Maxmur People's Council calls for increased solidarity against the siege by the Iraqi army

The People's Council of Maxmur appealed to the international public to show solidarity with the camp besieged by the Iraqi army in southern Kurdistan.

The Iraqi army has been besieging the Maxmur Camp in southern Kurdistan (northern Iraq) since 20 May. The camp, which is self-governed by refugees from Northern Kurdistan near Hewlêr (Erbil), is intended to be fenced in and turned into a huge open-air prison with watchtowers. The 12,000 residents of the camp are resisting this, day and night. Today, the Iraqi military has positioned additional units at strategically important locations around the camp.

Yusif Kara, co-chair of the Maxmur People's Council, spoke to ANF about the current situation, saying: "There are disagreements between the Iraqi government and us, which have escalated in recent days. We wanted to avoid it coming to this and have said several times that we don't want chaos and physical confrontations. What is being forced on us here is neither legitimate nor legal. We have communicated our demands to the institutions involved."

Remarking that the current escalation is based on a concept that was developed according to the plan of the Turkish state, Kara stated: "The Turkish state itself says this quite openly, and the Barzani family also says it. This concept is directed against all Kurds and all of Kurdistan. The United Nations and, on some level, the international coalition against ISIS are also involved in this plan. They are blind, deaf and mute in the face of what is happening. Everything indicates that this is a broad-based plan against our system of self-government."

Kara pointed out that the siege of Maxmur is taking place in parallel with the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan in Turkish captivity and the further developments in Kurdistan. He noted that the people of Maxmur had been driven out of Northern Kurdistan thirty years ago by the scorched-earth policy and forced to live in a refugee camp. Despite this, these people and the generations that followed them have never allowed themselves to be brought to their knees. “In the last few days, the situation has escalated. The people's resistance is a sign of dignity and makes us proud. Such examples are rare," he added.

So far, the siege has been prevented to a certain extent and no one from the camp is considering withdrawing, Kara said. “The Iraqi military, however, is insistent and speaks of a decision of the state and the government that must be enforced. From our point of view, there is no legitimacy to this. Although the UN's relationship with the camp broke off a long time ago, it is still a refugee camp with UN status and the residents have identity cards with UN stamps.”

Officially, Maxmur is under the protection and control of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), but in practice the organisation is only nominally present. They left the camp during the attacks by ISIS in 2014 and did not return afterwards. On Tuesday, UN representatives arrived in Maxmur for talks on the current escalation.

Kara remarked that after the fall of the Baath regime, the Iraqi government signed an international agreement for the rights of refugees, which also applies to Maxmur. “However, the United Nations and especially the UN representatives in the region are under the influence of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Barzani clan, which only pursues its personal economic interests.”

"The rights of refugees are being violated here, especially the rights of children. This is all happening on the basis of false and baseless reports by the Barzani family and in cooperation with Turkey. In this way, pressure is being put on us. The UN is not fulfilling its obligations towards us as refugees in any form. Instead of contributing to a solution, they are behaving downright hostile in many places. In many ways, they are doing everything they can to get the camp dissolved," Kara said.

According to Kara, the fact that UN representatives have now reappeared in Maxmur is only due to the persistent resistance of the population. "They were here once in 2018, but that was only in connection with security issues. After a tour of the camp, they left again. In 2022, there were talks in Baghdad and Mosul, but not a single activity in a positive sense took place. And today they are trying to understand what is going on. We sat down and talked to each other. We expressed very clearly the injustice committed by the Iraqi state. They said that they would get back to us after counselling. Our talks are continuing to ensure that they abide by the agreement they signed. We are in a very serious phase. The situation is exceptional. Only with resistance can we succeed. We have self-confidence. If we stand up for ourselves as a Kurdish nation inside and outside Kurdistan, there is nothing we cannot succeed in. In this context, we appeal to our people and to all those whose hearts beat for this movement, the Kurdish people and the revolution: strengthen solidarity in this difficult time. We thank all those who are taking to the streets for us.”