Karen Dabrowska


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The nearly 10,000-year-old ancient city of Hasankeyf in the southeastern province of Batman was declared a natural conversation area in 1981.

It has been predicted that some 80 percent of Hasankeyf could be flooded due to the controversial Ilısu Dam project, while the Turkish parliament recently made a decision that the town would be emptied.

People have organized protests to draw the world’s attention to the ancient site and made calls for it to be included on the UNESCO list.


Hasankeyf on the Tigris River


Tomb of Zeynel Bey relocated to open air museum


Monument at Hasankeyf


Destruction of rock face next to small palace


Small palace facing destruction



Change bureau


The Hangover Club


Traditional singer


Street food


Arbil is the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq under the control of the the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

In the centre of the city is the citadel. A walk around the 102,000 square-metre site is a walk though history. The first village was established here around the 6th millennium BC and the area has been continuously inhabited since then seeing the reign of many historic civilisations, including the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians and Assyrians. Other ancient powers, including the Achaemenian Persians, Greeks, Iranian Parthians, Seljuks and and Sassanians also dominated the citadel before it was finally conquered by the Ottoman Turks.

In its heyday, it was home to 6,000 residents. Today out of 500 houses only 200 are still standing but many are crumbling. Inside the impressive 100 year old house of Rashid Agha the mosaics are still intact and the optimistic guide Shno Abdul hopes it will be converted into a guest house. There is a master plan to reconstruct the houses and build a restaurant, a coffee shop, and a motel. But the KRG has diverted funds to the fight against ISIS. Inside the grounds of the citadel is a museum of Kurdish costumes and a textile museum. The souvenir shop doubles as an antiquities museum with 400-year-old bibles on display.

Arbil Citadel

Arbil Civilisation Museum

Ancient pottery in the Arbil Civilisation Museum

A mannequin in the costume museum - Arbil citadel

Bath House in Arbil Citadel

Hatra King Sant Ruki

The house of Rashid Agha in the Arbil Citadel

Gun repair shop in the central market

Houses in the citadel awaiting rennovation

Downtown Arbil with the famous fountain and market

Karen with a peshmerga in Arbil

Mountain resorts

Rawanduz the jewel in the crown of magnificent scenery in Iraqi Kurdistan: sometimes wooded and watered by turbulent streams, sometimes gaunt and bare but always dramatic and awesome.

93 years old. This man has seen it all.

Gali Beg waterfall near Rawanduz

The flag says it all

Hotel in the mountains

Ruins of Ottoman Inn

Lake Dokan

The original Hamilton Road built by a New Zealander

Yazidis in Lalish

The Yazidi community in the village of Lalish has also been the victims of atrocities, the most recent perpetrated by ISIS. Sitting on a colourful carpet in an alcove in the mausoleum of Sheikh Adi bin Musafir, the 12th century founder of Yazidism, Sheikh Baba Tawesh a religious man in a white robe speaks without hatred or malice. “I hope whoever comes to this place will be happy here. We welcome anyone. It is nice to be together with different people. We were all created by one God.”

On a warm October afternoon the shrine is a haven of peace. It is only 50km north of Mosul but the problems of a country plagued by sectarian strife seem a million miles away. October is the month for the celebration of the Feast of Seven Days referred to as the pilgrimage. It is incumbent on those who live in Iraq to make the pilgrimage once a year. The prevailing belief is that there is an upper or heavenly Lalish where Seven Great Angels gather at this time to shower their blessings on those assembled at the lower or worldly Lalish.

Interview with Yazidi sheikh

Karen with Said Hammo refugee from Sinjar

Baba Tawesh

Mausoleum of Sheikh Adi bin Musafir founder of Yazidism

Sacred fire

Yazidi shrine

Make a wish and tie the scarf

Those with a wish have to tie a knock in a colourful cloth. Each knot represents a prayer, and Yazidis believe that untying the knot of an earlier pilgrim will grant that person his or her wish. Tourists who photograph the worshippers end up being photographed themselves. Selfies with foreigners are popular.

Remembering the suffering of the Kurdish people

While ancient history is fascinating and the mountain scenery breath taking the recent history of the Kurds is tragic. The tragedy of Saddam’s Anfal Operations against the Kurds has been turned in a spectacular work of art in Sulaimaniya’s notorious Red Prison, now a museum. Around 182,000 pieces of broken mirror have been fixed to the wall to symbolise the number of victims exterminated in the Anfal Campaign while the 4,500 small electrical light bulbs symbolize the number of destroyed Kurdish villages.

Art work in the museum attached to the Red Prison

Lights in memory of Saddam's victims

Iraqi tanks used to suppress the Kurds

A prisoner's testimony

Monument to Anfal victims

More on suppression of Kurds

Notice on cemetery in Halabja

Statue of victims of the chemical weapons attack on Halabja

Saddam's death certificate

Statue of woman prisoner in the Red Prison

Statue outside the Red Prison