Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Terrorism in Erbil

Before I came to Kurdistan everyone was really worried about me. Frankly, I was a little worried as well. But then I came here and I met a lot of wonderful people, both expat and local, who helped me get used to it and realize that it's actually a really wonderful place full of opportunities.

Since I've been here, I've started a radio show. I help run (multiple) weekly fundraisers. I am working regularly with a volunteer organization. I have learned bits and phrases of both Arabic and Kurdish. I've learned to like music I never thought I would have. I've eaten sheep testicles and lamb spinal cord, absurd amounts of hummus and falafel. I found out that the Middle East is not just a big desert (it's surprising how many waterfalls I've visited in Kurdistan). I've gotten a really great new job. AND I've fallen in love and am in the beginning stages of planning a wedding. (Bet you didn't see that one coming, but that's a story for another time).

Kurdistan is not a bad place. It's not a perfect place either, but seriously, where is? There are some details missing (ocean, deciduous trees, 24/7 electricity and water) but it's a place with great potential. And it's for just that reason (the one that I'm learning to adore about this place) that there are others less fortunate and more close-minded in the world who hate what Kurdistan represents.

So Sunday when a group of terrorists bombed and attacked the Ministry of Interior and the general police directorate, I was terrified. 

It's only natural, and I suppose that's kind of the point of terrorism, eh?

Luckily, being a former journalist, reporter mode kicked in and I just went into over-drive finding information. I knew about the attack within 15 minutes because my fiance works for a security company. He told me to stay put. I was at work in a neighborhood about 15 minutes from home and probably the same amount of time from the blast site. 

I did as I was told. But given that I now work in an office where I'm all by myself all day, I had too much time on my hands and not enough info. It was then that I remembered how amazing Twitter is when it comes to up-to-the-minute info. Between Twitter and two FB groups specific to Erbil, I had heaps of information some of it more reliable than the rest.

By the time everything was under control again, I probably had as much, if not more, information than the fiance. 

Here's the thing, I've lived here for over a year and this is the only terrorist activity I've seen. This is the first since 2007. America has seen more terrorist activity in that time. 

So I was scared and now most of my family members are terrified again and tell me to get the hell out. It's not happening, at least not at this point. 

I realize I'm not from here, but dammit this is my home. I've settled in here. I live here. My life is here. My future husband is here. My two (gigantic) dogs are here. Would you up and abandon the city you live in because of a (currently thought to be) one-off bombing? Probably not.

So I'm in sit-and-wait mode. I'm under strict instructions (from the fiance) to call him every time I leave the office or go somewhere so he knows where to find me if something were to happen. 

But beyond that, life must go on, because if it doesn't, then the terrorists win.