September 2, 2006
Youth migration and the danger for Kurdish Government
Bashdar Pusho Ismaeel
The Kurdish Globe
Decades of repression under the hands of successive regimes drove embattled Kurds throughout the region, to escape the violence, suffering and poverty and head for lands of promise and liberty in their masses. Over the last four decades or so, remarkably as many as 2 million Kurds migrated to the Diaspora.
The affects of the Diaspora have been nothing short of remarkable in this time period in introducing the Kurdish question to the international fold. Bringing Kurdish history, culture and atrocities such as Halabja to the democratic world, paved the way for greater support from global powers, enabling the international community to better understand the historical plight of the Kurds, often not even know, despite their millennia old heritage.
In the 1990’s, the first wave of mass migration took place fuelled predominantly by youths heavily constrained by a lack of opportunities, economic sanctions, poor public services and a bitter civil war.
Post 2003, after the fall of Saddam saw high hopes and a national euphoria that Iraq was finally on the mend, and with a society free from the clutches of dictatorship, would provide ample opportunities in reconstruction, education and socioeconomic progress. All but in the Iraqi Kurdistan region, this has simply proved a national utopia.
Although the economic boom in the KRG has been well documented, the progression rate of the region and opportunities have seldom met the demands of an ever-expectant youth, ever aware of the benefits and promise of more established Western lands.
Increasingly, unemployed university graduates seek a better life and a fulfillment of their long-term dreams. In the short-term, rocketing housing prices, shortage of key fuels such as electricity and particularly petrol, and a high unemployment, has placed the KRG under great pressure. Wages in the current climate are unable to sustain reasonable proportion to a searing cost of living, fuelling public frustration and recent demonstrations.
It is clear that, that undoubtedly the Iraqi Kurdistan region is taking huge strides towards modernization and development of society, but with the rest of Iraq proving nothing more than a bottleneck, progress may become arduous and protracted. Unfortunately, an impatient youth particularly with technical expertise may be unwilling to wait for the electronic and technical revolution to kick off in earnest. Most are unwilling to endure standard low paid jobs, in the hope of a more distant promise, which in their eyes can already be fulfilled abroad. Patience is a tough virtue in Iraqi Kurdistan, people need money now and are unable to simple retract loans and mortgages to bridge short-term needs and long-term ambitions.
Although costing thousands, and fraught with many difficulties and dangers, for many the long trek to the Diaspora is worth its rewards.
Clearly the KRG is in a difficult position, but without greater hope for a demanding and expectant youth, the trends will only continue. However, these are same individuals that are greatly needed in the local progression of Kurdistan today.
In the future, a modernized and strongly economic region is a strong reality, with a number of simultaneous projects currently been undertaken, but the short-term gap, in a volatile political, social and economic regional climate is hard to quantify.
KRG needs to provide greater incentive to these academic and technical graduates, with both short and long term rewards.
Better training prospects, the premise of cheaper accommodation and possible loans could all help bridge this gap. In summary, promises and incentives are key as much as installing hope for a better today and an even better tomorrow, but only by making it a reliable dream that the youth can happily aim for.
Better international recognition of the KRG could also enable, more youth to freely travel abroad for work projects and training, whilst maintaining their base and knowledge in the region. Other initiatives could involve speeding up the developments of IT and the modernization of the region, to introduce a far greater job range that is available now to satisfy an increasingly able and knowledge- thirsty population.
Undoubtedly, mass immigration in the past has resulted in significant gains for the greater Kurdish community with the establishment of a number of organizations, movements and greater global standing, bringing the Kurdish question firmly to the international agenda. However, an over saturation may well leave the Iraqi Kurdistan region, with a decreasingly skilled and qualified youth and with a damaging gap in the short-term to further propel the region into modernization and economic advancements.