Should I go to Iraq?

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Surely you are not being influenced by the J points earn?;)

That belongs in the "you know you're a frequent flyer when....." thread

answer.....when I place J point earn ahead of my mental, emotional and physical wellbeing!

Must place YYM well up in the running for FFer of the year award!
 

SamR

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I think the cons outweigh the pros by a huge margin, but whatever you choose, please do let us know. I'm fascinated by your even entertaining the idea.
 

Maca44

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Everyone has addressed the issue of going there and the dangers associated with it, but no-body has address the issue of coming back. Some don't !!!

It's an old cliché but "if in doubt, don't"
 

Happy Dude

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Without knowing your line of work or the arrangements in place for your safety given the current situation, I'm amazed that a company would be bringing foreigners into Kurdistan right now. As others here have said, only you and your family will know whether or not it's worthwhile from a safety point of view.

All I can offer you for your decision-making, if I may, is my experience as a tourist there in late 2010. It's a fascinating place in a fascinating part of the world that is undergoing incredible changes. However, one of the reasons they give you only a 10-day tourist visa is there's not a lot to do there. The people we met were very friendly, used to dealing with cashed up soldiers on leave, and keen to chat about their new "country". I loved the tea shops. Terrific food, if a little monotonous, but not much in the way infrastructure. A couple of poignant museums focussing on the recent history, including the whole town of Halabja, and of course the citadel in Erbil, is about it. There is some pretty nice mountain scenery too.

Good luck.
 

klavdy

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Sounds like the OP is off to the Taza PSC.
The most dangerous parts are driving to Jacksons and the helicopter from DBX-ISU in Kurdistan to site.
 

monoccular

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OMG - do you have a terminal illness and have been offered great insurance and health cover????? If you do go and they offer you a "protective vest" check it for wires and don't let them sew you in from the back!!:-( Seriously that is about the world's most violent place even before ISIS
 

justin23

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I know this thread is a bit old, but thought I'd put a rational perspective on things. Firstly I personally would not go to Iraq right now, but last year i probably would have gone to Kurdistan. In fact I was looking at tours of Kurdistan. Even then being a tourist is different, while as far as a terrorist is concerned you are the same as a foreign worker, a foreign worker tends to be in the same place for a lot longer making it easier to plan a kidnapping or bombing.

The majority of Australians always lean to dangerous when they have either seen something in the media, or know very little about it. I was told to watch out for terrorists in Bhutan by several friends earlier this year. I've since bookmarked them as people to not get advice from :) I visited 4 of the 7 'stans 2 years ago. The names screamed terrorists to most people and there was in parts of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan some tension abut no recent conflict, but the tour I did took a wide berth of this region, so decided it was safe to go. Yet I'm amazed by the numbers of people who visit Bali, come home and complain there is a terrorist threat in Australia! There is definitely a perception issue when deciding a place is safe or not.

I'm thinking for a bucket load of cash, and a short working term I'd maybe go anywhere, but think probably not Iraq, due to the nature of the conflict. Ukraine wouldn't be an issue, probably many of the African conflicts would be possibly ok. Iraq right now.... probably not.
 

QF WP

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Having met and shared a few beers with the OP......he is not a troll!

YYM IMHO I would not go. Think of your family not the money.....
+1. I've also had the pleasure to meet Yo Yo Ma, he's not a troll. I agree with the majority of the sentiments, I believe the detractions outweigh the benefits of a posting to Iraq - not that PNG is without it's risks, however the risks are greater in Iraq. Think of the additional travel time and recovery as well.

You would also want to check any personal insurance policies you have [Life, TPD and Income Protection(including inside superannuation) as well as Trauma) as to whether they have clauses excluding cover upon the life insured going into an active war zone, or where there have been travel advisory issued for the country in question. The Iraq one says "reconsider your need for travel" - thus it may effectively allow the insurer to avoid any claim.

Any company travel insurance may get you repatriated back to Australia, however that covers only the medical costs - it doesn't put you back into the same financial position.

Northern Iraq id mentioned as being a "no go" zone. However given your work, I can understand. I'd be wanting a full briefing on security, talk with others who have or are doing similar roles over there, understand the exit strategies. Then give it all to your wife and discuss with her and your children - be open and upfront.
 

blaz

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If you go...do it for the right reasons....not just for the money.....money means nothing if you are injured or worse.
 

Cyrmu

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I was sent this page by a friend because he thought I could contribute.

