The Departed: Iraqi Refugees in Syria

What happens to a country when its population grows by more than 10% in three years? In Syria, which has absorbed more than a million Iraqi refugees, you can see cosmetic transformations. Iraqi-accented Arabic is heard constantly in the cafés and streets of Damascus. Real estate prices have skyrocketed. Food prices are rising. There’s even […]

Postcard from Damascus: The Actor’s Life in Exile

Just days before the American invasion of Iraq, Nahdi Mahdi, one of Iraq’s most famous comedians, was starring in a play called The Wanderers at the National Theatre in Baghdad to a packed house of almost 2,000 people. Like many then living in the misinformation bubble created by Saddam’s regime, war was the farthest thing […]

Is Trouble Brewing for the Kurds?

To many Western minds, the Kurdish-dominated, mountainous northern part of Iraq is an island of relative stability amidst the chaos and bloodshed that wreak havoc in the rest of the country. In fact, with the Kurds boxed in on all sides by jealous and often unfriendly neighbors, that image has always been a bit misguided. […]

Trouble in Kurdistan

Erbil, the capital of Kurdish northern Iraq, is less than an hour’s flight from Baghdad but almost a world away. While the insurgent-plagued airport road in Baghdad is known as the “Highway of Death,” the road from the newly opened Erbil International Airport, plagued by nothing more dangerous than cyclists in spandex, wends through construction […]

Babes in Kurdland

There were moments during my trip into the Qandil mountains of northeastern Iraq when it felt as if all the other passengers stuffed into the Land Cruiser with me—some dozen Kurdish guerillas and activists—were sitting in my lap. Not that I was complaining. This was the summer of 2004, and I figured it was cooler […]