Iraqi Kurdistan 2009

About the stamps         Sulaymaniyah Governate Issues

News received from Iraq in November 2005 is that the Iraqi Kurdistan area will be integrated into the new Iraqi postal system and Iraqi stamps will be used for postage within the Iraqi Kurdistan region.
This can only increase the rarity value of the Kurdish local stamps which were issued with the authority of the Kurdish Authorities in Erbil and Suleymaniyah. Information below about the Kurdish post office was supplied by a UN official and a former Postmaster in Iraqi Kurdistan and the following story sent by the UN official in June 2003 illustrates just how unused to stamps and post offices local people are.

"When I went to the post office to buy the stamps I was accompanied by one of our drivers. He was amazed to seeing me paying for the stamps, so he started arguing with the post clerk to get the stamps free. His argument was that a newspaper cost 5 Dinars, so how could these tiny pieces of paper cost so much more? This was the first time this young guy of some 28 years old had a stamp in his hands and knew about stamps being on sale at the post office. This was also the first time he had stepped in to a post office."
Information coloured blue in the boxes below shows the information supplied by the U.N. officer.
Due to attacks on and murders of U.N. staff in Iraq the U.N. officers were withdrawn from the region mid 2003

About the Stamps

The following information, although now outdated, gives details about Kurdish stamps and Kurdish posts and was written early 2003. Information shown in blue script was supplied by a UN official who is a stamp collector and who was working in Kurdish Iraq until mid 2003. This is real hard information about the mail within Iraqi Kurdistan, and about the use of Kurdish postage stamps which have been appearing since 1992.
The present tense has been retained but readers should remember that the information was written during 2003.

It is now evident that only the PDK [Democratic Party of Kurdistan] based in Erbil issue postage and revenue stamps for use in that area of Iraqi Kurdistan only.i.e. - postage stamps can only be used as 'locals'. They are printed in Erbil and because of the shortages of paper on which the stamps have been printed they are quite varied, even within an issue.
The Kurdish Postal Administration (PTT - Postal, Telegraph, and Telecommunications) is part of the structure of the Ministry of Communications of both Governates of Iraqi Kurdistan. The two Governates are (1) Erbil and Dohuk. (2) Sulaymaniyah. Each governate has its own President, Prime Minister, and Parliament with appointed ministers.
Stamps are usually printed in sheets of 40. The postage stamps are valid only for use in the Erbil-Dohuk region, not the Sulaymaniyah governate. This is because many of the stamps show leaders of the PDK (Democratic Party of Kurdistan) who are not accepted in Sulaymaniyah which is under the control of the PUK (Party of United Kurdistan). Sulaymaniyah governate has issued its own stamps which are sold only in the Sulaymaniyah post office.
[These stamps are simply printed on to a sheet of paper, imperforate and without gum. pictures are shown elsewhere on this page.]
There is only one post office in each area capital town. Dohuk, Erbil, Sulaimaniyah. The post offices consist of one room with a counter and an old safe in which are kept the Kurdish and Turkish postage stamps.
Revenue stamps are intended for official documents such as birth, marriage and death certificates and are also seen on work resumes and job applications to work with the United Nations.
Local Mail Movement
There is no home delivery for mail and so the telephone number of the mail recipient or a contact must be written on the envelope. Mail is carried by local transport travelling between Dohuk and Erbil - there are no postal vehicles - and when asked how long it would take for a letter posted in Erbil PO to reach Dohuk the Erbil postmaster said it would take only 48 hours. When asked how many local letters the post office had handled during the previous two weeks he replied -"None".
Mail, what little there is, is moved between the two Governates by taxi drivers, truckers, and travellers.
International Mail
It is forbidden to send mail directly to other parts of Iraq from within the now autonomous Iraqi-Kurdish region - it must travel via Turkey. Forged post-marks have been found on mail sent from Kurdistan to other areas in Iraq and this was one reason for banning direct mail. When posting mail to areas abroad from the Kurdish region Turkish stamps, which are on sale at the Kurdish post offices, must be used. Mail is then sent in bags to Turkey and distributed via Turkish Post.
[To see stamps on cover sent to me from Mosul click here]
In Erbil post office is a notice advising people about which Turkish PO Box number to use for their overseas mail. International mail is carried by hand from Dohuk post office to the nearest Turkish town over the border and from there travels to Ankara and abroad.
In order to receive mail from outside the Kurdish region the Kurds have hired about thirty Post Office boxes in Turkey. Mail should be addressed to P.O. Box 4-33, Sirnak, Silopi, Turkey with the forwarding address to Kurdistan . Mail addressed to Kurdistan is then sent in bags to the main Kurdish Post Office where the letters are distributed to the Kurdish addresses. In actual fact there is little mail communication with the area. Kurds from the area living in the United States and Europe tend to communicate with family in that area of Iraq by telephone, fax, and email. Iraqi Kurds in the U.S. use a U.K. based telephone provider.
Postal Cancellations
Most covers will be found with a rectangular ARAIL P.O. postmark. This should read ARBIL and means ERBIL, the capital of Erbil Governate. Erbil is also known as HAWLER as seen on one the first sets of postage stamps. Recent postmarks from Erbil show the year as 2001 - even those cancelled in 2003. This is because the one date stamp can not go beyond 2001.
Revenue Stamps
Two Revenue stamps were issued during the latter months of 2000. [picture] Two others were issued in the following months - see Revenue page for more details.
Revenue stamps are intended for official documents such as birth, marriage and death certificates and are also seen on work resumes and job applications to work with the United Nations.
The stamps shown below first appeared in 1993 when the overprinted 1977 Iraq issue of The Dome of The Rock [SG1291 - ScottRA23 - Mi912] was issued. Another set of stamps showing the Kurdistan National Assembly Building was issued simultaneously - according to the FDC's, both issues of which are dated 4th June 1993 - and the margins of the sheets of 'Kurdish Assembly Building' set has, in English and in bold print, THE FIRST EVER KURDISH POSTAGE STAMP [picture] and each stamp value shows the date in English - 1993 at the top and 1992 at the bottom! Later issues showed 1993 at top and bottom.[Strictly speaking the first Kurdish postage stamps were the 'Sheikh Mahmoud' issues of 1923]
In the early months of the year 2000 the perforating machine in Erbil broke down and imperforate sets were offered for sale for a while, then stamps with terribly rough perforations appeared.
Also please note that earlier information indicated that only the first two issues were actually officially valid for postage, but announcements in Kurdish newspapers and on Kurdish official websites gave details of later issues officially sanctioned by the Kurdish authorities.
Please note that the title and stamps are described by supplier. During 1998 there were many stamps depicting scenes in the Kurdish region and breaking these issues down into recognised/official sets is now an impossible task. For this reason I show the stamps in 'sets' as described by suppliers and as sent to me from Iraq.
Sets of four have values of 1,2,3, and 5 Iraqi Dinars.
In the latter months of 2000 two revenue stamps for use in Iraqi Kurdistan only were issued, and in early 2001 two higher values were issued....[picture]
see Revenues page for details.

Sulaymaniyah Governate Issues

So far not seen on any covers or offered from any dealers in Iraq these stamps were purchased by the UN official in Sulaymaniyah. The stamps are offset printed and probably in small sheets of 40 [5 X 8] , imperf, and without gum. So far there is no evidence of their use, unlike the issues from Erbil & Dohuk Governate. I will attempt to get more details of these stamps and will publish it here should further information be obtained.
Picture of stamps - enlarged    Picture of part sheet

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