Huseyin Kara, a resident of the Makhmour (Mexmûr) Refugee Camp, provided insight into the ongoing situation in the region and described the recent developments taking place there in an interview on Wednesday.
The Makhmour Camp has been subjected to a blockade by the Iraqi army since 20 May. The army intends to encircle the camp with wire fences and construct watchtowers, prompting the Kurdish civilians living in the camp to resist the blockade by maintaining a vigil day and night.
On 23 May, a UN delegation visited the camp, which has been under the auspices of the UN since 1998. However, the visit did not provide a resolution to the situation. Prior to this, no UN official had visited the camp since 2014.
The camp has faced various challenges in the past, including being targeted by Islamic State (ISIS) attacks and enduring an embargo imposed by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) since July 2019. Kara emphasised that the residents of the camp have actively resisted both blockades and also fought against ISIS to defend the region.
The Makhmour Refugee Camp is located approximately 60 km southwest of Erbil (Hewler), the capital of the KRG in Iraq. The camp provides a safe haven for around 12,000 Kurds who had fled state violence in Turkey.
Before this blockade, Makhmour Refugee Camp was also subjected to an embargo by the KRG. Before that, it has been a target of ISIS attacks for a long time. As you resisted the blockades, you also fought against ISIS, didn’t you?
The people in Makhmour Camp are defending Hewler, Sulaymaniyah, Rania and Diyala. People in this camp are defending Kurdistan against those who support ISIS in the region.
Of course, this defence was also noticed by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). Upon the protest from the camp, Barzani came here and met with residents and thanked them. He said, “If the people of the Makhmour had not defended the camp, we would have lost Hewler.” This is a fact.
Previously, the KDP of the KRG imposed a stringent embargo on the camp in July 2019. Since then, residents of the camp have been denied entry into cities within the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, and no external aid has been allowed to reach the camp. What was the reason for that?
As Kurds, we have known for a long time that the KDP has relations with Turkey. Does the KDP turn a blind eye to the fact that Turkey is an enemy of the Kurds? Do the KDP and the Barzani family not see that Turkey has used chemical weapons against Kurdish youth, massacred people and occupied this land? Turkey has, as a result, completely destroyed the nature of Kurdistan and the Barzani family is turning a blind eye to this. Just because of the personal and family interests of the Barzani family within the party. This family has no national concern for the people of Kurdistan.
In addition, the Barzani family’s betrayal is not limited to Makhmour, they are also in conflict with all Kurdish parties. It is always said that Saddam Hussein’s Baath regime drove five thousand Kurds into the sea. So why are you coming from Hewler to Makhmour with the tanks of such a dictator and committing massacres? Everyone has witnessed this, there is nothing hidden anymore.
In other words, the betrayal of the Barzani family, which has been going on since the 90s, continues openly. This is a betrayal against patriotic Kurds today as well.
Why do you think Turkey is so uncomfortable with the existence of the Makhmour camp?
I said from the beginning that the basic attitude and stance of the camp is to preserve its patriotic identity and live freely. Why were the people in this camp displaced? Because of their insistence on a free life.
This was not possible in Turkey (Northern Kurdistan) because the Turkish state was imposing betrayal and surrender on these people. Now, similarly, they are in a state of resistance. We are defending ourselves, our identity.
Initially, the camp was situated outside the control of the KRG. However, following the US invasion in 2003, the area encompassing the camp fell under the de facto territorial control of the KRG, while remaining outside of its political control as one of the disputed territories. But there is no KRG administration in the camp. Then who is running the camp?
Now let me tell you something; this camp has an independent system. It has been solving its social problems through dialogue for 30 years. In other words, it can solve its problems on its own without the need for Iraqi law enforcement. It is a fact that we have not had any social problems until today, we cannot harm anyone. Not only internally, but also externally, neither with the Iraqi government nor with the surrounding powers. Our attitude, our will and our stance is clear.
The Iraqi government must free this problem from the captivity of the Turkish state. In other words, it should give up its attitude of oppressing these people just to please Erdoğan. If there is a problem, we can solve it internally. The intellectuals of the camp are already in contact with Baghdad. We believe that this problem will be solved in a positive way.
But they should know very well that after 30 years this camp will never accept captivity. It cannot accept a military siege. They should give up this attitude as soon as possible.
What would you like to say to the international community?
We call on all of Kurdistan, human rights organisations and the United Nations; everyone must do their part and solve this problem. They must fulfil their responsibility regarding refugee rights.
Refugees in Africa, Asia and Europe have rights. Therefore, international organisations should do their part to protect these rights. In fact, the fact that we have not had any problems so far and that we are living our lives with our own labour is a situation that would help international organisations. We again call on international organisations to do their duty.
Do you have a call for the Kurdish people?
We make the same call for Kurds inside and outside. We thank the Kurdish people. In these 11 days, we have seen patriotic Kurds from Shengal, Rojava and Europe, who are loyal to their values and support us. They are using their democratic rights and making demonstrations and statements. We thank them for this, of course, but we want them to know that this is insufficient.
We need to stand together in solidarity when there are attacks against Kurds, no matter where they come from. This is what patriotic people should do.