioned above, do you like it or not?
Why don't you respect the people who lives in their own countries?

Posted by: PRAETOR at February 23, 2006 05:50 AM

How can you divide an utopian country (that was not established and will never be exist until the last blood of Turks all been exhausted)as Northern Kurdistan? Where's this god damned Northern Kurdistan?
Can I have a change and is it possible to define Texas or other southern cities of US as Northern Mexico or Northern Republic of Zapata's Mexico or vice versa?
if somebody who is living miles miles away from your country and never reside in your country pretend the same things about your country like mentioned above, do you like it or not?
Why don't you respect the people who lives in their own countries?

Posted by: PRAETOR at February 23, 2006 05:52 AM

a great job Michael ,

Kurdistan is not a heaven but it may be one of the few nice places in the Middle East , The People are nice and their ability to change for better is good , They are not such stupid like some other peoples , I belive we need to organize Kurdistan and after a few years you will hear about new Dubai , To be Honest and as a kurdish who live in Erbil , the life is expensive but seems its the destiny of the new life style , I hope there will be enough fair for all peoples ,
Friends Hope the best for us !!

for Turks , I will say there is Kurdistan and you can visit http://northerniraq.info/ to update your brain and see the map of the land where the Kurds are ,

Biji Kurdistan

Posted by: lawe Kurd at February 28, 2006 07:16 AM

Good stuff, glad to see some part of Iraq makin benefit. Long over due change for these people. im really happy to read about it. thanks for making it available to the public.

Posted by: EeS at March 1, 2006 03:38 PM

here is my e-mail if some body need to know more


Erbil - Kurdistan

Posted by: Lawe at March 1, 2006 10:48 PM

Thank you Michael!

God Bless you and KURDISTAN.

Posted by: Rodin at March 4, 2006 02:00 PM

Hello Thanks for not using Northern Iraq word, instead of South Kurdistan word nice post ,

there is no northern iraq, it is kurdistan ...

Posted by: dyaoko at March 22, 2006 03:49 PM

The fact that only criminals, politicians and businessmen (lines between all very blurry in Kurdistan) can afford such dreams speaks more to the "wild west" style of corruption and criminality that presently exists as opposed to a flourishing of Kurdish society. The resentment that is building in Erbil and other cities across Kurdistan as the two parties and their criminal cronies rake in the bucks will eventually rear up and kick them all in the ass, as it did in Halabja.

Posted by: ransik at March 28, 2006 02:05 PM

Hi Michael,

Really enjoying your website. I have vacation time coming up in December and would like to visit Kurdistan but don't know how to set something up. I've emailed several organizations offering to do volunteer work during the two weeks I'm off but haven’t heard back from anyone yet.

We Americans have so much being done there in our name and reports about the facts on the ground are so conflicting I would like to go, meet people and see a little for myself. Any suggestions?

Kind regards,

Posted by: Scott at September 21, 2006 10:20 AM

If you were a Brit female going to teach Eng in Arbil for 6 months what would you take re clothes, necessities, etc? AND what sort of books doyou recommend reading about the city and its environs

Posted by: Jess at November 29, 2006 06:50 PM

i sincerely hope an independant kurdistan is established in northern Iraq. This way, when they keep supporting the PKK, Turkey can formally declare war and annhilate its enemies once and for all.

Posted by: GokTurk at January 3, 2007 01:40 PM
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