More than 10,000 Iranian Kurds living near the Iraq border were forced into exile in Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war. They eventually were relocated to a refugee camp near the southern Iraqi city of Ramadi. Over the years many have quietly moved back to Iran. Today 214 families remain. Last year they were moved again, this time north to the Kurdish region of Iraq. VOA's Brian Padden recently visited the camp and reports that the group's long journey home is still not over.
Since fleeing Iran in 1979, these Iranian Kurds have been a people set apart. They now live in the Kawa transit camp in the Kurdish region of Iraq.
Jangir Ahamdi is one of the group's leaders. He says Iran has abandoned them, in part because of their opposition to the government there. And the Iraqis here will not fully accept them either.
“Our hearts have been broken," says Ahamdi. "We feel that we as a people lost everything. There is great pain in our heart. For that we lost all feeling about everything.”
These Iranian Kurds left the southern Iraqi city of Ramadi last year after insurgents targeted their group. Conditions in this camp are sparse but there is hope that some of their long-term problems will be resolved. The Kurdish government is building permanent housing for the refugees. Many of the men are employed building these homes. And many of the women work for a local poultry producer. The children do not remember Iran.
Aras Sulieman lost her husband in a car-bomb explosion last November. She was a girl when she left Iran. She says she now prefers the security being offered in this camp. “My kids are very young. They lost their father. I'd like to stay here until the kids grow up and God opens a new door for us.”
Mohammed Rahim and many older people rely on the support given in the camp. “I ask God to help me here in Kurdistan. I have no one, no job back in Iran. Here is better.”
But Jangir Ahmadi holds on to the dream of one day going home to Iran, after the current government changes. “I need a government that believes in human rights and democracy. I am not ready to go home with this government still controlling the country.”
Until then, their long exile continues.