Turkey launches new attacks on Kurdish refugee camps

April 22, 2020
Maxmur refugee camp in northern Iraq

Three women were killed in a Turkish drone attack on the Maxmur refugee camp in Southern Kurdistan (northern Iraq) on April 15. The refugee camp was set up in 1998 by the United Nations to accommodate about 12,000 Kurds who were forced to flee Northern Kurdistan (south-eastern Turkey) because of Turkish military attacks.

Similar attacks were launched on Kurdish communities in Zinê Wertê in the Qandil region of Southern Kurdistan.

The Kurdistan Women’s Community (KJK) warned that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan “is trying to use the days of the corona pandemic as a springboard for its aggressive militaristic policy and is pursuing a new occupation and attack plan”.

The attack on Maxmur refugee camp killed three women: Eyşê Ehmed Ferhan, Ezîme Akdogan and Hewa Akdogan. Two of the women died at the scene, while the other died later, due to a lack of medical supplies caused by a blockade. The blockade has been imposed on the camp since July last year, by the military forces of Southern Kurdistan’s ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), under pressure from Turkey.

The KDP has also sent peshmerga forces to expand Iraqi government occupation of settlements in Zinê Wertê. The area is under the political leadership of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), an opposition party in the autonomous Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq.

According to the KJK, “the Ministry of Peshmerga reported that these forces were from the 7th Infantry Battalion, sent to the area at the request of the Commission for the Battle against Coronavirus.

“It is being pretended that the transfer of troops is a humanitarian measure against the pandemic. This is to conceal the truth. The deployment is not about health, it is creating a new threat to human life.

“The action increases the risk of armed conflict between the Kurdish parties. The bombing of the area has resulted in human casualties. The local people are very worried and do not know what to do in the event of possible conflict and where to go in the pandemic period. The health and lives of people are now in even greater danger.”

There have been reports of increased military supply shipments from Turkey to KDP peshmerga bases.

Kurdish community activists in Australia told Green Left they are very worried about the situation and are appealing for Kurdish unity in the face of this new Turkish military offensive.

“Kurdistan may be divided between four states, but there is only one Kurdistan and it belongs to all Kurds,” ,Democratic Kurdish Community Centre (NSW) co-chair Gule Rose said.

“No one can tell the Kurdish people to leave one part of Kurdistan to return to another part of Kurdistan they were forced to escape.

“The KDP peshmerga should stop supporting the Turkish state immediately and should stand alongside all Kurds.”

Association of Democratic Kurdish Society in Australia co-chair Ismet Tashtan told GL that Maxmur is now one of the largest refugee camps in the Middle East, with about 40,000 residents. 

“After more than one year of embargo, these people do not have enough health equipment and supplies of food, in the face of the world's biggest health crisis over the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While everyone is concentrating on fighting COVID-19, the Turkish government is trying to occupy South Kurdistan and destroy the Maxmur camp.

“We are calling on the UN, all countries, all humanitarian-minded people to speak up for the refugees in Maxmur.”

Tashtan said the 45 million Kurds in the Middle East want to live peacefully with other nationalities in the region. 

“All we ask of the Turkish, Iraqi, Iranian and Syrian governments is to leave us alone,” Tashtan said. “We are not your Kurds, we are our own Kurds and we are one people.

“We call on all Kurds to stand up against the Turkish invasion.”

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