The Kurdish people of Northern Iraq gained attention from the rest of the world during the reign of Sadaam Hussein in the 1980’s. It was under his reign of terror that hundreds of thousands of Kurds were gassed, tortured, and forced to flee their homeland. Following the Persian Gulf War in 1991, the United States along with Great Britain established a “no-fly zone” over Northern Iraq that provided the Kurds the needed relief from air attacks. The Kurds have come back into the news recently as victims of the Islamic militant group ISIS. They are again enduring horrible atrocities at the hands of a terrorist group. Within the decades of tragedy is the story of a peace-loving and simple people. In his latest book, “The Miracle of the Kurds; A Remarkable Story of Hope Reborn in Northern Iraq” tells the story of these people from not only a historical perspective, but from personal reflection as well.
Who are the Kurds? They are a group whose ancestry reaches back to the ancient Medes of the book of Daniel and Babylon and today reside in Northern Iraq. They are a variety of religions: Muslim, Christian, Jew, Yezidi, and Sufi who welcome people of all religions: Muslim, Jew and Christian. Mansfield writes they are “largely pro-American, pro-Israel, and pro-democracy…in the belly of the troubled Middle East”. Mansfield shares the Kurd’s history of being skilled fighters with a deeply personal connection to the mountains which make up their lands today. He also describes those along the way who have held control of the Kurds including European empires, Russia, and Turkey. Mansfield says that the Kurds have always held onto an “undying dream of freedom” and their journey toward that freedom has been littered with “epic battles, religious passions and vile betrayals”. The longing for freedom, broken promises, and periods of fortune and misfortune is summed up by a story that Mansfield tells of a memorable Kurdish expression, “we have jam, but we have no jam”. The broader meaning is of disappointment.
The title of Mansfield’s book speaks of a “miracle”. With the enforcement of the No-Fly Zone during the 1990’s, the United States and Great Britain provided the Kurds protection from their enemies and they began to flourish and became known as “the miracle of the Middle East”. He tells of how infrastructure development led to foreign investors setting up businesses in Kurdistan. This became possible by allowing foreign investors to have equal status with indigenous investors. These foreign investors were tax breaks with full rights of ownership and profit. The result was millions of investment dollars, new jobs, and a standard of living that was the best in the country. By 2010 Kurdistan had a world class airport, six-star hotels, new cars, city parks, and quiet neighborhoods. Kurdish private schools chose to adopt an English-only position. Through this rebirth and international influence, public schools no longer favored Islam only. Instead, all religions would be taught equally.
The Miracle of the Kurds is a good work. It is easy to read, informative, encouraging. Mansfield has done a great job, as he always does, in telling the story of the people. Although light-hearted most of the way through, one chapter is dedicated to Sadaam Hussein’s gassing of a certain village in the late 80’s. As strange as this may sound, this graphic inclusion makes the book work. It allows the reader to see the resilient nature of the Kurdish people. Mansfield makes a very powerful statement toward the end. He says, “Kurdistan is what America wanted Iraq to be. It is what we wanted from the war.”
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Worthy Publishing as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”