Monday, 28 November 2011

A Dangerous Impasse: Ahwazi Refugees in Iraq

Ninety-six Ahwazi refugees in Al Waleed camp are facing forced repatriation and great risk of physical elimination by Iran, Dr. Mohammad Al-Sheikhli, Director of the Centre for National Justice Studies in London warned on Friday.

Speaking at Arab Forum on "Current Human Rights Situation In Iraq" he said it is highly regrettable that Iraqi authorities have decided to close down Al-Waleed Refugee Camp and preparing to transfer or more likely repatriate Ahwazis to barbaric regime of Iran where they will be at great risk of elimination. He also said that the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has done very little to helps these desperate refugees who face the threat of imminent "forced repatriation" back to a country that has denied them their basic rights and whose disregard for human rights is the reason they live in exile.





Ahwazi Refugees and Al Waleed Camp 

Tents of Al-Waleed camp in the deserts of Iraq near the Syrian border, close to the city of Al-Rotbah in south west Iraq offer the only home to about 96 Ahwazi refugees. The isolated camp was set up in 2006 by the refugees themselves as the Ahwazi had nowhere to flee to except the closest no-man's land. The camp host mostly Arabs from Ahwaz, Iranian Kurds, and Palestinians. These asylum-seekers say that they have been told that their camp should be torn down.



These vulnerable people fled Iran and death threats have found themselves in horrendous conditions in the desert. The camp lacks from poor hygiene and an absence of medical care amid extreme weather conditions. Children, women and the elderly have died due to the lack of adequate health care. The nearest hospital is four hours drive' away along a dangerous route. The tents are overcrowded and many residents have chronic respiratory ailments, high blood pressure, and diabetes and heart problems. Tents fill with water when it rains, and temperatures can fall below freezing in the winter. In the summer, temperatures above 50C have been recorded, while sandstorms, fires, snakes and scorpions all present dangers. With no sewage system, waste water runs openly through the camp, leading to a higher occurrence of disease and infections among children who play between the tents.


Residents say they have been harassed and persecuted by armed groups funded by Iran as well as US and Iraqi forces. UNHCR also bears its full share of responsibility for failing to uphold even the most basic of rights for the camp’s Ahwazi residents.

The al-Waleed camp is in the desert, and the people in it have been living under tents for 7 years [the 7 years includes the years at the Jordan border]. The nearest city is al-Rotbah, which is 2 hours from Al-Waleed by car. Children have been denied school.


For these reason, the Ahwazi in the al-Waleed camp, have staged in a sit-in for the past month, in front of the UNHCR office in the camp. The objective of this sit-in and strike is to put an end to the UN’s silence. The Ahwazi asylum living in Al-Waleed camp are wanted by the Iranian revolutionary guards and some Iraqi militant who are funded by Iranian regime . ‘We want to put an end to living the life of vagabonds, a life under tents. We want to get rid of this desert of dust and dirt and the burning sun. We want to start a new life in which our children can go to school’ said Ahwazi from the Al-Waleed camp.


Osama Jamil, member of the Human Rights Commission of the Iraqi Parliament, believes that bringing up the closure of al-Waleed is just political rhetoric, and the Iraqi government will uphold the rights of these asylum-seekers. On the other hand, Iraqi forces keep attacking the camp.


Mahmoud Osman, Member of Iraqi Parliament, with regard to the asylum-seekers in al-Waleed camp, tells the world press, “Iraq cannot do anything for these refugees. If there is anything to be done, it should be done by the United Nations.”

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