Iraq – (Kurdistan)
Official name: Kurdistan Region
Population: 8 500 000
Area: 78 736 km²
The geopolitical situation of Iraqi Kurdistan, tourist attractions of Iraqi Kurdistan, Iraqi Kurdistan – the present times, brief history of Iraqi Kurdistan.
The geopolitical situation of Iraqi Kurdistan
I describe Iraqi Kurdistan on my website as an autonomous region of Iraq and not as an independent country. I was wondering whether to describe Iraqi Kurdistan on the „Iraq page” but I came to a conclusion that it is better to distinguish it because “Northern Iraq” (Kurdistan) is controlled by the Kurdish Regional Government acting separately from the Iraqi government based in Baghdad. Kurdistan also has a separate economy, its own army and a different national identity but after the American invasion of Iraq it also has a different level of security and different realities of life. For all the above reasons I describe Iraqi Kurdistan separately, although I emphasize that politically it is a part of Iraq. Besides, whether Iraq ever absorbs Kurdistan or whether Kurdistan becomes independent, I also describe this region as a separate part of Iraq because in 2017, when I was there, that division was also important for tourism.
I went to Iraqi Kurdistan during the referendum on Independence of Kurdistan which took place on the 25/09/2017. To this day Kurdistan has been recognized only by one country – by Israel, to further divide Muslims, and I doubt whether it would be ever recognized by any other country. In my opinion the future of Iraq and the future of Iraqi Kurdistan are very uncertain. On one hand almost 93% of the Kurds in Northern Iraq voted for Kurdistan’s independence and on the other hand the region has no chance of being independent because of its neighbors, such as Iraq, Iran, Syria and of course Turkey. The Kurds think that they would get strong support from the US because they have rich oil reserves but in my opinion the US does not have to ask anyone for oil and the armed intervention for Kurdistan independence could start a cold war with Turkey and Iran, what could cost the US more than the oil offered by the Kurds. I think that the Kurds have a terrible geo-political situation and that’s why their only chance for independence lies in a devastating war in Turkey and Iran. Otherwise the Kurds should be happy to have a piece of land that they can call the “autonomous region.
! After my return from Iraq, the President of Iraqi Kurdistan Masoud Barzani decided to resign and the national army of Iraq pushed the Kurds from Kirkuk, which is rich in oil and which is called the “heart of the Kurdish nation.” Barzani accused the US and the Kurdish Pashmerga army for treason because the Kurds were left in this fight without allies and they lost Kirkuk without a fight, despite the fact that they struggled to recover it from ISIS with such a dedication. The other thing is that Kirkuk did not belong to the Kurdish autonomous region and although it had a Kurdish majority it was within the borders of Iraq with its government in Baghdad. America, the alleged Kurdish ally did nothing in their defense and said that it would “be impartial.” It is hard for me to say who was behind the Kurdish disaster but I think it was a long planned mole job of the Iraqi Arabs and the Shiite Iranians and as a result of that I wouldn’t be surprised if soon the British and American oil fields in Kirkuk were guarded by the Arab army from Baghdad. This was the „thank you” that the Kurds got for fighting the American invention called ISIS.
This article is also my way of distinguishing Kurdistan and drawing attention to the fact, that this largest nation in the world without its own state does exist and this issue should never be ignored or forgotten. Areas inhabited by the Kurds are in Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria.
Additional information on security in Iraqi Kurdistan
!!! Although Erbil was safe in 2017, and it looked like the war did get there, I would like to remind about certain tragic events. Well, in 2005 the Ansar al-Sunna group, which also fought Americans, sent a suicide bomber who carried out a bomb attack in the office of a Kurdish political party. In 2015 ISIS detonated a bomb in front of the US consulate in Erbil, and in 2016 Kurdish services prevented bomb explosion hidden in a passenger car. Bombs in Erbil also exploded in 2018 and in 2019. From my experience, and experience of other travelers Erbil is very safe, but considering those unfortunate events, it is still a city full of surprises.
I advise tourists to stay away from political demonstrations and polling stations. In Kirkuk, which is just outside the Kurdish region, a bomb killed 12 people during elections to the Iraqi parliament. Turkey bombed the village of Sharanish in the mountains near Zakho, in 2016, 2017, 2018 and twice in 2019. They aimed for the Kurdish PKK guerrillas, but I was lucky that they didn’t hit me, when I was drinking tea on the street of Zakho. In other cities of Kurdistan I felt safe too, but on the other hand no one knows the day or the hour.
