The forgotten generations: Palestinian refugees in Iraq

Palestinians in Iraq face an uncertain future with little hope of escaping life as stateless refugees.

| | Human Rights, Middle East, Iraq, Palestine

Erbil, Iraq - Inside Baharka IDP Camp, a government-run refugee camp that provides emergency shelter for over 4,000 internally displaced people, 18 Palestinian families live in a cluster of makeshift homes. Located near the Kurdish city of Erbil, the camp is managed by the Barzani Charity Foundation and the Erbil Refugee Council.

Born and raised in Baghdad, 30-year-old Palestinian Yahia Mahmoud has lived in Baharka camp for over two years. Without permission to work, travel or build a life as a citizen, and with nowhere else to go, Mahmoud and his family, like other Palestinian refugees in Iraq, are trapped in a cycle of isolation, discrimination and continual displacement.

For this family, as is the case for many Palestinians, their identity as stateless refugees is passed down from generation to generation.

Mahmoud's parents were also born as refugees in Iraq. His grandfather fled Palestine during the exodus of 1948, known as the Nakba, when 700,000 Palestinian Arabs were expelled from their homes.

Mahmoud spent most of his childhood in refugee camps surrounding Baghdad. After being continually displaced throughout his life, most recently fleeing from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, known as ISIS) fighters in Ramadi, he now lives in Baharka camp with his wife and two children, together with his brother and other relatives.

In August 2016, Mahmoud's mother, Hudda Awad, died from cancer at the age of 57. For four months, she had been unable to continue with her chemotherapy in Iraq; her son believes that she was denied the treatment in part because of her ethnicity. "They did not give it to her because it cost a lot of money and also because we are Arabs, not Kurds," he says.

For Mahmoud and his family, their options are limited. Desperate to provide a brighter and safer future for his children, Mahmoud hopes of someday escaping Iraq in search of the opportunity to build a better life for him and his family as citizens, and not as refugees.

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