Critique, Human Rights, Solidarity with Refugees

Open Letter to UNHCR in Iraq, Regarding the Iranian Kurds at al-Waleed Camp

For background on the situation of the Iranian Kurds at al-Waleed, please see here and here.

To Daniel Endres, UNHCR Representative in Iraq:

We are writing with regard to the status of the Iranian Kurd asylum-seekers and stateless people who are currently trying to survive in al-Waleed Camp in Iraq.

Approximately 30 years ago, these people – in many cases, the parents of these people – fled the Islamic Republic of Iran, which had launched a military offensive both against Iranian Kurds and against Iraq, turning their community into a war zone. They sought refuge in Iraq, but for 30 years have found none:

– They were first relegated for 2 decades to the execrable – and indeed lethal – conditions in al-Tash Camp in Anbar Province.

– After US forces invaded Iraq, those who survived al-Tash fled for the Jordanian border, where their rights under international law were again flouted, this time by the Jordanian government, which refused them asylum. They were forced to survive in the burning desert of the barely-survivable No Man’s Land.

– On the basis of your promises to address each of their cases in a triage fashion, this group of Iranian Kurds agreed to move to the UNHCR camp at al-Waleed – another burning desert camp not fit for human survival, where the Iranian Kurdish children have been deprived of their right to education, deprived of sufficient quantities of food to eat, deprived of their right to work – deprived of life! – all while waiting for UNHCR to deliver on its promises.

They have watched nearly all of the Palestinian people at al-Waleed moved to a safe third country. They have watched nearly all of the Iranian Arabs at al-Waleed moved to a safe third country. Appallingly, they have come under attack by armed Iraqi forces, who entered the camp at the invitation of the UNHCR.

In addition to all of the daily indignities and utter lack of rights accorded this group, it must also be recognized that a significant proportion of the group is comprised of followers of a minority religion, Ahl-e Haqq, or Yarsan. As Yarsan Kurds, they are demonized for their faith.

After 30 years of broken promises and a hellish existence, these people face nothing but broken promises from the Iraqi government, broken promises from UNHCR, and the prospect of being relocated once again – this time to a place where they will be directly under the thumb of the oppressor that they fled 30 years ago: Kurdistan, Iraq, which is unquestionably under the control of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Thirty years of living in hell while waiting for UNHCR to deliver on their promises and obligations is too long. More than half of the Iranian Kurds at al-Waleed have known nothing other than refugee life in various hellholes across Iraq – they were born while their parents sought asylum. They deserve a life, an education, a livelihood. They are human and they deserve to live like human beings. They have rights, and UNHCR has obligations.

We demand that the cases of the Iranian Kurds be immediately processed, their refugee status recognized, and they immediately enter the process of third country resettlement.

We do not accept the proposition that, based on their ethnicity, they should be forced to settle in the Islamic Republic Guard Corps-infested region that is Kurdistan Iraq – a region currently under military siege by the Islamic Republic regime. This is a racist approach to the politics of asylum and we reject it. The Iranian Kurds, like everyone else, have a right to live in safety and security away from the hand of the oppressor.

Iraq is a country that is unsafe for anyone, and cannot be considered a country of refuge.

Thirty years of waiting for asylum is too long. We demand immediate resettlement of the Iranian Kurds at al-Waleed Camp to a safe third country.

Maria Rohaly
Mission Free Iran
phone: (240) 812-9234


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