Makhmur resists attacks with its democratic education system in mother tongue
Inhabitants of Makhmur Camp, who had to flee to Southern Kurdistan in the early 90s, are determined to preserve their mother tongue and democratic education system despite the ongoing attacks of the KDP and the Turkish state.
Mexmûr (Makhmur)- In the early 1990s, thousands of people who had to flee from Botan to Bashur Kurdistan due to the Turkish state's violence, managed to establish their own education system step by step even though they had to change eight camps.
In 1998, they settled in the Makhmur refugee camp, which is recognized by the UNHCR. The inhabitants of the camp, who managed to build their democratic education system in their mother tongue, face the attacks of the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).
In 2014, ISIS attacked the camp. The camp was liberated from ISIS in a few days by PKK guerrillas and the militia of Makhmur. However, the camp has been a target for Turkish airstrikes since April 2017. While these attacks affect students, the students, who have completed their high school education, cannot go to Southern Kurdistan and Iraq to get university education due to the siege imposed on the camp by the KDP since July 19, 2019.
Despite the ongoing Turkish airstrikes and the siege imposed by the KDP, the teachers and students living in the Makhmur refugee camp are determined to continue education. Bêrîvan Demir, one of the teachers in the camp, spoke to NuJINHA on how the education system was established in the camp and the teachers and students have resisted.
Literacy courses in the first camp
In 1994, thousands of people had to flee to Bashure Kurdistan (Southern Kurdistan) from the Botan Region of Bakure Kurdistan (Northern Kurdistan) due to the inhuman practices of the Turkish state. The people, who were forcibly displaced from their homeland by the Turkish state, first settled the Bihêre and Şeraniş camps located in the Haftanin area of Bashure Kurdistan. As soon as they settled in these camps, they opened literacy courses for their children so that children would continue their education. Then, they had to move to the Bêsivê camp and opened literacy courses there, too. Due to the pressure and attacks of the KDP, they had to leave this camp but they improved their education system in every camp they settled.
From Kurdish courses in Etruş to the education system in mother tongue in Makhmur
The foundation of the education system in Kurdish language was built in tents in Etrûş Camp in 1995. Despite the siege and attacks, the Kurdish people continued to struggle. In Etrûş Camp, they strengthened their education system.
In 1998, they settled in the Makhmur camp and improved their education system by building schools. For the people of the camp, education and self-organization are very important. In the camp, people of all ages built their life and started their education system. Since 1998, 11 schools, including five kindergartens, four primary schools, a secondary school and a high school have been built in the camp. Every year, many students graduate from these schools.
‘Despite the limited opportunities, people built their education system’
Berîvan Demir stated that the people, who had to flee from Botan to Bashure Kurdistan due to the pressures of the Turkish state, tried to preserve their mother tongue and culture in all the camps they settled. “Due to the persecution of the Turkish state, thousands of people from Botan fled to Bashure Kurdistan in 1993-94-95. Our families had to flee in order to preserve existence and culture, in order not to be village guards. After settling in the first camp, they opened literacy courses. At that time, we were children, students. But now we are teachers raising children.
“Young people, who were literate, and a few teachers first taught the alphabet to the students. They built the education system by teaching syllables, words and sentences.”
‘We built the education system in Makhmur’
Berîvan Demîr also told us how they built the education system in Makhmur refugee camp as follows: “When we moved to Makhmur Camp, there was a different system. We built some schools with the support of the UN and philanthropists. We faced many difficulties until we built our education system. We were able to have books, pens and stationery. Over time, there was a focus on the education system and we built a new education system. We developed a democratic education system in our mother tongue. Teachers made great efforts to prepare textbooks, we prepared our own textbooks.”
‘Students cannot go to university due to the siege of the KDP’
Bêrîvan Demir stated that the ongoing Turkish attacks and the siege and negative policies of the KDP negatively affect the students in Makhmur, “But they are determined to continue their education. Education is very important for us. We do not have a university in the camp so the students have to go to Southern Kurdistan and Iraq to get university education after they graduate from high school. However, they cannot go there due to the ongoing siege imposed by the KDP. We have been facing difficulties in providing education materials for about four years due to the siege. This situation affects both students and teachers.”
‘We will resist all kinds of physical and psychological attacks’
“The UNHCR remains silent against ongoing Turkish airstrikes on the camp although it recognizes the camp,” Bêrîvan Demir said, “In addition to the Turkish airstrikes; the students and inhabitants of the camp face other attacks. ISIS also carries out attacks on the region. We can say that this region is a battlefield. Makhmur is subjected to dirty war policies and attacks. The enemy continues to attack. Policies of deceiving young people, psychological and physical attacks, and airstrikes continue. The aim of these attacks is to destroy our camp and our society. Despite everything, we will resist all kinds of physical and psychological attacks.”