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  #1  
Old 8 Aug 2007
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Exclamation Syria and Iraq questions

Hello!
I`m planning to go on 21 august 2007 to see Bulgaria-Turkey-Iraq-Syria-Turkey-Bulgaria-Greece-Albania-Serbia and back to Romania on my Africa Twin.
Well, my first question is, if anyone entered succesfully in Iraq from Turkey (only the kurdish region in north). I don`t have a visa, becouse at the embasy they practicly laughed at me and i couldn`t obtain one. I`ve heard that you can get a temporary permit to enter the kurdish region, at the borders with Turkey, and i will try my luck, but any advice would be welcomed.
My second question, if you can get from Iraq to Syria, if the borders are opened ...
Well, and the third question and most important. I have obtained a visa for Syria, but i don`t have a carnet de passage. I`ve have heard rumors that you can get a temporary import permit from the borders at about 100 usd, other rumors that you can`t get without that carnet ... So, if anyone had any experince with those problems, can i enter without the carnet in Syria or ... ?
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  #2  
Old 9 Aug 2007
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Don't go to Iraq

Don't go to Iraq. Leave it for a few years. You will not last a few days without a professional personal protection team. This is fact. The Kurdish region in the north seems safe by comparison to the rest of Iraq, but that does not mean it is safe.

- there are still regular kidnappings in the north;
- there are still regular bombings, including recently at the regional Ministry of Interior HQ in Irbil;
- Mosul is under seige by Islamists - women and Christian communities are increasingly persecuted;
- Kirkuk is being fought over by various interest groups and is a very dangerous city. As a decision on Constitutional Article 140 approaches, which will decide the fate of Kirkuk's governance, the violence will only get worse;
- the KRG is not a government that comes under the scrutiny of the west or the media generally - think Syria's Assad without the media and US pressure;
- Turkish troops are massed on the border and are ready to cross into northern Iraq to deal with the PKK militants. The Iraqi and Turkish governments are engaged in talks to avert a major incursion. Attacks are already occurring in Dahuk province (the top left of the three Kurdish provinces) and the border crossing near Zakho is closed. Several residents were reportedly killed in the fighting and many thousands are on the move;
- the PKK are becoming more active in the north - and they are very nasty;
- the UNHCR estimates about 800,000 internally displaced Iraqis are currently in the Kurdish region.

Despite the KRG's tourism promotion this is not a place to roam about without major security support (ie guys with guns and armoured cars).

Read the travel advisory issued by your country. And believe it. By all means fly into Irbil or Sulaymaniya at the invitation and protection of the regional government(s), but don't leave the airport for any length of time on your own, and definitely don't leave the city.

Crossing the border from the Kurdish north into Syria is simply insane for a tourist. There are no crossings from the KRG controlled part of northern Iraq. You need to ride about 50kms into non-KRG Iraq. I would give your chances of survival or not being kidnapped about 50/50 at the Tall Kujik crossing (and of course you'd need to ride through Mosul to get there, and the dozens of security checkpoints inside and west of the city) and 0% at the Abu Kamal crossing (a Japanese backpacker lost his head there in 2005). The crossings west of Sinjar meaning riding through the Tall Afar badlands - this should only be done at supersonic speed well above the ground. And risk all this for a bike ride?

The borders into Turkey are a day-by-day proposition. As I said, the Turks are gathered on the border and are fighting across the border in some areas. Both the Turks and the Kurds are hostile to tourists in this area - those who have ridden in far-southeast Turkey will know what I mean - and you will not be welcomed with open arms. My guess is the Kurds would let you in but the Turks might not let you approach the border. Make no mistake, if you were allowed to cross the border plenty of people would then know about it. If you bounced around from security official to security offical enjoying their hospitality you'd probably be ok, but otherwise...

Don't give up on visiting northern Iraq - it is stunningly beautiful - but leave it for a while. In the meantime you'd be better off taking a ride through Chechnya - it'd be safer.

Cheers
Brett

Last edited by BrettUAE; 9 Aug 2007 at 06:56.
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  #3  
Old 9 Aug 2007
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Hi,

Brett is right. The situation in Irak and the Turkish-Irak border is a nightmare at the moment. Turkish army is ready to enter Irak and also Turkish Army controls some roads and gate on that part and wont let anyone in.

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  #4  
Old 9 Aug 2007
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Well, i know is a dangerous area, and i have a good chance of not comming back, but i can`t wait I want to see Iraq now ...
Anyway, i`ve already bought a bullet proof vest from ebay and some protective gear, so i`m feeling lucky
And after all, i will stay only 2 or 3 days in Iraq, i`ll stop only at the iraq army/nato checkpoints, i`ll buy some arabic clothes in turkey and wear them instead of motorcycle suit , and if the situation is tense i will stay only in kurdish region and i will go to Sysia via turkey.
That if i`m lucky enough to let me in in Iraq ... If not, i`ll turn back and go straight to Syria, but at least i`ve tryed ...

And talking about Syria, can i enter or not without a carnet de passage, even paying for a temporary import permit at the border, knows anyone something ?
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  #5  
Old 10 Aug 2007
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Thumbs down ...and there is no fuel

If you are willing to ignore the security warnings then I have another reason travel will be difficult. There is no petrol. Iraqis queue all day to buy from the local vendor. You can buy it on the black market but, besides having to know where, you will still have to wait hours. The primary reason there isn't much electricity in Iraq is the lack of fuel for the power stations. Not sure how long your disguise will last while waiting in an 8-hour queue on a bike with foreign plates.

On the bright side however, you might make the Darwin Awards!
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  #6  
Old 10 Aug 2007
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One less fuel stop

"Unknown gunmen" blew up a fuel station in Kirkuk last night killing one staff and injuring another.

