Humanitarian crisis in Maxmur refugee camp

August 3, 2019

The Maxmur (Makhmour) refugee camp, in Iraqi Kurdistan (Bashur/Southern Kurdistan), is home to over 13,000 Kurdish refugees and is located in a town 60 kilometres south-west of the capital, Erbil. Many of the camp’s residents were forced to flee their homes in 1993-1994 as the Turkish state pursued a brutal campaign of aggression against the Kurdish people, destroying thousands of villages and displacing hundreds of thousands of people.

In August 2014, as ISIS was overrunning large parts of Iraq and Syria, the terrorist organisation targeted Maxmur as a step to advancing on Erbil. ISIS invaded and occupied the camp, but the people of Maxmur joined other fighters in resisting their advance. Popular militia, self-defence forces, women and youth alike finally expelled ISIS after days of fighting, preventing what would have been a catastrophic invasion of the region.

Turkish military airstrikes on the camp in 2017 and 2018 killed and injured residents. A new wave of attacks on the camp by Turkey began on July 19.

According to witnesses, just after midnight, bombs were dropped near the camp, wounding two civilians and damaging vineyards and orchards.

The same day, Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) security forces, which control the autonomous region of northern Iraq, arrested civilian residents. The families of those arrested have not yet been able to see their relatives, and no information about them is available. 

They have closed all paths in and out of the Maxmur camp, which is now surrounded and under a strict curfew and many camp residents who work in nearby cities like Erbil are unable to get to work.

The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) – the ruling party of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Northern Iraq – is closely allied with the Turkish regime and opposes the Rojava Revolution. It has recently come to light that the KDP and MIT have set up joint headquarters in the Bashur region.

It has been reported that camp residents are being subjected to discrimination, harassment and psychological pressure to leave the Kurdistan region and Iraq. This includes ongoing threats of violence.

The camp is now under serious threat, and residents have little access to food, medical care, and cannot get to work. They are increasingly isolated, their basic needs are being ignored, and they are living under a de facto state of emergency.

The residents of the camp believe the attacks and aggression perpetrated by the Turkish state against them will intensify as long as the government of Iraq and the United Nations (UN) remain silent about Turkey’s unlawful military attacks within Iraq’s borders, which are threatening the lives of these refugees. 

In a statement released on July 30, the residents’ council called for the UNHCR to take action and hold Turkey to account for its attacks and for the UN to immediately call for the lifting of the curfew and to ensure that the camp residents have access to food and medical care. “If Turkey is allowed to act with impunity, it will continue targeting the residents of the Maxmur Camp, resulting in more death and destruction,” the statement said.

“The government of Iraq must take responsibility for crimes committed against civilians living within Iraq’s borders who have now been targeted by military airstrikes using Iraqi airspace. We therefore call on the government of Iraq to act against this violation of its sovereignty

“We call the international community, the defenders of human rights, and civil society to react against the illegal, deadly acts of Turkish military aggression against the Maxmur Camp.”

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