On a Friday afternoon, Soran is driving his taxi to the swish “Family Mall” on the outskirts of Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Fluent in English after spending eight years in the UK, he soon gets talking about his other job: defending the Kurdish region in northern Iraq against the so-called “Islamic State.”
Soran is a peshmerga, as the militiamen of the Kurdish Region of Iraq (KRI) are known. Like thousands of his fellow Kurds, he heeded the call to arms when the “Islamic State” surged across the Syrian border in 2014. After sweeping aside the Iraqi army and conquering about a third of the country, the jihadists wheeled around and thrust towards the KRI.