Kurds describe the abuse and exploitation they face in Belarus

Many of the people who are stranded in Belarus on the border with Poland and involved in a broader struggle between Belarus and Russia with the European Union are Kurds from Syria and Iraq. It is not clear what percentage of the migrants and refugees who have ended up in Belarus in recent months are from the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, but sources say it is a significant number.

One person who spoke to us on condition of anonymity said that he had spoken with people who were looking to go to Belarus and then cross into Europe. “There are factors that push citizens to migrate and look for a new home,” said the source. He noted that people are fleeing what they see as local corruption, nepotism, injustice, failed judicial institutions and other factors.

These are problems facing Iraq and the autonomous region of Kurdistan in northern Iraq. Turkey’s bombing campaign against those it claims are “PKK terrorists” in the mountains, Iranian operatives targeting dissidents in Sulimaniyeh, and the recent chaos in Iraq caused by sectarian militias have led people to want to leave.

This is the tragedy of Iraq in general, where the end of the war against ISIS did not bring peace and prosperity. In recent weeks, pro-Iranian militias have threatened the Prime Minister. In the Kurdish region, which is more stable and prosperous, people seek to emigrate. This includes Yazidis who have been in displaced persons camps for years and are now targeted by Western missionaries who deliver food and seek to convert them. Also, Arabs who have fled other areas of Iraq are seeking to go to Europe. Kurds expelled from Kirkuk or who fled Syria or Iran want refuge elsewhere.

The “clans” control over local institutions also makes people leave, says the source. This includes “the lack of future plans to improve the living situation of the citizen,” he says. People pay around $ 4,300 for tickets to fly through Damascus to Minsk, says the source. Now, airlines are trying to prevent Iraqi and Syrian citizens from going to Belarus. Due to pressure from Europe, many flights have been canceled. Furthermore, Iraq has said it can help repatriate its citizens. Kurdish regional government authorities have also expressed concern.

The source says that after paying for a ticket to Damascus, in some cases the local is expected to wait for permission from Damascus and a visa. It says that more than sixty percent of those who go to Belarus are people living in areas in Sulimaniyeh and Dohuk that are subject to Turkish bombardment. This means that the conflict is also driving them to flee. Ankara illegally bombs Iraq often, even targeting refugee camps and Yazidi areas claiming it is “fighting terrorism.”

Polish soldiers and police officers observe migrants at the Polish-Belarusian border near Kuznica, Poland, in this photo released by the Territorial Defense Forces on November 12, 2021 (credit: IREK DOROZANSKI / DWOT / BROCHURE VIA REUTERS)

When migrants and refugees arrive in Belarus, they realize that they have been misled. While the concept was that this area could provide easy access to European countries, such as across the Polish border and then to other European Union states, border police and riot control troops have encountered them. . The source describes a hectic situation in which migrants are encouraged to cross the border fences and are sent along with men wearing masks and armed with “pieces of iron” and pepper spray. They are encouraged to cross the border around midnight. “They want to put pressure on the Polish army,” says the source. “We found out that they put our stimulant pills in the water and food they brought us,” says the source, citing a person he claims to have talked to on the ground.

Food is scarce. The weather is cold. Some describe harsh interrogations and even torture if they do not obey orders in Belarus. The source describes this as a kind of “war”. European countries have also alleged that Belarus is involved in a “hybrid war” using migrants as a weapon.

The Kurdish men say they have been abducted and abused by the Belarusian authorities. Those who spoke out against being used as tools against Polish troops were questioned. The men say they were provided with knives and wire cutters to cross the border. “They want us to attack the Polish army,” says the source. “The Belarusian media has a live broadcast to tell the world that we are doing these heinous acts, but I swear to God they are doing it themselves,” said a Kurdish migrant.

The families are scared. They want help from the Polish authorities because of the abuses they now face in Belarus.

Descriptions of how migrants, especially vulnerable Kurdish minorities, were drawn to Belarus and are now being pushed back and forth between the armed forces of Belarus and Poland, illustrates how refugees and migrants today often do not receive the protections demanded by the UN and the EU. To provide. While there is lip service about the concept of refugee and asylum-seeker rights, in practice these days migrants are often abused, whether they are used by Turkey as a tool against Greece or when they are used by Turkey. European countries have paid the authorities in Libya to hold the migrants using whatever. the necessary means, the basic rights that refugees were supposed to enjoy often seem to be lacking.

The full story of how and why the sudden crisis in Belarus occurred is unclear. The fact that thousands have been able to fly from Iraq and Syria to Belarus, although they often have no way out through Turkey, illustrates a new path to Europe for them that has now been closed. It is also clear that they are used as tools and pushed across borders in an increasingly violent way. What is less clear is whether someone will open a refugee camp or a place to help them. So far, it appears that the open borders of Europe that appeared in 2015 when Germany invited a million Syrians and Afghans to come through Turkey, are now closed. Kurds, Yazidi and other people who have suffered are now suffering again.


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