Bardarash residents waiting for KRG to improve safety on ‘road of death’

12-04-2024 01:34
A car accident that occurred on the Bardarash-Kalak road on March 28, 2024.

 Peregraf- Ammar Aziz

Whenever he drives along the Bardarash Road, Azad Sa'dullah remembers the day in September 2023 when he heard that his brother and his family had died in a traffic crash on the highway.

The road, which connects Bardarash district with Kalak district and Erbil city, occupies a dark place for Sa'dullah. So many serious incidents have happened along its blacktop that local residents call it the road of death.

"The accident in which my brother, his family, and four members of a neighboring family died happened because of the narrowness of the road. It is true that everything is destined, but traffic accidents have causes," Sa'dullah told Peregraf.

"My brother and his wife had no children. The other families were in the same car with them and they were going to visit people in the hospital. On their way back, they were involved in an accident with a truck," he said.

Like many major roads in the Kurdistan Region, it is a two-lane, undivided highway that carries all sorts of traffic, often travelling at high speeds.

"Turkish, Iraqi, and Kurdish trucks are always traveling on this road. I am sure that without the trucks, there would be fewer accidents," Sa'dullah said, adding that the road should be upgraded to a divided, dual-carriageway to improve safety.

Fatal crashes are common. According to statistics from the General Directorate of Traffic, at least 445 people were killed in traffic accidents and 7,250 others were injured in 2022.

Just last month, two cars and a truck collided on the Bardarash Road, killing five people from the same family — a mother, three daughters, and a son.

Yousef Ahmad is a resident of Dusara village. He was a neighbor of the family who died in the February accident.

"Out of the 170 families in our village, thirteen people have died in traffic accidents on the same road. All of it is because of trucks," Ahmad said, adding that fifteen other people from three other nearby villages have died in crashes.

The Bardarash Road was built in 2007. Many trucks use it as a primary route for driving from Turkey to Erbil city. Over the past fifteen years, residents have repeatedly called for it to be upgraded. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has promised to repair and widen the highway, but this stretch has not yet been updated.

"There is a lot of traffic on the road, especially from the residents of Bardarash, Kalak, and Daratu districts. There are many traffic accidents due to the narrowness of the road and the presence of trucks," said Tahsin Osmat, who is the director of Daratu district and frequently uses the road himself.

Osmat told Peregraf that the KRG has allocated 80 billion Iraqi dinars ($53 million at market rates) to make the road a divided highway, but has not yet set a timetable for completion or selected a contractor.

The road is the primary route to access the 107 towns and villages in the area, which is dominated by farmland and has a population of approximately 150,000 people.

"I cannot get home without my mother's prayers," Ahmad said. He goes to Bardarash daily to buy supplies for the shop he runs.

"Ever since I remember, they have been saying that they will repair the road, but nothing is clear," Ahmad added.

The KRG charges fees when drivers renew the registration of their vehicles in order to repair roads. Peregraf has previously reported that these funds are often diverted for other uses.

Bardarash district governor Ismail Mustafa told Peregraf that the decision to start work to improve the Bardarash Road lies with the Ministry of Construction and Housing, but he does not know when it will happen.

"The government is very serious about building the road, which is always the demand of the people of the district," Mustafa insisted.