Ezidi Refugees Beaten Back at Turkish-Bulgarian Border

By Amy L. Beam, Ed.D:

Turkey let 200 Ezidis refugees from Diyarbakir Fidanlik Park camp leave Turkey without any documents. They chartered 3 buses and rode 30 hours to the Bulgarian border arriving on Dec. 21 before dark. By early the next morning, they were imprisoned.

ezidis bus to bulgaria (2)

Ezidi families from Diyarbakir refugee camp on bus, Dec. 21

Last October, an Ezidi representative met with “Hussan” at the Bulgarian Consulate in Ankara.  He told the officer their plan to charter buses and try to cross the Bulgarian border without documents. Hussan replied, “As you like. If you want to go, I cannot prevent you.”

Hussan explained that the European Union (EU) had a deadline of three months to give a policy decision on accepting or rejecting Ezidi refugees.  They are still waiting for any policy statement regarding accepting Ezidis.  Hussan said possibly an EU decision will come after the New Year.

Hussan asked the Ezidi representative to please inform him when they planned to go to the border, which they did.  Hussan promised to call the border and ask for the Ezidis not to be treated badly and that violence not be used.

A group of Ezidis from Diyarbakir refugee camp also met with the Ankara-appointed Governor of Diyarbakir and shared their plan with him. The Governor gave them permission to leave Diyarbakir and he advised them to charter the buses from the bus garage and have these come to their camp. The Ezidis paid $2000 USD for each of three buses.

The Governor promised to protect them as far as Ankara, but after that they would be out of his jurisdiction and he assumed no responsibility for their safety or success at the border.

At the border all 200 Ezidis walked across the border without documents.  Both Turkish and Bulgarian border police used violence to push them back into Turkey. Police shoved and beat them back and pushed them down, even women.  One woman stated that the Turkish police pointed his gun at her baby.  She grabbed his weapon and said, “If you want to kill someone, kill me, but do not kill my children.”

ezidi families at bulg border (2)

Ezidi families got beaten back by Turkish and Bulgarian police, Dec. 21.

The refugees families include about 70 children.  After police pushed and pulled them back into Turkey, they returned to their buses and were transported by Turkish security forces to Adana on the Syrian border where men were separated from their families.  All were imprisoned.

Unfortunately, the Ezidis are  trapped in Turkey with no choices for leaving.  After Daesh (the Islamic State or ISIS) attacked their homeland of Shingal, Iraq, on August 3, 27,000 Ezidis took refuge in southeast Turkey from the death and destruction.

Approximately 6,000 Ezidis are sheltered in tents in two government-run camps in Midyat and Nuseybin on Turkey’s border with Syria.  The UN and Ankara government support these camps with armed guards.

Another 21,000 Ezidi refugees are living in about 12 refugee camps run by Kurdish volunteers from the Kurdish DBP party and local Kurdish municipalities (called Belediyesis) in southeast Turkey. Despite weekly meetings between the Kurdish mayors and the province governors appointed by Ankara’s central government, Turkey has refused to provide aid to the Kurdish-run camps in Sirnak, Diyarbakir, Mardin, and Batman.

They are run entirely with Kurdish volunteers, and the Ezidis are sheltered, clothed and fed entirely by Kurdish donations and private donations from overseas Ezidi help groups.  The Ezidis are grateful for the PKK who rescued them off Mount Sinjar in Iraq and conducted them to the Turkish border.  Turkey’s Kurds have saved them without Ankara government help.  This is another example of Turkey’s policy of hindering Kurdish initiatives and self-governance.

Turkey has refused to meet its obligations under its own 2013 Law on Immigrants and Refugees, the 1951 Convention on Refugees and the 1967 Protocol which Turkey signed.  These state and international laws require Turkey to provide food, shelter, aid, education, and health services, and temporary protection to refugees until they are returned to their own country.  If conditions do not change, under the law of “non-refoulement” they may not be forced back to Iraq to live in a dangerous situation where their own government cannot provide them protection.

