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

    Saudi Arabia’s New Female Politicians in the Other Room 

    Many in Saudi Arabia say elected representatives should share unsegregated spaces; according to a recent survey, more than half the Saudi population, both men and women, prefer to work in a segregated place

    Russia Not ‘Apologetic’ for Syria Airstrikes

    With Moscow criticized for targeting armed opponents of President Assad, Russia’s UN envoy says his country ‘acting in a very transparent manner’

    Pakistan Warns of Islamic State's Growing Reach

    Aftab Sultan, General Director General of Intelligence Bureau (IB), briefed Senate Committee in closed hearing, saying that IS-linked groups have been expanding in Pakistan

    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.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.