Pictures from Kirkuk, where daily life continues despite extremist threat

This is a photo essay that originally appeared on the GlobalPost website here:

However, after an unfortunate site reconstruction, not everything on GlobalPost.com works anymore. Below are some of the images from the series.

KIRKUK, Iraq — For decades, the oil-rich city of Kirkuk has been the epicenter of a territorial dispute between the Iraqi central government and the semi-autonomous Kurdish region.

Last month, Sunni militants seized control of a large area of north and central Iraq. They now surround Kirkuk from two sides, cutting off the city's land borders from the central government. Kurdish forces wasted no time moving in to secure Kirkuk from Islamic State militants gaining control of what they claim to be Kurdish land.

But the population of Kirkuk is diverse with Turkmen, Kurds, Arabs and both Assyrian and Chaldean Christians who all likewise stake a claim to this historical land.

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The flames of an oil field burn on the edge of the city of Kirkuk. Beneath the city lies an estimated 8.7 billion barrels in known oil reserves. This week, the Kurds began pumping Kirkuk crude into their own pipelines, a move which has angered the Iraqi central government who controled Kirkuk's oil prior to the Islamic State crisis. 

An Arab man buys bananas from a stall in Kaisaria market in central Kirkuk. Despite the city's reputation for violence and hostility, friendly faces are a common sight here.

A woman shops at the Kaisaria market in Kirkuk, a favorite among women for clothing and personal items.

Kirkuk residents wait in lines for up to 12 hours to purchase their 30-liter fuel allotment. The recent crisis has led to mass fuel shortages across the country as oil refineries have shut down amid the conflict.

A weapons dealer bargains with customers at a gun market in downtown Kirkuk. When Sunni militants surrounded the area, Iraqi army forces fled, leaving behind a stockpile of weapons that are now openly sold to civilians on this street corner.

A weapons dealer bargains with customers at a gun market in downtown Kirkuk. When Sunni militants surrounded the area, Iraqi army forces fled, leaving behind a stockpile of weapons that are now openly sold to civilians on this street corner.

Suspects are lined up after a routine identification and home search in an Arab suburb of Kirkuk. Kurdish police carry lists of suspects with possible connections to Sunni militant groups as well as arresting citizens from certain areas under Islamic State control. Some are questioned and released. Others are arrested for further investigation.

Peshmerga forces man a front line between Kurdish and Islamic State held territories. Checkpoints mark the entry on each side separated by a 500-meter stretch of no man's land. Civilians are permitted to pass between the borders following an ID check and vehicle search. Public transport still operates across this front line between Kirkuk and Mosul.

A sheep is slaughtered by the roadside as customers wait on a couch nearby for their purchase. In supermarkets, lamb sells for around $11 per kg, while purchasing a live sheep that is butchered as you wait reduces the price to around $9 per kilo. Most Kirkuk residents prefer to buy both lamb and chicken freshly slaughtered.

A Christian headstone stands on the grounds of the Red Church in Kirkuk, overlooking a Muslim mosque and burial ground. While the city of Kirkuk enjoys a rich and culturally diverse history, it has also been plagued by sectarian violence.

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