In Iraqi Kurdistan, a Security Camera on Every Corner

Security cameras cost anything between US$25 to US$200 per camera.

Amanj Abdallah, a camera seller from Erbil, has also been selling the surveillance tools since 2012. But after the Asayesh ordered everyone to install security cameras, there has been increased demand, he says.

Both Abdallah and Mohammed believe the security cameras are useful. However, just as in other countries that have used security cameras, there is no real evidence that the security cameras prevent crime.

Just as in other countries where security cameras are in use, locals in Iraqi Kurdistan have criticized the cameras as an invasion of privacy. While security cameras have played a definitive role in finding perpetrators after a crime is committed and in preventing theft in parking garages and on public transport, they have not been proven to actually prevent criminal or terrorist activity in other countries.

While security cameras were very useful following the Boston marathon bombing in 2013 and after terrorist attacks on public transport in London in 2005, they did not, for example, prevent the recent attacks in Paris, in cafes and in a music venue.

Local lawyer Soran Mohammed says the situation is completely different in Iraqi Kurdistan. In developed countries security cameras are used to protect public property and lives whereas in Iraqi Kurdistan, they are just installed to protect the authorities and to ensure that officials are not attacked, he says.

“When a crime is committed against an official, the offender is usually arrested really quickly. But if crimes are committed by anyone suspected of connection to an official – especially in targeted assassinations – none of the suspects are ever arrested. Even though there are security cameras everywhere,” Mohammed says.

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