A FEW FACTS ABOUT THE KURDISTAN REGION IN IRAQ
With a population of currently more than 5 million and rapidly increasing, the three governorates of Duhok, Erbil and Slemani cover approximately 40,000 square kilometres - four times the area of Lebanon and larger than that of the Netherlands. The Region is geographically diverse, from hot plains to cooler mountainous areas blessed with natural springs where snow falls in the winter. Since March 2003 not a single coalition soldier has died nor a single foreigner been kidnapped in the areas administered by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
The capital and seat of the Kurdistan Regional Government is Erbil, a city known locally as Hawler. The Citadel in Erbil is said to be the longest continually inhabited place in the world. The Kurdistan Regional Government exercises executive power according to the Kurdistan Region?s laws as enacted by the democratically elected Kurdistan National Assembly.
The current government, led by Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, assumed office on 5 April 2012. Iraq?s Constitution recognises the Kurdistan Regional Government, the Kurdistan Parliament and the Peshmerga guard as the legitimate regional forces. The current coalition government consists of several political parties that reflect the diversity of the Region?s people, who are Chaldeans, Assyrians, Turkmen, Yazidis and Kurds living together in harmony and tolerance. Since the Anfal genocide campaign by Saddam Hussein?s Regime in the 1980s, more than 65% of the razed villages have been rebuilt by the Regional Administration. The Kurdish language is distinct and is in the family of Iranian languages, such as Persian and Pashto. There are two main dialects, Sorani and Kurmanji.
The Kurdistan Region has 11 public universities, including the English language University of Kurdistan-Hawler in Erbil which opened in September 2006. There are some 10 private universities including the American University of Iraq in Suleimaniah which started its first programme in autumn 2007.
KURDISTAN'S GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE
The Kurdistan Region comprises parts of the three governorates of Erbil, Slemani and Duhok. It borders Syria to the west, Iran to the east, and Turkey to the north, lying where fertile plains meet the Zagros mountains. It is traversed by the Sirwan river and the Tigris and its tributaries, the Great Zab and the Little Zab. Area: 40,643 square kilometres Population: 3,757,058 Capital city: Erbil (also known as Hewler) The mountains of the Kurdistan Region have an average height of about 2,400 metres, rising to 3,000?3,300 metres in places.
The highest peak, Halgurd, is near the border with Iran and measures 3,660 metres. The highest mountain ridges contain the only forestland in the Region. Annual rainfall is 375-724mm. The climate of the Kurdistan Region is semi-arid continental: very hot and dry in summer, and cold and wet in winter. Spring is the most beautiful season in Kurdistan and the time when Kurds celebrate Nawroz, the Kurdish New Year, on the spring or vernal equinox. Mean high temperatures range from 13-18 degrees in March to 27-32 degrees in May.
The summer months from June to September are very hot and dry. In July and August, the hottest months, mean highs are 39-43 degrees, and often reach nearly 50 degrees. Autumn is dry and mild, and like spring is an ideal time of year to travel in the Region. Average temperatures are 24-29 degrees in October, cooling slightly in November. Winters are mild, except in the high mountains. Mean winter high temperatures are 7-13 degrees Celsius, and mean lows are 2-7 degrees Celsius.
THE PEOPLE OF THE KURDISTAN REGION
Population: 5.2 million The people living in the Kurdistan Region are Kurds as well as Assyrians, Chaldeans, Turkmen, Armenians and Arabs. The Region has a young and growing population, with 36% aged 0-14 years, and only 4% aged over 63. The median age in Kurdistan is just over 20, meaning more than 50% are less than 20.
The Kurdistan Region?s demography has changed considerably in the last few decades mainly because of forced migration by the previous Iraqi government, which is one of the main reasons for the movement from the countryside to towns and cities. By 2001, at least 600,000 people were internally displaced mainly because of the previous Iraqi regime?s policies since the 1970s. This included more than 100,000 people expelled in November 1991 alone from Kirkuk by the Iraqi government. According to a UNDP survey, 66% of people living in Duhok province have been forced to change their residence due to war at any point in their lives, while the figures in Slemani and Erbil are 31% and 7%, respectively.
