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 Drugs, prostitution and official corruption: Syrian refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan

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Drugs, prostitution and official corruption: Syrian refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan  11.5.2013   


 

 
Domiz refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan. Photo: UNHCR
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May 11, 2013

DOMIZ-DUHOK, Kurdistan region 'Iraq',— Drugs, prostitution and official corruption are just some of the scourges inside the sprawling Domiz refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan, where tens of thousands of Syrians await the end of the civil war in their home that has already claimed more than 70,000 lives.

“Two or three people are arrested in the camp on a daily basis for possession of illegal drugs,” camp director Khalid Hussein told Rudaw. According to camp statistics, 0.5 percent of the camp residents either use or deal in illegal drugs.

The camp has a population of nearly 100,000, and is only minutes away from the city of Duhok with its population of 250,000. A recent report describes the sudden addition of such a large population to Duhok as a “ticking bomb,” and asks the government to set up camps in other provinces for the refugees.

“About 20,000 refugees are working in Duhok now. This has affected the economy in Duhok, and has led to an increase in unemployment,” said Hussein, adding that “prices, rents, crime, drugs and prostitution have increased as well.”

Hussein said that the majority of camp dwellers are youths, many of them army deserters escaping conscription in the Syrian army. A large number suffer mental problems due to the events they have witnessed, unemployment and other psychological pressures,” Hussein added.

 

“They are a ticking bomb threatening the stability of Duhok,” he said.

The refugees have their own complaints: Mismanagement, inequitable distribution of aid, and allegations that girls at the camp are being tricked or lured into prostitution.

Aland Abuzed, an activist and teacher living outside the camp, said he could name several women who were tricked into prostitution through promises of marriage.

Abuzed, who is well known outside the camp and has used his connections in the business communities of different Kurdish cities to obtain employment for qualified refugees, said that lately everyone wanted to employ only liberated young women.

“Restaurants, cafeterias, hotels and offices ask for workers, but they say it has to be female,” he explained.

“Some employers have more conditions: They say the worker has to be open-minded, and between 18 to 28 years old. They also impose other conditions, asking that the girls do not wear the hijab,” he said.

Abuzed said there were several cases of local men marrying girls, but abandoning them only after a few months.

Khadija Deriki, who uses a pseudo name, said there were worst things happening inside the camp.

“There are girls here who were sexually assaulted, who became pregnant and are now abandoned,” she said, adding that the situation at the camp is only getting worse and that something must be done to improve conditions.

However, despite reports of trickery and dishonesty toward female refugees, there have also been successful and honest marriages between female camp residents and local men.

“In the first four months of the current year. 10 marriages were registered,|” Deriki said.

Most of the camp dwellers believe the marriages are driven by interests: Girls want to escape the harsh living condition and help their families,www.ekurd.net and local men find brides willing to marry at a fraction of the wedding costs demanded by local girls.

Inside one tent, a woman from Damascus complained about corruption and inequitable aid distribution. She said that free tents supplied for the refugees were being sold by camp workers for $200, or rented for half that price per month.

“I have seen certain aid articles like shoes and bags coming to the camp, but they were never distributed.” she complained.

Refugees said that other items, such as residence permits, also can be bought – for a price.

An attractive young girl, calling herself Chiya, said that she uses her close friendship with officials to obtain residence permits.

“The officer in charge of issuing residency permits is a close friend of mine. He is also a friend of another girl. Anyone who asks us for a permit, we can get them one in a few hours,” she boasted.

Azad Ali, a writer and academic, said he was concerned about conditions at the camp. But he noted that, “Wherever a large number of refugees gather, these things happen.”


 

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