the oil barometer

oh the things i have learned ever since coming to the kurdish north of iraq: the biggest danger to one’s life are not bombs but cars, cold water is a sanctuary, and danger is measured in oil.
particulalry the last point left me stunned and aware for the future to come. this morning i was greeted with a surprisingly happy message: ‘kurdistan is still yellow’. thinking that the statement referred to the ongoing government building processes and the domination of the pdk, the yellow party, i was hardly surprised by the finding. but when another friend expressed concern over it, we started talking and i realized it was not about politics after all, it was about security. the yellow was referring to the color code of the closest oil companies.

this finding right there was such a good lesson for traveling in these region that i had to share it: oil companies in critical regions use a color code, signaling the amount of risk and danger in a region. with the business itself being extremely volatile and their employees being mostly international personell, their measurement is traditionally conservative. but it is just that which makes it the safest bet in any preparation for evacuation plans and personal luggage packing. in a normal situation, the companies wear no color, when there is some alert, they turn green. the first level of serious concern is reached at yellow, but only at amber, the personell gets evacuated because the threat level is identified to be imminent. red, the last level, a friend of me explained to me, is then as close to a nuclear level for the middle east as it can be.

evacuation plan: insecure
should the color indeed turn to amber, evacuation would have to happen asap. with the airport being the first thing to shut down and a great one hit target, friends have increasilngly discuraged this option unless you are sure you can get out – an international passport is the best bet for that but also no guarantee once you exit the countries and planes refuse to fly in or out. the next option is the border. but even crossing the closest borders on foot is likely to be largely a mess with thousands of others aiming for this direction. the mountains, instead, were identifies to be the first best bet sollution for locals; they are hard to access, unlikely to be bombed and so far reaching into the countryside that even finding a group of several hundred people would still be an incredibly hard task to do.

in any case, amber or not, kurdish people have been stacking up for days already. living constantly on the edge of being surrounded by a hardly functioning state, the daily threat of something to happen has left them ready for anything: ready to leave, ready to stay, ready for food, electricity and even oil to go out. with the ongoing gas shortage in the region, which is less due to an actual shortage but more to a strategical saving up, which in any case leaves less for the people living here, people who have been stacking up oil in banisters for weeks are now the big sellers. at least one good thing came from that, namely, with less driving on the streets, the first life lesson here is growing more and more obsolete as it suddenly becomes safer to drive.

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