Sep 06, 2011

Ahwazi: Waiting Game for Refugees

As seventeen families await expulsion from an Iraqi camp, their future remains in the balance as all options for relocation put the refugees in unfriendly territory.  While the UNHCR continues to have success placing refugees in the United States and Australia, Arab countries have expressed indifference to the refugee’s dire situation.  

Below is an article published by Al-Arabiya News:

The case of Ahwazi refugees fleeing Iran and currently awaiting rescue at the Syrian borders constitutes another chapter in the ongoing saga of the persecution of Arab Iranians whether at the hand of the Persian state or its allies in the region.

Ahwazis living in al-Walid refugee camp on the Iraqi-Syrian borders are caught between pro-Iranian militias, who are bound to persecute them if they try to enter Iraq, and the Syrian regime, which had previously handed Ahwazi refugees over to the Iranian authorities, said Dr. Karim Abdian, director of the Ahwaz Human Rights Organization.

“They are only left with Jordan, yet to go there they still have to pass through the Syrian territories and this is extremely dangerous,” he told Al Arabiya.

Abdian explained that because of lobbying from pro-Iranian groups the Iraqi government decided to demolish the camp and ordered its inmates to leave by the end of September.

“More than 95 Ahwazis belonging to 17 families live in the camp and suffer severe water shortage, lack food, have no access to medical care, and have not received any schooling since 2007.”

Abdian said he is scheduled to hold a meeting at the headquarters and the UNHCR in Geneva and will submit a list of the Ahwazi refugees trapped in al-Walid camp, as well as those living in other Arab countries.

Abdian added that a series of meetings have already taken place in the UNHCR Middle East headquarters, located in the Jordanian capital Amman, as well as in several of the Commission’s offices in Turkey, Syria, and Iraq.

He explained that the organization has since 2007 been working hard to relocate Ahwazi refugees who fled persecution in Iran.

“We managed to send many of them to Europe, the United States, and Australia.”

While searching for countries willing to host the inmates of al-Walid camp, Abdian expressed his disappointment that Arab countries have not intervened to save their brethren.

Despite complaints of indifference on the part of Arab countries, the initiative made by a disabled Bahraini to help the refugees at al-Walid camp is bound to set a positive precedent.

According to the Bahraini website Daily News, former employee Ali Khaja donated during the holy month of Ramadan an amount of $7,000 to the homeless Ahwazis.

“These people are suffering in the desert. They have no food, water or other necessities of life,” he said.

“It's been six years since they have been staying in these dilapidated camps and they haven't got any aid or a ray of hope from any government.”

Khaja said he feels for the refugees who are living in the middle of the desert and are, therefore, subjected to sizzling summers and freezing winters, in addition to continuous sandstorms.

“Even the nearest hospital is 200 kilometers away,” he added.

Al-Walid camp was originally established and inhabited by Palestinians who fled violence-ravaged Baghdad in 2006. They were later joined by Ahwazis from Iran and Kurds from Iraq.

This article was translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid