Ramazan Badur, an Iraqi taxi driver, said, “We are three friends. Altogether we had 800 liras [$274], but we are now down to our last 10 liras." He added, "When that runs out, we will cross the stream secretly and sneak into Turkey.”
He expressed his opinion to go home in Turkey as soon as possible. He is not alone though, as thousands others like him want to go back home. All these persons are in this state, as Turkey closed down the Habur crossing, which is controlled by the Kurdish Regional Government on the Iraqi side.
On December 13th, Habur Crossing was closed by Turkey, after declaring curfew in the region. However, trucks crossing Iraq are occasionally allowed, but thousand other vehicles are left static.
Taxis carrying passengers are waiting in the customs zone and trucks waiting to enter Turkey are waiting outside it. Everyone is desperately trying to hear news from Turkey. A routine has developed. With the first rays of daylight, people get out of their vehicles to stretch their limbs. They have been sleeping in tiny cars for days on end. Then it is time for breakfast. As most have exhausted their own rations, they go to a nearby café for breakfast and to watch TV news.
When they hear nothing about their saga, they start discussing other issues. When the night comes, everyone heads back to their cold cars.
Hezil Stream delineates the border between Turkey and Iraq. This is the stream Badur plans to cross illegally. He said he has been out of touch with his family.
Murat Soyler, another taxi driver, said, “I have been here for 15 days. I took one bath. We stink. There is no food, no money except my last 10 liras. I had 800 liras but we are three people. We are desperate. My brother went home by crossing the stream. Let them open the road so we can go home. When we run out of money, we too will cross the stream.”
He added, “We have been here for 10 days. Children are hungry at home. Shopkeepers here meet our needs, but our money is finished. We sleep in our cars. Only once I took a cold shower.”
Some say there are 3,000 people waiting; others say 10,000. It is not only the drivers who are stranded. Mural Bilgic, a construction contractor in Iraq, said the border was closed shortly before he got there. He is suffering a double loss: he can’t go to Turkey, and he can’t bring over supplies needed for his construction from Turkey.
He stated, “Because vehicles cannot cross, our supplies can’t come. All our work has stopped. Gas stations offer one meal a day to drivers. … We sleep at the hotel; others sleep in vehicles. We could have returned by plane but we have our vehicles with us. I am losing $1,500 a day. We work with the private sector. We have to fulfill our contracts. Drivers are all in negative, angry moods because they can’t get to their families."