Humanitarian Crisis Looming for Turkey’s Kurds in Mahmur Camp, Iraq
By Amy L. Beam, Ed.D:
‘Islamic State’ Invades Another Kurdish Town
On August 7, 2014, at 6 PM, the town of Mahmur Camp <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zybr34LppJ8> , established 20 years ago by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for Kurds fleeing Turkey, was invaded by the organisation now calling itself ‘Islamic State’, known as ISID in Turkey (or ISIS or ISIL in western media).
Sketchy reports from Mahmur to family members in Turkey on August 7, before phone communications were cut, describe the evacuation of all 25,000 residents of Mahmur. Bus loads are crossing the border into Silopi, Turkey. Caravans of cars from Hilal, a village in the township of Uludere, Sirnak, and surrounding villages in SE Turkey have been driving to the Turkey-Iraq border to pick up their relatives . . . mostly women and children . . . fleeing the ISID invasion. Those without Turkish passports are fleeing through mountain passes.
Written on August 8, 2014
Residents from Mahmur in recent days have reported that there is no presence of Iraqi military or Peshmerga forces. The only people defending this town of 25,000 Kurds <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zybr34LppJ8> , besides the male residents themselves, are the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) from Turkey and PJAK, its counterpart in Iraq.
Mahmur Camp in Kurdistan, Iraq, established 1994 by UNHCR for Kurdish refugees fleeing Turkey village evacuations
Both groups of resistance fighters have been labeled terrorist groups by Turkey in spite of wide-spread Kurdish support and international calls to remove the PKK from the terrorist list. This situation reinforces the PKK guerillas’ motto that Kurds have “no friends but the mountains.”
Far from wanting to defend the residents of Mahmur Camp <http://www.todayszaman.com/news-206530-un-refugee-agency-wishes-to-see-an-empty-makhmour-camp.html> , Turkey and the U.S. have a long-standing pact to eliminate it, claiming it is a training ground for PKK with that over-used word “terrorist” tagged on at the end. This includes all of the children, most of whom were born there.
Kurdish Refugees: from Turkey to Iraq and Back Again, a 20-year Saga
The Kurdish populations of both Mahmur and neighboring Shingal are political refugees from Turkey. In the early 1990s, Turkey’s military destroyed an estimated 3,000 Kurdish villages <http://kurdistantribune.com/2014/turkey-kurdish-question/> in southeast Turkey under the false pretense of denying shelter to the PKK Kurdish resistance fighters. Between one and three million Kurdish residents were forced from their homes and their villages and animals were burned and bombed. Many innocent Kurds were murdered by military forces before they could flee.
Old Hilal, Uludere, Sirnak in SE Turkey was destroyed in 1994. 3000 inhabitants fled to UNHCR Mahmur Camp, Iraq
In old Hilal, alone, 5600 Kurds were forced out. Three thousand settled in Mahmur Camp in Iraq. Other Kurds from the villages of Tasdeler, Uludere, Uzungesit, and Beytussebap also settled in Mahmur Camp. It grew into a small city of 25,000 people until it was invaded by ISID on August 7.
Nearly 20,000 Kurds, displaced from the unlawful and violent village evacuations in southeast Turkey also re-settled in Erbil, Souleymani, Zakho, Cuhok, Mosul, and Kirkuk in northern Iraq.
Twenty years have passed and now these Kurds from Turkey once again find themselves as refugees fleeing for their lives. Many are crossing back into Turkey with their Turkish passports. But there is a problem: Turkey accuses residents of Mahmur of being PKK guerillas and has prosecuted some who previously returned to Turkey.
‘Islamic State’: A Media Lie to Enflame Islamaphobia and Divide Iraq
Before taking control of Mahmur, ISID took control of the predominately Yezidi town of Shingal (also referred to as Sinjar), west of Mosul. The Peshmerga military forces of Kurdistan (KRG), Iraq, abandoned their defense of the town. The President of the Kurdistan region, Massoud Barzani, announced this week to investigate some Peshmerga commanders <http://www.ekurd.net/mismas/articles/misc2014/8/state8265.htm> who left their positions in the Kurdish town of Shingal and failed to defend the Kurdistan region border from the attack of ISID.
According to western media reports, ISID demanded that Yezidis either leave, pay large sums of money, or convert to Islam. Over 200,000 have fled to the mountains and beyond. The United Nations calls it a humanitarian tragedy <http://kurdistantribune.com/2014/un-warns-of-humanitarian-tragedy-following-fall-of-sinjar/> . It is reported that ISID has taken 500 women hostage.
News of ISID’s attack on Shingal has enflamed the non-Muslim world and fanned the flames of Islamaphobia just when westerners were growing weary of the war on terror. Something is wrong with this picture.
Mahmur’s population is Muslim, yet it too has been attacked by ISID. So ISID’s campaign is not about religion. The sentiment shared by all of Turkey’s Muslim population is that the violent ISID forces do not reflect Islamic values. “If ISID is Muslim,” say Muslims, “then I cannot call myself a Muslim. ISID has nothing to do with Islam. It is just a terrorist organization. No Muslim would murder innocent people either Christian or Muslim. ISID is a lie.”
ISID is a lie. This is the recurring sentiment in the Muslim world. This media lie needs to be investigated and the truth uncovered.