Full information on safety can be found on the right in the Practical Information section.
Tourist attractions of Iraqi Kurdistan
Visiting Iraq is already a great tourist attraction because it is indeed an adventure with a thrilling. On one hand Kurdistan is peaceful and people live in harmony but on the other hand it is a sensitive area which can become a target of invasion by neighboring countries at any moment. The tourist attraction is therefore a life like in a film and the fact that I write this article means that I had a happy ending. I found the people to be very interesting, because of the way they dressed, the way they drank tea in the streets and I generally liked watching them, although English was very limited. In any case, the people’s reaction when they saw me was also unforgettable because tourists simply don’t go to Iraq. My first place of interest was the Ibrahim Khalil border which went smoothly on the Iraqi side but the Turks were clearly not happy that I was going to Iraq.
When entering Kurdistan from Turkey I stopped in the town of Zakho where there is the ancient Delal bridge on the Kabkur River, built by the Romans. I also swam in the river because it was so hot. My second destination was the city of Dohuk which was my base for a few days. I have good memories from Dohuk. I spent time talking to people whilst having tea, I was at many street markets where I experienced Kurdish patriotism before the referendum for independence and I spent pleasant time at the outskirts of town. I swam in a lake near the dam, I walked in the mountains and sat down near the artificial waterfall. I was also in Azadi Park and in the Panorama Park but my favourite was the dam because of the beautiful nature. I also recommend the small but attractive zoo and the Catholic church of St. Ith Llaha. I aso made an interesting trip from Dohuk to Lalish, to see the Yazidi’s temples. The people were once again curious where I was from and some of them talked to me about politics and about Saddam Hussein. Not everyone in Iraq and in Kurdistan was satisfied that America interfered because many people good lived during Saddam’s regime.
I also liked Saddam Hussein because he kept Arabs in Iraq. True, people had a regime but in every country there is a regime and the worst regimes are in those countries which advertise themselves as “democratic”. (Britain is a good example.) There are many ethnic groups in Iraq but thank to Saddam everybody lived in peace but when America ruined Iraq and established ISIS, Iraqi people immediately started to miss Saddam. From the perspective of a traveller Saddam was also good because Iraq was a very attractive, cheap and an interesting tourist country, and places such the ancient Babylon and Baghdad enjoyed great popularity among travellers from all over the world. Who is therefore the real terrorist?
Another trip from Dohuk was Ammadiya where I went mainly to see the ancient Badinan gate but as usual in a new place I had new experiences with people and I had a kebab in a very traditional and a very cheap bar. In Ammadiya I was on the referendum day and that’s why there was a nervous atmosphere. Below the Ammadiya plateau there is a Sulav resort where I lived in a room built on the edge of a cave through which flowed a mountain stream. In Sulav I walked the mountains, I drank tea and I tried local delicacies which I praise highly.
I think the side road from the “beaten trail” – if such one exists in Iraq at all, was my stay in the city of Akre. People watched me there like television and they were looking for contact because they were very surprised that a White man came to the “terrorist town”. Of course they were not terrorists, even though such opinion circulates in the Western media. People gave me tea, bakhlava and one senior Kurd told me silently that they were hunting ISIS and chopping them with axes. I thought I would feel better if I didn’t know that but I kept the poker face just in case. In Akre I recommend the ruins of a rocky town on the top of the mountain where I slept in a cave, naked, on a bare stone but in the morning I felt very good.
Hitchhiking is also a great experience and for me that adventure ended well, although in Iraq hitchhiking may turn out to be a Russian roulette. The people were very helpful, even the ones armed to teeth, although I wouldn’t say „no” to a guy with AK-47 anyway. From Akre I went to the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, to Erbil, on the way stopping at military checkpoints with beautiful views of the refugee camp, barbed wire, sand bags and of course concrete blocks. I also drove through holes on the roads where I strongly advice to shoot a horror film, called for example: “ISIS vs. the desert monsters – the judgment day.” These are my kind of places, although people do live there and they sell fruit to Polish tourists.
