By Abdul-Muhaymen Basel.
Driver licensing in Ninawa is slow – so slow that unlicensed locals drive fearlessly and police don’t care. But if drivers cross the state line, they won’t get far. Those who drive away from danger at home, risk arrest.
After over 40 years of work in the legal profession, Iraqi lawyer Munaf Saeed never thought that one simple traffic violation might put his whole career at risk – especially not in Iraq where driving tends to be, literally, fast and loose and road rules are not exactly meticulously observed.
“I really wasn’t aware of the differences in driving behaviour between Mosul and Dohuk,” explains the lawyer. Both cities are in the north of Iraq - but whereas Dohuk lies within the relatively stable, semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, Mosul is a more dangerous and unstable city, caught between long standing ethnic, sectarian and political conflicts. There are also many more checkpoints in Iraqi Kurdistan. All of these reasons are why observation of traffic rules differs from the city of Ninawa to cities like Dohuk, Erbil and Sulymaniyah in neighbouring Iraqi Kurdistan.
Saeed explains how in September, he received an urgent phone call and used his mobile phone while he was driving in Dohuk. A police officer stopped him and told him he had violated three road rules: he was not wearing a seat belt, he had not stopped at a red light and he had been using his phone while driving. All of these violations draw fines.