Basic information

The official name of Kurdistan is Iraqi Kurdistan or Southern Kurdistan (Kurdish:باشووری کوردستان‎, Başûrê Kurdistanê), also known as the Kurdistan Region (Kurdish: هه‌رێمی کوردستان‎, Herêmî Kurdistan). Kurdistan is a part of Iraq, but has an autonomous status. In relation to the Arabic part of Iraq, Kurdistan constitutes a federation.

The RIK borders Iran in the East, Turkey in the North, Syria in the West, and Iraq in the South. The overall area is estimated 40 643 km2 and the population is 5.3 million of inhabitants, which is comparable to the number of inhabitants in Denmark or Slovakia.

The formation of the Kurdish region dates back to May of 1970 when a mutual agreement between the representatives of the Kurdish opposition and Iraqi government was reached. In 1991, two main political parties – KDP and PUK – established a semi-autonomous regional government.

Kurdistan is a parliamentary democracy with a democratically elected Kurdish Parliament forming the main executive body. The Parliament consists of only a single Chamber. The main political institutions include the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Kurdistan Region Presidency Office. The current administration is supervised by Nechervan Barzani – the Prime Minister. His deputy is Imad Ahmad Sayfour. The current President of Kurdistan is Masoud Barzani. He possesses the greatest executive power in the Kurdistan Region and, by the same token, is the supreme commander of the armed forces.

The Kurdistan Regional Government resides in Erbil – the capital of the Kurdistan Region.. Kurdistan is divided into four governorates. Besides Erbil, it is also Duhok, Silemani, and Halabja, and newly also Kirkuk Governorate controlled by the police and military. The currency is Iraqi Dinar (IQD).

The official languages of the Kurdistan Region are Kurdish and Arabic. Kurdish belongs to the Iranian branch of the Indo-European family of languages. A great dialectical variety is a dominating feature of the language. Two major dialects constitute – Kurmanji (or Northern Kurdish) and Sorani (or Central Kurdish). Most of the inhabitants speak a number of dialects and languages. There are also many universities in Kurdistan, such as in Sulejmanija, Salahaddin University, University of Dohuk , University of Kurdistan, and many others.

The ethnical population in Kurdistan is diverse. The Kurdish, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Turkmens, Arameans, and Arabs live there alongside each other. The average life span in Kurdistan is 70 years. The religious diversity in Iraqi Kurdistan is also rich. Islam is a dominating religion followed by the Kurdish, Iraqi Turkmens and Arabs. The Assyrians and Arameans follow Christianity. Nevertheless, Yezidism constitutes a significant minority.

Economics in Kurdistan

Kurdish economics is dominated by petroleum industry (with 45 billion barrels of potential oil resource), agriculture, and tourism. Economics in the Kurdistan Region is considerably more developed than the other parts of Iraq. Currently, there are four Special economic zones – SEZs – in KRG: In the city Duhok, Batifa, Shaqlawa and Chamchamal. In the ration of GDP sectors, services represent 30,1%, public sector 20,6%, agriculture 17,5%, trade and transport 13,5%, production 9,4%, and civil engineering 7,6%.

Trade and business relations with Kurdistan

Mutual relations between the Czech Republic and Kurdistan (or Iraq) have a historically rich tradition, residing primarily in the business area.

Even today the good relationships continue to exist. The Czech Republic is engaged in the promotion of the growth and development of Kurdistan by all kinds of incentives. By the same token, Kurdistan is an interesting field for the Czech business entities that succeed in the Kurdistan Region.

Significant business entities which entered the Kurdish market are, for instance, ŠKODA AUTO, a.s., cluster CREA Hydro&Energy, z.s. (association of water-management companies), EGEM (energetics), UNIS, a.s. (petrochemicals), GEMA ART GROUP a.s. (sight renovation), or ZETOR TRACTORS a.s. that sells tractors under the Kurdish trademark Antar.

Nature, climate and travel

Kurdistan is characteristic for its stunning mountains and wild natural surroundings. The Kurdistan Region is mostly mountainous with the highest peak reaching to 3.611 m, known as Cheekha Dar. The mountains are part of a larger range called Zagros that spreads across the whole of Iraq.

