Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Ibrahim Khalil: The Iraq-Turkey Border

Travelling to Turkey overland from Kurdistan was one of the most memorable (if frustrating) experiences from my first year in Erbil. However, the process seems to have changed. Ordinarily, I would book a domestic ticket from Diyarbakir to Istanbul (or other desired Turkish destination for Friday late morning (or noontime). Then on Thursday after work, I would go home, sleep a few hours and start out at midnight. I would be at the border at about 3:00am and due to lack of traffic, be able to get through in around an hour and be at the airport in time to catch my flight.

Things have changed. Things have changed A LOT.

March 18-19: Iraq to Turkey
This Newruz break, we arranged tickets from Diyarbakir to Izmir to leave Diyarbkir at 2:00pm on Friday. On Thursday, we received a call from the Turkish-side taxi we had arrnaged to meet us in Zakho (Iraqi side) and take us through the border and on to the airport. "Come as soon as possible," he pleaded. We left work at 3:00pm on Thursday and went straight to the border. We sat for 8 hours on the border as the officials on the Turkish side took 20 minutes each for a never-ending string of cars queued for as far as the eye could see. Some of us had to go and beg/cajol at which point the officer told us to come through with the of mac trucks when there was an opening to slide into the truck lane. If that hadn't have happened, it is likely we would have missed our flight. We reached Silopi (on the other side) with only 3 hours to catch a nap before heading on to Diyarbakir and our flight.

March 26: Turkey to Iraq
When we arrived back (this time at Batman instead of Diyarbakir, our dis- gruntled driver was waiting for us - disgruntled because he apparently doesn't like to come to Batman (too difficult to find a fare on the way there. Nevermind that it cut nearly an hour off our travel time). Well don't worry too much about our driver, he found a method of payback. Apparently he had not yet gone for his once yearly road test and March 26th was the last day. We hung around the side of the road for about 45 minutes while he had is exhaust check, his tires rotated and a number of other small things done. More frustrating still is that we were just outside Silopi (see road sign)... less than 20km from the border.
We amused ourselves by taking photos of random things and remarking on how it was already like being back... almost.

Any people planning to cross overland are highly recommended to hire a car in advance. Some other foreign tourists we met on the border had been waiting in Silopi for over 3 hours unable to find a car willing to take them through the border for under $70 a piece. (We paid $150 for the whole car for a 250 km trip and the 8 hour border crossing). I guess people are less willing to make the trip now that the crossing is taking so long...

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