MESOP REPORT : Turkey builds refugee camp for Yazidis in Iraq

August 14, 2014, Thursday/ 13:16:49/ TODAY’S ZAMAN / ISTANBUL – Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay has said there are around 1,700 Yazidis in Turkey and that Ankara has decided to build a tent camp in the Iraqi city of Zakho for Yazidi refugees as there is a possibility that that number may increase.

In remarks to reporters on Thursday, Atalay said Turkey’s efforts to protect Yazidis have been ongoing. He stated that Turkey would prefer to host Yazidis in camps beyond its boundaries. “Now there are 50,000 fleeing Yazidis. We have been conducting aid [projects] for them. There are around 1,700 Yazidis in Turkey. There is also the possibility of an exodus coming from outside [the borders]. That is the reason why we have decided to build a camp for Yazidis in Zakho. We would prefer if the Yazidi community stayed outside the country in the camps — for which we will provide all their needs — instead of coming to Turkey,” he said.Speaking at the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Extended Provincial Heads meeting in Ankara, President-elect Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said 2,000 Yazidis are now taking shelter in Turkey. Local reports maintain that the number of Yazidis in the southeastern province of Şırnak alone has reached 2,350. While those who hold Iraqi passports enter the country via the border crossings, other Yazidis who don’t have passports try to cross into Turkey illegally. A total of 450 Yazidis underwent health checks in the southeastern city of Batman on Wednesday.

According to Atalay, 5,000 Yazidi refugees can take shelter in the camp in Zakho. He also noted that Turkey has sent 110 trucks of aid to Turkmens in Iraq. He stated that Turkey had been planning to build a refugee camp for Turkmens in Sinjar, adding, however, that it had become too risky. The construction of a refugee camp for 20,000 Turkmens in Dohuk has started, he added.

Yazidis, who the “Islamic State” (IS) sees as “devil worshipers,” risk being executed by the militants, who seek to establish an Islamic empire and redraw the map of the Middle East. Thousands of Iraqis, predominantly from the minority Yazidi ethnic group, have fled to the Turkish border to escape the advance of IS fighters. Turkey has started to set up tents for Yazidi refugees fleeing the violence who have taken shelter in Şırnak. The tents have been placed near state housing in which other Yazidis live. The number of Yazidis coming to Turkey is increasing every day, according to local authorities.

Atalay also commented on a Washington Post report, claiming that IS insurgents are being treated in Turkish hospitals. He said the government has no information regarding that claim. “We don’t have any efforts [under way] to get them [into Turkey] and treat them. Our Foreign Ministry makes statements when necessary,” he said. The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the IS, which was formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), obtained support from Turkey in earlier phases of its growth in the Middle East. “We used to have some fighters — even high-level members of the Islamic State — getting treated in Turkish hospitals,” a senior IS militant was quoted by The Washington Post as saying. “And also, most of the fighters who joined us in the beginning of the war came via Turkey, and so did our equipment and supplies.”