Erbil was beautiful, especially the citadel rising above the city and the bazaar and the fountains below. The citadel and its museums and souvenir shops are of course the must-do, but a very important bazaar is the one where one can buy almost original perfumes for a penny, buy clothes and can eat well. The atmosphere of that place is the cultural treasure of my trip to Iraqi Kurdistan. In the evening I always drank tea on the street, I tasted new bakhlavas and a pomegranate juice. Erbil has also nice parks and a cable car above the town. It is important to not to overlook the park with a minaret and a hot air balloon that raises Poles under the heavens for 5000 dinars per head. Erbil was also my base because I also organized trips from there. One of them was a trip to Rawanduz with its cable cars overlooking the entire canyon and a picturesque town. My return was also very good because I hitchhiked through the red canyon, I swam in a turquoise river and saw the Gali Ali Berg waterfall which is featured on the 5000 Iraqi dinar banknote. It was a beautiful contact with nature and the night I spent by the river in the company of Peshmerga soldiers. Many people go there: Arabs from the Iraqi war zones who want to take some rest from the war and probably also terrorists who want to take a break from Jihad. From the perspective of time I realize that I must have met some tough soldiers because they showed me videos on their phones about bombing of Turkish armoured vehicles and they had great time whilst watching it. I have to admit that I had a lot of fun too because seeing cars being blown up is very entertaining.
The waterfall and the canyon were beautiful and I highly recommend them. On the way back I also the saw the Khanzad castle built on the mountain, close to the road about 20km from Erbil.
Whilst in Iraqi Kurdistan I also recommend the southern city of Sulaymaniya, which turned out to be very interesting, although I doubt anyone would go there. I went there through Kirkuk but after the invasion carried out by the Iraqi troops the future travellers would have to choose a different way. In Sulaymaniya I mainly recommend the former prison of Saddam Hussein called Amna Suraka where there is an exhibition of Saddam’s tanks and the torture methods of its prisoners but there are also pictures of the Peshmerga army and PKK partisans who were shown fighting ISIS. There were still bullet holes in the walls. In Sulaymaniya I also enjoyed the food at the night bazaar near the mosque. There were many kebabs, broths, beef sandwiches and fruit. I had a very pleasant stay.
On the way back to Erbil I left the road and stopped at lake Dokan. I ate carp in a bar, I saw a football match between Poland and Armenia and I spent the night in a desert hut, near the lake. The next day I swam in the lake, I was on a speedboat, had nice contact with people and hitched back to Erbil.
Iraqi Kurdistan is a very attractive tourist destination which I warmly recommend. Someone might call this region a “war zone” but according to me there is nothing to worry about and I classify Kurdistan as a standard, safe tourist destination in Iraq. All the military checkpoints and machine guns I took as a part of the landscape. It was beautiful.
Iraqi Kurdistan – the present times
Kurdistan is by far the safest region of Iraq and has a free-market economy, what allowed to sign many contracts with foreign investors and thus the development of the region. In 2006 the first oil well from the invasion of Iraq was drilled in the Kurdistan region by the Norwegian energy company DNO. The Kurdistan Regional Government has also signed agreements with several other oil companies, including the Canadian Western Oil Sands, the British Sterling Energy and Gulf Keystone Petroleum. Kurds however have signed agreements with 42 mining companies from 17 countries that offer better conditions than the central government in Baghdad. The ambition of Kurds is to export 1 million barrels a year.
The stability of the Kurdistan region allowed it to achieve a higher level of development than in other regions of Iraq. In 2004, per capita income was 50% higher than in the rest of Iraq and in 2009 it was already 200% higher. In Kurdistan one can open own business in just a few days and taking into account security, higher incomes and less bureaucracy than in other countries in the region, in 2003 Kurdistan attracted 20.000 employees from other parts of Iraq. The GDP of the Kurdistan region in 2015 amounted to $26.5 billion while unemployment stands at an average level of 13%. According to the first post-war president of Iraq, Jalalabad Talabani, the city of Sulemani already has 2000 millionaires, while before the invasion of Iraq there were only 12 of them. In 2009 Iraqi Kurdistan also had the lowest poverty in Iraq. The Kurdistan Regional Government wants to create free trade zones in the border areas with Turkey, Iran and Syria.
However, the economy of the Kurdish region is still very fragile and depends on oil exports. In 2015 Kurdistan was hit by the economic crisis which resulted in low prices per barrel of oil, conflicts with the central government in Baghdad and attacks by the Islamic State. The contracts were broken, people were not paid for three months and at the beginning of 2016 Kurdistan was $16bn in debt. With the invasion of Iraqi troops onto oil-rich Kirkuk by the end of 2017 Kurdistan lost a lot and its future is more and more precarious and even more dependent on hostile neighbors, who with every move show the Kurds that the referendum was just an emotional event without any assurance in reality.
