• Text size Normal size text | Increase text size by 10% | Increase text size by 20% | Increase text size by 30%

UNHCR assists hundreds of displaced Iraqis at border with Iran

News Stories, 27 July 2011

© UNHCR/H.Caux
Some of the UNHCR tents distributed to displaced families in the Gojar region near the border Iraq-Iran.

GOJAR, Iraq, July 27 (UNHCR) ¬- The UN refugee agency, partner organizations and the Iraqi government are helping more than 800 people recently displaced by cross-border shelling on the frontier with Iran.

At least 845 Iraqi civilians from 175 families have been staying in two settlements in the mountainous Gojar area of Iraqi Kurdistan's Sulaymaniyah Governorate since fleeing from border areas in mid-July. Most are women and children.

UNHCR has distributed tents and plastic sheeting to the displaced, while other humanitarian groups have given food, mattresses, water filtering machines, stoves and kitchen sets. Local authorities report that an additional 100 families from seven villages in the Zharaw border district had fled their homes following shelling last week. UNHCR plans to take part in an aid distribution for these people on Wednesday.

Shelter is very important for the displaced, especially at a time when the weather is getting hotter, and people have been using branches and the shade of trees for extra cover. "The temperature is reaching 47 degrees Centigrade and it will go higher in August," explained UNHCR field officer Kamaran Ali.

"Together with the local authorities, we are trying to make sure that they can shelter from the sun and heat during the day and have access to regular clean water," he added.

Water is trucked in every day from the nearby city of Qaladiza. Ambulances and medical staff also visit the settlements when needed.

Some of the forcibly displaced people and local authorities told UNHCR that the shelling was nothing new. "This has been happening every year at the same season for many years," said Mohamed, adding that he had had to flee his village at least seven times in the past five years. Iranian troops have been in conflict with anti-government forces on the border for years.

"The difference this year is that the shelling is reaching our villages. Before this, the shells landed more in the surrounding area," said Mohamed, who was worried that he would not be able to return to his village to harvest his fields and take care of his 30 goats.

© UNHCR/H.Caux
Some people have used trees and branches to provide shade for their shelters.

Most of the displaced earn a living from farming and rely on their harvests and livestock as their main source of income. Some have lost orchards and beehives due to the shelling. "We don't want to be dependent on others but we have no choice now," said Mohamed. "It is impossible to return permanently to our homes at this time."

Some were also worried about their children's education when the school term begins in September. "We just need stability for our children," said 28-year-old Aveen. "We are tired of this constant displacement."

Rasul said he was watching television in the village of Suney when a rocket hit the next room. "It was pure luck that nobody was hurt," the 56-year-old said, while showing UNHCR the damage and fragments of shell.

School buildings and several houses in Suney were also damaged by shelling. One shepherd was killed and three injured following cross-border shelling on Sunday in Sidakan, which is located in Erbil Governorate.

UNHCR is ready to provide humanitarian assistance to more displaced families in other border areas. Several hundred families are reportedly displaced in the Erbil towns of HajiOmran and Schoman. Many are staying with relatives or host families.

By Helene Caux in Gojar, Iraq




UNHCR country pages

Iraq Crisis: Urgent Appeal

Make a gift now to help protect and assist those fleeing violence in Iraq.

Donate to this crisis

CAR Crisis: Urgent Appeal

Make a gift now to help protect and assist those fleeing violence in Central African Republic.

Donate to this crisis

Iraq Crisis: Finding a Place to Stay

Tens of thousands of people have fled to Erbil and Duhok governorates in Iraq's Kurdistan region over the past week, sheltering in schools, mosques, churches and temporary camps following a surge of violence in parts of central and northern Iraq. UNHCR and its partners have been working to meet the urgent shelter needs. The refugee agency has delivered close to 1,000 tents to a transit camp being built by the authorities and NGOs at Garmawa, near Duhok.

Many of the people arriving from Mosul at checkpoints between Ninewa and governorate and Iraq's Kurdistan region have limited resources and cannot afford to pay for shelter. Some people stay with family, while others are staying in hotels and using up their meagre funds.

In the village of Alqosh, some 150 people from 20 families, with little more than the clothes on their back, have been living in several overcrowded classrooms in a primary school for the past week. One member of the group said they had lived in a rented apartment in Mosul and led a normal family life. But in Alqosh, they feared for the welfare and education of their children and the presence of snakes and scorpions.

Iraq Crisis: Finding a Place to Stay

Iraq: Massive displacement from Mosul

In the past few days, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have fled fighting in the northern city of Mosul and other areas. UNHCR staff are on the ground to monitor the outflow and help those in need. The needs are immense, but UNHCR is working to provide shelter, protection, and emergency items, including tents. Many of the displaced left their homes without belongings and some lack money for housing, food, water or medical care. They arrive at checkpoints between Ninewa governorate and the Kurdistan region with no idea of where to go next, or how to pay expenses.

UN agencies, humanitarian groups, and government officials are coordinating efforts to do what they can to aid those in need. UN agencies are making an emergency request for additional support. UNHCR is hoping to provide emergency kits as well as thousands of tents. UNHCR and its partners will also be working to protect and help the displaced.

The exodus in the north comes on top of massive displacement this year in the western Iraqi governorate of Anbar, where fighting since January has forced some half-a-million people to flee the province or seek shelter in safer areas.

Iraq: Massive displacement from Mosul

Syrians stream from their war-torn country into Iraq's Kurdistan region

Thousands of Syrians streamed across a bridge over the Tigris River and into Iraq's Kurdistan region on Thursday, August 15th. UNHCR Field Officer, Galiya Gubaeva, was on the ground with her camera.

Syrians stream from their war-torn country into Iraq's Kurdistan region

Iraq: Breaking BreadPlay video

Iraq: Breaking Bread

Shareef fled to Iraq a year ago to escape the violence in Syria. He opened a bakery, which has done great business. When he heard about a new wave of displacement in northern Iraq in August, he decided to help those in need by providing bread.
Iraq: Moving to a New Camp in KhankePlay video

Iraq: Moving to a New Camp in Khanke

A new camp for displaced people is taking shape in the village of Khanke in Iraq's Kurdistan region, with the help of UNHCR and its partners. After weeks of uncomfortable living in the courtyard of an old public building, Chenar and her ethnic Yazidi family are looking forward to moving to the new facility.
Iraq: Massive UNHCR Aid OperationPlay video

Iraq: Massive UNHCR Aid Operation

The UN refugee agency is conducting a massive aid operation to assist some 500,000 Iraqis displaced by conflict in northern Iraq. It includes airlifts, and transport of aid by road and sea.