Hiking in Iraq: My Story, & Why I’m Never Doing It Again
While I was not born in Iraq, it was hard to tell by looking at me. Both my parents were born and raised in Iraq and had me only shortly after moving to the United States, and their “FOBness” rubbed off on me. I have an accent when I speak English, and follow Iraqi traditions more religiously than I do my coursework or seasons of my favorite shows on Netflix. My first time hiking in Iraqi was also my last. When I got my hiking gear ready (this trip was during a summer trip to Iran, as I would visit my family overseas once every other summer, and I had already brought my trekking poles in my suitcase with me from home) and started climbing, it wasn’t long until I lost the path of my uncle and got lost. While wandering in a relaxed fashion, not thinking much and hopeful that my uncle and other family members would be able to find me, I had unknowingly entered the Iraqi Kurdistan side and had triggered the watch of Iranian soldiers from a watchtower.
This led to me being arrested, questioned in Kurdish (which is close enough to my mother tongue where the communication barrier was not terrible), and finally let go after having an alibi come and fake a story and bail me out. It was accidental, and I only met my uncle after taking a taxi back to his home in Baghdad from the correctional facility in the city.
I feared my life and my future, and was scared that the worst would happen. While it was my mindlessness and loss of focus that got me into the situation in the first place, I don’t think hiking is for me. If I ever have the courage to consider it again, I know for certain that I won’t be leaving the side of my guide.