93% of the Kurds supported independence (separation from Iraq) but the same people do not realize that the economics of the Kurdistan region is very delicate and if strong neighbours wanted to destroy the Kurds, the most effective way would be an economic war. Kurdistan is an oil-rich region and it has a pipeline with Turkey, so if Turkey wanted to close the pipeline as a revenge for the referendum, then the Kurdish economy would come to an end. It was oil trade that helped the Kurds to form their region as an independent country, and ironically they did it thanks to the Americans since the 1990s. Thanks to oil the Kurds were able to diversify their economy to a small degree, dividing it also into agriculture, banking, production of certain goods and recently also tourism – but still, oil trade still accounts for 90% of the Kurdish GDP. Average Kurds hate Turkey but they forget that the Kurdistan region is actually doomed to Turkish partnership because Turkey buys around 150,000 barrels of oil per day from Kurdistan, pumped through one pipeline. Kurdistan is also very dependent on imports and for example in Erbil there are clothes from China, fruit from Iran and Egypt, eggs from Turkey and cigarettes from South Korea. The closure of borders with Turkey and Iran and the closure of airspace over Iraq would lead to rapid price increases and a lack of basic goods, which in turn would surely turn into chaos. Turkey is well aware of this and the Turkish President Recep Erdogan even said that if he wanted to impose sanctions against Iraqi Kurdistan, the Kurds would have neither food nor clothes.
On the other hand it is an economic marriage resulting from common sense. Turkish companies and the government of Turkey earn millions of dollars every day only on crossing the border in Ibrahim Khalil. I was there and I can assure that the queue of trucks filled with goods never ends. The borders with Kurdistan are a great market for Turkey and Iran, and Kurdistan is an easy and not a demanding client because it needs everything. Apart from that there is also a Rosfnet gas pipeline between Russia and the Iraqi Kurdistan, running through Turkey, and new ones are still being built. Neither Turkey nor Iran are able to close the border with Kurdistan because it wouldn’t pay anyone. I even think that if Northern Iraq was blocked from the world, then America could start a new war for “democracy” and Russia would demand money from Turkey for losses related to the pipeline. On the other hand Kurds simply cannot afford the independence.
The Kurdistan Regional Government has a very serious approach to education, because it allocates as much as 16% of its GDP for this purpose and the entire investment in education in 2006-2013 amounted to as much as $668 million. The region of Kurdistan can boast the highest completion rates of primary schools in Iraq, which is 65% and has the highest enrollment to primary schools which is 95.9%, and 4.5% more than in the rest of Iraq. Enrollment to secondary schools in the region are on average 88.9%, while 92.3% of men aged 15-24 and 81.6% of women in the same age group can read and write. These positive statistics do not hide that the region’s educational needs are growing. In fact, the total number of primary and secondary school students in Kurdistan increased from 843.000 in 2003 to 1.7 million in 2012. This means an increase of 98%. When it comes to sex division in schools, boys usually constitute 60%. The Kurdistan Regional Government also invested heavily in building more schools, from 1459 schools in 2003 to 2641 in 2012. This means that it is an 81% increase. Kurdistan has been introducing new reforms all the time, and for example the government has changed the compulsory years of education from 6 years to 9 years, and teachers should have at least a bachelor’s degree and attend vocational training.
At present 115.000 students are taught at 13 public and 11 private universities in Kurdistan. The vast majority of these students attend public universities which are much larger than private and do not charge tuition fees. Thanks to the war in Iraq the Kurdish universities also have an easier way to acquire Iraqi professors, from cities such as Baghdad, Basra and Mosul.
Also, what has become important in recent years, universities have historically taught in Kurdish, Arabic and English but the growing demand for English has led many universities to teach only in English. Kurdish universities also encourage international exchange through a “human capacity development program” that aims to send the latest graduates of Kurdish public universities and complete post-graduate studies at international universities to further improve their international intelligence, language skills and professional skills.