Rivers are also abundant in Kurdistan. The Little Zab and Great Zab rivers stretch from east to west. One of the greatest ancient rivers –Tigris – enters Iraq through the Kurdistan Region where it flows from Turkey. The biggest lake of the region is Dukan Lake.

An extreme continental climate is typical for Kurdistan. In summer, the temperatures reach 39-48°C, while in winter it can be 2-13°C. Mountanious nature of the landscape, variable temperaturess across the region, and sufficient amount of water makes Kurdistan a country suitable for agriculture as well as tourism.

One of the numerous significant sights born out of Kurdistan’s rich history is the tomb of Cyaxares Qyzqapan in Sulejmanija. According to a Russian historian Igor Diakonov, the tomb belonged to a royal family whose most honourable and powerful king was, in words of an ancient historian Herodotus, Phraortes – the King of Media. Other major sights are Pira Delal (a bridge 114 metres long and 15.5 metres wide crossing the Khabur river), Amadiya (a town situated at the altitude of 1.400 metres), citadel in Hawler (Erbil), Shanidar Cave (situated in the Bradost mountains where the remnants of ten Neaderthals were discovered).

Culture and Customs

The Kurdish people are very friendly and hospitable people who like sports, good food, and dance, which they regularly enjoy during numerous significant events and holidays.

Cultural Heritage
The Kurdish culture has a rich oral literary tradition, while epic poems lawje are the most popular. Commonly, these poems are about the adventures on the field of love or battle. The most distinctive work of literature is Mam-u Zin written by Ahmad-î Khânî (Ehmede Xanî, 1650-1706). The Kurdish people consider it their national epos. It may evoke the story of Romeo and Juliet.

The Kurdish people are largely family-oriented. Wedding is considered as the most significant celebration. Relatively young people enter marriage at the average age of 17 or 18. Tribal leadership is lineally inherited. Nevertheless, the local chiefs are elected depending on their skills and character features, including generosity, integrity, and the ability to deal with the government authorities.

Main Holidays
Originally, the Kurdish calendar was Lunisolar calendar also known as the Babylon calendar. The current calendar is a Solar calendar. The most important public holiday is Nawruz – Persian New Year which is celebrated on the first spring day (March 21st). Special food, fireworks, dancing, singing, and poetry recitals are typical for the occassion. Common flowers are tulips or hyacinths (like in the Czech Republic). Since most of the Kurdish people are nomadic, many of their holidays are connected to certain crucial milestones in their life cycle, such as the celebration preceding relocation of herds to the summer pastures, shearing, period of lambs birth, or the autumnal return to the village. The importance of the Islamic holidays varies in each individual Kurdish family.

Bulgur (crushed wheat) used to constitute a primary ingredient of Kurds, but rice is gaining popularity. The Kurdish diet includes all kinds of fruits and vegetables. Typically, cucumbers are grown, while vineyards spread across the valleys. Grapes are used for the production of jam. Meat is usually eaten on special occasions. The most popular and frequently served drink is tea. A Kurdish traditional breakfast is a slice of bread served with grains cooked in whey.

Men wear baggy, coloured pants with a shirt with big sleeves sewed at the level of elbows. Bright red vests and cummerbund are worn over the shirt. On the top of their heads, men also wear blue silk turbans. Last but not least, a dyke is an indispensable part of the traditional men’s costume.

Women’s dresses are also full of bright colours. So are their skirts and blouses.
However, this traditional way of clothing is today rather exceptional. Kurds dress accordingly to the country where they live. Traditional Kurdish shoes are called klash. These are comfortable moccasins with a flexible sole.

The Kurdish popular sports are football, wrestling, or hunting. Other major sports events include so called Cirit – a traditional sport of javelin throw while riding a horse, or horse riding, particularly then in the countryside.

Music and dance
Traditional music is played with a long flute, frame drums, and ut-ut, which is similar to a guitar. Many songs are epic in nature and chant about the glory of the mythical kings or heroes. The Kurdish people also love dancing. There are many kinds of dance in Kurdistan varying across the regions. Typical dances are Dilan, Sepe, Geryan, or Chapi.