QAMISHLO, Syrian Kurdistan (Kurdistan24) – Approximately 500 Iraqi families have so far sought refuge in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava), escaping the Islamic State (IS) terror.
On Thursday, the Kurdistan24 team in Rojava reported that three groups of refugees, who were escaping Iraq’s IS stronghold of Mosul and its surrounding areas, crossed the Iraq-Syria border to Al-Hawl within a week. Al-Hawl is a town near Syria’s border with Iraq in Hasaka province, northeastern Syria.
“The first group included nearly 550 people who reached Al-Hawl camp last week. Then an estimated 1500 reached the camp on Sunday, and the third group had about 600 refugees who arrived at a camp on Tuesday,” a Kurdistan24 reporter said, citing local official sources in Rojava.
Ali, an Iraqi refugee from Mosul who preferred not to mention his full name told Kurdistan24, “I fled IS through smugglers who charged about $3000 per person. The money is shared between the smugglers and IS militiamen inside Mosul and on the outskirts of the city.”
Ali added that the living conditions are not good at Al-Hawl camp, but that the Kurdish authorities in northern Syria are doing their best to host the refugees coming from the war-torn areas.
“It is very hot here and we don’t have enough water, but it is better than the hell we were living in under the IS rule,” he said.
Fatima, a 43-year-old Iraqi woman, said that she never expected to shelter in a war zone like Syria.
“People everywhere are overwhelmed by the war in Syria. It is such a surprise to see a safe area in this destroyed country,” she said.
The refugee camp of Al-Hawl has been rebuilt three times.
During the Gulf War in 1991, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) established the camp on the southern outskirts of the town. At that time, the camp operated in collaboration with the Syrian government.
After the 2003 Iraq war, the camp was reopened for the Iraqis who fled the country when the US sent troops to Iraq.
On Nov. 13, 2015, when the Kurdish-led and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) took complete control of Al-Hawl by pushing IS insurgents back, the refugee camp was once again reopened to host the Iraqis fleeing IS.
Reporting by Hisham Arafat
Editing by Ava Homa
(Ekrem Salih contributed to this report from Qamishlo)