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 Violence leaves Iranian Kurds cut off from aid

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Violence leaves Iranian Kurds cut off from aid 27.11.2004




November 27, 2004

Nearly 3,000 Iranian Kurds at a decades-old refugee camp in western Iraq have been left without police protection as residents and local security forces flee fighting in the area, the U.N. refugee agency said Friday.

About 1,400 refugees fled the Al-Tash camp, about 30 miles from Fallujah, earlier this week because of the violence, including an attack by armed men on a police post inside the camp, said Jennifer Pagonis, spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

"The police station is now empty, and there is no one to provide security for the remaining 2,800 refugees we think are still in Al-Tash," Pagonis said in Geneva.

Aid workers have been unable to gain access because of the fighting, and the refugee agency is concerned that delivery of monthly food rations has been stopped because of the violence.

UNHCR has no personnel on the ground in Iraq but is operating through a local partner, which it declines to name for security reasons.

About 13,000 Iranian Kurds had lived in Al-Tash camp for about 20 years. Many had fled Iran fearing oppression following the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Many of them left Al-Tash before the March 2003 invasion by U.S.-led forces because of threats from local people and dwindling relief supplies.

UNHCR said that the hundreds who fled the camp this week were likely trying to reach Kurdish areas in northern Iraq or the Jordanian border. But only 13 families have turned up in Sulaymaniah in northern Iraq, where UNHCR's partner agency is interviewing them to establish their needs and to find out exactly what happened in Al-Tash.

"The fate of all the others who left the camp remains unknown," Pagonis said.

Separately, 202 Iranian Kurd refugees who had been living in the desert along the Iraqi-Jordanian border have left Amman, Jordan, for Sweden, where they have been granted political asylum, Pagonis said.

The group, which like the Iranian Kurds at Al-Tash had fled Iran as a result of persecution under the regime of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, were interned in an Iraqi prison camp for the duration of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

They were freed in the 1990s, and last year fled to the Jordanian border following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Another 182 Kurdish refugees will leave Jordan for Sweden early next month, Pagonis said.

"However, there are still almost 650 people stuck in no man's land, and UNHCR continues to advocate and lobby for resettlement for this group," Pagonis added.





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