It is impossible to talk about Iraq’s online freedom without comparing it to how it used to be prior to the U.S. intervention of the country. When Saddam Hussein ruled the country, internet was pretty much non-existent to the Iraqi population. Only a select few people within government had connections to it. Nowadays, however, the internet is becoming more and more available to people, although the vast majority are still left out. Internet restrictions are close to non-existent, too, since online censorship is surprisingly lax. Available bandwidth speed is advertised as being quick, although in reality the average is below acceptable. More than that, VPN companies have not yet crossed Iraqi’s border and so there are almost no providers with settled servers there.
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Using an Iraqi IP
Just to give you a brief insight, the creation of free-to-air TV stations and ISPs was made possible in 2004 with the creation of the Communications and Media Commission that followed the collapse of the Iraqi state media after the U.S. intervention. Up to 50 satellite channels were created, something that put Iraq at the forefront of technology in the region at that time. To tell a long story short, nowadays there are hundreds of TV stations operating in Iraq, and a considerably high number of ISPs too. Two of the most watched channels in the country, Aletejah TV and Al Iraqiya, are available worldwide via satellite or internet streams, while others such as Al Sharqiya or Al Forat Network are only available for the Middle East region.
Regarding ISPs, although FastIraq – one of the country’s top providers – advertises speeds of up to 1GB/s, the real average speed for an Iraqi private user is around 2MB/s at best, making online streaming close to impossible. In addition, Iraqi IP addresses are hard to obtain, since although VPNs are not banned, this is one of the countries that are usually missing from the various VPN providers' network lists.
Iraqi Online Privacy Laws
Since things have improved for Iraq’s internet access, the country has not interfered with its people's online privacy. The Iraqi constitution actually includes the right to freedom of speech, provided that it doesn’t violate public order or go against the expected morals of the country. As such, supporting a banned political party that wanted to alter the country’s borders by force is prohibited. There are also no laws that force ISPs to store record logs, although whether this actually happens is still a bit of a gray area.
Internet Censorship in Iraq
There has been no records of government spying or monitoring emails, chat rooms or people’s social media. However, it is believed that this does in fact happen through local ISPs, especially after some NGOs have reported such situations. In practice, as long as it doesn’t disturb public order then freedom of speech is encouraged. What surely does exist, though, is self-censorship. This is practiced in the same manner as with other countries of the region, by both regular individuals as well as by journalists that are afraid of reprisals or persecutions – either by the government, political parties, or different ethnical and/or terrorist groups. Therefore, while social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the other usual suspects are available to the general population, Iraqis still tend to be cautious when using them.
The Problem With Streaming Services in Iraq
Streaming services in Iraq are a double-edged sword. It is true that services such as Netflix or Spotify, for instance, are available with a few restrictions on their content. However, the biggest problem is the internet connection since the average speed of connections in Iraq are very low, meaning it is difficult to stream content and therefore leading to a very frustrating online experience, particularly if you want to watch Netflix shows that requires a considerable amount of bandwidth. In addition, other services such as BBC iPlayer and Hulu are blocked outside the region, as is typical for such geo-restricted services. These can only be accessed via VPN or other similar unblocking tools.
Fortunately this Middle Eastern country does not ban the use of VPN services. You’ll be able to unblock foreign content in the country, however the reverse of this – if you are living abroad and want to use a VPN to watch specific Iraqi content – will face many difficulties in finding providers offering VPN servers in Iraq.
Free Iraq VPN Trials
Finding a VPN offering Iraqi servers is quite a challenge, although still possible. Here are a couple of examples of VPNs with which you can unblock Iraqi content abroad, and the other way around, too.
In short, HideMyAss is your best option for a VPN provider in Iraq, and other Middle Eastern countries for that matter. In fact, this is the only VPN provider featured among our top VPN providers that actually offers a server in Iraq – which is located in the country’s capital city, Baghdad. HMA prices are attractive and the service is impressive. Servers feature fast speeds and unlimited bandwidth in 200 countries, while device support includes computers, mobiles and routers. When it comes to features, HMA includes a vast range of protocols and strong encryptions. The company provides the opportunity to use the program risk-free, too, due to a handy 30-day money back guarantee.
Although ExpressVPN doesn’t have any servers located in Iraq, it provides an outstanding service. Servers located in nearby countries can help to unblock the Middle Eastern online TV streams. In fact, this provider has 136 servers located in 87 countries. It is possible to use ExpressVPN for computers, mobile devices and routers, with all servers featuring unlimited bandwidth, 256-bit SSL encryptions and different protocol choices too. In addition to this, ExpressVPN also has a risk-free use option, with its 30-day money back guarantee, and another 30 days of free service will be added for each friend you persuade to join.