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Turkey gives refuge to 2,000 Yezidis fleeing Iraq

Displaced Iraqi people from the Yezidi community are pictured in a refugee camp near the Turkey-Iraq border at Silopi in Sirnak August 14, 2014. (AFP Photo/Ilyas Akengin)

SILOPI, Turkey: Turkey is providing refuge to some 2,000 members of Iraq's Yezidi community who have fled the deadly advance of Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) militants in Iraq, officials said Thursday.

Most of the Yezidis are being housed in tents at a refugee camp in Silopi just north of the Iraqi border in the Sirnak province of southeastern Turkey.

They are given meals three times a day and undergoing regular health screenings, an AFP photographer who visited the camp said.

Carpets have been laid down inside the vast tents where the refugees while away the time playing with children, cooking, or reading.

But many of them lost a relative or had to leave their children behind because they did not possess a passport.

The Turkish authorities are accepting only refugees from Iraq who possess passports, a policy which has caused some families to be separated.

An official from Turkey's disaster management agency AFAD told AFP that some 1,600 Yezidis have taken shelter in Silopi where they have been accommodated in a newly-established camp and buildings meant for use after earthquakes.

"The only country that opened its doors to the Yezidis is Turkey," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his party members in Ankara Thursday.

Turkey also has plans to build a much larger camp to accommodate around 16,000 Yezidis and other displaced people in the city of Zakho inside Iraq, a few kilometers from the Turkish border, the official said.

Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said that Turkey was still working on creating greater capacity to take in more refugees from Iraq.

"The possibility for people to arrive in Turkey still exists," he said.

An attack by the ISIS jihadist group last week sparked a mass exodus from the northern part of Iraq, including the town of Sinjar where most of the population is from the Yezidi minority.

Thousands of Yezidis are still stranded on Mount Sinjar where they have sought to escape from the jihadists, although the United States said Wednesday they were fewer and in a better condition than previously thought.

The Yezidis are on the run from jihadists who scorn them as "devil worshippers," a term the Yezidis themselves angrily reject.

Turkey is already hosting 1.2 million Syrian refugees who have fled more than three years of brutal civil war in their own country, where ISIS is also active.

Many live in camps along the volatile border with others scattered throughout the country, including in Istanbul, and their presence has become an increasing source of social tension.

 

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