Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Kurdistan blogs

Have a look at this excellent blog, Sahmaran, written by a doctor working in Kurdistan. Lots of quality photos and semi-regular updates.

Another good Kurdistan blog is Transnational Middle-East Observer, by Wladimir van Wilgenburg, a Dutch journalist interning with a Kurdish newspaper. Up to date and well worth following.

For those of you who speak Finnish, read an article on travelling in Kurdistan published in Voima magazine (in 2007) by Usva Auer, who also helped with some tips for this blog.

A February 2007 trip (just weeks after my own) is blogged here. Includes Zakho, Dohuk, Amady and Erbil, with a number of good photos.

Description of a July 2007 trip is found on a Boots-n-All message board here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

tourists arrested after crossing to Iran illegally

Welcome to readers of AP/Yahoo News, who kindly linked to this website.

The story goes that a group of US backpackers hiking in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan.

From the article by Eric Talmadge:

"Still, in a region without a well-marked border, going off the beaten path in Kurdistan is very risky — as the three Americans discovered after they apparently wandered down the wrong side of a mountain last week and were taken into custody by Iranian border guards. Other than a frantic call to one of their friends, they haven't been heard from since.

The three — Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Joshua Fattal — were under arrest in Iran on Tuesday for illegally entering the country, and an Iranian lawmaker said that authorities were deciding whether to accuse them of spying. The U.S. State Department rejected the allegation, and relatives and Kurdish officials said they were merely hikers who got lost."

This reinforces the need for good sense when travelling in Iraq, even the relatively stable environment of Iraqi Kurdistan. going off the beaten track is risky anywhere, let alone a mountainous region with many areas with no physically marked border.

I hope that this situation does get resolved soon, and that Iran can see that this really is a few tourists who got lost. It would be a shame for the great progress Iraqi Kurdistan has made in recent years in the areas of tourism, foreign investment and economic development to be marred by this unfortunate and innocent mistake.

More articles:

Tehran Times: Three Americans straying into Iran under arrest:

"Iran has questioned reports that these people were some hikers who wandered across the border by mistake. "

NPR: Friends seek release of jailed hikers in Iran

Arrested hiker/backpacker/journalist Shane Bauer's good-looking website.

Canada's National Post: American Hikers Held in Iran

AP, hosted by Google: Arrest of US hikers mars Iraq tourism boom

For those who would like to learn more about travelling in Iraqi Kurdistan:

Please read the "about this site & disclaimer" page.

Learn how to get in and out.

Look at some of my city centre maps.

Read the frequently asked questions.

Follow our updates on twitter.

Have a look at the Iraq chapter in Lonely Planet's new Middle East guide, updated last year.

Keep in mind that some of this information is up to two years old. Facts change quickly in a place like Iraqi Kurdistan. Do your research before you make the decision to go.

For any enquiries, my email address is listed here.