News / Middle East

Syrian Kurds Flee War to Neighboring Iraq

Nearly 2 million Syrians have fled the country since the civil war started 29 months ago. This Syrian family is shown walking along the Turkish-Syrian border on May, 12, 2013.
Nearly 2 million Syrians have fled the country since the civil war started 29 months ago. This Syrian family is shown walking along the Turkish-Syrian border on May, 12, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
— An estimated 30,000 Syria refugees, most of them Kurds, have fled in the last three days to Kurdistan areas of Iraq or on the border waiting to be allowed access, according to United Nations aid officials.
 
The U.N. officials warned Monday that the exodus shows no signs of slowing down and that it is straining their resources as well as those of Iraqi relief agencies.
 
The exodus is one of the largest waves of refugees since the civil war broke out in Syria 29 months ago. Claire Bourgeois of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said the refugee surge was “unlike anything we have witnessed entering Iraq previously.”
 
“There is no way to confirm exact numbers because of the scale of the influx, but UNHCR teams at Sahela report that it looks like a river of people moving across the border,” Bourgeois said.
 
Some of the refugees have traveled from as far away as the city of Aleppo, 450 kilometers to the west, to cross a new pontoon bridge spanning the Tigris River into the Iraqi province of Dohuk. The pontoon bridge was opened last Thursday (August 15).

What sparked exodus unclear
 
The immediate reason for the sudden migration wasn’t clear to relief workers, but UNHCR’s Peter Kessler said about “95 percent are Kurds” and they appear to be fleeing worsening conditions in northern Syria.  Kessler said their situation was being made worse by the fighting between rebels and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as well as rebel “factions allied to more extremist elements.”
 
In recent weeks, clashes have increased between al-Qaida-affiliated jihadist rebels and Syrian Kurds aligned to Kurdish separatists in Turkey. The jihadists have sought to exert more control over enclaves they control in northern Syria, while Kurdish militants have tried to snatch oil fields currently controlled by the jihadists.
 
Kurdish militants captured the Syrian town Ras al-Ain on the border with Turkey last month, dealing a serious blow to the Al-Qaida affiliated Islamist rebels. In mid-2012, pro-Assad forces withdrew from Kurdish-majority areas in the north and since then Kurdish militants have been keen to keep other rebel groups out of their towns.
 
Syrian refugee children try to amuse themselves at a camp near the Turkish border in August of last year.Syrian refugee children try to amuse themselves at a camp near the Turkish border in August of last year.
x
Syrian refugee children try to amuse themselves at a camp near the Turkish border in August of last year.
Syrian refugee children try to amuse themselves at a camp near the Turkish border in August of last year.
“This is an unprecedented influx of refugees, and the main concern is that so many of them are stuck out in the open at the border or in emergency reception areas with limited, if any, access to basic services,” said Alan Paul, of the British-based charity, Save the Children.
 
“The refugee response in Iraq is already thinly stretched, and close to half of the refugees are children who have experienced things no child should,” Paul said.
 
“There was war and looting and problems...We did not find a morsel [of food], so with our children, we came here,” refugee Abdulkarim Brendar, the father of five, told the French news agency AFP. Another refugee, Ahmed Karim, said he fled Syria to save his wife and three-week-old baby from dying of starvation. “There was a shortage of food in the market, and everything became expensive, from bread to gas canisters, and unemployment was spreading,” he said.
 
About 150,000 Syrian refugees are already registered in Iraq. Nearly two million Syrians have sought refuge in neighboring countries since the uprising against President Assad began in March 2011.

U.N. and Iraqi officials working together
 
U.N. officials say they are working with Iraq’s regional Kurdistan government to establish a camp at nearby Darashakran, but that it will take at least two weeks to build. Families and friends in towns near the border are taking in some refugees. Hundreds have been ferried to a refugee camp west of Irbil.
 
Until this weekend, Iraq had allowed in a relatively small number of refugees compared to Syria’s other neighbors. But the leader of the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, said recently that if Syria’s Kurds were “under threat of death and terrorism,” then he would be “prepared to defend them.” Iraqi Kurdistan consists of three provinces in northern Iraq and has its own military and police forces.
 
Kurdish officials in Iraq say they have allocated an additional $20 million for Syrian Kurdish refugees, but are seeking more financial aid from the United Nations and Iraq’s federal government.
 
Meanwhile, fighting in Syria intensified Monday on the Syrian coast where pro-government forces were reported to have pushed back a rebel offensive in the heartland of President Assad’s Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam. The rebel offensive was led by foreign jihadist fighters and was reported to have moved to within 19 kilometers of Qardaha - Assad's hometown and the burial site of his father Hafez al-Assad.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group that relies on a network of activists inside Syria, says pro-Assad forces have regained control of nine Alawite villages and are now fighting to recapture two villages still in rebel hands.
 
“Battles are ongoing and they are fierce,” said Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
August 19, 2013 11:44 PM
To be clear, this refugee crisis is caused by the "REBEL" factions, ETHNIC CLEANSING of Kurdish areas because they want to control oil fields.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid