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UN urged to act as Kurdish officials accuse Turkey of using refugee camp ‘as target practice’

KURDISH officials called on the United Nations today to ensure the immediate end of a nearly two-year embargo on a refugee camp in northern Iraq, and an end to Turkish military aggression.

The Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) said that it was essential to lift the blockade to allow food and medical aid to reach the 12,000 residents of the UN-administered Makhmour refugee camp.

It also called on the Iraqi federal government to “act against violations of its national sovereignty,” after a recent Turkish air strike killed three civilians in the grounds of the camp.

The latest attack came just weeks after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened the camp, which he labels “an incubator of terrorism” because some of its members support the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

At the beginning of the month he said: “If the United Nations does not clean it up, we will do it as a UN member.”

Despite the bomb attack — illegal under international law — the UN has remained silent, leading to camp residents claiming that world powers are colluding against them.

Ankara has launched frequent air strikes on the camp and regularly flies drones overhead to intimidate the residents, most of whom fled the largely-Kurdish south-east of Turkey during forced assimilation operations in the 1990s.

KNK said that the camp is a “permanent target” of the Turkish state, reminding the international community that “refugees are supposed to be a protected as a vulnerable population, not target practice for an invading force’s bombing campaigns.”

As well as the attacks by Turkey, the camp is also threatened by Isis, with Makhmour spokesman Bewar Unver telling the Morning Star that the jihadists are organised in around 80 cells hidden in the mountains.

KNK said that it was imperative to end the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)-imposed embargo, which has been in place since July 2019, after the assassination of a Turkish intelligence official in Erbil.

The KDP insists that the severe restrictions are necessary on security grounds, accusing camp residents of responsibility for the killing, despite lacking evidence.

There has been no response by the Kurdistan regional government regarding the continued blockade of the camp, an act of collective punishment illegal under international law.

Responding to the Morning Star in the wake of a previous Turkish missile strike and the alleged use of chemical weapons in June 2020, United Nations spokesman Firas al-Khateeb denied that the UN had any role in the management of the camp and insisted that it was the responsibility of the Iraqi ministry of the interior.

He claimed that “UNHCR is not aware of the KRG-imposed blockade aside from the travel restrictions imposed in the context of Covid-19.”

The UN official also insisted that the UN had not received any reports of a missile strike on the camp, despite extensive media coverage and the fact that the Turkish armed forces admitted to the bombing, carried out as part of Operation Claw Eagle, the military offensive it claimed was targeting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Since then the international body has ignored requests for comment.


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