11. IS IT SAFE TO TRAVEL TO IRAQI KURDISTAN?
I was traveling around Iraqi Kurdistan solo with a backpack for an entire month. Based on my personal experience, Iraqi Kurdistan is safe. I never felt unsafe, not for a second.
Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan are not the same
It’s very important to remember that if you hear about bad things happening in Iraq from the news, it doesn’t mean that it’s also happening in Kurdistan as well.
Is Kurdistan Safe from ISIS?
Yes. Since mid-2017, Iraqi Kurdistan is free from ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.)
Crime in Iraqi Kurdistan
I don’t know the statistics but it must be very low. I was walking around with my phone in my pocket and I never felt for a moment that anyone would take it.
In Iraqi Kurdistan, every day there is an electrical switch from national to private electricity. When that happens, for about 2-5 minutes, you can witness complete darkness everywhere including supermarkets. But nobody would think about stealing stuff from the shelves.
Iraqi Kurdistan is like Iran where I left my phone in a store and an hour later when I went back, I found it in the same place where I left it.
I’ve read on some websites that the crime rate in Iraq including Kurdistan is very high. You can read so much crap about the Middle East written by people who have never been there.
Military Checkpoints in Iraqi Kurdistan
On the roads, there is quite a lot of military checkpoints but much fewer than in the rest of Iraq.
I passed a couple of them myself while on the way. At the checkpoints, the Peshmerga soldiers, those who work at the checkpoints, check everyone’s ID. It’s really not a big deal.
Do you know what the Peshmerga is? Peshmerga is the military of the autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The meaning of the word Peshmerga is the following: “those who face the death”. Their job is to take care of the security of Iraqi Kurdistan and protect the people. They are one of the most highly respected people in Kurdish society.
In the course of one month, I passed maybe 2 military checkpoints when I also had to identify myself. Once, on the way to Aqrah from Soran and once on the way to Barzan from Soran. But both times I was hitchhiking which was kind of weird for the Peshmerga soldiers.
The second time, I was interrogated by the boss at the checkpoint and had to explain what the hack I was doing in a stranger’s car. I was not intimidated by this because I knew that they just wanted to make sure that I was safe.
After this particular interrogation, they invited me for lunch, prepared a sandwich for me and arranged a car that drove me where I wanted to get to.