Every morning TV presenter Dilan Sido appears on one of Iraqi Kurdistan’s most popular TV channels and wishes her audience a very good morning. But her mornings were not always good.
The 25-year-old TV presenter and her sister, Talaz, 31, are originally from Aleppo in Syria. They were first forced to return to Afrin in northwest Syria, where their father was born and where there are many locals of Kurdish ethnicity. But prospects looked grim for them there so they crossed the border into Iraq and made their way to family in Sulaymaniyah.
After a troubled first three months in the semi-autonomous northern Iraqi region, the sisters finally managed to get jobs at a relatively new television channel, NRT, founded in 2010. After NRT launched an Arabic version of its offerings, both sisters, along with many other Syrian Kurdish journalists, began working there. Just like many other Syrian Kurds, the sisters had studied Arabic in Syria, where the Kurdish minority was often oppressed and discriminated against by the country’s authorities. At the time the sisters had had no choice but to study Arabic – but now it was coming in particularly handy.
Today Sido presents a show called Good Morning and her sister is a senior editor on NRT’s website.
Sido says she never thought she would become a journalist, let along the well-known presenter of a TV show.
“Iraqi Kurdistan has given me a very important opportunity,” she told NIQASH. “I need to make the most of it.”
The Kurdistan Journalists’ Syndicate doesn’t have any accurate figures as to how many Syrian journalists are now working within the region. Any media personnel who work inside the semi-autonomous zone may request membership of the organisation but obviously not all of them do. Despite the lack of numbers, the Syndicate members know that the presence of Syrians within their industry is having a significant impact.
Syrian Kurdish presenters and journalists work for a wide number of television channels operating out of Iraqi Kurdistan, including, among others, NRT’s Arabic channel, Rudaw, and Kurdistan 24.
“The work of the Syrian Kurdish journalists here is a very natural thing,” says Karwan Anwar, the secretary general of the Kurdistan Journalists' Syndicate. “They can speak Arabic and their mother tongue is Kurmanji. So their chances of getting a job are high.” Kurmanji is the dialect predominantly spoken by Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan.
“There are many opportunities here for us,” confirms Solaf Ismail, 24, who is working as a broadcast journalist with the Arabic channel of Russian broadcaster, RT – formerly Russia Today – alongside many of her countrymen and women. “I really hope our people are able to get out of the camps and find work. Because they may not just find work,” she says optimistically. “They may find fame too.”