The Makhmour Refugee Camp was founded in 1998 and is located in the Makhmour District of Iraq. Many Kurds from south-east Turkey were forced to leave their homes as a result of the war between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Turkish state in the 1990s, and many have been living in Makhmour camp since that time.
The camp is 180 kilometers south of the Turkish border and hosts thousands of Kurdish refugees forcibly displaced from their villages by the Turkish army. It has been the target of frequent attacks throughout its history. In a recent attack, Turkish drones bombarded the UN-protected camp, and three people are known to have died. This was during Turkey’s operations against the Kurdish fighters, which have been ongoing since 23 April.
Six airstrikes are reported to have been carried out against Makhmour Camp in the last four years, as a result of which, 12 people lost their lives and two were injured. However, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the Iraqi government and the UN, Jin News reports, have all been “surprisingly quiet” about these attacks, merely announcing that they are “concerned”.
The place where the camp was built was described as “hell” because of the large numbers of snakes, scorpions and insects. During the initial construction of the camp, many children lost their lives due to heat, thirst and dust.
When people settled in the camp, they had to build a new life there. Trees were planted and wells were dug. But the well water was not drinkable, so drinking water had to be brought to the camp from a nearby Arab village, Lower Maxmur. The first school in the camp was built in 1998, and in the same year community organizations were established there to deal with municipal and social problems.
With a population of 13,000, the camp set an example for all those who flee war in the hope of a new life. Makhmur camp is officially under the supervision of the UNHCR. However, as a result of long-standing policies relating to the camp, the UN acts in its own interests there.
The camp is used as a tool in political negotiations between the states in the region. It has been attacked many times. It had to be evacuated within two days as a result of attacks by ISIS on 6 August 2014. The refugees were only able to return to the camp after the People’s Defense Forces (HPG) liberated it from ISIS.
Since the ISIS attacks, Turkey has bombed the camp six times, starting in 2017. The dates and casualties are listed as follows:
- 6 November 2017: Five HPG members lost their lives in the bombardment.
- 13 November 2018: Asya Elî Mihemed (73), her daughter Narinç Ferhan Qasim (26) and her grandson Evîn Kawa Mehmûd (14) as well as Eylem Mihemed Emer (23) lost their lives.
- 18 July 2019: Two injured in the bombardment.
- 15 April 2020: Three lost their lives in the bombardment.
- 15 June 2020: The camp was bombarded but no lives were lost.
- 5 June 2021: The camp was bombarded but there were no injuries and no lives were lost.