Maxmur: Dangerous plans for a resistant refugee camp

The society of Maxmur has repeatedly made history in the past through its resistance-filled life. It will therefore continue to play an exemplary role for the peoples of the region in the future because of its autonomous, self-governing lifestyle.

The refugee camp Maxmur in South Kurdistan/North Iraq is one of the permanent targets of the fascist Turkish regime. The goal of this regime has always been the destruction of the camp. Even though Maxmur has recently been a side issue on the agenda of the fascist AKP-MHP regime, the civilian refugee camp has been regularly attacked by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which cooperates closely with the Turkish regime. The KDP is also pursuing the goal of dissolving the Maxmur camp and dispersing its inhabitants. In order to achieve this, it has imposed an embargo on the camp for almost two years and has recently tightened it even further.

Recently, there have been repeated calls, particularly from KDP circles within the Kurdish Regional Government, for peshmerga forces to return to the region around Maxmur. The Peshmerga had fled the region on July 16, 2017-during the attacks by the Islamic State (IS)-and left it to the Hashd al-Shaabi militias. They point to recent IS attacks in the vicinity of Kirkuk and Maxmur as an excuse for their intention to return now. IS is currently coming back to life in the region. It attacked Peshmerga forces in Kirkuk and Iraqi soldiers in the Maxmur region, and began collecting taxes from the local population in some areas. All of these developments go hand in hand with the now openly stated demand that Peshmerga forces be allowed to return to the affected regions.

Yet, it is the KDP and the Turkish state itself that allow IS to assert itself in the Maxmur region through their logistical support. The IS fighters have their safe havens on Mount Karadag, just a few hundred meters away from the KDP Peshmerga bases. The mountain itself is located about three to four kilometers away from the Maxmur refugee camp. In the depths of this mountain range, the IS fighters have set up their camps. From there, they have repeatedly attacked the camp's population in recent years. They thus pose a permanent threat to the people in Maxmur and are used against the camp like a kind of Sword of Damocles.

The recent IS attack on Peshmerga forces in Kirkuk, in which three Peshmerga died and two were injured, and on Iraqi soldiers in the village of Mahmudiye, located near Maxmur, suggest that new plans are currently being made for the region. KRI (Kurdistan Region of Iraq) President Nechirvan Barzani recently called for a joint force of Iraqi soldiers, Peshmerga and International Coalition forces to be established against IS attacks in the region. Virtually simultaneously, the spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq said they would not withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq, and the International Coalition spoke full of praise of its cooperation with Peshmerga forces in the fight against IS.

It is striking that these statements overlap in time with the recent developments in the region mentioned above. All of this makes it increasingly likely that the implementation of new plans for the region will begin very soon. The KDP, on behalf of the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government), has long called for U.S. and International Coalition support to return to disputed areas such as Kirkuk and Maxmur, which are defined by paragraph 140 of the Iraqi constitution. To achieve this goal, it has held numerous meetings with the Iraqi government and the country's military and has engaged in intense negotiations with them. But so far, the KDP has not been able to achieve the desired results. The political-military forces of the Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi have always stood in the way of the KDP, which is why it has been unable to deploy its Peshmerga forces in the disputed areas. Many localities in these areas are administered by KRG officials directly appointed by the KDP and PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan). With U.S. and International Coalition support, a meeting was held most recently between the KRG Peshmerga and representatives of the Iraqi military, led by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhimi, to discuss security issues. As a result of this meeting, a joint commission was established to address the situation in the disputed areas. The areas of Diyala, Kirkuk, Maxmur, Mosul and Erbil were named as disputed in the meeting. It was also stated that joint operations against IS would be carried out in these areas in the future.

The increasing IS attacks in the disputed areas, the recent security developments on the ground, and the KDP's insistence on sending its own military forces to the region clearly indicate that the region around the Maxmur camp will become much more unstable in the near future. Accordingly, the population of Maxmur camp views the approaching return of the KDP Peshmerga to the region as a worrisome development. The Maxmur refugee camp has been under massive military, political, psychological, and logistical pressure from the KDP for more than 20 years. Recent developments will add to this pressure. Based on past experience, we know that the day-to-day pressure of the KDP is a direct result of the policies of the fascist Turkish government. The current developments will allow Turkey and the KDP to pursue their plans to crush the camp even more directly and at close range.

The Maxmur camp is officially under the responsibility of the Iraqi central government. However, it does not receive any support from Baghdad. Even its official status as a political refugee does not currently result in the camp's population receiving any support from Iraq. Since May 2018, the UN has ended all assistance to the camp due to pressure from Turkey and the KDP. Since then, Maxmur has not received any support from the UN. The population of the refugee camp has thus been subjected to the most adverse conditions. They have therefore turned to ensuring their survival through their own efforts. Many of Maxmur's residents work in various areas of Iraq to cover their living expenses. 

Despite recent developments in the region that point to difficult times ahead for the people of Maxmur, the people of the refugee camp continue to follow their own path. The society of Maxmur - with the protective mountains of Kurdistan behind it - has repeatedly made history in the past through its resistance-filled life. It will therefore continue to play an exemplary role for the peoples of the region in the future because of its autonomous, self-governing lifestyle.

* The article was written by Baxtiyar Çelê, a member of the People's Council of the Democratic Self-Administration of Maxmur.