Local tourism, economic woes factor

Decline in cross-border travel to Turkey through Ibrahim Khalil gate

ZAKHO — This year’s Eid Al-Fitr has seen a significant decrease in the number of travelers from the Kurdistan Region crossing into Turkey through the Ibrahim Khalil border, contrasting sharply with previous years.

Ibrahim Khalil is a main border crossing point between Turkey and the Kurdistan Region. It is located in Duhok’s Zakho district and Turkey’s Sirnak district.

Chiya Amin, the director general of tourism in Zakho told 964media that travel to Turkey via the crossing has plummeted by 90%. 964media requested precise figures, which he declined to provide.

Amin attributes this sharp decline primarily to the increased cost of Turkish visas.

Previously, for visiting Turkey, a visa cost $115, irrespective of duration—whether for a single entry, three months, or a year. Now, the price structure has shifted: a three-month visa costs $135, a six-month visa $155, and a one-year visa $175.

Additional charges are incurred when visas are processed through agencies rather than directly at the consulate.

Furthermore, the non-refundable policy on visa applications, even in cases of denial, discourages many potential travelers.

“The development of the tourism sector in the Kurdistan Region generally, and Zakho specifically, is another main reason for the decline,” Amin said. He also pointed out that instead of traveling abroad and spending money outside, a portion of the population in the Kurdistan Region is opting for domestic travel.

In addition to financial constraints, bad treatment by Turkish border officials has been reported, particularly towards Kurdish and Arab travelers. Issues include invasive mobile phone inspections and undue delays at the border, with some individuals held for up to 10 hours without clear reason.

Nafi Mohammed, a local merchant from Zakho, echoes these concerns, citing mistreatment at the border, the deteriorating economic situation in the region – with chronic delays in public sector salaries hitting discretionary spending – and the increased visa costs as key reasons for the reduction in travel.