Where is the Anthropology? April 2008: Tal’Afar, Iraq

Tal’Afar, Iraq is April’s picture!  Good guessing.




This image was taken by a soldier who spent a tour in Iraq and has seen a very different world than many people. This soldier was kind enough to let me use one of the pictures taken of everyday life currently in Iraq to help show some middle eastern anthropology and to get a soldiers view of the Iraq culture, customs, and history.




“Tal’Afar is located in the Middle East in Iraq. It is approximately “30 miles west of Mosul and 120 miles north west of Kirkuk”, which are major cities in Iraq. While no official census has been taken, the city’s population was estimated to be approximately 420,000 people prior to the war. With current U.S. occupations, the assessment is closer to 200,000, nearly all of whom are Iraqi Turkmen. The population is “mostly Sunni Muslims with a Shiite presence. While most residents do speak Arabic, a dialect of Turkish is used nearly universally throughout the city.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tal_Afar)


During the Ottoman Empire reign of power, the Ottoman Turkish Army founded the city on a hill as a military outpost. “Remains of the fortress can still be seen today. Also garrisoned at the fortress were Turkmen members of the Daloodi tribe who following the withdrawal of the Ottoman Army became the first civilian occupants of the town build around the fortress. … Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Tal Afar became part of Iraq.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tal_Afar)


Over the years, much of the original fortress has been destroyed and rebuilt as needs of the people, military and governments have dictated. “Local history states that British administrators augmented the structure of the original fortress. During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the fortress was further augmented and made to house the city’s mayoral, municipal and police headquarters.” The castle continues to be used by military forces occupying the city. The local Iraqi military headquarters is also located there. The British occupied this area for years, further evidence of this can be seen in a large defensive structure just east of town and in the genetic features of the younger generation. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tal_Afar)


Though Iraq is consider by some to be the “cradle of civilization”, it has not advanced much since then. There are modern convinces found among the city. Many of the citizens have cell phone, as they are relatively inexpensive to get and use. Cars are used, but not everyone can afford them, hence why they continue to use donkey carts for everyday needs. Indoor pluming is virtually nonexistent in this city and raw sewage runs down the street freely. Few residences have computers and internet access. In a region that can reach temperatures of 130 degrees, central air is few and fair between.


The culture here is very different from the American way of life. The men there are allowed to have more than one wife and the women there are not treated the same as in America. It is common to see a man walking from the market with a few women trailing behind him carrying everything and the guy just strolling along smoking a cigarette.


The unemployment rate is really high. When asked what he did all day, one resident responded he plays volleyball or soccer. When asked why he does not work, he said why bother. He gets everything he needs for living from the government. The thought process is just completely different, the items Americans use everyday and think are necessary for life are considered major luxuries.


The young boys are pretty bold in asking for things from the soldiers, a little to often. The girls on the other hand stay back. They are very timid and when the boys are around they will not come near. If a girl did get anything from a solider with boys around, the boys would often take it away as fast as they could and the girls would not be able to do anything about it. Because of this, for at least this soldier, he would try to give things to the girls because they were less annoying and it was more rewarding.”



Written by a Soldier



These are some of the stories and experiences this soldier had personally during the soldier’s tour in Iraq.  This added understanding, showed cultural differences and allowed the soldier to see into a different world that is normal closed off to the masses.




Editor-Adrienne Elder

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