Fire destroys over 400 tents in Sharya camp in Kurdistan's Duhok
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – On Friday afternoon, 400 tents burned down and several people were wounded when a fire broke out in the Sharya camp that hosts Yezidis in Kurdistan Region's Duhok province. Firefighting teams brought the fire under control hours later.
Firefighters are working to extinguish a fire that broke out in the Sharya refugee camp in Duhok province, which houses displaced Yezidis from Sinjar— Kurdistan 24 English (@K24English) June 4, 2021
📸Star Ahmed / Kurdistan 24 - June 4, 2021 pic.twitter.com/AzURTwojuh
“I’m pained by today’s tragic fire in Sharia camp,” Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani tweeted. “I have spoken to the Duhok Governor to convey the KRG’s full support for the families’ immediate needs and readiness to provide compensation. I’ve also urged donors to prioritize aid and resources to the IDP camp.”
According to UN data, the Sharya camp hosts 15,217 members of the Yezidi community who live there as internally displaced persons (IDPs). Most of them arrived after ISIS overran the Yezidi ancestral homeland of Shingal in 2014.
Sozan Fahmi, the Iraq coordinator for the humanitarian organization Khalsa Aid, who visited the camp today, noted when speaking to Kurdistan 24 that fires tend to erupt in the camps as temperatures rise.
“A couple of months ago, the same thing happened,” Fahmi said, adding that “most of the time it's caused by electrical short circuits in the camp.”
“This time, the same thing happened, a tent caught fire due to an electrical malfunction and the fire went from one tent to another and more than 400 tents were burned,” she added.
“The IDPs have kitchens in their tents,” which can sometimes lead to fires, Fahmi noted.
She said the affected families are now being hosted in two halls in Shariya for the night. “We will make sure that they will have enough warm meals, water, and blankets and to have a safe place to stay for the night.”
In February this year, a father, a son, and a daughter from the same Yezidi family perished when a fire broke out in a displacement camp where they lived in Duhok's Zakho. This has been one of several fires that have ravaged camps for Yezidi IDPs in recent years.
“So what can be done is that these people return to their own villages (in Shingal)... or that their tents are replaced by housing blocs that are much safer than tents,” Fahmi added.
Hundreds of thousands of Yezidis remain displaced in the Kurdistan Region despite the liberation of Shingal from ISIS in November 2015.
In October 2020, the federal government of Iraq and the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government reached an agreement, with support from the United Nations, to “normalize” the security situation in Yezidi-majority Shingal and expel armed groups from the area, but the agreement has not been implemented, and the majority of displaced Yezidis have not yet returned.
Many Yezidis so far do not want to return to Sinjar since there are no jobs, services such as electricity, rebuilding of houses, and the presence of several militias.
According to data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), between January 4 and 31, 1,256 individuals (227 families) have returned to Sinjar and al-Ba’aj districts in Iraq’s Nineveh province. A total of 46,558 have returned since June 2020.
“We at Free Yezidi Foundation are infuriated that with the billions of dollars of aid that goes to Iraq, no one can manage to provide fire extinguishers to our IDPs,” Pari Ibrahim, Founder and Executive Director of the Free Yezidi Foundation, told Kurdistan 24.
The Free Yezidi Foundation operates at the camp.
“Fires are common in IDP camps, both from heating machines and poor electricity systems. Plenty of people have died, and hundreds of tents burned.”
She said Yezidi IDPs would return to their areas of origin when the situation in Sinjar is more stable.
“Until then, providing fire extinguishers is the LEAST the world can do for these IDPs. It is not difficult or expensive. We strongly urge and demand UNHCR - Iraq to provide fire extinguishers in the IDP camps. This is not difficult and should be done immediately.”
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) later said in a statement that it “is saddened by the unfortunate incident, the fire in Shariya camp for displaced persons in Dohuk that broke out today and destroyed some 400 tents.”
“We are working with local authorities and partners to determine needs and appropriate ways to provide assistance to the affected families,” the statement added.
“We continue to work with authorities and residents of the camp on ways to prevent such incidents from reoccurring in the future. We wish those injured a speedy recovery.”
Editing by Khrush Najari