ERBIL — The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has turned a refugee camp into a military base with a military court as well, preventing the UN and other agencies from opening their offices in there.
More than 12,000 Kurdish refugees from Turkey are based in Makhmour camp which is located in the territories disputed between Erbil and Baghdad. The PKK fighters are also present at the camp, a Kurdish official said.
According to the information BasNews has learned, the PKK has been turning the Makhmour camp into a military base since 2014 when the Islamic State (IS) emerged in Iraq and the war against the jihadist group began. In 2017, BasNews revealed that the PKK had closed all offices belonging to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the United Nations.
Outlawed armed groups run some bases in the camp
On Wednesday, 18 August, 2021, Dindar Zebari, KRG's Coordinator for International Advocacy, responded to a statement by a PKK-affiliated organization, which had criticized the deteriorated humanitarian situation in the camp, and pointed out that the KRG has no offices in the camp while it allows the movement of citizens from the camp to Erbil and vice versa.
He also noted that despite the fact that the number of refugees at Makhmour camp continues to increase, the KRG has no official registration of the refugees' identities, revealing that there are some bases in Makhmour camp which are run by outlawed armed groups.
Although the refugee camp is recognized by the UNHCR, it has no offices in the camp currently, but the Mosul branch of the UNHCR visits the camp from time to time, the KRG official added.
The camp refugees hold no official Iraqi identity documents
According to available statistics by the KRG, 928,674 IDPs and refugees have been registered until June 2021, with %30 of them living in the camps while the rest have chosen areas across the region for living. Refugees in Makhmour camp hold no official Iraqi identity documents.
Hundreds of PKK fighters present at the camp
The PKK has been focusing on the Makhmour camp over the past years, viewing it as a military base for training its fighters on one hand, and recruiting underage children on the other hand. Kirmanj Abdullah, a Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) official in the area, told BasNews in November 2020 that they spared no efforts to provide the refugees with a safe and comfortable life but that nearly 300 PKK fighters have been brought to the camp who have created a militarized environment for the locals.
Abdullah further revealed that the PKK has also established a court, and that they "kill and bury people alive while they have contact with the Hashd al-Shaabi."