outside my workplace there is a permanent vigil, so described, for Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) who is serving I believe 99 years in Turkey for terrorist offences. They say they will stay there until he is released. They sometimes march and chant, and a couple of times have got into one of the buildings. Well, Ocalan is never coming out, is my firm belief. The Kurds are the largest population group in the world without a country, and as they are in the Middle East, and Muslim, but not Arab, and as they are, pretty much, hated by the leaders of all the countries they are in (with the possible exceptions of those unlikely bedfellows Iran and Israel), it's going to be difficult for them to find one. There are of course emigre Kurdish communities in most of the world, including the neighbourhood I live in in Strasbourg. Successive conflicts, persecution and massacres have driven them away. Michael Totten has spent a lot of time in Iraq, including with the Kurds there, and has written some interesting dispatches which he has now edited into a book "In the Wake of the Surge" which is worth reading. Like me, he was plunged into profound gloom at the slaughter which took place after the overthrow of the Saddam regime, and depressed by the gleeful Guardianista wallowing in gore at that time. But the surge, the brainchild of General David Petraeus, did the job, and Iraq is stable now, much more so than many in the region. Totten cites an index of liberties which places Iraq third in the region (not including Israel in the count, obviously) after Lebanon and Morocco. Unlike me, Totten has spent years in the region, is well connnected there, and has a deep knowledge of the politics and issues. So, while he may not be right about everything, he is writing from experience and what he has seen, rather than from Guardian editorials as too many do.
Anyway, the Kurds have a measure of self-determination in Iraq now. Good. They like the US and Israel and are cheerfully, and disgracefully, racist about Arabs from anywhere. Women are not covered ,and the sexes mingle socially. Opposition parties and media flourish. Iraqi Kurdistan is not a paradise - there is huge corruption - but I'd rather visit there than, say, Saudi Arabia.