A native of Kirkuk, the multilingual Karzan Sherabayani went to live in Italy in 1980, where he created his own Kurdish theater company. He learned film and television production at Tele Europa and later trained to become an actor. In 1992, Sherabayani moved to England. After living in exile for 25 years, Sherabayani returned to Kirkuk three times in 2005. From these visits, he produced and directed the feature-length documentary Return to Kirkuk about his experiences. Most recently, Sherabayani has reported and produced several short films for the U.K.'s Channel 4 news and the BBC.
This will be the third "Rough Cut" Karzan Sherabayani has produced for FRONTLINE/World from his native city of Kirkuk. Judging by this latest report, the situation there continues to deteriorate. To show what residents must face every day, Sherabayani goes on patrol with the city's police chief, a man he introduces as the most-wanted policeman in Kirkuk, because of the many insurgents who would like to kill him.
Maintaining order for Police Chief Sarhad Qadir and his officers is not only fraught with danger but, in the current climate, an impossible task.
Since President Bush heralded Kirkuk as a model of restraint earlier this year, insurgents have stepped up their car bombing campaign across the Kurdish capital. For Qadir, it means never leaving his office or home without a heavy police guard. Two of his bodyguards were killed in a car he was traveling in; he has been shot at and attacked by roadside bombs; and, most recently, someone tried to poison him. It's his cooperation with the coalition that has made him such a target. But he tells Sherabayani why he is the right man for the job.
"I stood up against the brutal Ba'ath regime and fought as a peshmerga for my freedom," Qadir says. "I am not going to give up now because of this." His office at police headquarters receives a constant stream of grieving wives and mothers, wounded police officers and other victims of the violence.
This past October, the city saw some of its worst attacks since the fall of Saddam. Forces responded with a major security crackdown and hundreds of suspected insurgents were rounded up.
With his usual mix of doggedness and charm, Sherabayani succeeds in getting permission to visit some of these insurgents who have been detained at a special interrogation center. Although he's not "officially" allowed to question them, the police officer accompanying him is too fearful to show his face, so Sherabayani and his cameraman enter the detention cell alone. What follows is a tense exchange set off by Sherabayani asking how many of the men are Sunni Arabs. Many raise their hands, but one man, speaking in English and introducing himself as an oil worker, claims that it's the Americans who are creating this division between Sunnis and Shiites, and he wants no part of Sherabayani's quizzing.
On patrol, the camera captures a city barely holding itself together. The streets are littered with the wreckage of recent car bomb attacks. Thick concrete security barriers line many neighborhoods, and there are shrines to fallen police officers. Qadir pulls up to one of these, which honors his 29-year-old brother.
"You don't seem very optimistic," Sherabayani says at one point, as the two men drive together.
"I'm not," the police chief replies.
Qadir explains what he feels is behind the rising violence. The insurgents hate the Kurds, he says, because the Kurds are preventing them from bringing down the coalition.
"They believe if they can make the coalition forces fail in Kirkuk, they can make them fail in all Iraq. The Shiites kill Sunnis, and the Sunnis kill Shiites, but," he adds, "both kill Kurds."
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