This time last year I finished up a project assignment in Southern Iraq and when my company asked me to go I probably had the same reaction as the OP, f#ck that. However, I had a fantastic time, the money was great, the local people were brilliant and I have never seen people work so hard in 50 degree heat for $20 a day.

I was working south of Basra, flying Emirates into Basra and then travelling to site in armoured land cruisers, wearing body armour. Not the normal Australian way of getting to work, but when you get out of the airport to see 200 white land cruisers sitting in the car park, then it is the norm. You also get very used to this environment.

Working in Iraq is all about the location and how the security risk is managed. Our project had 150 security people (led by British ex SAS and Paratroopers) for a total workforce of 600. You need to make sure the security company is not an eastern European run organisation, their reputation is not as good as the British led companies. The biggest risk is generally during transportation.

Virtually every response says do not go, which is very understandable, however these responses come from people that have not experienced how the security risk is managed. You are currently in PNG, in my experience, having also worked there, there is also a significant security risk in PNG but there is virtually no management of that risk. Iraq’s security risk is higher but it is generally much better managed.

When I was in Iraq the security guys wanted to work in two areas, Basra and Erbil because they were the safest areas. I certainly wouldn’t fly into Baghdad or Mosul, the transportation risk is too high, way too many IED’s being used. It seems from the information that the OP has provided you work for [redacted] and are going to Taza, which is SW of Kirkuk. This is not the worst location in Iraq and this part of Kurdistan has been known as being one of the safer areas to work.

Even though I have not been to Iraq since the rise of ISIS, I still know a number of people who are working there and the feedback they have given me is not a lot has changed with where they work. There was a bit of a reaction when the Americans bombed some things but the oil industry continued with very little impact.

One other poster noted that “His company evacuated all of its personnel with my brother being the last one out on Monday night”, that means his brother is not an important person on that project or the security team don’t know what they are doing. Any important member of the team (ie Manager/Supervisor) or white expat is always the first person removed from the project if there is any security risk because they will be the most likely person to be kidnapped.

In summary, I would have no hesitation going back to Iraq, if I had confidence in how the security risk was being managed.
 
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Altair

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Interesting thread I just saw as I had a discussion this morning about an offer I received in 2005 to work in Baghdad, side note I later turned down a contract in PNG six months after this as well.
To use the questions posed by ReLoad
Are you compound based? Is the compound the work site? - Living accomodations and main work site was in the Green zone but not in the same area so daily escorted transportation was required.
Do you have permanant armed security? At accommodation, work site and transport.
Is the security provided by foreigners? Eastern European....
What is the security companies name ? ( then do research on them) I did and they had lots of incident reports with threat of loss of "license"....but I did not compare to others.
Get a action report from the site for the last 12 months showing all incidents. 2005 Baghdad was not the safest place aroundm even within the Green Zone I was told.
Is the remuneration significant (my mate earner a lotto win each contract so set him and his young family up for life) very significant.
Will you be insured for kidnap -as in full negotiation and ransom payment? I did not even consider this at teh time, maybe due to lack of known kidnap/ransom in the media, more the civil violence car bombings was a concern.
What is the food like on site (that's a quick way to make it a cough assignment) I did not think about that either but was provided at both locations.
In the end I did not take it up. I had just moved to NZ to continue a relationship with a girl I met in Cambodia while doing aide work in the provinces. We are now married over seven years with a three year old girl and a sizeable mortgage but are living comfortably....:D
 

QF WP

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Two fantastic replies from members (including a brand new member, welcome Cyrmu) who have personal experience in Iraq - always important.
 
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Buzzard

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Not the correct thread for a welcome but none the less welcom Cyrmu, what a brilliant first post!
You certainly did contribute.
 

Julesmac

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Wow. Where to start. My opinion for what it's worth.....
*for a start your employer would want to be offering you a poultice of life insurance which would cover you in the event of terrorism, kidnap, etc etc normally excluded from regular life cover
*several posters have mentioned how well the security issues might be managed. Ask those troops serving in that part of the world - all the 'security measures' money can buy won't protect you from an explosive device.
*Seriously? I can understand a 20+ with no flipping idea making a decision to go but a mature and experienced man....
and as a woman who's been married for 45 years, my conclusion is that you are putting the job ahead of your wife. Interesting priorities.
Sorry if that last sounds harsh but if it was me, I would be most seriously displeased!!:evil:
 

SydneySwan

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I wouldn't go now as I am no longer interested in putting up with the deprivations of these dangerous locations despite the favourable compensation. However given a simliar offer earlier in my working life I think I probably would have gone.

