ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - Kurdish civilians express their appreciation for German support of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Peshmerga in their fight against the Islamic State (ISIS).
“The relationship is strong,” said Bazhdar Muhammad, a taxi driver. “They give us weapons and support. It’s really helpful in times like this.”
Germany is one of the biggest supporters to the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, and among the very few coalition countries providing weapons to the Kurds directly rather than through the central government in Baghdad, as the United States and others insist on doing.
The relationship between Kurdistan and Germany has gone through a dramatic transformation since German businessmen allegedly provided Saddam Hussein -- Iraq’s former dictator -- with means to unleash chemical weapons on Kurds in the city of Halabja.
However, many local Kurds are not preoccupied with the past and are grateful for the support they are receiving now.
“I didn’t know about Germans helping Saddam,” Muhammad said, adding “whoever helps (us), helps.”
While many locals are proud to express their appreciation for German support, some could not be more indifferent.
Shivan Hamko, a 26-year-old pharmacist, believes it is only the business of government officials to concern themselves with politics.
“It’s not my business to inquire,” Hamko explained. “I work in a pharmacy. If politicians have a question regarding medicine, they come to me and vice versa.”
Regarding German support for Saddam in the 80s, Hamko holds no grudge.
When pressed on the issue, Hamko said: “Germans had their reasons for helping Saddam and they have their reasons for helping us now. There’s no grudge for what is in their best interest.”
Many Kurds have also lived in Germany, either as refugees or as immigrants during Saddam’s reign. Today, the largest Kurdish diaspora community is in Germany.
Another taxi driver named Farhad “Frank” Hadi, 53, in fact lived in Germany for 24 years and is very appreciative of German support.
“Germany is very good!” said Hadi. “Ich liebe Deutschland,” German for I love Germany.
Many other Kurdish locals, however, are simply grateful for any help the international community can provide.
A barber, who chose to remain anonymous with a shop right outside the Citadel in downtown Erbil, loves Germany for the contributions it has made.
“We thank Germany very much for their support and any country that helps us,” he said. “Thank you to all.”
He went on to acknowledge the contributions the German government has made to Kurds within Germany as well and emphasized this as a basis for the strength of the Kurdish-German relationship.
“They take care of our refugees there, help us assimilate and even offer us welfare programs,” he said. “This is why we have such a strong relationship with Germany.”
The barber went on to add that he hopes Kurdistan will emulate Germany and other nations that are supporting Kurdistan.
“I hope Kurdistan will be a country like Germany or the US one day,” he said, “one that is strong and provides for its people. Inshallah (God willing).”
While local Kurds like Muhammad and others grateful for the help they have received from countries like Germany, they mention that the support seems to cease with military support and does not include as much by way of economic help, which is what affects them on a day to day basis.
“There’s help when it comes to defense but still not with the economy or anything else,” Muhammad stressed. “It’s only with the military.”