Kurdistan: Displaced Arabs Languish in
By Rezheen Ibraheem in Sulaimaniyah (ICR No. 229)
Some Arabs who fled to Iraqi Kurdistan to escape
intimidation and violence have received little
Kurdistan region (Iraq)
About eight kilometres outside of the city of
Sulaimaniyah, improvised tents, made up of blankets,
protect displaced Iraqis from the blazing sun.
The impoverished inhabitants of the Qawala
internally-displaced persons’ camp are families
who’ve escaped threats and violence in the rest of
the country for the relative stability of the north.
The north is increasingly becoming a refuge for
Iraqis from Baghdad and elsewhere, according to a
report released last week by the International
Organisation for Migration, IOM.
And Sulaimaniyah province has more displaced people
than any of the three provinces in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Approximately 62,370 Iraqis have sought refuge here,
with about eight per cent of IDPs living in
makeshift camps such as the one in Qawala, according
to the agency
Food, shelter and employment are the greatest needs
of Iraq's 2.2 million internally displaced people,
who also require better healthcare, education, water
and sanitation services, according to humanitarian
and refugee agencies.
There are more than 100 families living in the
Qawala camp, which they set up themselves.
Dehydration, poor sanitation, diarrhoea and rashes
are common in the camp, which does not have toilets
or running water. The Kurdistan Health Foundation
warned that hygiene is poor in the camp and
conditions are worsening because of the summer heat.
Nibras Wadi’y, 12, suffers from a skin rash and has
been told by the foundation - which provides
drinking water and sends a mobile medical team every
two weeks - that he needs to see a specialist.
"My brothers don’t have work," he said, tears
welling up in his eyes. "So how can I pay for a
Iraqi president and Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani
has given each family in the camp 200 US dollars,
but the Kurdish and Iraqi authorities have done
little to help impoverished IDPs. Aid agencies say
they are stretched too thin to properly serve all of
Iraq's displaced citizens.
Jalal Mahmood, head of the Iraqi Red Crescent, which
has provided the camp with food and cooking
utensils, said the agency has asked the Kurdish
authorities to relocate the camp to an area that has
public services, but they have not responded.
Unemployment is one of the major problems for IDPs,
who compete with one another and local residents for
jobs. Unlike many of the displaced in Sulaimaniyah,
who are professionals and have rented homes in the
province, those in the camps are poor and came north
with next to nothing. Every morning most of the men
in the camp set off to find day-labour jobs in the
city, but not all are successful.
Under one of the tents, Hadya, a seven-day-old baby,
cried from the heat as her parents waved a ripped
carton to cool her. Temperatures in Sulaimaniyah
often rise to 45 degrees Celsius in summer.
Hadya’s parents, Hamid Najim, a Shia, and Fatima
Alawy, a Sunni, were expelled from the al-Saydya
neighbourhood in Baghdad a few months ago.
Najim said he received a letter from al-Husseinia, a
Shia mosque, telling him he had three options,
“Leave al-Saydya, divorce your wife or you will be
killed.” The couple fled north.
“What did this baby ever do?” asked Alawi. “We can’t
go back. My husband goes out every day to find a
job, but he comes back empty-handed.”
Lami’a Kareem Sha'lani, a 48-year-old Sunni mother,
lives with her seven-member family in one of the
tents. The family sold its store to pay a 60,000
dollars ransom when Sha'lani’s ten-year-old daughter
was kidnapped. She left Baghdad's al-Dora
neighbourhood after her sons were repeatedly
threatened by Mahdi Army militiamen loyal to the
radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
"We have a difficult life, but the most important
thing is we have security and no one can harm us,"
Glancing at her tent, she added, “I wouldn't
exchange it for our house in al-Dora."
Rezheen Ibraheem is an IWPR trainee in
Institute for War and Peace Reporting
does not take credit for and is not responsible for the content of news
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