One way to avoid gas lines in oil-rich Iraq

March 1, 2006 

— You wouldn't expect that with 6 percent of the world's oil supply located near Kirkuk, gasoline would be a hard thing to come by.

But gasoline is rationed here and the lines consistently stretch about a dozen cars long — and there is never not a line.

As a way of making money, some residents here often siphon their rationed gasoline from their vehicles and then sell it along the side of the road.

You can usually smell these roadside stands before you see them.

In a way, it's like buying gas on the black market, but the law against it isn't enforced here.

— Kim Hughes

The people in Kirkuk are friendly and big-hearted. But they have no respect for their river.

This may be my cultural bias leaking through because I love and cherish rivers. (Editor's note: Roger is an avid fisherman who, when not working overseas as a war correspondent, is a writer for the Statesman's Idaho Outdoors).

The river in Kirkuk is like a cross between a giant irrigation ditch and an open sewer. A carp couldn't live in it.

People drive their cars into shallow sections of the river to wash them.

— Roger Phillips

In addition to mistreating the rivers, littering is part of Iraqi lifestyle. People just throws their trash anywhere. There's no shame in it.

It also seems nearly all Iraqi men smoke, and they do it everywhere, including in Kirkuk's schools, hospitals and gas stations.

— Roger Phillips

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