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Camp No Man's Land and Iranian Bahman Maalizadeh's Norooz

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2006 4:00 pm    Post subject: Camp No Man's Land and Iranian Bahman Maalizadeh's Norooz Reply with quote


Camp No Man’s Land, handouts from Marines and Iranian Activist Bahman Maalizadeh's Norooz Foundation

Story by LtCol Timothy Crowley, USMCR • Photos courtesy of the author

Food and water that is begged from passing trucks as well as handouts from Marines have eased some of the refugee problems, but the facilities in No Man’s Land, including toilets consisting of tarps around poles for privacy, are very basic.

Arches mark the official entry point into Iraq, a country from which the refugees are trying to escape in order to secure a better future. Marines in the area provide security and, when possible, food and water.

The date was Sept. 11, 2005, and I was in western Iraq at the Trebil Port of Entry (POE) on the Iraqi-Jordanian border scheduled for a convoy going east. I quickly changed my plans when I learned of a mission traveling west into No Man’s Land. As a Marine field historian with the Marine Corps’ History Division, I was not going to pass up the opportunity to travel into the area between Iraq and Jordan to document a very special and unique Marine Corps initiative.

The gun trucks were loaded when I jumped in with Marines of 2d Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. As our convoy rolled into Camp No Man’s Land, none of us were aware how this trip would drastically affect our lives.

Our first image was of children covered in dirt and wearing ragged clothes pouring out of a collection of makeshift shelters to greet us with huge smiles on their faces. Their homes resembled the “play forts” that children in the United States construct out of cardboard boxes, scrap wood and whatever other materials they can find. Unfortunately for this ragtag group of innocent children, they were not playing. These were their homes.

A mixture of emotions overwhelmed the Marines as the children greeted them with hugs and broken English. The war-hardened Marines of 2d LAR Bn, so far away from their own families, shared feelings of hope and joy with these destitute children.

During my visit, the Trebil POE was manned by leathernecks from Battery K, 2d Bn, 10th Marine Regiment, attached to 2d LAR Bn. They were in the process of turning the facility over to leathernecks of “Alpha” Btry, 1st Bn, 11th Marines. Since then, 3d LAR Bn has taken responsibility for the area and continued security and stability operations in this vast desert region of Iraq.

The Marines’ mission is to provide security at the border entry, control traffic entering and leaving Iraq, and to identify and capture terrorists. They work with and train the Iraqi Border Patrol and Customs police to question occupants and to search all vehicles entering and leaving Iraq. They have to work at a rapid pace to keep the flow of traffic moving. Often, due to the high volume of vehicles, traffic is backed up for days waiting to enter and leave Iraq.

The Marines’ position consists of a small compound based around the old Iraqi welcome center. A fenced perimeter and gun towers surround the complex. The complex consists of trailers and tents that have been brought in to provide living quarters for the Marines. The POE located next to the Marines’ compound has numerous search areas stretched out over several hundred yards. The search areas are separated to limit casualties and damage from potential explosive devices. Although the Marines and Iraqi border agents must work fast, they have to be thorough.

In the past when Iraqi searchers took shortcuts, they paid the price. Twice, suicide vehicles have detonated in areas of the POE. The vehicles should never have been allowed to reach those areas. At the POE, there are various Iraqi government offices and Iraqi personnel. Outside the POE, there’s a small village on the Iraq side of the border, but nothing else exists except miles and miles of open desert.

In addition to their main mission at the POE, the Marines have adopted a group of refugees who reside within sight of the leathernecks’ position. These are the refugees of No Man’s Land.

This band of people without a country is existing in an area between Iraq and Jordan consisting of a strip of land approximately one to two kilometers wide. The land legally belongs to Jordan. Saddam Hussein had previously paid rent to Jordan so Iraq could maintain control of the land. Since the start of the war, no one has paid rent, and the area has become a forgotten and lawless land.

While Jordan lays claim to the land, neither country will claim the refugees. Gangs of thieves run rampant. Food and water are hard to come by. The people living in No Man’s Land are at the mercy of the elements. Twenty-seven years ago they fled Iran in terror as Ayatollah Khomeini and his forces began to execute the Iranian Kurds.

At the time of my visit to No Man’s Land, 200 refugees, of whom approximately 130 were small children, had been living in the camp for seven months. Prior to that, they had been allowed to reside in Iraqi government housing next to the POE but were forced to leave by the Iraqi government.

Life as a refugee is a hard one, and this is the only life these children and many of the younger adults have ever known. They have been forced from camp to camp, often suffering from violence directed against them because of their cultural beliefs.

