A Travellerspoint blog

Bordering a Warzone

My laptop made an almost holy resurrection – so here is my last blog from Iraq before moving on to eastern Turkey: about travelling just a few dozen kilometres from an active warzone.

sunny 46 °C
View Kurdistan Summer on askgudmundsen's travel map.

While the Kurdish armed forces – the Peshmenga – had placed themselves firmly between my destinations and the unruly, Islamist-controlled territory of northern Arab Iraq I was not completely spared the daily life of conflict – neither in my surroundings nor psychological.

Lalish - Yaziri Sanctuary

Lalish - Yaziri Sanctuary

Safety-wise I did have to take a few precautions. Mainly in the area close to Mosul, where there is both beautiful monasteries, sanctuaries for unknown religions like the Yazidi and rare Christian villages - all sites of interest to the average traveller. The unsure situation basically meant that public transportation is out of the question. Should something happen was it essential that were able to get out of there quickly, hiring our own wheels was thus essential. Secondly there are a lot of check-points to get through – the soldiers are generally friendly, but suspicious, though not totally unfamiliar with foreigners. Most importantly are check-points the best places for up-to-date information about an area: Is area safe? Has there been any fighting here? When? How far are we away from the fighting? Check-points are hence not necessarily places that will turn you back – they are as much places where you decided to go back from. As I indeed had to do on one occasion heading to a monastery a little too close to the action.

Check-Point

Check-Point

I have also been spared to witnessing the gravest of human suffering. Most by products of the war have been little more than small announces given the scale of the conflict. Longer queues at check-points because long lines for refugees tried to enter Kurdish cities to avoid the camps. Budget hotel being sold out or raising prized because the number of refugees who found their way to the cities had raised demand drastically while they were looking for a better place to stay – it is not uncommon that three or four displaced families rent a house together. Public transportation costs raises because petrol had been rationed to favour the Peshmenga, creating lines stretching many kilometers at the few open gas stations.

Gas Queues

Gas Queues

To be honest, while all of this is annoying for the average traveller it is not really something I can the liberty to complain about – so I won’t. The suffering lying at the heart of this problem – the conflicts in Iraq and Syria – is simply to grave for traveller’s complaints.
I did have a change to visit a temporary refugee-camp in the city of Dohuk, northeast of Mosul and not too far from the Turkish border. The couple of thousand people living there were waiting for the UN to complete a new and permanent camp (now that is a depressing term, ‘permanent camp’).

Conversations with refugees <br />(not in the camp)

Conversations with refugees
(not in the camp)

Living in basic tends, having been able to bring very few possessions with them, lacking proper sanitation for such an amount of people and having to endure the blazing dessert sun makes living hard here. Though there were upsides: most were happy to have avoided ISIL as well as government air-strikes, the UN and the Red Cross were making sure there is adequate food and water and the prospects of a move to a better camp definitely improved moral. And with that I would prefer to end with a positive note.

Post Script
Normally I would apologise for not having pictures of the context of my blog, but not in the case of the camp. I did not even bring my camera. It is simply not my job as a traveller – as a tourist – to go out into a refugee camp and shoot away. I will let (photo) journalists show you the stories from these places I will simply not make these peoples suffering a part of my vacation photos.
Nor do I have any particular interest in keeping these pictures around. Most of it is going to stay with me no matter how much I try to forget it. Seeing such a camp with you own eyes makes a far stronger impression that watching it on the news.

Posted by askgudmundsen 10:00 Archived in Iraq Tagged travel iraq war safety safe kurdistan isis current_situation

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