In this case, Turkey’s law requires refugees to be resettled to a third country.  There is no pathway toward permanent residency or citizenship for refugees in Turkey.  They must go back or go forward.

It is the responsibility of the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) to relocate refugees in Turkey to third countries.  Now the waiting list just for an interview with UNHCR is over 7 years. For those Ezidis who have already registered with the UNHCR, Turkey is not allowed to return Ezidis to Iraq.

The current situation in which Ezidis are trapped in Turkey and the Ankara central government continues to refuse to support the Kurdish-run camps is creating a humanitarian crisis.  Will the world wait to help the Ezidis until Turkey has starved them and frozen them to death?  The European Union must act immediately to offer asylum to Ezidis.

The governments of the world must pressure Turkey to meet its humanitarian responsibility under international law and feed and provide temporary protection for Ezidis in the Kurdish-run camps. Any individual or organization who wants to help must go directly to the local Kurdish mayors and the DBP Kurdish political party.

Beating refugees back at the border who have suffered the most brutal genocide in this century is inhuman and unconscionable.

Meanwhile Rudaw’s daily Turkish paper has announced that Sinjar Mountain has been freed of the Islamic State gangs.  There are no Ezidis in Turkey willing to return to Iraq.  Over 3000 Ezidis in Diyarbakir camp are preparing themselves to cross the Bulgarian border.  “We will cross into Bulgaria or die fighting,” an Ezidi told me.  “We will never go back to Iraq and live surrounded by monsters. We’ve had 74 massacres against us.  We will not return to wait for number 75.  We want to go to a safe country to raise our children.”

Another Ezidi shared that they have given notice to the government that if Turkey tries to return them to Iraq, they will all join the PKK.

Dr. Amy L. Beam promotes tourism in eastern Turkey (North Kurdistan) and writes in support of Kurdish and Ezidi human rights.  She has been reporting on Ezidis in Turkey since August.  Read her stories at KurdistanTribune.com  She is writing a book, “Love and Betrayal in Kurdistan.”   Follow her on Twitter @amybeam or contact her at amybeam@yahoo.com

See also:

Genocide:  10 Reasons Why Ezidis Refuse To Return To Shingal


Turkey’s 2013 Law on Immigrants and Refugees


4 Responses to Ezidi Refugees Beaten Back at Turkish-Bulgarian Border
  1. Amy L Beam
    December 22, 2014 | 20:50

    The Ezidi refugees that were taken from the Bulgarian border to Adana are now (Dec. 23) on a bus being returned to Diyarbakir Fidanlik Park Ezidi refugee camp. Ezidis in the camp say they will all continue their efforts to leave Turkey.

  2. KIM
    December 23, 2014 | 00:15

    How many million more refugees for Jesus sake? This Iraqi mess will never come to and end till Iraq is partitioned.

    Kurds rise up & demand independence!

  3. Ozkan Kocakaya
    December 23, 2014 | 13:37

    The Erdogan regime has fuelled an already unstable and racially intolerant Turkish society that is divided along religious and sectarian lines. Turkey’s consistent persecution of Kurds at all levels of society only undermines the regional peace and serves to increase support for PKK, a necessary counter-balance to the tyranny of Turkish forces. Along with the economic downturn in Turkey and an increasing resentment of the dictatorial approach of Erdogan, you have to wonder how long things will last before the country is plunged into a predictable chaos. The NATO and EU must pressure Turkey to change course before it’s too late for the good of the public.

  4. Amy L Beam
    December 26, 2014 | 02:16

    Each Ezidi family that was turned back from the Bulgarian border and taken to Adana were given 2000 lire ($870 US) penalties. (It is possible these were only warnings. No one paid their fine.)

    Since their return to Diyarbakir camp, Ezidis in the camp now report they are getting better food including vegetables and chicken. I hope this is not just because today is Christmas. The food is given to each family who cooks their own food in their tent. Most families bought their own burners for cooking.

    I will try to learn if the Turkish government is now contributing to the food or if it is still completely through Kurdish donations.

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