The first group of refugees to the border was eventually allowed into Jordan, but since that time the border has been closed to refugees. The Jordanian government fears the “pull factor.” If it allows additional refugees in, more will move to the border to enter Jordan. Due to this fear, the refugees of No Man’s Land are trapped.

Once again, it appears that it is up to the Marines to assist the needy, although it is not the main mission. Marines reached out to help by providing the refugees with electricity and other basics to make their lives more bearable. The refugees have used the resources available to construct shelters out of cardboard, wood and trash. The luckiest refugees have tents, although all are forced to utilize tarps around buckets for their bathrooms. They live in the filth and dirt of the desert, trapped with no country to call home.

Prior to departing the relative safety of our Marine compound, we loaded up two 7-ton trucks with all the extra food from the base. New food was arriving along with elements of Alpha Btry, 1/11. Marines worked up a sweat loading the trucks in the 95-degree heat. We mounted up for our short but dangerous convoy to Camp No Man’s Land located approximately a half-mile away. The refugees positioned their camp within view of the Marines in hopes that our presence would keep them safe.

The refugees saw us coming and quickly created a gap in their protective fence line for us to enter, and then everyone came out of the shelters to greet us as our convoy of gun trucks loaded with food pulled into their compound. Children and adults alike quickly circled us as the excitement level went through the roof. The trucks of food meant survival to the refugees, giving them cause to celebrate. All the Marines on the mission knew that on this day we were making a huge difference and drastically improving the lives of 200 very needy people.

While the adult male refugees unloaded the trucks with the assistance of Marines and some of the older children, the young children ran rampant around the Marines. The older girls and women stayed off at a far distance observing the hectic but happy scene while children used the time to test their English and to ask for everything that wasn’t tied down. The kids were very excited and happy; hard living did not dampen their spirits.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Barzin-Azizi, a member of the camp’s leadership committee. As he gave my Marine escorts and me a tour, he told me of their struggles. During the Iran and Iraq war in 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini declared that the Iranian Kurds living in Iran were a threat. Two to three thousand of their villagers were executed, including his father. The rest of the villagers fled in terror. Since 1979 they have been in search of a place to call home.

Another committee member, Khabat, said, “All they want is a place to live where they can enjoy their Kurdish culture, language and rights.” The refugees have been bumped from refugee camp to refugee camp until settling in at Camp No Man’s Land. Their only sources of food come from begging or what the Marines give them.

This was Second Lieutenant Jason R. Reukema’s first visit to the camp as he prepared to take command of the Marines at the POE. After the visit he noted, “They are living in hell with shelters made out of whatever scraps they can find.”

He was overwhelmed when he saw “over 100 children dirty and wearing ragged clothes.” He immediately committed to visiting the camp once a month to help out. Second Lt Reukema concluded by saying, “This was the best thing I have done in Iraq. It isn’t very often that you get to help people that need it that badly.”

Then-First Lieutenant Edward P. Treble, the outgoing POE Marine commander, talked about how the refugees had been living in Iraqi government housing at the POE when he arrived. The Marines were asked to evict the refugees from the housing by the Iraqi government. The majority of the original housing and a large hotel at the border all remain vacant. Treble was able to convince Iraqi officials at the POE to provide the refugees with water and to help provide them with security.

The Marines have coordinated care packages from their families, businesses and community groups in the United States to meet some of the basic needs and clothing for the refugees. As he was departing No Man’s Land, Treble, with Kilo Co, 2/10, noted, “It’s tough to help the refugees when there’s no official support for the mission.” He stated that we have a military mission, and the refugees do not fit into it. Most of the adults and all of the children know life only in a refugee camp.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is currently looking into the fate of the refugees trapped in No Man’s Land. Marine officers stated that the U.S. State Department is reluctant to help the refugees because the matter is between the UN, Iraq and Jordan.

The Norooz Foundation, a nonprofit organization based out of Charlotte, N.C., is trying to help the refugees get moved to another country. Some issues stem from the fact that the Iraqis claim the Kurds helped Saddam Hussein. The Kurds, however, strongly deny this. Additionally, there are tribal and ethnic issues preventing the refugees from being welcomed to another country in the Middle East.

On March 10, I had the pleasure of talking with the president and founder of the Norooz Foundation, Bahman Maalizadeh. Bahman and his organization are continuing to try and assist the refugees. He has personally visited the camp and spent several thousand dollars to purchase food and water for them during his visits. He was able to obtain assistance from both the Jordan and American militaries to transport the items to the camp.

