The History of Makhmur Refugee Camp

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In the early ninetieths everywhere in the Middle East of Turkey people rose up for their democratic rights. Nearly everybody between the age of seven and seventy took part in there revolts. These revolts, which are called Serhildan were the Kurdish people’s answer to the cruel politics annihilation the Turkish state was carrying out.

1. The Military Putsch and Its Effects
After the military putsch on the 12th of September 1980, the military junta established a brutal dictatorship to form law and order in the inner of Turkey. Although the state of emergency had been ended officially the military ruled to country with terror and force. Even the smallest protest was brutally oppressed. In the years which followed on the putsch hundred thousands of people were killed, arbitrarily arrested, or lost. Those who had fallen into the hands f the national forces were badly tortured. The land was ruled by fear and terror. Most political opponents had to leave the country the others were sentenced to long year prison. By losing their best leaders the Turkish leftist’s reason, when on 15th August 1984 the PKK declared the beginning of the armed struggle nobody could believe in its success.

The PKK which was founded in 1978 by Abdullah Ocalan had, in expectation of the putsch, sent a number of cadres out of cadres out of the country so that not to whole leadership fell in the hands of the Turkish military but also those militants’ who were imprisoned  continued their resistance. And, this might be one of the main points: the PKK was young force with emphatic and well trained members. The fare of revolution was burning in their hearts. Their hope enabled them to try the impossible mobilizing the people to rise up for their legitimate human and democratic rights. PKK’s call for freedom fell on a fertile soil especially under the poor Kurdish youth who wanted to free their country from colonize and denial. They got support from Kurds in the Diaspora and the Turkish cities.

In these times most Kurds did not know much about their identity. After the Turkish state had put down the last Kurdish revolts which took part in the 1920s and thirties in Bingol and Dersim most Kurds denied their identity. To put down these revolts which were supported by the people, who resisted heroically, the Turkish state exercised the genocide process and massacre so as to put down the intifada.  Its victims reached more then forty thousand of killed women, old –aged and children. To save their honor a lot of women sacrificed themselves by throwing out from high rocks. Thousands of the survivals were expelled into the inner Turkish areas. The intifada’s leader was detained and executed.

The cultural annihilation politics was so intensive that not even name survived. Dersim is today called Tunceli and Kurds themselves were called Highland Turks the use of their language had been forbidden. This left deep trails in the Kurdish soul. Since those days the Kurds always felt marginalized. They were dying people. But a lot of them have never really stopped resisting and fighting. The rate of Kurds inside the Turkish leftists was over proportional high. But even in the socialist and communist circles Kurds could not be active as Kurds the Kemalist ideology dominated every sector of public life in Turkey. That’s why there was a need for PKK- a party to free Kurdistan and all its peoples from colonialism by fighting for democracy and socialism. Was it first proletarian youth but in a few years the PKK became great influence under the Kurdish people and in the early ninetieths everyone was willing to rise for democracy and freedom.

This civil struggle spread to the western part of Turkey and even to Europe. Soon everywhere people were revolting for democracy and their rights. In 1993 the insurrection reached its climax and time had come for democratic change. Also the PKK declared a unilateral armistice so that the way was open to star dialogue and to search for a peaceful people’s hope for peace was bitterly destroyed and the armistice was annulled. Who had been supporting the Kurdish guerilla- ideologically or with food and infrastructure – became a Terrorist Supporter and was called Enemy of Turkey.

The guerilla had got most of its support from the village people. To break their resistance the government started a brutal operation against the people. Who refused to fight against the guerrilla forces was threatened: Either you will fight for us we will burn down the entire village! Frightened, some villagers agreed to take weapons of the Turkish army but most resisted knowing that the guerilla was also fighting for their rights.

But the state took its word seriously and during the following years about four thousand villages were burnt down. The inhabitants could only safe their naked lives and sometimes not even them.

Most of the expelled people fled to the cities in the west of Turkey. Some could reach Europe where they sought for political asylum.  But when also our villages had been destroyed we made a decision of great political importance: we would not leave Kurdistan!

We either wanted to fight for our survival in the suburbs of Adana or İstanbul nor leaving our own country. So we made up the south.

2. The long march of refugee
In the beginning of the year 1994 15000 refugees crossed the border to south Kurdistan. South Kurdistan, this is the north of Iraq. But after the heavy attacks on Kurdish people during the last period of the first Gulf War between Iraq and Iran by the Saddam regimes- the gas attack on the people of Halapja is well known- the territory north of the 36 parallel has been put under partial Kurdish autonomy. And since then it has been ruled by KDP and PUK. This region was called save haven but for us the save haven became night mare.

We built our first camp not far away from the order to Turkey in the Bihri-sheranish region near a town called Zakho.  Although we had been officially under the protection of the UNHCR were still in the reach of the Turkish state. With war airplanes they bombed our camp. Also Turkish soldiers crossed periodically the border. So we had no other choice than to move deeper into the inner of south Kurdistan. When Turkey could not longer reach us itself it used its influence on the south Kurdish forces to make them oppress us. Some we once more packed up our belongings and moved our camp near to siege our camp so that we would not get any food delivering for months. A lot of smaller children became victims to this arbitrary measure. At the same time the attacks on our camp were intensified without that we, because of the siege, had the possibility to transport the wounded to the nearby hospitals. Because of the insufficient medical treatment a lot of our people stayed crippled. Those who tried, in spite of all, to leave the camp secretly were brutally killed. The heads of their dead bodies were sold to Turkey!

Deeper and deeper we went in to the south. Seven times we had to move our camp. On every place we had to leave back our dead, To mention some of our stations:
. 1994 Behiri-Seranish
. 1995 Athroush
. 1997 Nineveh
. 1998 Makhmur

Because of the impossibility to take under these conditions care for such a big refugee group we had to divide our group. When also the historical Nineveh could not give us shelter we made the decision to cross another border. This time it was the border of the Iraqi state. By the officials we got the permission to pitch our tents. But the surrounding of the place where we should stay was so full of mines that we had new dead to mourn for.  And for that reason we changed our surrounding for the presence last time to the border of Iraqi desert to a place which is called Makhmur. Here we are trying now for five years to build a new life among stone, dust, and scorpions.

LIST OF POPULATION LIVING IN MAKHMUR REFUGEE CAMP

Number of persons living in Camp..................................10.433
Number of female persons in Camp..................................5.416
Number of male persons in Camp.....................................5.017

Number of female children (0-1 year)..................................245
Number of male children  (0-1 year)....................................220
       
Number of female children (1-6 years).................................457
Number of male children (1-6 years)....................................545
       
Number of female children (7-12 years)...............................821
Number of male children (7-12 years)..................................814
       
Number of female children (13-17 years)...........................1.025    
Number of male children (13-17 years).................................994
       
Number of women (18 – 30 years)...................................1.613
Number of men (18 – 30 years).......................................1.566
       
Number of women (31 – 60 years)......................................772   
Number of men (31 – 60 years)..........................................666 
       
Number of women (over 60 years)......................................483
Number of men (over 60 years)..........................................396   
       
Mortality rate of children per month....................................4- 7

Number of mortality  of children (in 2002)..............................63
Number of abortions (per month)......................................8 -13
Number of abortions (in 2002)..............................................87

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