Italy Seeks to Tighten Ties with the KRG
When I first moved to the Kurdistan Region I was confronted with a familiar rhetoric, one that sought to liken Kurdish culture to the Italian one. From a mutual love of overeating (which in all fairness, is true) to awkward jokes about corruption being ingrained in our culture.
While Italians and Kurds do share similar characteristics (namely those which distinguish us as hot-blooded people), our past has shaped us into different people.
“I wouldn’t say that Italian and Kurdish cultures are similar. We definitely share some values that you won’t find in the northern cultures, but apart from the typical southern hospitality and the love for food we don’t share that much,” explained Italian-born Kurd, Tablo Mohammed.
Societies are a product of history; and while Italy still bears the scars of last century’s wars and a currently crippling economy, South Kurdistan is emerging from decades of oppression and a systematic genocidal campaign. But while Italy is stagnant, the Kurdish region of Iraq has the strength and resilience that one often acquires in the face of collective agony.
It is extremely sad to know that my country was partly responsible for the suffering of Iraq’s Kurdish population. During the 1980s, Italian company Valsella Meccanotecnica illegally sold an estimated nine million land mines to Iraq, aiding Saddam in his battle against the Kurds. Today, many of these mines still litter Kurdish ground, and no one in Italy has been held accountable for it.
Having said this, Italy has been working hard to make a place for itself in Kurdistan. While the reason for the sudden burst of interest is not as genuine as one would like to think, and merely linked to political and economic interests, much good is coming out of it.
Italy has been investing in the region’s archeological sites, including the Citadel of Erbil, and lending its expertise to preserve the ancient wonders of the region. It has also invested in Kurdistan’s public health, creating links between Kurdish and Italian hospitals, as well as the private sector and education – areas of the region which must be given priority, both by international investors and Kurdish authorities.
In October, the Italian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs took to the streets of Erbil in a one-day visit to the region; highlighting Italy’s wish to be part of the region’s growth. The minister visited Kawergosk (one of the newer refugee camps), as well as the city’s citadel.
“Italy is committed in assisting the Syrian population. We recently assigned 500,000 Euros to UNICEF” he said during a press conference.
Despite its past mistakes and careless actions, Italy is genuinely trying to bring its expertise to the table and invest in what it sees as an expanding economy and trustworthy people. Their consular office in Erbil is soon to become an official consulate, in hope that its presence will promote political, cultural, and economic ties between Italy and the Kurdistan Region.
By: Sofia Barbarani
From: Erbil, Iraq