Refugees in Makhmour camp banned from traveling to Erbil, following murder of Turkish diplomat

According to HDP representative, camp official
Refugees at Makhhmour camp who are not allowed to enter Erbil for over a month after the Huqqubaz shooting happened. Photo taken on Thursday , August 2019. (Photo Credit: NRT Digital Media)

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SULAIMANI — More than a month has passed since the apparent assassination of a Turkish diplomat at Huqqqubaz restaurant in Erbil, but a strict ban remains in place that prevents people living in Rostam Judi camp in Makhmour from visiting the city.

Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) representative Muzeyyen Gunes in the Kurdistan Region told NRT Digital Media that she has been closely monitoring conditions in the camp and the effects of the ban.

Gunes related a story about two pregnant women who wanted to visit the Erbil Maternity Teaching Hospital for pre-natal care, but were unable to do so because of the ban. As a result, they both lost the babies, Gunes said.

Moreover, many of the refugees working in Erbil have lost their jobs because they cannot get to the city, she said.

Member of the Makhmour Camp’s Foreign Affairs Committee Bewar Onvar confirmed to NRT Digital Media that the “Asayish [security] does not allow patients, students, and other people to visit Erbil for necessary business.”

Makhmour camp was constructed by the United Nations in 1998 to provide shelter for thousands of Kurds who fled the conflict between the Turkish government and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in southeastern Turkey.

The Kurdistan Region’s Counterterrorism Department has blamed the PKK for the murder of Turkish diplomat Osman Köse, who was gunned down in the Region’s capital along with two local residents on July 17.

The Counterterrorism Department and the Erbil Asayish have arrested several people, including a suspect that it characterized as the main perpetrator, but since then have released little information or evidence for beyond a video confession from several individuals. The PKK has denied involvement in the murder.

The PKK has a presence in Makhmour and helped liberate the area after it was briefly occupied by Islamic State. The Turkish military routinely does flyovers of the area and occasionally conducts airstrikes, despite Makhmour’s location deep inside Erbil governorate.

However, it is thought that this connection is behind the ban, despite the fact that the camp is home to many people who have no involvement with the PKK.

NRT Digital Media reached out to the KRG and related security agencies to find out more about the reasoning behind the decision, but those messages were not immediately returned.

Member of the Kurdistan Parliament’s Peshmerga, Interior, Security and Local Councils Committee Abubakir Haladny (Kurdistan Islamic Union) described the blockade as a violation of the camp residents’ human rights.

“The case of suspects and accused are different from those [living] in the camp. They should be treated humanely,” Haladni added.

(NRT Digital Media)