Be warned: war voyeurs are rarely welcomed.
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  #7  
Old 10 Aug 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrettUAE View Post
If you are willing to ignore the security warnings then I have another reason travel will be difficult. There is no petrol. Iraqis queue all day to buy from the local vendor. You can buy it on the black market but, besides having to know where, you will still have to wait hours. The primary reason there isn't much electricity in Iraq is the lack of fuel for the power stations. Not sure how long your disguise will last while waiting in an 8-hour queue on a bike with foreign plates.

On the bright side however, you might make the Darwin Awards!
I`m planning only 300-400km in Iraq, so with a full gas of tank from Turkey, this won`t be a problem ...
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  #8  
Old 10 Aug 2007
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Good luck Marcos

Marcos,

You sound pretty determined to give Northern Iraq a try (I have also considered the possibility). There is plenty of advice on why not to go, but should you still go ahead with your trip make should you keep the HUBB updated with travels.

Should the worst happen (hopefully it won't!) make sure your friends post your obituary on this site!

Good luck and bon voyage.

Baswacky.
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  #9  
Old 10 Aug 2007
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Iraq is without a doubt the most dangerous country on the planet at the moment. If you feel you need bulletproof vests, try to disguise yourself etc., maybe you should consider again, whether or not its a wise place to put ones nose into?

But I dont think they will let you in the country anyway... will probably be for your own good, too.
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  #10  
Old 10 Aug 2007
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I spent a few years in the British Army in Germany (just as a humble mechanic, mind), and i understand the attraction of wanting to see a warzone/prove your manliness etc. If you want to tweak the nipples of death then go for it... but you have no right to put your rescuers/recoverers lives' at risk in the process. Enjoy the fear!
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Old 11 Aug 2007
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As much as I doubt anyone would be seriously considering a trip like this, it's probably worth going through the motions to deter people thinking this is actually possible.

The bulletproof vest. These are a controlled item and cannot be carted around the place like a pair of socks. They are considered the same as firearms in many places - like Turkey and Syria. Get caught with one crossing the border into Syria and you will be looking forward to ten years in a Syrian prison. Get caught with one in northern Iraq and you won't get off that lucky. I expect the Turkish military on the northern Iraq border would assume you are a Kurdish militant and not bother with the questions. But then they are fighting their war and you are dressed as a foreign combatant so what do you expect? I wouldn't be surprised if their Rules of Engagement actually made it legal. Get a border search in any of those countries you propose to ride through and you will be doing bread and water for many birthdays. Of course there is a way to manage it - you could export and then import the vest through each border, but if any of these countries actually allowed it (remember, this is exactly the same as importing a firearm), it would be many birthdays before you got the permits, and you would need to transport it in a rated safe-box. Any way you look at it - very bad idea.

Pottsy is right. If you go missing there will be dozens of people looking for you. There is a relatively large Romanian Embassy in Baghdad and they would be compelled to drop everything and coordinate an investigation into your whereabouts. It would also drag in other countries' assets and the Iraqi Police. They'd probably wish they'd shot you themselves.

This is such a bad idea. It's important that no-one here gets an inkling that it's possible. There are plenty of wars you can go and look at, and being an outsider you might be ok. There are no outsiders in Iraq. There are Romanian troops in Iraq at the moment, and in many eyes that makes you one of the bad guys. If you want to see the place join the army.
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  #12  
Old 11 Aug 2007
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Well, for the bullet proof vest, i will be wearing it under my clothes, and if they check it, i would simply say it`s a motorcycle jacket with protection

Well, i know all about the risks of going in Iraq ... I know that i have a good chance of no returning ... But, in my opinion, all that risk is worth for what i would get in return. At this moment, nothing would change my mind, i have almost a week until departure.

Here is my trip plan (only in romanian). Also, here, if i`m lucky enough to make it, i will post my story (in english and romanian).
2 ROTI: Turcia/Iraq/Siria
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  #13  
Old 11 Aug 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcos View Post
Well, for the bullet proof vest, i will be wearing it under my clothes, and if they check it, i would simply say it`s a motorcycle jacket with protection

Well, i know all about the risks of going in Iraq ... I know that i have a good chance of no returning ... But, in my opinion, all that risk is worth for what i would get in return. At this moment, nothing would change my mind, i have almost a week until departure.

Here is my trip plan (only in romanian). Also, here, if i`m lucky enough to make it, i will post my story (in english and romanian).
2 ROTI: Turcia/Iraq/Siria

Don't bother with the, so called, bullet proof vest it won't do anything for you when you are searched - anyone carrying out a search knows what they are like!
Please bear in mind that motorcycles are used by suicide bombers; you will be searched, very thoroughly.
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  #14  
Old 11 Aug 2007
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As you seem "dead" set on going to a warzone, may i recommend Afghanistan. Recently, i was in Bangkok and in a little travel shop off the Kao San Road was an offer of a return airfare to Kabul - $600! On enquiring about a visa, i was told "no problem, $100 for a month". No bike worries...Interested?
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  #15  
Old 12 Aug 2007
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More bad news for you Marcos. Most bullet proof vests will not save you from a .762 round fired from the AK-47s that are favoured by Iraqis (from all sides). They are designed to stop low-velocity handguns, not high-powered rifles. Of course you can buy a kevlar-plated vest used by coalition troops in Iraq but look at paying $2000, and that's assuming anyone would sell you one, and then . But nothing will save you from a automatic burst of 762 at short range.

I like the idea of the Afghanistan diversion. Your TV series, "the Noisy Way Round" should be a big hit.
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