The health system in Iraq has never been excellent, either under Saddam and now, and this is mainly due to low funding. The main part of Iraq is of course the worst as the country is destroyed by the war, while in the Kurdistan region there are about 60 hospitals, mainly state-owned but there is not enough equipment in them, too few doctors, dentists and too few nurses. The staff however is well educated and the care is spread evenly because most patients live within 30 minutes from the hospital. Unfortunately, in many hospitals there are no machines to perform X-rays and other equipment has to be repaired. It was also calculated that by 2020 an additional 2500 hospital beds would be useful. In Kurdistan the problem is not with people but in the lack of funding, lack of equipment and too low salaries of the medical staff, what makes them prefer to work privately. The good news is that the health of children in Kurdistan has improved because in the region the UN directly distributes drugs. In the rest of Iraq controlled by the government in Baghdad children’s health deteriorated and mortality increased. Nevertheless Iraqi women have an average of 4.5 children per woman, compared to the world average, including Kurdistan, which is 2. Iraqi Kurdistan has family planning while Arabs in Iraq do not use family planning for religious reasons. According to the RAND Corporation which is an organization dealing with the research on health services, spending on health in Iraq is only 2.5% of the total GDP and it is hard for me to say how much the expenses are specifically in the Kurdish region, but it is definitely better there. RAND believes that the regional government should raise health spending in the coming years due to growing population.
The situation becomes even more difficult with the course of the war because the fight for Mosul produced even more wounded and needy, and apart from that the Kurdish health system must also take care of the Syrian refugees.
Iraqi Kurdistan is a low-risk country when it comes to HIV but the numbers of infected people are constantly growing. By 2008 only two people were infected in the Kurdistan region, while between 2008 and 2012 it was already 107 people. Not the numbers are the problem but a sharp rise in infected people. HIV is the most present among homosexuals and drug addicts and sometimes it is imported into Kurdistan. That was the case with a negro from Cameroon who came to northern Iraq in search of a job.
Iraq has also one of the highest numbers of people who suffer from cancer, although in the Kurdistan region these numbers are smaller. Women usually suffer from breast and uterine cancer while men suffer from lung cancer. Doctors from Duhok in the northern part of Kurdistan even came to a conclusion that in recent years the number of cancer cases has increased by 50% and if this trend continues throughout Iraq, half of the population will be at risk of cancer or will have cancer. The reasons for this are bad food, lack of sport and of course continuous smoking. Kurds are born with a cigarette.
Culture / Religion
Kurds are a nation of 30 million people without its own country and its population is the most numerous in Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran. With such difficult political conditions it was difficult to continue Kurdish culture, Kurdish language and other national customs, especially since Kurds had no right to speak Kurdish in public Kurdish music and Kurdish costumes were forbidden. In addition, Kurds were forced to take local names to be able to get to school and to get a job. In a nice language it was called “forced assimilation” (just as English people today have to assimilate to the Muslim culture in England). For centuries Kurds were put into Turkish prisons and experienced many acts of violence and terrorism, especially from the Turks. However in recent years both Turkey and Iran have relaxed cultural repression against Kurds and in Iraq Kurds have their own region, what still has not changed the fact that the founder of the Kurdish liberation army (PKK) is still locked in a Turkish prison. It is important to let my readers know how hard it was for the Kurds to preserve their national identity.
Kurds are the native people of Mesopotamia united through race, language, religion and common customs. Racially they have Turkish, Arabic, Azeri and Persian origins. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2011, 98% of Kurds are Sunni Muslims while the remaining 2% are Shia Muslims. Although Islam is a decisive majority, there are 650,000 Kurdish Yezidis in Iraq itself and a very small percentage of Christians and Jews, who speak Aramaic which is a language used by Jesus Christ. When I returned from Iraq to the Kurdish territories of Turkey I asked the Kurds about the uniformity of the Kurdish language and they replied that there are differences in the dialect between for example Dohuk and Sulaymaniya, but all Kurds in Iraq understand each other. Iraqi, Iranian, and Turkish Kurds however have problem with understanding each other because for example Kurds in Turkey put many Turkish words into Kurdish. Whilst traveling around Kurdistan in Turkey I met many people who introduced themselves as Kurds but differences in language depending on the country of residence prove that Kurds are divided not only territorially but to a certain extent also by language.
The rest of the aspects of the Kurdish culture are similar to other Muslim countries but in my opinion the culturally closest is Turkey, Iran and Syria. Kurdish society is dominated by men, who can be seen on the streets, in restaurants and tea rooms. Especially after dark no women are visible at all and men work in all the stores. The center of the city is always a mosque, around which there is a bazaar which is not only a shopping center but also a cultural and political center. Men drink tea on the streets, because alcohol is “haram” (forbidden) and women sit at homes with children. In famillies patriarchy is in force, as in all Muslim countries, what means that the oldest man has the greatest authority and he is the owner of the property. (I strongly support patriarchy as compatible with the nature).
