The Syrian refugees who do not want to go home

Iraqi Kurdistan offers new hope to families fleeing violence and a crippled economy

Domiz, Iraq

Unlike most refugees fleeing the destruction of the Syrian civil war, 27-year-old Lina Mohammed says she doesn't want to go home.

Among the rows of dusty tents that stretch endlessly up the hill in the Domiz refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan, the Mohammed house stands out – largely because it is a house.

The family spent $3,200 [£2,000] building the modest but comfortable one-room home rigged up with electricity, air-conditioning and a satellite dish. A tree is painted on the bright blue wall that encompasses their small front yard, a yellow sun emblazoned with the word "Kurdistan" pokes out from behind it.

Whereas refugees in camps in Turkey complain that they are kept effective prisoners, Domiz is open. Lina's husband has found work as a carpenter in the local town. "I don't want to go back," she says, cradling her youngest child. "It's impossible to find work there."

The areas of Syria's Kurdish north-east have largely been spared the violence that has obliterated many of Syria's cities. Still, Niyaz Nori Mohamed, the camp manager at Domiz, says between 250 and 600 people arrive every day. There are now about 30,000, and though some come from Kurdish areas of Aleppo or had been living in Homs or Deraa, many have left their homes in areas of relative peace just across the border.

"They don't have work over there, there are no jobs," Mr Mohamed said. "The young men may come because they were asked to fight in the army or have defected, but the families, many come because of the economy."

In addition to the devastating loss of life, with the death toll now estimated to stretch to more than 36,000, the 20-month conflict has left the Syrian economy in tatters. As the country's commercial hub of Aleppo is ripped apart by fighting, and factories sit idle, nowhere in the country is immune to the economic shockwaves.

In Al Hasaka, where many rely on agriculture, poor harvests have traditionally driven Kurds to seek work in Syria's largest cities, an option now closed to them due to the violence.

With skyrocketing steel and material prices, the construction industry has ground to a halt, sending many, like Lina's husband, out of work. European Union and American sanctions are also adding to the pressure on the economy with oil exports, 95 per cent of which went to Europe, effectively halted.

"The crises have become an almost endless chain creating a sneaking feeling of despair about the ability to secure the basics of life," says Mohammed Ismail, a local politician in Al Hasaka's regional capital Qamishli.

Those fleeing complain of crippling inflation. Official figures said inflation reached 36 per cent in July as the currency weakened and analysts said the price of some everyday goods had risen much more. "A canister of cooking gas could cost you 10, 20 or 30 times higher than before because the only way of getting it is through the black market," says David Butters, an associate fellow at Chatham House in London.

The Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi estimated the conflict had cost the country $34bn, though analysts say the figure is likely much higher. While the situation at home may be dire, conditions at Domiz – designed for only 10,000 refugees – are also harsh.

Her hair wrapped in a pink headscarf, Ayesha Shaqr Omar, 33, says her husband is disabled and has lost his eyesight, as has her 14-year-old son. Her tent will provide feeble shelter when the winter sets in, and with no income and only basic handouts, she borrows money to essentials from the camp's ramshackle shops.

The local community can't begin to provide work for all those arriving, and young boys group idly in their tents. Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) says it is concerned about the impact of the endless flow of refugees.

"We hope that this is temporary, that these people would be able to go back, but that is dependent on the international community," says the KRG's minister for foreign relations Falah Mustafa Bakir.

However, Syrian Kurds are used to hardship, having suffered years of oppression back home under the Baath Party. So, despite her struggles, Mrs Omar says she feels at home – having crossed a border, but not left her homeland. "We didn't have passports, couldn't buy houses, or speak Kurdish," she says. "We were already like refugees over there."

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
ebookA powerful collection of reportage on Egypt’s cycle of awakening and relapse
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little