From file: 51 migrants who had been living in France and Germany requested voluntary return to Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan | Photo: Kai Pffenbach / Reuters
From file: 51 migrants who had been living in France and Germany requested voluntary return to Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan | Photo: Kai Pffenbach / Reuters

Haresh Talib is an Iraqi Kurd. He is a printer and a civil servant in Sulaimaniyah and has a flat in a good area of the city. But he is hoping once again to travel to Europe to ensure his family’s future.

Haresh Talib sees no future for him and his family in Iraqi Kurdistan. The 36-year-old printer and civil servant recently spoke to the French news agency Agence France Presse AFP about why he is about to take his whole family across Europe in the hope of finding a more stable future.

"There is no future here," Talib tells AFP. "The government asks us to work but it hasn’t paid us on time for years." Last year, unemployment in the autonomous region exceeded 17% according to figures released by Iraq’s Planning Ministry in Baghdad. Unemployment in the rest of Iraq stood at 14%, reports AFP.

Talib and his family, his wife and his two sons aged eight and 12 live in an apartment on the first floor of a pastel yellow house. Their house is in the well-to-do suburb of Iraqi Kurdistan’s second city Sulaimaniyah.

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Peppa Pig and Real Madrid

While Talib’s eight-year-old watches the British cartoon Peppa Pig in the living room, his brother Hajant plays football outside. Hajant already speaks English and tells the AFP reporter in English about how much of a fan he is of the Spanish team Real Madrid, and particularly the French star Karim Benzema who plays for Real.

But despite all this, Talib says he is determined to pack his bags and leave. This is not the first time Talib has traveled to Europe. He doesn’t want to reveal the exact route he will take, but tells AFP he is hoping to make it to Britain, where he already has friends. "But if that doesn’t work I will go to Germany," Talib explains.

Work and education are Talib’s main motivations. "In those countries there is work. You can guarantee that children will get an education," he says.

From file: A picture of the city of Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan | Photo : picture-alliance/J. Buttner
From file: A picture of the city of Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan | Photo : picture-alliance/J. Buttner

Work and education

About five million people live in Iraqi Kurdistan. According to AFP, about two thirds of households are dependent on a government salary or a pension. But, because of tensions between the government in Baghdad and the autonomous province, payments arrive "chronically late."

A researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Shivan Fazil, explains that over the last few years as the economic crisis has deepened they have seen that there is a "perception of widespread corruption and soaring inequality and political stagnation" in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Fazil thinks that these are the "among the main drivers of the latest wave of migration" from the area. Added to that, detailed a UN report in December 2021, is an "increasingly repressive pattern of active curtailment of freedom of expression" in the country. The report noted that intimidation, arbitrary arrest and other means were being turned on dissenters.

'Confessions extracted under torture'

The report also said that there was a "consistent lack of respect for the legal conditions and procedural safeguards necessary to gurantee fair judicial proceedings before an independent and impartial tribunal."

Trials were observed to fall short of "international human rights norms and standards, including rights of the accused to call and examine, or have examined, the witnesses against them." At least eight of the accused submitted to court, said the UN report, claimed their confessions had been "extracted under torture." The judge, said the UN, "dismissed these submissions without further examination."

"Systematic barriers also prevented defense barristers from preparing an effective defense." At least two of the accused were held in prolonged solitary confinement and "all were denied regular access to their families."

A threat of conflict hangs over the whole region too. The Turkish military has targeted bases in northern Iraq, where Iraqi Kurdistan is situated, saying that they are PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) bases, which Ankara and its western Allies classify as a terrorist group.

There has been conflict between Turkey and the PKK since 1984. In May, several civilians died, reports AFP, following strikes by both sides.

Clan conflicts

Within Iraqi Kurdistan itself, clan conflict has also infected politics in the region. According to AFP, two main groups, the Barzanis of Arbil and the Talabanis of Sulaimaniyah have been fighting to gain dominance in the region.

Talib says he has been threatened by these clans, although declines to specify anything more about the "threats."

From file: An image from November shows migrants in the forest near the Poland-Belarus border | Photo: Leonid Shcheglov/Belta/AFP/REUTERS
From file: An image from November shows migrants in the forest near the Poland-Belarus border | Photo: Leonid Shcheglov/Belta/AFP/REUTERS


In autumn 2021, Talib and his family attempted to reach Europe via the Belarusian capital Minsk. He told AFP that between October and December 2021, he "twice paid a smuggler to help get him and his family into Poland."

Also read: Stuck in Belarus

On one attempt, recounts Talib, a border guard dog jumped at his son, so he hit the dog. Talib then says the Polish police "beat me and we were arrested." On another attempt they tried to use fake Greek passports, but were again arrested.

In December, reports AFP, they were deported back to Kurdistan. But their urge to reach Europe has not gone away. Talib says he and his family just want to "get out of this jungle."

Based on a feature from AFP

 

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