GENEVA - Nearly 3,000 Iranian Kurds at a
decades-old refugee camp in western Iraq have been
left without police protection as residents and
local security forces flee fighting in the area, the
U.N. refugee agency said Friday.
About 1,400 refugees fled the Al-Tash camp, about 30
miles from Fallujah, earlier this week because of
the violence, including an attack by armed men on a
police post inside the camp, said Jennifer Pagonis,
spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for
"The police station is now empty, and there is no
one to provide security for the remaining 2,800
refugees we think are still in Al-Tash," Pagonis
said in Geneva.
Aid workers have been unable to gain access because
of the fighting, and the refugee agency is concerned
that delivery of monthly food rations has been
stopped because of the violence.
UNHCR has no personnel on the ground in Iraq but is
operating through a local partner, which it declines
to name for security reasons.
About 13,000 Iranian Kurds had lived in Al-Tash camp
for about 20 years. Many had fled Iran fearing
oppression following the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Many of them left Al-Tash before the March 2003
invasion by U.S.-led forces because of threats from
local people and dwindling relief supplies.
UNHCR said that the hundreds who fled the camp this
week were likely trying to reach Kurdish areas in
northern Iraq or the Jordanian border. But only 13
families have turned up in Sulaymaniah in northern
Iraq, where UNHCR's partner agency is interviewing
them to establish their needs and to find out
exactly what happened in Al-Tash.
"The fate of all the others who left the camp
remains unknown," Pagonis said.
Separately, 202 Iranian Kurd refugees who had been
living in the desert along the Iraqi-Jordanian
border have left Amman, Jordan, for Sweden, where
they have been granted political asylum, Pagonis
The group, which like the Iranian Kurds at Al-Tash
had fled Iran as a result of persecution under the
regime of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, were interned
in an Iraqi prison camp for the duration of the
1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.
They were freed in the 1990s, and last year fled to
the Jordanian border following the U.S.-led invasion
of Iraq and the fall of Saddam Hussein.
Another 182 Kurdish refugees will leave Jordan for
Sweden early next month, Pagonis said.
"However, there are still almost 650 people stuck in
no man's land, and UNHCR continues to advocate and
lobby for resettlement for this group," Pagonis