The urgent need to support IDP’s in Syria in cooperation with The Federation of Northern Syria
According to the ECHO newsflash no. 13 of this year, there are over 6,5 million IDP’s in Syria itself. Turkey closed all borders with Syria. At Friday 15 April 2016 Turkey fired live rounds at those who fled for a recent march of ISIS towards Azaz area north of Aleppo.
Nevertheless not far from that area the Federation of Northern Syria already provides help in its Afrin Canton to an ever growing number of IDP’s, providing them protection and a stable area without fighting inside Syria. The Council of Afrin has asked for support for the IDP’s since 2014 in its areas but not much help has arrived since then as Turkey continues to keep the border closed.
HOWEVER COOPERATION WITH THE CANTONS OF THE FEDERATION OF NORTH SYRIA MAY BE A MUCH BETTER AND MORE COST-EFFICIENT SOLUTION THEN EXPANDING THE CURRENT DEAL WITH TURKEY.
There are however some urgent steps that the EU should take to help these IDP’s. The mentioned ECHO newsflash reports that Canton Kobane (Al Raqqah governate) is facing severe water shortages due to damaged infrastructure following a series of airstrikes in the last weeks. Closures of main roads and restrictions on the delivery of some items via the Bab Al-Hawa crossing point with Turkey have also resulted in severe shortages of certain medicines and medical supplies. This has been confirmed to me by the pastor of the Church of Kobane. The same ECHO newsflash reports widespread food shortages and higher prices of basic commodities in Jazire Canton (Hassakeh governate). Humanitarian deliveries by UN agencies and partners have been disrupted by insecurity and the closure of the Nusaybin border point from Turkey in effect since late 2015. WFP food-aid stocks in the governorate have run out leaving 270 000 people without food assistance.
There are two steps that the EU can take immediately and which will not even require political recognition of the Federation of Northern Syria but just support the many IDP’s in its areas: the first step is to demand that the KRG will immediately lift all restrictions on the Fishkhabour border crossing between KRG and Jazire Canton/Hassakeh Governate; that, in turn, will allow NGO’s (with EU support) to start serious help for IDP’s in the areas as well as rebuilding and construction work wherever needed.
SOME LOCAL NGO’S LIKE SYRIAC CROSS ARE ALREADY PRESENT IN THE AREA AND CAN SERVE AS A HUB OF LOCAL KNOWLEDGE FOR THIS HELP.
Solving the Sinjar conundrum
In terms of solving the refugee crisis and protecting minorities, the plight of the Yazidi’s has attracted massive interest in this age-old community. Nevertheless so far, few have bothered to solve the political problem that is blocking the rebuilding of the Yazidi homeland Sinjar. At the moment Sinjar is divided between three Kurdish and three Yazidi factions. The Kurdish YPG as well as the Kurdish PUK and KDP Peshmerga are all present in Sinjar and so are the Yazidi units linked to the KDP, the YBS (linked to YPG and supported by Baghdad) and the HPS. The YBS is the armed force of the Sinjar Council that governs a part of Sinjar.
So far, international partners have only focused at the KDP presence in Sinjar, forgetting that it is not a recognised part of Iraqi Kurdistan. As the HPS has shrunk to approximately 80 fighters and the YBS has grown and receives support from Baghdad as well as the wider Yazidi community, it is clear that the YBS and their Sinjar Council need to be included in a political solution for that area. Such a solution would take into account that the Yazidi’s are now recognised as victims of a genocide and have therefore the right of protection and empowerment (some form of self-government) to prevent this atrocity in the future.
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