Prior to the Norooz Foundation assistance, the refugees were drinking unsanitary green and brown water from the ground; through Bahman’s efforts, he was able to purchase and arrange for future deliveries of bottled drinking water. His main focus continues to be through political efforts where he is trying to enlist assistance from the U.S. State Department, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the Jordanian government.

As we convoyed back to our base, I reflected on how much the couple of hours spent in Camp No Man’s Land affected the leathernecks. The newly arriving Marines talked enthusiastically about making more frequent trips to the camp and planned to find groups who would continue shipping care packages to the refugees. The humanitarian mission seemed to be the highlight of the departing Marines’ time in Iraq.

As for me, I thought how great, proud and strong the people were under such adverse conditions. They truly appreciated the Marines’ efforts, and the kids, who face such an uncertain future, especially loved us. As is customary in Iraq, I enjoyed a drink of hot tea with the camp leaders at the conclusion of the mission. The sharing of the tea was a nice way to end our time together.

I realize this mission was not unique. The ability of Marines to be warriors and humanitarians has been repeated countless times during our history. From handing out chocolate during WW II, to sharing C-rations with hungry villagers in Vietnam, to brightening a face with food and soccer balls in Iraq today, Marines have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to care for the children and other innocents around the globe.

Editor’s note: LtCol Tim Crowley volunteered to become a field historian in order to record all the tremendous accomplishments of the Marines. He is slated to return to Iraq this fall and continues to travel and record the individual Marines’ stories.

Last edited by cyrus on Sun Apr 29, 2007 2:38 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 10, 2006 8:03 pm    Post subject: Marine to receive Medal of Honor for Iraq heroism Reply with quote

Marine to receive Medal of Honor for Iraq heroism


Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham will be awarded posthumously the Medal of Honor.

(CNN) -- President Bush announced on Friday that the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military decoration, will be awarded posthumously to Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham.

In April 2004, Dunham was leading a patrol in an Iraqi town near the Syrian border when the patrol stopped a convoy of cars leaving the scene of an attack on a Marine convoy, according to military and media accounts of the action.

An occupant of one of the cars attacked Dunham and the two fought hand to hand. As they fought, Dunham yelled to fellow Marines, "No, no watch his hand." The attacker then dropped a grenade and Dunham hurled himself on top of it, using his helmet to try to blunt the force of the blast.

Still, Dunham was critically wounded in the explosion and died eight days later at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland.

"As long as we have Marines like Corporal Dunham, America will never fear for her liberty," Bush said Friday as he announced that Dunham would receive the award. Bush spoke at the dedication of the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Virginia.

"His was a selfless act of courage to save his fellow Marines," Sgt. Maj. Daniel A. Huff of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, was quoted as saying in Marine Corps News that April.

"He knew what he was doing," Lance Cpl. Jason A. Sanders, 21, of McAllester, Oklahoma, who was in Dunham's company, was quoted as saying by Marine Corps News. "He wanted to save Marines' lives from that grenade."

In various media accounts, fellow Marines told how Dunham had extended his enlistment shortly before he died so he could help his comrades.

"We told him he was crazy for coming out here," Lance Cpl. Mark E. Dean, 22, from Owasso, Oklahoma, said in Marine Corps News. "He decided to come out here and fight with us. All he wanted was to make sure his boys made it back home."

"He loved his country, believed in his mission, and wanted to stay with his fellow Marines and see the job through," Vice President Dick Cheney said when speaking of Dunham's heroism at a Disabled American Veterans conference in July 2004.

The Scio, New York, native would have been 25 years old on Friday.

In a letter urging Bush to honor Dunham with the Medal of Honor, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, called the Marine's actions "an act of unbelievable bravery and selflessness."

Dunham's story was told in the book "The Gift of Valor," written by Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Phillips.

Dunham will be the second American to receive the Medal of Honor from service in Iraq.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith was the other, honored for action near Baghdad International Airport in April 2003, in which he killed as many as 50 enemy combatants while helping wounded comrades to safety. Smith was the only U.S. soldier killed in the battle.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 29, 2007 2:11 pm    Post subject: Make Donnation Today Reply with quote

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 17, 2007 12:53 pm    Post subject: 194 Iranian Kurdish refugees Reply with quote

Roxanne Ganji wrote:
Dear Friends:

Our compatriots need our help today. Please send your donations via Norooz Foundation so that we could bring them into Jordan ASAP and save them from the misery they are going through now. You can call Mrs. Azita at (704) 544-7800.
All your help is truly appreciated.


Click here: Stuck in no-man's land, 194 Iranian Kurdish refugees press to get out - International Herald Tribune
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