The fierce, proud Kurdish people of northern Iraq are rapidly being detached from their past in the snowy, pine-forested mountains of their ancestral lands where they fought in vain for independence.
Their present, and their future, are in Iraq's big cities and in villages like this one, 500 houses, all exactly by the government and given to a people now apparently tamed and dependant.
This village lies just off main road between Arbil, capital of the nominally autonomous Kurdish region and Mosul, the principal city of northern Iraq.
It is easily accessible and it has much that the mountain villages lacked: electricity, running water, a school, a clinic, regular bus service and, in every house, a television set, officially said to be a gift from Iraqi President Ahmed Hassan Bakr.
It is difficult to determine what the villages think of their new surroundings because in the presence of government officials and the comments are uniformly favorable. Westerners suspect that these villages are to be Kurds what the reservation was to the American Indian and that the villagers chafe under a policy described by one senior diplomat as "You will have a better life whether you like it or not."
According to this town's mayor, Salah Hassan Mustafa, 48: "Everyone here is satisfied. The government gave us all the services we need and everyone has a job."
The Kurds, he acknowledged, however, are mostly in the service of the Iraqi government, including work on state-owned farms-part of the web of economic dependence spun by the Baghdad government to win the support or at least cooperation of the Kurds.
An armed rebellion of Iraq's Kurds ended in 1975 when the Shah of Iran stopped supporting it. Ever since, the government in Baghdad has been trying to prevent a recurrence and to incorporate the Kurds into the national life of Iraq. Although there are periodic reports of clashes between Kurds and Iraqis, the Kurdish region has been generally peaceful for some time. Two recent events that might have provoked trouble-a Kurdish uprising across the border in Iran and the death in exile of Mustafa Barzani, who led the armed rebellion here-passed without serious repercussions in Iraq.
The government's formula for dealing with the Kurds is described by a senior diplomat in Baghdad as "carrot and stick"-the Iraqi Army is perched on every hill and patrols every road of the three Kurdish provinces and no resistance is tolerated. At the same time, the government is recruiting Kurds into the Arab-dominated ruling Baath Party, allowing the region a token autonomy, and pouring in development money to give the Kurds material benefits they never had before.
Villages like this are a keystone of that policy, Tens of thousands of Kurds have been brought down from their remote mountain villages and resettled throughout the fetile valleys in rows of identical stone houses.
Officials in Arbil said 32,00o houses have been built in three years and more are planned.
Each house had two rooms, plus a small kitchen and shower room. All have electricity with the wires and poles dominating the skyline over the dusty, treeless paths between the rows of houses.
There is no doubt that the Kurds have progressed materially under the new policy. Government statistics indicate that last year 30 percent of Iraq's development budget went into the three Kurdish provinces, which have only 12 percent of the roads, factories and power stations of the region.
"Our people have been raised up,like all the people of Iraq andeven more," said Baha Ahmad, a Kurd, the governor of Arbil Province. "The old villages were remote from schools and hospitals and all public services. It was difficult to give any services to those people up there in the mountains, especially in the winter." It was also, of course, difficult for the Iraqui Army to reach them.
The reason for peace, according to government officials and cooperating Kurdish leaders, is that there is no longer any incentive for the Kurds of Iraq to rebel. It also my be because they lack the means to do so and their traditional organizations, village structures and supply lines have been irreversibly altered.
In the new villages like Khobata, there are no weapons.
"We don't even have knives," one man said.
Even if outside suppliers were available, the high visibility and easy access of the new villages would make gun running under the eyes of the Iraqi Army extremely difficult.
In addition, the new villages are not mere transplants of the old ones. Residents here said that they represent the remnants of several different mountain villages that were broken up after the collapse of the rebellion. Some people were temporarily resettled in the far south of Iraq until the new houses were ready, so that the patterns of trust and allegiance the Kurds relied on in the mountains has been servered.
Tarek Aziz, leading official of the Baghdad government and of the Baath Party, said in a recent interview that if there is to be troupe among Kurds, it is more likely to be among the Kurds of Turkey and Iran "who see what our Kurds have achieved and want the same."
Yet the key to the stability in Iraqi Kurdistan is not only political. Thousands of heavily armed Iraqi troops maintain a highly visible presence throughout the region and are reported to have cleared a six-mile strip along both the Iranian and Turkish borders to prevent infiltration and arms traffic. CAPTION: Map, no caption, By Richard Furno-The Washington Post