Whilst traveling in Iraqi Kurdistan I heard Kurdish music, which to Kurds is also revolutionary. Some of the songs are Kurdish folklore with the addition of electric guitars to further promote the Kurdish national identity. Just like in Turkey and Iran, Kurds also have a culture of making carpets, sometimes with traditional Kurdish symbols. I recommend the Textile Museum in Erbil inside the Citadel where there are the best Kurdish carpets under one roof. In addition Kurds are known for copper products. The favourite sports of Kurds include football, wrestling, shooting and cirit which is javelin thrown during horse riding. Races on horses and camels are also popular.
I also think that hospitality is an important part the Kurdish culture and let’s not forget that if a White tourist is invited to a Kurdish home he should leave his shoes out of the front door and give a small gift. An important part of the Kurdish culture is of course food, mainly different types of kebabs, baked chicken, bread and tea and pomegranate juice.
If I had to mention one thing that I don’t like about the Kurds it would be their heavy smoking and they were so shameless about it that they wondered why I didn’t smoke.
Press freedom and freedom of speech in northern Iraq is a brutal fiction. In Iraqi Kurdistan journalists are beaten, murdered and at best imprisoned without prosecution. This happens not only because of the government but above all because of the fact that politically Northen Iraq is divided into two parties: the Democratic Party of Kurdistan and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Each party controls its territory and does not allow the opposition, and if opposition journalists try to record a program on hostile political territory, sometimes they are beaten with bats or stabbed by Kurds voting for a different party. Only in 2015 the Metro Center organization recorded 359 offenses against journalists. Those numbers are not complete and there may be more of them such as: intimidation, destruction and confiscation of equipment, detention, beatings, home invasions, death threats and kidnapping. In 2017, apart from many assaults, beatings and intentions to kill, 8 murders were also reported.
An adequate example is the 32-year-old journalist Kawa Garmiyani, who first received a death threat for writing about corruption and then he was shot in front of his home in December 2013. Another time a cameraman Arkan Shareef was stabbed to death at his home in Daquq, 60 km south of Kirkuk. Rebwar Kakaye, a private television channel reporter who worked for NRT TV was carrying out a live interview when he was beaten with sticks and his equipment was broken by demonstrators who tried to break through to the parliament building. The reporter had to be taken to the hospital. Attacks of this type take place in Kurdistan all the time and TV stations in Iraqi Kurdistan have open war with each other. For example: Kurdish media have been affected by the tension between the Kurdish authorities and the Iraqi federal government in Baghdad and on October the 23 the Iraqi media commission (CMC) ordered the suspension of two Kurdish TV channels, such as Rudaw TV and Kurdistan 24, saying that “they didn’t have licenses and their broadcast was an incitement to violence and hatred. “
According to Reporters without Borders, in 2017 on 180 countries and territories Iraq was on the 158th place.
The above report about the freedom of press in Iraq may seem like a media prison but I would like my readers to understand that freedom of speech is a muddy subject that is variously interpreted and used depending on the political side. In the liberal Europe there is no freedom of speech or press, unless it contributes to the ideology of the Bolsheviks who hide under the banner of false democracy. In Poland for example freedom of speech is used by Jews and communists who finance the so called “non-governmental organizations”, which exploit the weakness of the democratic system and greatly harm Poland and Poles. It is important to understand that the fight against Jewish Bolshevism is not a rape of democracy or freedom of speech but defense of Poland against enemies, because the same “non-governmental organization” used to be for example in the Bolshevik Russia before 1917. They also had communist thugs in the offices who worked as informants and militias in the streets poisoning the white nation with red propaganda, beating Christian Russians and practicing war tactics called “divide and conquer”. Freedom of speech is only for patriots, not for aliens and not for enemies.
The largest cities in the Kurdish region of Iraq – especially the capital of Erbil, though also Dohuk and Sulaymaniya are struggling with environmental problems such as pollution of water, air and excessive noise. Political instability, ethnic tensions, political decisions, wars and economic sanctions, consumerism, lack of sufficient funding and tensions between the federal government in Baghdad and the regional government in Erbil greatly contribute to environmental problems.
Although problems related to environmental pollution cause serious health problems, including death, the authorities are unable to solve them and are rather interested in talking about the need of protection the environment rather than protecting it. When writing this article at the end of December 2017, Iraqi Kurdistan is still the only part of Iraq which is safe and that’s why the population of the region is growing, cities are expanding, there are more and more cars and factories and in my opinion this problem will not be solved. Statistics published by the General Directorate of Traffic in Iraq indicate that there are currently 884,000 cars on the roads in the region, while the statistics of the Ministry of Trade and Industry of Kurdistan show that there are 2.250 functioning foreign companies operating in Iraq, including Arab companies.
