TN: This is Kurd Country



Nashville --- Six miles south of the Country Music Hall of Fame --- home to
artifacts like Naomi Judd's wringer washing machine and the cornfield from
TV's "Hee Haw" --- there's a strip mall that exhibits a newer, changing
Nashville.

Its tenants represent a world atlas of ethnic groups: an Indian and
Pakistani grocery, a Mexican butcher, a Nigerian restaurant, a Chinese market.

Next door is practically a small Iraqi village: a warehouse-turned-mosque
and two grocery stores, one run by an Iraqi Kurd, the other by an Iraqi
Arab. On Fridays, following afternoon prayers, as many as 600 people mingle
within a tiny block.

"I moved here from Arizona to open a business because I knew there were a
lot of Kurds," said Nick Aref, 27, who fled Kurdish northern Iraq eight
years ago and owns a bakery next to the mosque.

Indeed, "Music City" is better known in this part of town as "Little
Kurdistan," home to the nation's largest Kurdish population, estimated at
about 7,000.

Much of the country expressed surprise when Nashville became one of five
U.S. cities chosen to hold balloting for this weekend's Iraqi elections.
(The others: Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington and Detroit, which has the
nation's largest Iraqi Arab population.)

 


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