Facebook Twitter



At least 60,000 Kurdish refugees have fled to Turkey to escape the Baghdad government's military offensive in northern Iraq which started in mid-July.

The stream of people crossing the border appears to have finally ceased, so the uncertainty seems to be over for Turkish officials who are trying to care for the Kurds. They at least know how many people they must feed and shelter.For the refugees themselves, the uncertainty is just beginning.

If their experience is anything like that of other Mideast refugees, they will spend years in refugee camps. Years, not months. They are going to need help during those years.

At first, their problems will be basic. Right now, they are camped by the thousands on the banks of the Cigli Deresi River. Disease is spreading. In a camp of 4,000 people, for example, seven children died within the last two weeks.

The Turkish government - which struggles to care for its own homeless people - is trying to help. Officials are slowly moving the refugees to a tent city away from the border.

Once there, the refugees will be out of danger - but also out of sight and perhaps out of mind of the rest of the world. Just like 100,000 Asian refugees in camps in Thailand, Malaysia, or Singapore - camps which have been "temporary" homes since 1975 - these Kurdish people will face a barren life.

They will want to go home to their villages, to a rural way of life which is all they've known. But the political climate may not allow that for a long time. They may wish to emigrate, but the industrialized world has severely cut back on the number of immigrants it accepts.

Meanwhile they will need not only food and doctors, but teachers as well. They need to be learning, at least, as they while away their lives. Turkey won't be able to afford to do much for them.

It is up to those of us who live in relatively wealthy nations to remember these refugees, and work to make their stay as displaced persons as short as possible.