Ecological problems in northern Iraq are discussed in a non-punitive way, to not to alienate the voters and people who should know the exact statistics say they don’t know them. Samad Mohammed, head of the Kurdistan Environmental Protection Committee, said:
“There are many causes of environmental pollution in the region, some of which are associated with soil, water, sandstorms, floods and droughts. In addition to the increase in the number of cars and factories, there is also incineration of garbage and sewage, which in some places are discharged into rivers. “
And he also added:
“We cannot talk about the specific level of pollution because it varies depending on the area. The level of pollution in cities where urban expansion is taking place as well as in the area of refineries and oil plants is different than in the mountain areas. That’s why the level of pollution in the Kurdistan region can not be determined.”
In other words the “expert” in the field of environmental protection is a master in avoiding that topic of environmental protection, but not in finding specific solutions. On the road to progress throughout Iraq there is also huge bureaucracy and corruption.
In Iraqi Kurdistan there is a problem with poor water quality, unregulated use of pesticides, bad irrigation of fields, dumping municipal and industrial wastes into rivers, lack of sufficient sewerage and burning garbage and car tires, which apart from gases emanating from cars and factories further destroy the atmosphere. Many times when I swam in Kurdistan the shore was a rubbish dump and people got used to it so much that nobody paid any attention to it. That’s how it is for example at the shore of the Dohuk dam. In Kurdistan people don’t use alternative energy sources such as solar panels and wind power what I think is a huge waste considering the hot climate of Iraq. Dealings against the nature in Iraq we could definitely call a criminal activity and I’m talking about over-hunting, trade of wild species and destruction of natural environments for building factories. Although that took place outside of the Kurdistan region, in my opinion the biggest crime of Iraq was drying the swamps for political and military benefits. Fortunately thanks to the swift reaction of the marsh Arabs 60% of the swamps were saved and life began to return there.
Tourist visa: I entered Iraq on a Polish passport and at the border I got a single entry tourist visa entitling me to a 30 day stay. A few years ago it was only 11 days, then 15 and in 2017 it was already 30 days. The same visa can be obtained at the airport in Erbil and Sulaymaniya and it is free. However, it is important to remember that the visa given in Iraqi Kurdistan is valid only in Northern Iraq, which is controlled by the Kurdish Regional Government. This visa can be quite surprising because even though on the stamp in my passport it was written “Republic of Iraq”, I also got another stamp permitting to travel only inside Kurdistan. Visa extension is possible in the territory of Kurdistan in the local Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In theory, the Iraqi visa for the Kurdish region permits to stay only inside its territory but in my opinion the borders of Kurdistan are constantly changing and not all Kurdish cities are controlled by the Kurdistan government. For example, I travelled through the city of Kirkuk which was inhabited mostly by the Kurds and which until recently was on the line of fire with the Islamic State. In September 2017 it was controlled by the Kurdish Peshmerga army and so far it is a bone of contention between the government in Erbil and the one in Baghdad. I’m writing about it because with my visa I was not supposed to be there but I was going through Kirkuk on the way to Sulaymaniya. The Western border of Iraqi Kurdistan is a very sensitive area.
If you want to go to places like Baghdad, Babylon or Al Basra you must go to the Iraqi consulate in the country of your residence and ask for a visa to travel all over Iraq, but then the requirements are different.
Safety: Iraq is usually associated only with war and terrorism but in the case of Kurdistan it is completely different. In my opinion Iraqi Kurdistan is safer than Lebanon and certainly safer than the multi-cultural Europe. Sometimes there are bombs blowing up and other terrorist attacks but there are less of them than in London, Paris or Berlin. There are also fewer robberies, fewer rapes and kidnappings. I am sure that for someone who lives in a Black or Muslim district of western Europe, Iraqi Kurdistan would be very safe. I travelled throughout the region, I was in many towns and villages and I wandered during a day and night – and it was always safe. Besides, Iraqi Kurdistan has many military controls with concrete blocks and sand bags. I personally saw Kurdish soldiers turning Arabian trucks upside down in search of weapons and explosives. There a lot of those checks on every road in the entire region and each city is surrounded by armed police. These are the things that politically correct European retards need to learn from the Kurds in order to keeep safe.
