Anwar Zurar, a Canadian Kurd, was a senior commander for the Kurdish Peshmerga when the Iraqi Kurds fought Saddam Hussein’s Ba’thist government in the 1970s.
After settling in Canada as a refugee in 1976, Zurar made a living in real estate, and returned to Iraqi Kurdistan in 2014 to advise Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in their fight against the Islamic State.
Anwar Zurar, “Our Man in Iraq”
While Canada has deployed special operations advisors to aid the Kurdish Peshmerga in Iraqi Kurdistan, there are others — Canadian Kurds — who are returning to Iraq to fight for their former homeland.
Anwar Zurar was a senior commander for the Kurdish Peshmerga when the Iraqi Kurds were fighting Saddam Hussein’s Ba’thist government in the 1970s. “I was a leader from here to Dukan. All this was under my hand in 1974,” he says, referring to some 60 km of terrain north of the city of Sulaymaniyah.
When the Kurdish Peshmerga was defeated by Saddam, Zurar was forced to flee from Iraq, and was relocated to Canada as a refugee in 1976. He most recently returned to Iraq in 2014, where he mainly worked for the Peshmerga in an advisory capacity.
“We are mostly retired,” said Zurar, referring to the duties of his colleagues in the fight against the Islamic State. But Zurar and others have visited the front lines, and have met active duty Peshmerga units who are defending the borders of Iraqi Kurdistan.
Because I am more experienced, if they need me, I go. I don’t have real duties, but everybody knows me from back time. Sometimes they want to get advice from me.
Zurar is 66 years old, and wears an olive green shirt, tied with a sash and baggy pants — the unofficial uniform of the Kurdish rebels. “My leg is no good,” says Zurar. “Otherwise, believe me, I would [be] fighting.”
Zurar is encouraged by Canada’s deployment of special forces advisors to Iraqi Kurdistan, and by its decision to launch airstrikes against the Islamic State. But the Kurds still lack the heavy weapons they need to defeat the Islamic State, says Zurar.
Zurar is thankful for his life in Canada, and self-identifies as a real Canadian, saying that he’s lived more of his life in Canada than in Iraq.
This original story appeared in Maclean’s, a Canadian weekly current affairs magazine. To read the whole story, visit Maclean’s.