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In Gothenburg, Sweden, a narrative about Berham Mohammad, a Kurdish refugee from the village of Haft Tegar in the outskirts of Kirkuk, Kurdistan, Iraq, has been published by Persian medias, reminiscent of the forced labor camps of the early twentieth century.

Berham, a 24-year-old man, lost all his family members in the 2014 ISIS attack on Kirkuk and was wounded in several areas himself. One of Berham’s eyes was surgically removed after his migration to Sweden in 2015. He has completely lost vision in one eye, and several scars and shrapnel wounds from ISIS attacks and bombings are visible on his face and body. Berham was among those who protested against the policies of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iraq at the time in dealing with ISIS, and for this reason, he was sentenced to three years in prison by the Erbil (Hawler) court, the capital of the Kurdistan Region, in protest against the regional government’s policies towards ISIS.


We are probably 100 or more people imprisoned in a place called “refugee camp”. Our phones have been taken, and we were given an old model phone that can only call numbers within Sweden. Visiting here is very difficult and resembles a prison, perhaps even more so. Usually, for visits or meetings, we must notify more than a week in advance, or else the meeting request is not accepted.

Initially, I mention that a boy attempted suicide today. The spokesperson here told Swedish newspapers that the boy was not in a good mental state; however, they did not mention our hunger strike protesting the harsh conditions inside the camp. But regarding that boy, what was reported to the Swedish newspaper was not true. The boy had no problems; he played dominoes and cards with us, talked, and laughed. He was a humorous and sociable person, yet intelligent, solving all our computer technical problems. He always helped all prisoners install messaging apps on their computers so they could communicate with friends and relatives. The reason for his suicide attempt was that he had been living in this camp for two months or more, and today, without any explanation, he was informed he must stay in the camp for another two months. He became mentally exhausted and could no longer bear it, which is why he tried to commit suicide.

Overall, the staff of this prison (so-called refugee camp) have waged a very severe psychological war against all of us and treat us in the ugliest and most inhumane ways. For example, they suddenly turn off the internet, and often early in the morning, they turn on all the lights in our bedroom at once to wake everyone up.

For instance, they clearly state that they cannot send us back to Iraq or Iran because the Iraqi government does not accept refugees! They neither release us nor send us back. At the same time, they have no excuse to keep us here. They sometimes talk to us very insultingly and say nasty things to us without any explanation.

Regarding food… they often bring the worst foods as if to provoke us so that some get angry and react, giving them an excuse for collective punishment. For example, after some prisoners complained, they brought spaghetti (pasta) for lunch and dinner for 9 consecutive days.

Moreover, sometimes they do not cook the food enough and intentionally ruin their cooking. They do these things to create inappropriate conditions and provoke individuals as one of their goals to justify their inhumane behavior towards us.

There are people who have been held in this camp for 10 months or more. After ten months, they are informed that they will be deported from this place and, in fact, from Sweden back to their home countries.

The conditions here are so bad that in recent days, two young men who were transferred from prison to this camp immediately requested to return to prison because they believed the conditions of this camp are much worse than the prisons.

I would like to explain about visiting our relatives or friends who are outside this camp. To create disorder and psychological warfare among individuals, some are allowed to visit on the same day they request, but for others, it can take up to a week to be granted permission. Sometimes they change the visiting hours without our consent, or they give the time slot assigned to me, for example, to someone else. This is another form of psychological warfare that leads to aggression among individuals.

In addition to the previous suicide attempt I mentioned above, another Iraqi Kurdish boy named Sarmad, who suffers from severe respiratory disease, also attempted suicide to end his life. Fortunately, security forces quickly intervened and prevented him from committing suicide.

Let me mention a few examples of people who are imprisoned here to perhaps clarify the subject.

We have a 27-year-old father here who has two children and a Swedish wife. Since his wife is Swedish, naturally, his children also have Swedish citizenship. He had the right to stay, worked, and paid taxes, but suddenly his residency permit was revoked, and now he is treated like us.

We also have another man named Molda whose wife is here and is pregnant. There are other people here who have lived in Sweden for years – ten years, seventeen years – are married, have lives and jobs, but now they have been brought to this camp for deportation.

I would like to explain about visiting our relatives or friends who are outside this camp. To create disorder and psychological warfare among individuals, some are allowed to visit on the same day they request, but for others, it can take up to a week to be granted permission. Sometimes they change the visiting hours without our consent, or they give the time slot assigned to me, for example, to someone else. This is another form of psychological warfare that leads to aggression among individuals.

In addition to the previous suicide attempt I mentioned above, another Iraqi Kurdish boy named Sarmad, who suffers from severe respiratory disease, also attempted suicide to end his life. Fortunately, security forces quickly intervened and prevented him from committing suicide.

Let me mention a few examples of people who are imprisoned here to perhaps clarify the subject.

We have a 27-year-old father here who has two children and a Swedish wife. Since his wife is Swedish, naturally, his children also have Swedish citizenship. He had the right to stay, worked, and paid taxes, but suddenly his residency permit was revoked, and now he is treated like us.

We also have another man named Molda whose wife is here and is pregnant. There are other people here who have lived in Sweden for years – ten years, seventeen years – are married, have lives and jobs, but now they have been brought to this camp for deportation.

For these reasons, we are convinced that the situation here is like a deportation camp. In fact, we have named this place a deportation camp because it is not a refugee camp, and the conditions here are so inappropriate and violate human rights laws that I can say explicitly that human rights are not violated in this way even in countries outside the European Union.

To put it plainly: This is a place where white Swedes oppress other nations and easily violate our asylum rights under various pretexts.

Additionally, I have not mentioned myself! Let me now talk about my own story.

I was injured by ISIS terrorists and became disabled, lost my vision, and have undergone several surgeries to remove shrapnel from ISIS bombs from my body.

I am not feeling well at all, I feel terrible. I am detained here, where there are no special facilities for people with disabilities. Generally, most of the people imprisoned here are trustworthy individuals. We worked and wanted to live comfortably.

In other refugee deportation centers too, because they cannot return Iraqi refugees, several of them have been detained while others have been released on the condition that they report to the police every week and sign in until their cases are handled.

Sometimes people titled “parliamentary observers or inspectors” visit us, but they do not speak to anyone, and in fact, nobody can talk to them because they do not listen to anyone. On days when observers come to the camp, good food is prepared, and we are provided with good food and clothing. They only inspect the food and quickly and formally conclude their visit, leaving the place without paying attention to us or exchanging words with the refugees. They leave the camp shaking their heads and with a forced smile, pretending that they think we are in good condition, and then say, “So everything is fine.”

But these camps are literally prisons. Even according to some of the Swedish parliamentary committees themselves, this method of keeping refugees is against the Swedish constitution.

Therefore, due to the bad conditions here, we – meaning more than 70% of the prisoners here – are on a hunger strike and are not ready to break the hunger strike until we are released. We want to end the racism of this system. Here, only racism rules.

We hope that an investigation will be conducted about this camp and how they treat us, and that they will be held accountable.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


My journey in creating this space was deeply inspired by James Baldwin’s powerful work, “The Fire Next Time”. Like Baldwin, who eloquently addressed themes of identity, race, and the human condition, this blog aims to be a beacon for open, honest, and sometimes uncomfortable discussions on similar issues.

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