Iraqi Kurdistan is so safe that hotels are booked to the last beds during the holiday seasons and because of its safety it is a region of many foreign investments. Of course Kurdistan is visited by travellers from Poland but also by Arabs from Iraq from the areas controlled by ISIS and probably also by unarmed terrorists who want to take a break from the war for a while. According to my standards Kurdistan is a a very safe destination.
! Warning. Let’s remember that despite its separateness Iraqi Kurdistan is a part of Iraq, and that’s why surprises can happen. I don’t want anyone to go to Iraq and get a bullet to the head because “Martin Malik advised him so”. The safety conditions should be checked just before the trip, but only as long as you don’t rely on the British Foreign Office website, because their travel advice is based on the paranoia of eternal apocalypse.
I have provided additional information on security in the main article on the left.
Moving around the country: Despite the lack of public transport Iraqi Kurdistan is very well organized. Throughout the region there is a network of shared taxis that depart when they are full. Intercity cabs are always stationed at bus stations and under bridges, as it was in Dohuk. In addition, in Kurdistan hitchhiking works very well what meant that sometimes I didn’t have to pay at all. People took me straight off the road and that way I went for example from Rawanduz to the Gali Ali Berg waterfall and then to Erbil for free. A tourist in Iraqi Kurdistan would certainly not get lost and would not wait too long on the road. Transport is cheap because Iraq has its own oil.
Prices for 2017 when £ 1 = 6.5 IQD: prices in Iraqi Kurdistan are not as low as in Cambodia but every Pole is sure to afford that trip. For hotels I usually paid 15,000 dinars (less than £10), although sometimes I paid only 10,000 dinars and once I overpaid because for the room with private bathroom, double bed, air conditioning and my own fridge I paid a magic amount of $20. Sometimes however I didn’t pay anything because I slept in a desert under the sky or in the cave.
For kebabs, sometimes served with a chicken soup I paid only 1000 dinars and for tea only 250 dinars which is nothing. For better meals, for example chicken with rice or for Arabic pizza I paid 4000-6000 dinars. Canned drinks cost me between 500 and 1000 dinars and a portion of grapes or bakhlava about 2000 dinars.
Transport is not expensive neither. For example, from Dohuk to Erbil I paid 10.000 Iraqi dinars, from Erbil to Rawanduz 15.000 dinars, from Zakho to Dokuh 5.000 dinars and from Erbil to Sulaymaniya I paid 12.000 dinars. There are also a lot of taxis in all cities and for one ride I usually paid more or less 3.000 dinars. Sometimes I didn’t pay for transport at all because I was hitchhiking. For some people it may be to risky to hitch in Iraq but not for me.
Besides, I recommend souvenirs such as carpets, paintings and fridge magnets and if someone has too much money he can take his wife and rent a camel to carry her shopping. I recommend rugs, handbags, shoes, perfumes and jewellery. Kurdistan is also a good place to do cheap shopping, especially if one lives in an expensive European country. I bought a lot of socks, pants, shirts, shoes and a few other things. I want to add that the entire Middle East specializes in counterfeit perfumes what means that 100ml of almost original perfumes can be bought for $10, while in London the same perfumes costs even £ 60- £ 100.
The Iraqi Kurdistan Autonomous Region does not have its own currency, that’s why it uses Iraqi dinars ….. but without the image of Saddam Hussein anymore. Old bank notes with Saddam can be purchased at the bazaar in Erbil.
Climate: The climate of the Iraqi Kurdistan region is semi-arid continental, in summer very hot and dry and in winters cold and wet. According to the Kurds spring is the most beautiful season in Kurdistan and the best time to visit the region as the average temperature ranges from 13-18°C in March to 27-32°C in May. Spring is long and the heat is not as insane. The summer months from June to September are very hot and dry. In July and August the hottest months mean that the air temperature ranges between 39-43°C and in the desert reaches it 50°C. The autumn is dry and mild and next to spring it is also the perfect season for travelling around Iraqi Kurdistan. The average temperature is 24-29°C in October and it later cools down in November. Winters are mild except for high mountains. The average temperature in winter is 7-13°C. Annual rainfall is 375-724 mm.
To those who go to Iraq I recommend to take light clothes covering the whole body, hats and sunglasses. In hot climates I recommend linen trousers and long sleeved shirts that absorb sweat quickly. It is mandatory to always carry a bottle of water because in the hot Iraqi sun its absence is more painful.