Last updated: January 28, 2016
The two biggest topics in Iraqi Kurdistan in 2015 are not just matters for analysis and debate. The financial crisis and the security crisis caused by the extremist group known as the Islamic State have had an impact on everyone here, from teenagers selling tea on street corners to schoolteachers and florists.
Local photographer Hawre Khalid asked locals on the streets of Kirkuk, Chamchamal, and Sulaymaniyah what they wished for in 2016. Their answers reflected current events in Iraq – but they also wished for what everyone else in the world does: love, prosperity, and peace.
Poiya came to Sulaymaniyah a year ago and is now working as a florist, selling bouquets near the Public Gardens. The 22-year-old says there is a certain skill to selling flowers and it's all about getting to know people and how they want to share their feelings. “But last year was a year of war not of beauty,” he says regretfully.
Zhino Abbas is a 16-year-old student. She thinks 2015 was better than 2014 because of the gains made against the Islamic State group. And her hope for 2016 is that the extremist group, which controls the nearby city of Mosul, will be eradicated and driven out of Iraq forever.
Saeed Najim believes 2014 and 2015 were some of the most terrible years in Iraqi history because of the security crisis caused by the extremist group known as the Islamic State and because of the economic crisis. “I hope 2016 will be a year of building peace for civilians,” the 33-year-old says. “And that the economic crisis will end too.”
For Nahla Hashim, 2015 was a year of funerals as many Iraqi Kurdish soldiers died in the fighting against the extremists. Hashim came back from Europe to be closer to her family. Right now, she says, she just wants 2015 to end. In 2016, she's going back to Europe.
Zana Ali is a 29-year-old teacher from Chamchamal. He says the economic crisis made 2015 a truly awful year for local teachers. The role of teachers has changed from educators to protesters, he says, and he can't wait for a new year to bring a new situation.
The years are never any different, the same things just keep repeating, says Karwan Eizadin, 31, who works for the local Ministry of Health. “Every year there's a new problem. I don't see any difference."
Salam Ali is 14 years old and sells tea and coffee in different places around Sulaymaniyah. “When it rains people drink a lot more tea and coffee,” he says. Ali admits that he doesn't really follow the news or politics but that he has noticed people are more depressed this year. And he has some wishes for next year. “In 2016, I wish people would drink even more tea and coffee,” he says. “I'd like to make more money.”
For Aram Sherwan, 20, the past year has been one flavoured by immigration. He tells this photographer that he's been thinking of leaving Iraqi Kurdistan like many others have done before him. In 2016, he says he would like to leave Iraq and go to Germany but he has yet to make a final decision about this. “Before this crisis we thought that finally we might be able to live in peace,” Sherwan says. “But in 2015 we lost all hope of that ever happening.”
Generally speaking 2015 was not a good year, agrees Bana Aziz, a 24-year-old employee of the local Ministry of Culture in Kirkuk. A lot of Iraqi Kurdish soldiers have died. But, she notes, it was a good year for Kirkuk because that city is now controlled by Iraqi Kurdistan, something she believes is important. In 2016 Aziz would like to see Kirkuk become a part of Iraqi Kurdistan officially.
In 2014, Soran Shwani wanted to get married. But the parents of the girl he wanted to marry refused him because he didn't have a job. In 2015 he got a job. “But her parents refused again because they said I didn’t earn enough,” Shwani tells. “In 2016 I don't know what other conditions I should fulfil. I am not sure how long I should wait for the person I love.”
The gold trade wasn't so good last year, says Brwa Raza, a goldsmith working in Kirkuk. People thought of leaving the country rather than getting married which meant fewer sales; gold jewellery and gifts are an important part of Kurdish weddings as families and the bride and groom gift each other the precious metal. And the security and economic crises also meant that people were more likely to want to save their money than buy gold. Raza wishes that 2016 will bring the people of Iraq more security and peace.
This article originally appeared on Niqash. All photos: Hawre Khalid for Niqash