Traditionally, the majority of people in the Kurdistan Region lived in villages and survived on farming and animal husbandry of mainly sheep and goats thanks to the land?s fertile soil. The Region was known as the breadbasket of Iraq. Today this has reversed, with the majority living and working in the three cities of Erbil, Duhok and Slemani and working in the government, construction, and trade. In the 1980s Saddam Hussein?s regime destroyed over 4,000 villages and forcibly moved their residents to collective towns. Many of these villages have now been rebuilt. The Kurdistan Regional Government, with the support of UN agencies and NGOs, after 1991 rebuilt 2,620 of some 4,000 destroyed villages.
TRAVEL TO THE KURDISTAN REGION IN IRAQ
There are 11 public universities in the Kurdistan Region, and several licensed private universities. The four largest are Salahaddin University in Erbil, the University of Suleimani, the University of Dohuk and Soran University.
They offer studies in various subjects leading to specialised diplomas, bachelors and masters degrees and doctorates. Salahaddin University was established in 1968 in the city of Suleimaniah, and was moved to the city of Erbil in 1981. After the Ba?ath regime withdrew its administration in the aftermath of the Gulf War, in 1992 the Kurdistan Regional Government established the University of Sulaimani and the University of Dohuk. The University of Koya, Soran University, and Hawler Medical University were established after 2000. Four new public universities were established in 2010/2011: University of Halabja, University of Raparin in Rania, University of Garmian, and University of Zakho. The University of Kurdistan - Hawler, launched in 2006, is publicly funded and its only language of instruction and examination is English. At the private American University of Iraq - Sulaimani, all instruction is in English. It offers an intensive English programme to prepare students for its degree programmes.
Some of the private universities in the Kurdistan Region include Cihan University, SABIS University, Ishik University, Dijlah College, Lebanese French University, Hayat University, the University of Human Development in Slemani, and Nawroz University in Duhok.
SECURITY IN THE REGION
Please note that Slemani is the KRG's official English spelling, but it can also be found with other spellings such as Sulaimani, Suleimani, Sulaimaniyah, Suleimaniah. Kurdistan Region in Iraq With a population of 5.2 million, the three governorates of Dohuk, Erbil and Slemani cover about 40,000 square kilometres - four times the area of Lebanon and larger than that of the Netherlands.
The capital of the Region is Erbil, which locally is also known as Hawler. The next largest cities are Slemani and Dohuk. Since the establishment of the no-fly zone in 1991 and even more so since the liberation of Iraq in 2003, the Kurdistan Region has undergone rapid development. Over 65% of the villages destroyed by Saddam Hussein?s regime have been rebuilt, two new airports have been opened and new highways, schools and hospitals are being constructed.
Foreign visitors are warmly welcomed. Among the growing number of visitors are international media and business people, as well as those returning from the Kurdish Diaspora.
While Middle East's conservative customs in business, dress and behaviour are closely followed, Kurdistan is also progressive, pluralistic and relatively open.
FLIGHTS TO THE KURDISTAN REGION IN IRAQ
The security situation in the Kurdistan Region in Iraq is very different from the rest of Iraq. There are fewer than 200 US soldiers stationed in Kurdistan and not a single coalition soldier has lost their life in the Region since the start of the conflict. The official Regional guard, the Peshmerga forces, are highly trained and experienced in providing security. Working in close cooperation with the Regional Guard are the Asayish (the Security Police) and the regular Police, who provide comprehensive protection against threats and help with routine police matters. To maintain the level of peace in Kurdistan, there are checkpoints on the borders and city perimeters. Separate advice must be sought for travel outside of the Kurdistan Region. We also recommend that visitors consult travel advice issued by their country of domicile.