If ISID terrorism of civilian populations is not based on Islamic fundamentalism, then what is the motivation behind their campaign to take over the oil-rich territory of north-western Iraq? Who is financing ISID? Why did the Iraqi military abandon its posts and let ISID take Mosul on June 10? Why did the Peshmerga forces abandon Shingal and Mahmur Camp? What is the end-game-plan?
Could it be a land-grab to control the path between Mosul and Ceyhan the port where Kurdistan’s oil is being pumped to Turkey for export to western countries?
A History Refresher in Kurdistan Oil
In 2003, the U.S. invaded Turkey under the false pretense of destroying non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). After a ten-year war, no WMD’s were found, but Iraq’s infrastructure was destroyed . . . except for Kurdistan in northern Iraq. That is where the oil is, predominately in Erbil, Kirkuk, and Mosul.
The U.S. protected the no-fly zone over Kurdistan while military commanders and private contractors bought shares in future oil companies and contracts. After ten years of war, Kurdistan built direct oil pipe lines from Mosul to Ceyhan, Turkey. Kurdistan agreed to ship 400,000 barrels per day to Turkey by the end of 2013. Multinational oil companies like Exxon, Marathon, and Chevron were finally going to get their oil. . . .
Until Baghdad threatened Ankara with smuggling <http://kurdistantribune.com/2014/linguistics-of-smuggling-oil-into-turkey-roboski-vs-erbil/> if they bought one drop of oil without going through Baghdad. Baghdad wants its King’s Ransom in the form of government taxation. So the promised oil did not flow. Winter and spring passed. PM Erdoğan called for peaceful negotiations with Baghdad for oil. By May 2014, the oil companies and western countries were growing impatient. Within days of one another, the major western media outlets (psychically) announced it would not be long now before the oil shipments started. One must wonder who provided these news outlets with their script.
Voila! As predicted, a few days later, on May 21, the first container ships loaded with oil left Ceyhan, Turkey. One headed to Israel which was the first buyer of Kurdistan oil via Turkey. Another ship headed to the United States.
On May 23, Baghdad headed to Paris and filed for arbitration against Turkey <http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/05/23/iraq-kurds-idUKL6N0O927W20140523> with the International Chamber of Commerce to stop exports of oil from Kurdistan. This put Obama in the awkward back-against-the-wall situation of supporting the purchase of oil from Kurdistan or backing the Baghdad government for which the U.S. purportedly fought a ten-year war to bring “freedom and democracy” to Iraq.
When the United Leadership oil tanker was off the coast of America, it did a mysterious u-turn <http://news.yahoo.com/tanker-piped-iraqi-kurdish-oil-u-turns-away-174038331.html;_ylt=A7x9UnKuB.RTq2EA8wIvkAx.;_ylu=X3oDMTBydWpobjZlBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDMQRjb2xvA2lyMgR2dGlkAw–> on May 30 and headed back to Europe. KRG’s Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said in parliament. “If we cannot reach a shared understanding, we have other options and we cannot wait forever.” He did not have long to wait.
Ten days later, on June 10, the world woke up to a terrorist group called ISIS (or ISIL or ISID) which no one seemed to have ever heard of in the west except for people in those three-letter agencies. ISID captured Mosul, oil center of Kurdistan, Iraq, as the Iraqi military and police laid down their uniforms and guns and vanished. Political analysts suspected external countries were orchestrating <http://galacticconnection.com/isis-iraq-stinks-cianato-dirty-war-op/> the break-up of Iraq into three countries.
The following week, US Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) said the US has been arming the ISIL militants <http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2014/06/27/368911/pentagon-500-us-military-forces-in-iraq/> in Syria. “I think we have to understand first how we got here,” Paul said. “We have been arming ISIS in Syria.”
2006 Pentagon Map for the Middle East Resurfaces
By June 25, western media outlets, including Time <http://www.ekurd.net/mismas/articles/misc2014/6/state8137.htm> magazine, were predicting the “unavoidable” break-up of Iraq into three countries. The Pentagon’s sequestered map of 2006 <http://www.oilempire.us/new-map.html> in which it redrew the borders of the “new” Middle East suddenly resurfaced. It includes a country called Kurdistan. This map was shown at a Pentagon meeting in 2006, but vanished <http://www.armedforcesjournal.com/article/2006/06/1833899> when Turkey raised a firestorm <http://www.today.az/news/politics/30799.html> over it. There would be no country called Kurdistan. Now, here we are in 2014 with the same proposed map. It just took considerably longer than anticipated.
Turkey’s Choice to Preserve Its Borders
If the United States and Europe want Kurdistan’s oil, then they and Turkey need to support the Kurds who offer the best choice for democracy and human rights in the Middle East. That includes removing the PKK from the terrorist list, providing urgently needed military aid to them as they defend Mahmur Camp, and providing humanitarian aid to thousands of new Kurdish refugees. The Turkish government needs to abandon the entrenched mindset that “every Kurd is a terrorist.”
If Turkey wants to find internal peace with its own Kurds and maintain the integrity of its borders, the Turkish government must address the cost of compensation and resettlement of thousands of Kurds whom were illegally and forcibly displaced from Turkey in the 1990s. It should not wait for the European Court of Human Rights to order compensation.
Amy L. Beam promotes tourism to eastern Turkey at Mount Ararat Trek (http://www.mountararattrek.com) <http://www.mountararattrek.com/> and writes occasionally on Kurdish issues. Follow her on twitter @amybeam