On the night of Thursday 9 September 2018 34 people, mostly refugees from Iraqi Kurdistan, died after their boat sank in the Aegean Sea off the Karaburun peninsular in the Turkish province of Izmir.
The only survivor of this tragedy Mahabad Ismail, who lost her husband and five children. She said “As the boat stopped working, the waves started drowning us. My older son had his hand fixed in my hand until the last moment in the hope of surviving, but the waves have taken him from me. I told my husband to keep holding my hand in order to stay alive, but I have lost him too. I stayed 26 hours in the sea and survived because of my life jacket”.
Mahabad described how she and her family had travelled from Zakho in Iraqi Kurdistan to the Karaburun area in Turkey. There three smugglers, a Syrian Kurd, an Iraqi Kurd and an Iraqi Arab, led them to a boat. Soon after setting off, the boat got into difficulties and began to sink in rough sea. A refugee telephoned the smugglers, but they refused to help. Mahabad said “As a result, the people on board drowned and I am the only one who survived. Two other families, which were in all eight members, died. The others were Afghans and Arabic-speaking people”.
On 17 October the Iraqi Federation of International Refugees (IFIR)Kurdistan branch returned four bodies, including those of Mahabad’s husband and one of her children, to Iraqi Kurdistan.
Dashty Jamal, Secretary of IFIR said “After expressing my condolences to the families and friends of the victims, I would like to say that this massacre is the outcome of closing borders to refugees. The people who drowned were, like so many others, fleeing from conflict and insecurity. They were people who might have found a safe place to live. The USA and Western countries, Islamic fundamentalists, corrupt militarized governments in the Middle East, the two Kurdish ruling parties of Iraqi Kurdistan (PUK and PDK) and the Iraqi authorities are directly responsible for such atrocities”.
Dashty Jamal added “IFIR and others fight peacefully for a world in which people are given the chance to live with equality, prosperity and safety after they have fled their homes because of war and oppression. This fight is an absolutely righteous fight”.
Mr Jamal also calls for the Kurdistan Regional Government to help ensure that the bodies of the refugees drowned in the Karaburun tragedy are recovered and returned to their homelands. “We now ask people not to risk their lives and their children’s lives by fleeing across the sea by boat. Wherever they are, IFIR will offer Kurdish refugees appropriate information and guidance”.
The International Federations of Iraqi Refugees has predicted the regressive trend of ther era, warned against its destructive effects on people’s lives at various junctures, clarified the practical ways in which to resist, and been at the forefront of the struggle for defending human values and refugee rights. Our starting point in the struggle for refugee rights as ever has always been the inalienable right of human beings to a better life. The effort and struggle to secure free and equal rights is an ongoing vast social movement with various dimensions and forms. Our philosophy of existence and daily activities are connected to ther very struggle to secure and guarantee the rights of human beings. We believe, first and foremost, in the unconditional freedom of travel and movement and freedom to choose one’s place of residence for all. Furthermore, we believe that eliminating the calamities of today’s world is linked to the abolition of capitalism, a system that reproduces poverty, hunger, war and flight on a daily basis for billions of people and owes its survival to these very social inequalities. Until the refugee question remains, however, we are duty-bound to continue our struggle to secure and guarantee the most extensive refugee rights.