John Cookson spends seven days with the people of northern Iraq to examine the Kurd's relentless push for nationhood.

Beginning his journey at the very eastern tip of Kurdistan, he crosses hundreds of kilometres of rugged terrain, to look at the Kurd's quest for independence and economic stability after three decades of brutal suppression under Saddam Hussein.

It is a journey through a wild region inhabited by a people who are mysterious, rebellious and traumatised by the past. In Search of Kurdistan reveals their spirit of resistance and their determination to survive and fight for their independence and along the way it uncovers a little of Kurdistan unreported until now.

John Cookson meets the smugglers who openly skirt around the border fence to Iran and experiences for himself just how easy this. In a region that sits on the borders between Syria, Turkey and Iran, smuggling and the black market is part of the fabric of life and essential to the local economy.

Hundreds of smugglers enter Iran each day and, locals say that fighters trained in Iran openly make the journey into Iraq in the same way, sometimes even stopping to ask locals for directions.

He meets a gang of alcohol smugglers who are about to embark on their nightly journey into Iran. It is the most dangerous of all the forms of smuggling as alcohol is strictly forbidden in the Islamic Republic.

Massoud, one of the smugglers, says: "It is risky, yes. The Iranians crack down from time to time and hang alcohol smugglers... There is no other work here and I have to look after my family. I will make $20 tonight. I know I might die earning it but what else can I do?"

In Search of Kurdistan reveals the harsh daily reality of life in Kurdistan and the Kurd's dreams for the future. It speaks to the Kurdish leader, Massoud Barzani, the president of Kurdistan, who reveals that he will never surrender the disputed town of Kirkuk and it gains access to the Peshmerga forces, and their elite branches. Once a band of freedom fighters with a proud history of fighting Saddam Hussein's forces, they have now been transformed into a disciplined regular army - albeit one that must rely on old equipment taken in previous battles with Saddam's armies.

Watch Part Two here:



Source: Al Jazeera