A DAD is facing flak for taking his eight-year-old daughter on holiday to Iraq against the advice of the UK Government.
Michael Gell, 32, says he warned the youngster of the country’s “terror” risks, but she was still keen to visit.
Michael, of Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, said he had told her beforehand that “there’s the occasional missile strike” but “there’s risks everywhere in the world”.
The UK Government’s Foreign,, and Development Office has urged Brits not to travel to Iraq, citing incidents of violence and ongoing regional tensions as some of many reasons not to visit.
It reminded UK residents that a number of areas of Iraq are currently subject to “sporadic attack by artillery,, and rockets” and that there remains a threat to Western interests, including to UK citizens.
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The department advises against “all but essential” travel to the region Michael and Mia visited, Kurdistan Region, and any travel to the rest of Iraq as terrorists are “very likely to try to carry out attacks”.
Michael said he and his daughter toured a 6,000-year-old castle before checking out some local markets and the developing “westernised” cafe and restaurant scene.
Pictures shared by the dad to Facebook showed young Mia posing with an armed official and smiling in front of a market stall.
The post was met with fierce backlash, with some calling Michael’s decision to visit Iraq with his daughter “stupid” and describing the country as the “last place” they’d take their own children.
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But others praised Michael, as one told him the trip was a “fantastic way to educate your daughter”.
One Facebook user said: “Did you have private security? It is quite risky even for just 24 hours because if anything goes wrong the embassy in Erbil has very little capacity to help
“I’m all for adventure but I wouldn’t be taking a child to somewhere no one could help if things went south.”
Another said: “What winds me up is people ignoring government travel advice which is based on a wide range of sources, local and international.
“If something goes wrong those same people expect the government to help them out.”
Someone else wrote: “I love this post so much, breaking down stereotypes of places, hope you both had a lovely time.”
I told her there’s a lot going on there, but there’s risks everywhere in the world.
Michael clapped back at critics, claiming that “you need to explore different cultures” and that “you’d be stuck inside” if you always listened to the UK Government’s advice.
Their visit closely followed an attack by terror group Hezbollah on the US’ military base in Erbil which left three American service members injured, including one who was said to be in a critical condition.
The dad explained: “She didn’t really understand the country, so before I booked it we had the discussion and I showed her pictures and videos.
“I was open and honest. I said there’s the occasional missile attack but there’s an American airbase near the airport so 99 per cent of them are towards that and there’s minimal risk to the public.
“I told her there’s a lot going on there, but there’s risks everywhere in the world. They’re probably higher there but she knows that 99 per cent of people just want to live a normal life.
“I told her ‘it’s your decision’ but she’s an adventurer like me so she was all for it and her mum was too.”
He said he could see why some people might say his decision to take his daughter to Iraq was “irresponsible”, but he believed travellers were safe as long as they “take precautions and use your brain”.
The dock-worker dad added that he ran through scenarios with Mia prior to going so that she knew who to call and what to do if anything happened to him.
It was originally his plan that they stay in the country for two days, but Michael opted to stay for just 20 due to rising political tensions.
He said they paid £110 for visas, arriving in the country about 1.30am and staying in a hotel for £125.
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They left Iraq to return to Qatar about 10pm and are supposedly looking forward to going back one day with Mia’s mum Katie.
According to Michael, Mia “absolutely loved” the trip.