THE KURDS OF IRAQ

This program immerses you within local communities in northern Iraq's Kurdistan region. During the program, you hear stories from survivors of Saddam Hussein's nerve gas attacks, celebrate Nowruz with Kurdish families, participate in ancient fire rituals to cleanse yourself for the new year, and meet members of persecuted Yazidi and Chaldinian minority communities. Expect to also learn about current events and the Kurdish fight against ISIS. This program is designed to help you understand Kurdish concerns, values, and aspirations in this stable yet fragile region.

 
 
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OVERVIEW

The Kurdish people number around 40 million strong in the Middle East, yet have found themselves without their own homeland. Rather, they are spread across several countries from Turkey to Iran, and only in Iraq today do they enjoy a genuine degree of autonomy. The Kurdish Peshmerga fighters are credited with dismantling ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and the Kurdish areas of the Middle East are seen as some of the most stable and progressive in the region, yet today the Kurds find themselves increasingly isolated, abandoned or threatened by major powers. This is northing new to the Kurds, as this program will teach you.

This program is designed to help you understand Kurdish concerns, values, and aspirations in this fragile region. You are immersed within local communities in northern Iraq's Kurdistan region to meet people and understand their world. During the program, you hear stories from survivors of Saddam Hussein's nerve gas attacks, celebrate Nowruz with Kurdish families, participate in ancient fire rituals to cleanse yourself for the new year, and meet members of persecuted Yazidi and Chaldean minority communities. You can expect to also learn about current events and the Kurdish fight against ISIS by talking with survivors and Peshmerga who fought on the front lines.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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PROGRAM


 

IN BRIEF

MEETING POINT
Start: Sulaimaniyah, Iraq (Kurdistan)
End: Erbil, Iraq (Kurdistan)

PROGRAM FEE
$2500 (includes all program activities, accommodation, food, transport, guides & staff)

PROGRAM DATES
March 15-23, 2020

CAPACITY
8 participants

What is Nowruz?

Nowruz is the Persian New Year celebrated during the vernal equinox. Despite its Iranian and Zoroastrian origins, Nowruz has been celebrated by diverse communities for over 3,000 years in Western Asia, Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Black Sea Basin, and the Balkans. It is a secular holiday for most celebrants that is enjoyed by people of several different faiths, but remains a holy day for Zoroastrians, Bahais, and some Muslim communities.

 

ITINERARY 

DAY 1. SUNDAY, MARCH 15, 2020. ARRIVE IN SULAIMANIYAH  

  • Arrivals in Sulaimaniyah city throughout the day. No scheduled activities. 

  • Welcome dinner and program briefing in the evening. 

DAY 2. MONDAY, MARCH 16, 2020. HALABJA

  • Halabja was the scene of the mass chemical attack on the Kurdish people, perpetrated by the Baathist regime, and today is the remembrance day of the attack. Here, we will visit the Monument of Halabja, where we will participate in a remembrance ceremony and meet with survivors of the attacks. 

  • Mass crave cemetery in Halabja. 

  • Visit Zalm village on the Iraq-Iran border

  • Drive to the top of Goyja mountain to see Sulayimanyah city at night.

DAY 3. TUESDAY, MARCH 17, 2020. SULAIMANIYAH / ERBIL

  • We visit the Red Prison: the Red Prison was an infamous building where Saddam imprisoned and tortured thousands of Kurdish civilians. It has been converted into a museum, complete with exhibits about the other strife of the Kurdish people as well as an exhibit about the war on ISIS.

  • Meet with locals in the Sulayimanyah souq and grand mosque. 

  • Visit Dokan Lake.

  • Drive to Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.

DAY 4. WEDNESDAY, MARCH 18, 2020. ERBIL / DOHUK

  • Mar Mattai monastery— built in 4th century, it is recognized as one of the oldest Christian monasteries in Iraqi Kurdistan. Five monks live at the monastery and we can talk with them, as they spend two and a half years living a stone’s throw away from ISIS territory 5kms away.

  • Drive to Lalish, the most sacred town for the Yazidi people, where we can meet Yazidis and hear about their experiences over the last few years, including some that were sold as slaves to ISIS.

  • Visit to the Alqosh cave churches in Mosul province.

  • Spend the night in Dohuk. 

DAY 5. THURSDAY, MARCH 19, 2020. DOHUK

  • Visit Saddam Hussein’s former mountain top palaces and summer house.

  • Meet with locals and explore the old town of Amadiya including their mosque, synagogue ruins and ancient gate.

DAY 6. FRIDAY, MARCH 20, 2020. DOHUK / AKRE (NOWRUZ HOLIDAY)

  • Drive to Akre town. Today is the Nowruz holiday and local people will be celebrating throughout the day. We participate in activities, including a torch parade up the side of a mountain, a fire jumping ceremony and fireworks around Akre castle.

  • Overnight in Akre.

DAY 7. SATURDAY, MARCH 21, 2020. AKRE / ERBIL

  • Today is a day off for locals for the Nowruz holiday. We join local families in Akre and Erbil for picnics and bonding.

DAY 8. SUNDAY, MARCH 22, 2020. ERBIL

  • Jalil Khayat mosques.

  • Erbil citadel. 

  • Shanadar, Minaret and Sami Abdulrahman parks.

DAY 9. MONDAY, MARCH 23, 2020. DEPART FROM ERBIL

  • Departures throughout the day (or the night before). No scheduled activities.