The area around the city of Dohuk, Iraq, is bleak – a windswept desert bounded by brown hills. The short drive north of the metro area brings you to the refugee camp of Domiz. Housing about 30,000 people who have escaped the civil war in Syria, they came to this camp because it is in Iraqi Kurdistan and most of these refugees are ethnic Kurds. Domiz is only about twenty five miles from the border.
(Be sure to click on each photo - you will see a larger version that way.)
The Syrian civil war has been raging for over a year and a half. Many people have lost homes, family members or both. Some of the refugees are poor, others wealthy, but the bell curve shows most are middle class.
Or were middle class.
They once lived in comfortable city apartments or in their own homes. Most owned a car and sent their children to a nice school. Now they find themselves living in a sea of tents, trying to figure out how to be tent dwellers and adjust to a life of forced poverty.
The United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) runs this camp, just as it does other camps in Iraq, Jordan and Turkey. Because Iraqi Kurdistan is an autonomous zone that sets its own laws, has a different currency from the Baghdad government and even has its own foreign minister, it has its own Director of Displaced Management. Both agencies are assisted by numerous charitable agencies in providing the services necessary to run the camp.
Not all services are provided, not so much due to misgovernment as the shear explosive growth of the camp. Drainage is not always the best, and a short rain turns the “roads” into quagmires. Though a father and his family have been in the camp for six months, he is upset about the mud in the street. Mixed in with the mud is old dishwater, urine and leaks from overflowing latrines.
Family size averages seven members in the camp, meaning there are lots of children. Most of them seem to have adapted, despite their being no school, but some appear to need some counseling and reassurance.
I’ll have more looks at different facets of camp life in the next few days.