Feature: Where a moustache can mean life or death
Easily identified by trademark facial hair, Kakai Kurds in northern Iraq live under constant threat.
”The soul needs to reincarnate a thousand times before becoming one with god,” says Rajab Assy Karim from Ali Saray, 190 kilometres north of Baghdad. Iraq is full of “shortcuts” to the ultimate, and several seem to pass through this tiny desert village.
The few hundred people living in the adobe houses of Ali Saray are all Kakais, followers of an ancient pre-Islamic creed whose mere survival in this region in the 21st century is a miracle.
Karim knows this, and devotes most of his spare time to collecting books for the only library among the 12 Kakai villages clustered in this region.
"We are halfway between Tikrit - Saddam Hussein’s hometown and a stronghold of his supporters - and the Kurdish Autonomous Region of Iraq," says Karim. "The area is overrun by terrorists and we make one of their easiest targets."