First Kirkuki train driver dies at age of 90

Namiq Ali Omar, one of the oldest Kurdish drivers on the Kirkuk railway. Archive of Sitar Jabbari

By KirkukNow in Kirkuk

Namiq Ali Omar, one of the oldest Kurdish drivers on the Kirkuk-Baghdad railway, passed away at the age of 90.

Omar won first place in the first course held to qualify train drivers in Baghdad, and in 1965 he successfully led the first train trip from Kirkuk to Baghdad, at a time when train travel for the people of Kirkuk became part of the past.

He died on August 19, 2022 in the city of Kirkuk, an example to follow in accuracy and skills, his colleagues say.

Omar, a Kurd, was born in the city of Kirkuk in 1932. Sitar Jabbari, one of his old companions, said Namiq participated in a qualifying course for train drivers in 1965 and was able to get first place among the participants.

He also led the first trip from Kirkuk to Baghdad successfully then.

During the British mandate in the twenties of the last century, the Kirkuk railway was connected to Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. At first, the train drivers were Britons, Indians or other foreign nationals, then gradually qualification courses were held for Iraqis.

Jabbari, a writer from Kirkuk and who has written a book on the city, says that the trains at the time were coal-fired, before developing diesel engines.

In addition to his mother tongue, Omar was fluent in three other languages: Arabic, Turkish and English, as the latter was one of the main conditions for obtaining a train driver's license.

“Throughout his work, Namiq has never had an accident or committed any offense,” says Jabbari.

A report by KirkukNow about Kirkuk railway

In 1974, Omar was transferred to Basra and became a train driver on the Basra-Baghdad railway.

The decision to transfer Namiq, according to Jabbari, was related to a decision issued by the Baath Party, according to which a number of Kurdish drivers and associates on the Kirkuk railway were excluded from their work or transferred to the cities of central and southern Iraq.

The Kirkuk railway stopped working in 2003, despite repeated promises to rehabilitate it and connect it with Baghdad and the cities of the Kurdistan Region, but those promises were not translated into reality.

Namik Ali led the last train journey in 1990, and on August 19 of this year he died in Kirkuk at the age of 90.

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