Safety in Kurdistan

As an Iraq security analyst I often find that I am writing at length about violence, pain and causes for concern. However, for this blog entry I would like to make what I hope is a welcome exception.

I regularly write about how violence has escalated in the north of Iraq, usually in relation to the cities of Kirkuk and Mosul. I occasionally write that conditions have been quiet in Kurdistan, but I don’t often dwell on it. For me, it is obvious. Kurdistan is arguably as safe as a European country, and statistically speaking it sees fewer terrorist attacks than its neighbour (and popular tourist destination) Turkey. As a result I normally have very little to report on.

However, at a recent Kurdistan trade event in Edinburgh I was reminded that this perception is not widely understood amongst many would-be investors. Kurdistan is regarded as being just as risky as the rest of the country, and strategic decisions are made on that basis. From a regional level this is an unfair burden for the three Kurdish administered provinces – Arbil, Dahuk and Sulaymaniyah – referred to casually as ‘the other Iraq’. From a business perspective, companies are also losing out on huge investment potential by overlooking these three stable and oil-rich provinces.

So what role does a security company have in such a region? Firstly, my job is to advise, so I spend much of my time convincing travellers that the situation is indeed safe enough to do business. While AKE assigns Iraq with a negative security risk rating we rate the Kurdish region separately – at a much lower and more positive rating. Some firms continue to use armed security and armoured convoys when travelling around the region. While some may do this for the purpose of prestige some may also have grossly over-estimated the operating risks of the region. Either way, such measures are often expensive and unnecessary.

Travel safety and awareness training is still recommended for personnel working in the region. While conditions are safe terrorists have nonetheless made occasional attempts to infiltrate the region. Road conditions and medical facilities can also be poor in some areas beyond the main towns. A basic awareness of medical knowledge and stabilising treatment can be useful in the event of a road traffic accident somewhere in the mountains, for example.

However, such conditions could apply in many parts of the world and Kurdistan is certainly no exception. There are areas not so many miles from Edinburgh subjected to very similar conditions – indeed coming from the Hebrides I feel I am qualified to vouch for this.

John Drake is a senior risk consultant with AKE, a British private security firm working in Iraq from before 2003. Further details on the company can be found here while AKE’s intelligence and political risk website Global IntAKE can be accessed here.

You can obtain a free trial of AKE’s intelligence reports here.
You can also follow John Drake on twitter here.


11 Responses to Safety in Kurdistan

  1. Jack Mahr July 11, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

    If a non-Iraqi has IQD dinars outside of the country, is there a restriction on bringing them back into Iraq (Kurdistan) and opening an Iraqi bank account with Iraqi dinars?

  2. Shannon July 13, 2011 at 6:05 am #

    G’day John,

    Thanks for publishing this balanced article. We operate an adventure travel and tourism company based in the Kurdistan region and are constantly challenging and changing perceptions. Client safety and security is our priority. We are operating escorted tours within Iraqi Kurdistan at this time because we believe it is safe to do so.

    We believe the security arrangements established by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) are sensible and appropriate.


  3. johnfdrake September 27, 2011 at 8:42 am #

    Jack, unfortunately I can’t help you there. However, Dr. DeWeaver might be able to enlighten you:

  4. johnfdrake September 27, 2011 at 8:43 am #

    Shannon, I’m glad to hear a tourism company is doing well in KRG and wish you all the best in convincing people that it is indeed a good place to visit.

  5. Scott April 12, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

    I’m working since 1992 and there is a huge gap between that time and now we can to compare with Europe,

  6. Scott April 12, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    I’m working since 1992 and there is a huge gap between that time and now, we can to compare with Europe achieved by the Kurdish security ,


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