Kurdish Syrians fleeing their nation’s bloody uprising are all but prisoners in northern Iraqi refugee camps, though they seek shelter in a region that was created specifically as a safe haven for ethnic Kurds.
Local Kurdish officials in the Iraqi province of Dahuk, which borders Syria, voted Wednesday to open a second refugee camp for the growing number of Syrian Kurds who are arriving every day. But they are not allowed to leave the first, spartan camp at Qamishli, and have been told they must apply for residency before they may live freely in the region widely referred to as, simply, Kurdistan.
It’s a twofold irony: Kurds are Syria’s largest ethnic minority but long have been considered illegal immigrants there. Moreover, Iraqis used Syria as a safe haven during the worst of the sectarian violence that nearly plunged their nation in civil war just a few years ago.