Cape Town doctors plan to help Kurdish refugees

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Cape Town’s small Kurdish community plans to send a team of local medics to assist refugees displaced by Islamic State (IS) attacks on the border between Turkey and Syria.

Retired Cape Town judge Essa Moosa, of the Kurdish Human Rights Action Group (KHRAG), said this week they are talking with local doctors willing to assist refugees who fled from the Syrian town Kobane to neighbouring Dyarbakir city in Turkey, as well as a small town, Suruc. KHRAG comprises Kurds and locals.

Retired Cape Town judge Essa Moosa is gathering a team of medical staff to travel to Kurdish refugee camps to assist persons displaced due to Islamic State attacks. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Retired Cape Town judge Essa Moosa is gathering a team of medical staff to travel to Kurdish refugee camps to assist persons displaced due to Islamic State attacks. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

The lobby group will this week host Sidney Luckett, a former United Democratic Front leader and ANC Mkhonto we Sizwe gun smuggler, who traveled to a Kurdish refugee camp last month in Turkey, to assess the situation.

Luckett’s public talk will be held on November 13 at Baran’s restaurant on Greenmarket Square and a Middle East expert will also join him.

Luckett, who is from Hout Bay, spent a week meeting refugees, local authorities and foreign diplomats. His contacts would likely assist in preparing the groundwork for KHRAG’s medical mission, he said.

Luckett is a volunteer with KHRAG and an ordained Anglican priest. He travelled to Dyarbakir and Suruc, right on the Turkish border with Syria.

Kurdish Human Rights Action Group volunteer Sidney Luckett from Cape Town will present his insights into how Islamic State has affected Kurdish refugees in Syria and Turkey. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Kurdish Human Rights Action Group volunteer Sidney Luckett from Cape Town will present his insights into how Islamic State has affected Kurdish refugees in Syria and Turkey. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

The Middle East has been battling IS, a violent armed group widely dismissed as misrepresenting Islam, for the last few months. IS has killed Muslims in Iraq and Syria and sieged Kobane, and attacked people from other religions in the region.

Kurdish Syrians have been affected by IS bloodshed and thousands have already fled to Turkey.

Moosa said their public awareness event this week would focus on IS and “how it started, what its objective is and who is controlling it”. He said IS has “destabilised other religious groups in the region”.

“These groups were all living in peace until IS arrived. They forced other religious communities out of Iraq. They wanted to convert others to Islam. This is not Islamic,” said Moosa.

“There is nothing religious about them. They want to lay their hands on the region’s oil and water. They are mercenaries recruited from other countries. They do not come from the Middle East and do not belong there.”

Various international media reports have revealed the identities of numerous Western nationals who have traveled to Syria to join IS.

Thousands of Kurdish refugees live in tents in Turkey, after fleeing from neighbouring Syria, seeking safety from Islamic State violence. Picture by Sidney Luckett

Thousands of Kurdish refugees live in tents in Turkey, after fleeing from neighbouring Syria, seeking safety from Islamic State violence. Picture by Sidney Luckett

The US has assisted Kurdish fighters with arms, while Turkey this month allowed some fighters to cross its border into Kobane to confront IS.

Luckett said by the time he traveled to Kobane it had “been international headlines”. He said Kurdish refugees he met are “dead scared of IS”.

“I’ve heard stories about how IS tortured children and captured women and sent them into slavery. Women in particular are very scared of them. They just wanted to get away from them,” he said.

“I saw hundreds of refugees in a camp, designed to accommodate 50,000 people. Refugees are also staying anywhere else they can.

“Some have families in Turkey. People allow refugees to sleep in their shops, others have moved their cars out of their garages and allow people to sleep in there.”

Luckett said refugees had “left their homes with just the clothes they have on”.

“It’s winter time now. It’s like Cape Town, cold and rainy. People are trying to make the most of their lives despite what has happened. They are not able to work and depend on handouts from locals,” he said.

Luckett said foreign aid workers were also arriving in Dyarbakir and Suruc to assist displaced Kurds.

“I am really keen to do what I can. I want people to see my photos of the refugees and understand the situation,” he said.

“For me, there is so much that can be done. And it’s difficult to get it (activism) out of your blood.”

Luckett said if KHRAG needed him to return to the refugee towns he would do so.

“I just wouldn’t want to get anywhere near IS. They are brutal,” he said.

KHRAG last month held a public protest against IS, calling it an “extremist group hell-bent on controlling valuable resources in the region”.

It said: “An impartial international force is required to bring stability to the region and create the climate where local populations are able to negotiate peace and assert their democratic rights to self-determination without interference by big powers.”

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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