Makhmour refugee camp, located over 100 miles south of the Turkish border in northern Iraq, hosts thousands of Kurdish refugees forcibly displaced by the Turkish army from their villages in southeast Turkey in the 1990s.
Although the Camp has been under UN protection, it is continously under drone attack by Turkey.
Moreover, the refugee camp which has a population of around 10,000, has also been subjected to an embargo enforced by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) since 7 July 2019.
This latest move by Iraq to block off the camp created outrage amongst its residents, and thousands of people took to the streets of the camp on 27 December blocking Iraqi attempts to build the fence. Residents of the camp set up tents and demanded the withdrawal of the Iraqi forces.
Hacı Kaçan is the co-chair of Makhmour People’s Assembly. MA spoke to him about the latest developments regarding the camp.
Kaçan starts by telling the story of decades of being refugees.
“We moved from camp to camp and place to place before arriving here, at the camp of Shehit Rustem Judi (Makhmour Camp). Through the years, our refugee stories and stories of our experiences have become widely known by the public. To summarize briefly for you, we started to become refugees in 1994, and were placed in Etrus Camp in 1995 and 1996, from 1997 in Ninova Camp and later in Nehdara Camp, and we were finally located in Makhmour Camp in 1998. We have been living in this camp for 23 years now.”
Kaçan’s statements about the UN policies relating to the Makhmour Camp reveal certain facts about the refugee policies of the UN. Although the residents of the camp escaped from Turkey’s oppression of the Kurds during the 90s, they have never been accepted or treated as political refugees by the UN, the 1993-2003 Baathist regime or the subsequent government of Iraq, or by the Kurdistan Regional Government.
“Recognition as political refugees is our aslyum right as defined by the UN. But neither the UN nor we ourselves ever demanded that our location be encircled with barbed wire and provided with only one entry/exit gate. This will make this great camp into an open prison for our people. We cannot accept this approach,” Kaçan says, adding :
“We have been living here for 28 years with the neighbouring communities like Turkmens, Arabs, Assyriacs and the Kurds. We have always had very respectful and peaceful relations with them. Nobody has been even slightly bothered by us so far. And we have always recognised the constitution and the laws of the government, and behaved in accordance with them.”
Kaçan’s statements reveal why the camp residents are so angry about their camp being fenced off.
“We have never bothered anybody, or any organisations. We would like to be treated respectfully by the authorities and we ask them not to fall into the traps of Turkish and KDP conspiracies. We would like to remind the Iraqi government that we are always ready and committed to fighting and defending against attacks of ISIS and Turkey’s offensives aiming at the occupation of Iraqi soil, just as we did when we acted against ISIS in 2014, devotedly for the interests of the peoples we have been living together with for years.”
Kaçan concluded by saying that the residents of the camp are living and acting according to values of peaceful co-existence, meanwhile defending their national rights and way of life, and will continue to do so, and also demand international powers to respect this