I work for Hunt Oil Company as the Environment, Health and Safety Manager. I spend half my time in Erbil and half out on our drilling locations.
Prior to ISIS, Erbil was a city that was growing like Las Vegas in the 90s. Now it has come to a standstill. There are many unfinished projects — a lot of the workers have volunteered to join the Peshmarga to help defend the country. Most of the major oil companies have shut down their operations and will probably not return until the situation gets a little more stable.
In Erbil there is a Christian area known as Ankawa, I drove through there yesterday to see how bad the situation is. To be honest, it’s worse than they report. There are refugees living and sleeping in abandon and half-constructed buildings. The local churches are overflowing with people lined outside hoping to get a meal, water, and clean clothes. Vendors are lined up on the streets selling produce that is not fit for consumption. The children play while the parents weep — it’s heartbreaking.
Yet, as I walked the streets with my armed bodyguard, people said hello, wished me a good day, offered me tea or to please sit and talk with them. The Kurds are a proud, resilient people. They have been kicked around, abused, and persecuted for years. They don’t see this situation as a curse, they see it as an opportunity to gain the freedom they have so have desperately wanted for years. As my friend Bengeen told me over tea, we have been through hell for years, this situation takes us one step closer to heaven and the freedom that all Kurds desire. A typical positive Kurdish attitude.
Our field operations are in an area North of Erbil in Ain Sifini, we are drilling exploration wells and will start producing oil for the KRG in
April. Unfortunately we are 25 kilometres from Beshika, a stronghold of ISIS. I would be lying to you if I said we are all safe and sound. At any given time we could potentially be overrun — that’s just the way it is. Everyone is on edge and concerned, yet we will continue to do our jobs, it’s what we do. Protecting us is the KRGs OPF, Oilfield Protection Force, which is part of the Peshmerga. Slowly their numbers are dwindling as they get called up to the front lines to help fight ISIS. I’m afraid that if the situation worsens we will be left to defend ourselves or be forced to evacuate again.
I could go on: refugee camps, political outlook, Baghdad. But we will save that for another day.