It was a drawn-out and exhausting ride today, mostly due to hilly terrain and a head wind.
I’m now in Piranshahr, ‘city of the Pirani’, a Kurdish tribe. It is located in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains, which form the border between Iran and Iraq. The border to Iraqi Kurdistan is less than 10km to the west.
More men wear traditional Kurdish attire. Some Kurdish women wear colorful dresses instead of the black chador.
What’s my plan from here? I want to cross into Iraqi Kurdistan in the next days. I’m in contact with the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) representation in Germany regarding visa and security situation. They say it’s not a good idea to go down that route, mostly due to ongoing clashes between Iranian security forces and PJAK, the Iranian sibling of PKK.
I’m waiting for more info from the KRG. Also, I need a Letter of Introduction from them for the Iranian border officials. The letter states that a visa is waiting for me on the Iraqi border checkpoint since Iraqi Kurdistan doesn’t issue visas in advance. This letter is usually used for airlines, but KRG say “better is better”.
KRG also say they don’t know if Iran is willing to let me travel this way in the first place.
To be honest, I’m a wee bit nervous. :) I don’t know exactly what I’m nervous about, though. Being kidnapped by PJAK? They target Iranian security forces and government officials. Also, on August 8, 2011, after massive shelling of Kurdish villages in Iraq by Iranian forces and clashes between PJAK members and Iranian forces in Iranian Kurdish villages, PJAK leader Haji Ahmadi said that the conflict needs to be resolved by “peaceful means” and that PJAK may be willing to put down its arms. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Now, PKK said they withdrew all PJAK members from the Iranian border region and replaced them – with PKK fighters. Awesome. Rational behind this move, according to PKK: Iran is at war with PJAK, not PKK. So there is no reason for Iran to continue the attacks on PJAK/PKK posts and/or Kurdish villages in Iraq.
Hm?! Sounds like someone is trying to save their butt there. Well, how about all four parties involved stop this bloody mess entirely?!
Anyway, I have also been nervous about something else. My Iranian visa states: “Valid until: 15 Aug 2011”. Today being August 22, one might be inclined to think that I’m overstaying my visa, right? And so do all the hotel staff who get so see my passport. However, various sources on the Internet state that the date on the visa is the last day I can enter Iran. And I can then stay for the full amount of days my visa permits (20 in my case).
As I said, I was getting nervous and asked my visa agency for a definite answer. The first thing I did when checking into the hotel here in Piranshahr today was to connect to their wireless. And just when the manager started barking at me about my ‘expired’ visa, I received the reply from the agency: All is fine, I can stay beyond the ‘valid until’ date.