Languages: Kurdî ‏سۆرانی‎

Turkish President Erdogan Threatening to “clean-up” Makhmour Refugee Camp in Iraq

Speaking on Turkish state TV channel TRT on 1 June, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened Iraq with additional attacks, saying that Turkey will “clean-up” the UNHCR-recognized Makhmour Refugee Camp in northern Iraq, 180 km south of Turkey. Such an attack which would constitute a grave violation of international law and a crime against an extremely vulnerable refugee population.

The Makhmour Refugee Camp in Iraq, long recognized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), has been home to thousands of refugees from Kurdish areas in Turkey since 1998. Many of the camp’s residents were forced to flee their homes in 1993 and 1994 as the Turkish state pursued a brutal campaign of persecution against the Kurdish people, denying their existence, prohibiting the expression of Kurdish identity, and suppressing Kurdish culture, while using its military to destroy thousands of villages and displace hundreds of thousands of people. Since its founding, the population of the camp has grown to over 13,000, with many children of camp residents being born into statelessness.

In August 2014, as the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist organization was overrunning large parts of Iraq and Syria, they targeted the Makhmour Refugee Camp, invading and occupying it until they were expelled days later. Turkish forces have attacked the camp numerous times, including an airstrike on 13 December 2018 that killed four civilians and a drone strike on 14 April 2020 that killed three young women. Turkish warplanes and drones often fly above the camp, terrorising the refugees of Makhmour and leaving them to wonder when the next attack will occur. Meanwhile, the camp has been under a strict embargo by local authorities for nearly two years, restricting the flow of supplies into the camp and keeping anyone from leaving, even for medical emergencies.

We are deeply concerned by Erdogan’s threats against the Makhmour Refugee Camp and call for the United Nations and UNHCR to remind Erdogan of Turkey’s obligations under international treaties and international human rights law, and reiterate the unacceptability of ongoing threats against the refugees of Makhmour and the consequences of any additional military aggression against the camp. We also request that the United Nations condemn Erdogan’s ongoing violations of Iraqi sovereignty and threats and attacks against civilians in Makhmour and elsewhere in the country, and to work with the Iraqi government and local authorities to end the embargo on the Makhmour Refugee Camp, allow aid to reach the camp, and guarantee the safety of the camp’s residents.

We call on the United Nations, particularly the UNHCR, to take urgently the necessary measures to protect civilians in the Makhmour refugee camp and to stop Turkish aggressions.

The Executive Council of the Kurdistan National Congress