human rights watch

onsdag 9 juli 2014

Kurdish Yarsani-refugees stuck in Iraqi-Jordanian border, fearing ISIS 9.7.2014

Kurdish Yarsani-refugees stuck in Iraqi-Jordanian border, fearing ISIS  9.7.2014  
COPENHAGEN, Denmark,— 95 Kurdish refugees living in the Al-Waleed camp near the Iraqi-Jordan border are at danger after the control of the camp by the forces of the Sunni militant group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), according to human rights groups and Kurdish media.

Thousands of Iranian Kurdish refugees have for decades lived there since the Iranian revolution in 1979 that brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power. 

After the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Iranian Kurds refugee camp became more uncertain and the locals said that groups as al-Qaeda forces and ex-Baathists were present. In 2005, around 200 of the refugees fled to the border of Jordan, where they attempted to seek asylum due to the violent conditions in Iraq.

However, the Jordanian government denied the group asylum. Since then they have therefore lived in a makeshift camp in a desolate, desertified area in the border region between Iraq and Jordan. Now the two crossings Syria and Jordan, including the crossing where the 95 Kurds live, have been seized by ISIS, Al Arabiya News Channel reported last week. 

21-years old Awara Kermanshahi is one of the Kurdish refugees living in the Al-Waleed camp. His parents fled the revolution in Iran and came to Iraq.

“Due to Iraqi instability we wanted to go to Jordan, but the Jordanian did not let us come in, and we don’t have Iraqi or Iranian passports,” Kermanshahi said adding:

“Now we are stuck in the desert without good opportunities for water or food.”

He told that last week ISIS attacked their camp.

“We are afraid and worried about what will happen, especially because ISIS consider us to be infidels,” Kermanshahi said referring to the fact that most of the 95 Kurdish refugees belong to the Yarsan or Ahl-e-Haq-religion, that have been persecuted throughout history by fundamentalist movements in the Middle East.

Last week Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that ISIS posed a threat to Iraqis with different religions. The extremist group kidnapped Shia Muslims, it was stated by the HRW, who also wrote:

“In Tal Afar, ISIS on June 25 destroyed the Shia shrines of Imam Sa’ad and Khider al-Elias, a historic shrine on a site where Christians and Yezidis, a Kurdish minority sect, also worshipped.”

A person who is luckier than Kermanshahi and got out of Iraq to the West, is Azad Javanmiri. Last year he managed to come out of the al-Waleed camp and to Denmark. But even though he is safe in the European country, Javanmiri, also a Yarsani, all the time thinks and worries about his father, mother and siblings who are still in al-Waleed camp.

“If ISIS captures them, they will kill them, because they don’t accept Yarsanis,” Javanmiri said.

The refugees find themselves in a dilemma. Jordan does not grant them asylum, Iraq is unsafe and they cannot go back to Iran. Here they risk political persecution because they are both political Kurds and Yarsanis.

According to Amnesty International Annual Report 2013 on Iran ethnic and religious minorities are being persecuted in the country.

“Members of ethnic minorities, including…Kurds, were discriminated against in law and practice, being denied access to employment, education and other economic, social and cultural rights on an equivalent basis with other Iranians,” the report stated and added following about religious groups:

“The authorities discriminated against non-Shi’a minorities, including other Muslim communities, dissident Shi’a clerics, members of Sufi religious orders and the Ahl-e Haq faith.”

Therefore Javanmiri tries to make human rights groups aware of the situation in Iraq and al-Waleed refugee camp.

"I hope someone will focus on their situation and the dangers of ISIS 'actions," he said.

The Association for Human Rights in Kurdistan of Iran-Geneva (KMMK-G) has also tried to get the world community's attention turned towards the Iranian-Kurdish refugees.

The association has sent a letter to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) whose primary mandate is the protection of refugees regarding the issue.

“We urge the UNHCR to relocate these Kurds. They face serious life risk,” Taimoor Aliassi, UN Representative of KMMK-G, said.

He informed, that among the Kurdish refugees, there are 26 children and 12 elder people who suffer from chronic disease and lack basic medication.

In addition he was worried, that ISIS will force the Yarsani refugees to convert to their interpretation of Islam and additionally force them to join their group.

“In 2003 some Kurdish refugees from Al-Tash camp were forced to join the Al-Zarqawi, the Al-Qaeda group. This time, we are afraid that the ISIS does the same against the Al-Waleed refugees,” he said.

Osama Jamil is member of the Iraqi parliament for the Kurdistani List coalition and described the situation as “extremely serious”.
 "I have worked in parliament on a bill to help these refugees, but the Iraqi government has not yet responded to my wishes," Jamil said.In addition, international organizations are limited in access to the camp because of ISIS 'presence, according to Jarnik 

"The extreme groups don’t allow people to get into the camp and see what happens," he said.

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