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.
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

Tunnel Bombs Highlight Savagery of Aleppo Fight

Rebels have used tunneling tactic near government buildings, command posts or supply routes to set off explosives; they detonated their largest bomb this week under Syria's intelligence headquarters More

Sierra Leone Launches New Initiative to Stop Ebola Spread

Government hopes Infection and Prevention Control Units, IPC, will help protect patients and healthcare workers More

UN Official: Fight Against Terrorism Must Not Violate Human Rights

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says efforts by states to combat terrorism are resulting in large scale rights violations against the very citizens they claim to defend 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.
Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boyi
X
Jeff Seldin
March 05, 2015 2:36 AM
A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960s Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More