13 September 2021 | Peter Boyle
Residents in the United Nations-supervised Makhmour Refugee Camp in northern Iraq are angry but not surprised at the criminal silence from the UN and United States-led military coalition — which controls the airspace in that region — over a Turkish drone attack on the camp on September 3.
The refugee camp was established in the 1990s by Kurds fleeing genocidal military attacks on their villages in Turkey.
Nuran Zengin, a nurse and women’s committee member in the self-administered Makhmour camp told Green Left in an exclusive interview on September 8 that when Turkey last bombed the camp, in June, there was a UN investigation but no action taken against Turkey.
The only international response was a few words of “concern” from US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, and an assurance that she had “made clear to Turkish officials that any attack targeting civilians at Makhmour refugee camp would be a violation of international and humanitarian law”.
Three civilians were killed and two others wounded in the June drone strike, which targeted a playground near a school in the camp.
Fortunately, no one was killed in the latest attack, but it could have been different, said Zengin.
“There are 12,000 refugees living in the camp and nearly half are children. It was early in the morning and most people in the house that was targeted were still sleeping. But a woman had got up to feed her six-month-old baby and that saved her.”
Video footage taken by Roj News after the attack shows the baby’s cot strewn with shards of glass from a blown in window. A young boy was injured in the leg by the glass.
“The reason for the attack is because the people here support the revolutionary ideas of [imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah] Öcalan”, Zengin said.
She was proud that the camp ran itself autonomously, inspired by Öcalan’s ideas of democratic confederalism. Camp residents organise collective schools that teach in Kurdish and an effective health system.
As a nurse, Zengin is also proud that despite a two-year embargo and blockade imposed on the camp by the corrupt Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) of Iraq, the camp has done well in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We had no deaths in the first wave of the pandemic, five deaths in the second and only two in the third”, Zengin said, adding that this proved that the camp residents were capable of looking after themselves if only they were not subjected to attacks and the blockade.
“We are also attacked by Daesh/Islamic State. There have been many such attacks over the last 17 years. Three women were killed by Daesh in a recent attack. Turkish dictator [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan is the leader of Daesh and they both want to destroy the Kurdish revolutionary movement.”
Just before the June drone attack on Makhmur, Erdoğan ominously promised to “clean up” Makhmour refugee camp.
Makhmour camp is 180 kilometres from the Turkish border, so these cross-border air attacks “could not happen without the permission of the US, Germany and France”, said Zengin. “They must have greenlighted these attacks because they control the airspace.
“The KRG also helps Turkey attack our camp.”
Zengin speculated that the US-led coalition’s green-lighting of the attack on Makhmour and the recent attacks on the Yezidi people in Shengal/Sinjar, some four hours drive away, could be a pay-off for Turkey helping the US withdraw from Afghanistan.
“Where else in the world has there been an attack on a refugee camp by a neighbouring state and there is total silence?”
Zengin urged the international community to think carefully about continuing to do business with Turkey, “because their money is being used to attack and kill the Kurdish people”.
“The Australian government should also make sure that its companies are not helping Turkey build these killer drones.
“Remember, Erdoğan helps Daesh and Daesh is a threat not just to our region but to the whole world”, Zengin said.