Sunday, October 7, 2007

recent articles

A statement from the Kurdistan Regional Government with their take on role of federalism in Iraq (KRG, 7 October 2007)

This is a good overview of the current situation in Iraqi Kurdistan, including a good analysis of Kirkuk:
Security may trump ethnicity in Kirkuk (LA Times, 29 September 2007)

The numbers for September report the fewest deaths in Iraq in over a year. 54% of all deaths were in Baghdad, though, with Diyala and Nineveh (both bordering Iraqi Kurdistan) the next most violent. This does indicate the south of Iraq is relatively safer. Watch this space.
Iraqi deaths fall by 50% (Kurdish Globe, 2 October 2007)

Erbil's Nishtiman mall is the biggest construction project in Kurdistan:
The future of Erbil bazaar is in Nishtiman market (Kurdish Globe, 19 September 2007)

Yet another feature article about the prospects for Iraqi Kurdistan:

Kurdistan: Does independence beckon? (The Economist, September 13, 2007)

And for anyone foolish who is thinking of holidaying in southern Iraq, as I have heard reports of, consider these next articles about the British withdrawal from Basra. All is not peaceful down there. Don't go.

"The departure of UK forces... is likely to precipitate a free-for-all among rival local groupings for control in Iraq's second city.
Fearing Shia chaos in Iraq (The Economist Intelligence Unit, September 5th, 2007)
Last post in Basra (The Economist, September 6th, 2007)

Saturday, October 6, 2007

safety in south-eastern Turkey

Travellers should exercise caution coming to Iraqi Kurdistan through Sirnak province in Turkey, the province the border town of Silopi is a part of. Stay on the bus going on the main roads to Silopi.

During September there was substantial violence between the Turkish military and the PKK, resulting in numerous deaths. Hakkari and Siirt provinces have also experienced substantial violence.

Also, Turkey has shelled villages on the Iraqi side of the border over the summer. It's probably not a good idea to visit those villages at risk of further shelling.

Source: this article from the New Anatolian, 5 October 2007.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Is it possible to travel across the Kurdistan/Iran border?

A. As far as I know it is not officially possible (and I don't recommend an illegal crossing). If you want to travel between Iraqi Kurdistan and Iran it is necessary to go back through Turkey.

Q. Do I need a visa for Iraqi Kurdistan?

A. No. Generally at the Ibrahim Khalil border crossing at Zakho you are permitted entry without a visa, and I assume it is the same at Erbil and Sulaymaniyah airports. The passport stamp requires registration within 10 days at the Residence Office. You need to ask around to find this office.

With this entry stamp in your passport you may still exit the Kurdistan region. For instance, entering Kirkuk you will not be stopped. But don't think this is a great reason to visit Kirkuk or Mosul or anywhere else dangerous. It is likely that within a few hours of arriving there will be a price on your head. Don't go.

If you want to enter Iraqi through any other border or airport (ie. Baghdad) you need a visa in advance, which apparently can be difficult to get. And those regions are not recommended for travel either.

Q. What is the exchange rate for the Iraqi dinar?

A. The official rate is around 1250 dinar to US$1. The unofficial rate on the street can be up to 1400 dinar to US$1. It varies depending on the bank or money-changer. US bills below $10 are not always accepted.

Q. How much money should I take for my Kurdistan trip?

A. I recommend at least US$50 per day while within Iraqi Kurdistan, plus money for travel in and out.

US$50 includes $15 for accomodation, $15 for a shared taxi ride between towns, plus $20 for food and other miscellaneous costs.

You should allow at least US$300 for a flight out, or if going via the Turkish border, enough money for a taxi all the way to Silopi, so allow $50 from Zakho, $80 from Dohuk or up to $100 from Erbil. These are upper estimates to allow for being ripped off or having to pay for a whole taxi without sharing the cost.

Q. What are the costs of travelling between cities in Iraqi Kurdistan?

A. For more detail see this page. Generally one seat in a shared taxi costs US$15 for the following regular journeys, each between two and four hours:

Zakho - Dohuk
Dohuk - Erbil
Erbil - Sulaymaniyah (costs more if you want to avoid driving through Kirkuk)

There are shared taxis and minibuses which travel between smaller towns which you can find at various garages in each city.

Q. What other places are worth visiting apart from the main cities?

A. From Dohuk, there are the mountain towns of Amadiyya and Akre to the east.
From Erbil, there are the mountain resort towns of Salahaddin, Shaqlawa, Bekhal and Gali Ali Beg in dramatic mountain valleys.
From Sulaymaniyah, there is Halabja to the south-east, and Dukan and Derbendikhan dams nearby, with lakeside cabins available.
Some more info is here (from the KRG).