In Iraqi Kurdistan, Workers Pay for Boom Town with Their Lives
While many locals are celebrating the building boom in Iraqi Kurdistan, there are also casualties. The number of deaths on construction sites has doubled over the past year and workers say that they’re paying for the region’s boom with their lives.
Mustafa Ali was working on a construction site in the northern city of Sulaymaniyah when he was asked to move a large piece of material that would be part of the electrical system of the building he was working on.
“It weighed more than a ton,” says his son, Azad. “And even together with two other men, it was too heavy to carry. The plate then fell on my father and he died,” he explains. “It is a tragedy, his place is empty. And now that he is gone, I have to be the man of our family – I will not be able to finish my education.”
Unfortunately Mustafa Ali, who was 57 when he died, is not the only construction worker to suffer death and injury on one of the many construction sites in the booming region of Iraqi Kurdistan. The semi-autonomous area has its own military, parliament and legal system and, compared to the rest of Iraq at the moment, is secure and stable.
This, and the fact that the region has an oil industry, has made cities like Sulaymaniyah and the capital, Erbil, a magnet for foreign firms wanting to do business in Iraq. As a result business is booming and there is a lot of construction work in the region that is drawing workers from outside the region who want to earn a better living. At the same time though, the number of workplace deaths is rising. This year there are reports that 62 workers died while on the job in Iraqi Kurdistan – more than twice the number that died at work here in 2012.