Amid increased military activity, Iraqi army digs trenches around Maxmur Refugee Camp

Iraqi troops started digging trenches around the Maxmur Refugee Camp, which they have besieged for three days.

On the morning of May 20, Iraqi troops, supported by a large number of police, took action to surround the Maxmur refugee camp with barbed wire and towers. The residents of the camp have been resisting the Iraqi forces since their action seeking to turn the camp into an open prison.

Military activity around the camp increased on the third day of the camp residents’ resistance.

According to reports from the ground, the road of Baqirte town leading to the camp has been closed to traffic.

Reports are coming through of military reinforcement to the camp, around which Iraqi troops have started digging trenches with earth diggers.

All the entrances and exits of the camp, where about 12 thousand refugees reside, have been closed by the Iraqi army. The blockade is jeopardizing the lives of the residents of the camp where there are many seriously ill refugees.

The Maxmur camp has already been under a strict embargo by the KDP since July 17, 2019. The residents of the camp are not allowed to enter the cities of South Kurdistan and to provide basic needs from outside. Numerous people have already lost their lives due to the embargo.

In recent years, similar attempts to fence the camp in with barbed wire have failed due to the resistance of the people. Maxmur Camp is located about 60 kilometres southwest of Hewlêr (Erbil), the capital of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. More than 12,000 people live in the camp. Most of them were forced to leave their villages in Northern Kurdistan in the 1990s due to the repression of the Turkish state and the scorched-earth policy. After an odyssey of several years and stays in various camps, they founded the Maxmur Camp on the edge of the desert in 1998. The camp population thus forms the largest Kurdish refugee community worldwide.

The grassroots-democratically organised and self-governing camp is a thorn in Turkey's side. In recent years, there have been repeated air strikes on Maxmur, most recently in August 2022, when a father of six was killed by a drone. In an air strike three months earlier, a civilian was fatally injured by the Turkish army. These war crimes have remained without consequences to this day.

Officially, Maxmur is under the protection of the UNHCR, but in practice the UN is only nominally present. The organisation left the camp during the attacks by ISIS in 2014 and did not return afterwards.