Turkey says doors open for Makhmour camp residents

Turkey says doors open for Makhmour camp residents

Turkey says doors open for Makhmour camp residents

Displaced people, who fled from the violence in the province of Nineveh, arrive in Sulaymaniyah province Aug 7. REUTERS Photo

The current chaos in Iraq may herald the safe return of thousands of Turkish citizens to their homeland, Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay announced Aug. 8, saying that Ankara will implement an open door policy for those who have been living in the Makhmour camp for decades.

Atalay's comments as a Kurdish journalist was killed at the camp while reporting about the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant's (ISIL) attack on the area.

“There are new developments in Iraq. We have received information that as of yesterday [Aug. 7], the Makhmour camp has been evacuated. There are people who want to go to Turkey from there. Most of them are our citizens anyway. They had gone from neighborhood of Hakkari; they had gone from villages and towns like Çukurca and Uludere due to the deteriorating conditions,” Atalay told reporters during a visit to the southeastern Anatolian border province of Hakkari. “Our door will be open if they come back. They will enter from our borders,” Atalay added.

The deputy prime minister was referring to a U.N. refugee camp that was home to thousands of Kurdish people who had to leave their homes in Turkey during the 1990s due to clashes between the Turkish security forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Yet, the Kurdish population in the Makhmour camp who are Turkish citizens have a complicated situation, since some of them are subject to lawsuits regarding the PKK, while there is a generation born in the camp who do not hold Turkish passport. As a matter of fact, up until the last few years, Turkey had long pressed for the closure of the Makhmour camp, claiming that it was under the PKK’s control and served as a supply base of fresh militants who would join the organization.

However, in recent years, the government has initiated a peace process, aimed at ending the three-decade-long conflict between Turkey’s security forces and the PKK.

Journalist killed in Makhmour

Meanwhile, Fırat News Agency (ANF) journalist Deniz Fırat was killed late Aug. 8 as she was reporting from the scene as ISIL attacked the Makhmour refugee camp.

Fırat, whose real name was Leyla Yıldızhan, was reportedly killed after being struck with shrapnel in the heart.

Fırat was "a very brave and exceptional journalist," her colleagues at ANF said, while demanding that journalists conducting their work be protected no matter what the circumstances.

The journalist's body was brought to the Turkish border in a large convoy on Aug. 9, with refugees from the Makhmour Camp, as well as refugees fleeing ISIL brutality in Sinjar, turned out to pay their final respects. Demonstrators staged a sit-down protest at the Habur Border Gate, saying that Turkish authorities refused to permit the woman's family to continue accompanying her body on the way to the eastern Turkish province of Van, where she will be buried.

After the camp was abandoned by northern Iraq's peshmerga, fighters from the PKK arrived to halt the jihadist advance.