12 June 2006

The people you meet

When travelling outside the wire, units employ interpreters to be able to interact with local nationals (LNs). While waiting for the bus tonight, I started chatting with "Zach" (I have no idea if that is his original name or what...), one of the interpreters assigned to our unit.

Zach looks the part of an Iraqi. He has dark olive skin, a traditional bushy mustache, although the desert camoflauge uniform (DCU) does kind of give him away!

While chatting with Zach I found out he was from Irbil (way up north) and he is in fact a Kurd. He left Iraq many years ago and moved to the United States (he lives in San Diego) and became a U.S. citizen. We talked a lot about the Kurds. They have their own language, which I didn't know. I just assumed it was Arabic. The Kurds are spread across Syria, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and the former Soviet Union. The region is referred to as Kurdistan, but they don't have their own country, obviously.

Operation Northern Watch, which was set up after the Gulf War in 1991, was meant to protect the Kurds from Saddam Hussein's regime.

In 2003-4, Zach worked for the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) which was, in effect, the government of Iraq after the war. He spoke about a particular incident where two RPGs almost killed him and his friend.

Zach speaks Kurdish, Arabic, Farsi, and English. We talked about the hopes that the killing of Zarqawi and the establishment of the Iraqi government are definitely good signs that Iraq is headed in the right direction.

Zach is a nice guy that I hope to have a few more conversations with in the future. It's amazing the people you meet.

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