Traditional footwear thrives in Iraqi town

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‘Klash’ are made in one of three colours – white, red or blue – or some combination of the three, and do not differentiate between the left and right foot.

SHOE STORYA Kurdish man engaged in making shoes known as
SHOE STORYA Kurdish man engaged in making shoes known as "Klash" worn by men as part of their traditional garb, in the town of Halabja, 300 kms northeast of Baghdad.Photo: AFP

Between pots of glue and scraps of cotton, Bahjat Majeed sits cross-legged in his tiny workshop, putting the final touches on a pair of handmade shoes traditionally crafted in his hometown of Halabja.

The meticulously-crafted "klash", which trace their roots back several hundred years, remain a key feature of Kurdish culture even as the three-province autonomous region in north Iraq has seen breakneck economic development.

The shoes feature soles made of cotton fabrics and cow hide, and upper vamps that are made with knitted wool thread, and are usually worn by men on special occasions such as the Kurdish new year celebrations of Nowruz.

"I have been doing this for 15 years," Majeed, 34, says proudly.

"I cannot think of a better job. I make a traditional symbol of Kurdish culture. This is wonderful."

The shoes are known in particular for their sturdiness.

They are produced by artisans in the town of Halabja, which lies in a mountainous region near the Iranian border and some 250 kilometres (155 miles) northeast of Baghdad.

Majeed is an expert in making these handmade shoes. He deftly passes cotton threads between his toes before connecting them to small machines that wrap them together, helping form, in this case, what will become the sole of the shoe.

The klash originates from the Hawraman region of Kurdistan, a mountainous area that straddles western and northeast Iraq.

Residents of the area speak Hawrami, one of five Kurdish dialects. Agriculture forms the lion's share of the local economy, and provides the raw materials for the klash. The footwear is believed to have first been worn by Zoroaster, the founder of the eponymous religion.AFP



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