I hitchhiked through Zimbabwe-Rhodesia in early 1980 and believed I was very careful (feel free to call me an idiot for being there in the first place). As soon as I got to Zambia I let my guard down a bit and was captured by ZIPRA (this was Joshua Nkomo's army fighting for independence in Rhodesia). Fortunately that ended up well. I have also worked in PNG and agree with Cyrmu that risks were generally sloppily managed there although I rarely felt threatened. I have also worked in Saudi at tricky times and risks were much more professionally managed there.

Cyrmu's post is full of sound advice - risk management is crucial and if your security is run by ex-UK SAS soldiers then you are probably in safer hands than in a lot of other places where there is no military action but very high crime.
 

PineappleSkip

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Hi yo yo ma.

just discovered this thread from the newsletter. As you know I also worked in PNG (Moresby), from 2009 to 2011. I have worked in Afghanistan (Kabul) for the last two years, which has some similarities to Iraq but also some differences. Assuming you haven't made up your mind, I can check with some of my buddies here on their perspective on differences between Iraq and Afghanistan. This place is crawling with ex-SAS and similar security people, many of whom also spent time in Iraq.

I can understand the general tenor of the thread. If you haven't been somewhere, your perspective on the place will largely be driven by the news, which always reports the horrible, rarely the ordinary.

Redroo had an excellent list of questions, the only one I puzzled over was the one about whether the security provider was staffed by internationals. Odds on they will be run by internationals, but I would want to see nationals on staff also. They will have an understanding of the local perspective that internationals won't necessarily, and I am very reliant on their advice. The incident reports would be interesting too, but expect them to be very long!

Naturally your first port of call would be the travel advisories, IMHO the best value advisories are those from the UK FCO, which lean toward region/location specific advice rather than overall country assessments. Here's their advice for Iraq and Irbil: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/iraq

Another useful source of info are the BBC's country profiles, these have the advantage of being constantly updated; here's the profile for Iraq. BBC News - Iraq country profile - overview

Couple of other questions for you.
  • With the insurance, does it include war insurance? Mine does and I'd be surprised if yours doesn't. It would be valueless without.
  • What specifically does your security provider have in the way of security measures in your workplace, at home, for travel between the two and for travel to the airport. If I was you I'd be interested in the detail. Checkpoints, body searches, mirroring vehicles, physical barriers and so on.
  • What contract termination arrangements are there? Or alternatively, what plan does your employer have for you if you have to be pulled? I have a 14 days termination clause, which means I can make my own assessments on a day to day basis about whether to stay. There is always the possibility that things will go to cough very quickly.
  • What is the personal style of people in Iraq like? And how would you react to that A bonus of PNG for me was being treated almost like an king by the locals, courtesy and respect were de rigeur and I like that; by comparison the locals here can be pretty 'in your face', sometimes rude, often quarrelsome, but of course there are many that aren't, there's as much human difference here as anywhere.
  • How would you cope with stricter security than you had in Port Moresby. I lived a reasonably free life there, drove my own car etc, but here we spend a lot of time in a guesthouse that has been compared with a jail. You need to be able to get on with people that you don't really want to get on with.

Oh and last of all my comparative perspective? I feel safer in Kabul than I did in Moresby. Two carjacking incidents in two years may have coloured my mind, but being 100 metres from a complex Taliban attack and losing a couple of colleagues in the La Taverna attack also did that. The risk is different, as one of the others noted, the consequences here can be very bad, but the likelihood is much much lower.

That's a perspective from September 2014 in Kabul, of course, not in Irbil.

Cheers skip.
 

yo yo ma

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Thanks for all the input & thanks Cyrmu for your great post. As an update, our company has suspended operations over there until things settle down. So, I currently don't have a choice and am staying put. Will update any changes.
 

smithy

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One other poster noted that “His company evacuated all of its personnel with my brother being the last one out on Monday night”, that means his brother is not an important person on that project or the security team don’t know what they are doing. Any important member of the team (ie Manager/Supervisor) or white expat is always the first person removed from the project if there is any security risk because they will be the most likely person to be kidnapped.

In summary, I would have no hesitation going back to Iraq, if I had confidence in how the security risk was being managed.

For what it is worth..my brother is the manager/supervisor and he is white....
And as a good manager, following updated security assessments, he chose to ensure the safe evacuation of his staff before himself...Ths is much the same as what is expected of a Captain of a ship.......
 
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