Thursday, April 27, 2006

Iraq's Mail System

Neither snow nor rain
Nor heat nor gloom of night
Stays these couriers
From the swift completion
Of their appointed rounds.
Herotodus (484 BC - 430 BC)

And in the case of Iraq: nor terrorists, nor car bombs, nor kidnappings, nor murders, nor carjackings....

One thing that has suprised me, and which many people do not realize, is that despite all of the violence and discord in Iraq, the postal system there is fully functional, and quite reliable. Sitting here in the United States, you can drop a letter in the mail, or take a parcel to the post office, addressed to an ordinary person in Iraq, and a couple of weeks later that person will get it. Now, I'm not talking about sending mail to US soldiers - the military has its own mail delivery system, so you'd expect those to get through. I'm talking about mail to ordinary civilians.

Over the past year, I've sent a few small packages to Iraq, and all got through in about two weeks. Back in March, I mailed a 6 pound box to some friends in Mosul, and they got it just three weeks later, intact and undamaged. It is amazing to think about the challenges that had to be surmounted to get these items to their destinations.

From what I've been able to figure out, mail to Iraq from the United States is first flown to Bahrain by the US Postal Service, where it is flown into Baghdad by DHL (a subsidiary of the German post office Deutsche Post). In Baghdad, the mail destined to US soldiers is separated off from the mail going to Iraqi civilians, and the civilian mail is handed to the Iraqi postal system.

Two weeks ago, the Times of London published an article about the Iraqi postal system and the dedicated employees who work there. Well worth the read.