SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq — As thousands of young Kurds put their faith in smugglers, embarking on the perilous journey to Europe, a smaller number are making the return trip in coffins. Bahman Abubakr is still mourning the death of his close friend Saeed Othman and several other acquaintances who suffocated in the back of the now-infamous refrigerated truck discovered along an Austrian highway in late August. Othman’s remains were returned to his hometown of Sulaimaniyah in late September, some two months after he set off for Germany, but his fate has not deterred Abubakr's hopes of making the journey himself. As soon as his father’s health improves, Abubakr says he will join the exodus of thousands of other young Kurdish men who feel they have nothing to lose.
“If they reach Europe, they escape this misery in Kurdistan, and if they die on the way, they will finally find peace,” Abubakr told Al-Monitor. “I am fed up with the leadership here and the corruption that is everywhere.” Living standards in Iraqi Kurdistan have rapidly deteriorated as politicians haggle over power. Basic services and essentials, including electricity, cooking gas and water, are not guaranteed, and corruption permeates the quasi-institutions of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and society at large.