April 27-30, 1991: First Days in Kurdistan

Steven Dutch, Professor Emeritus, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay

Sat April 27, 1991: First Day In Country

I woke up at 0630 to see our site for the first time. We are in a beautiful green valley with rugged mountains to the north. Isikveren, a snow-capped ridge in Turkey and site of one of the largest refugee concentrations, is visible to the far north. To the southwest near Zakho are more rugged mountains. A mile or so to our south are rounded green hills that look exactly like the California Coast Ranges. The scenery is remarkably beautiful; I remarked that if I owned real estate that looked like this in the U.S. I could make a fortune and retire.

Most of the day was devoted to setting up camp, pitching tents, and getting oriented. The refugee camp itself consists of hundreds of blue and white tents on a ridge about a quarter of a mile from us. The tents were donated by Sears and came to be called "Smurf tents". Our camp consists so far of 20 or so GP-small tents separated by the main camp by a shallow valley. I still have a touch of the bug and had a desperate trek to the nearest latrine before the Engineers built a latrine in our camp. The area is constantly abuzz with helicopters. The weather is perfect: about 75 during the day, 45 or so at night.

Gulf War Image At this point, the future Camp Red-Eye is a small row of tents
Gulf War Image The "Smurf" tents; blue and white civilian tents donated by Sears.
Gulf War Image Looking north to the mountains in Turkey
Gulf War Image Smoke marks a landing zone for incoming refugees.
Gulf War Image How do you spell relief? "The Latrines Are Going Up."
Gulf War Image Camp Red-Eye grows.
Gulf War Image Mountains to the north in Turkey

Sun April 28, 1991

I got up at 0630 and went to 0730 Mass conducted by a Navy chaplain attached to the Marines. The Marines sat out the Gulf War on carriers in the Mediterranean and for the most part are delighted to have a real mission. It was a zero day, with very little happening. In the morning we had briefings on camp organization and water supplies.

The Royal Marines (U.K.) have a strange compulsion to build latrines. They built one for us yesterday, then tore it down and rebuilt it today. In the afternoon we got some GP-medium tents and erected one. By the time this was over we would be experts at erecting tents. The mess crew and friends had a noisy party in the evening.

Gulf War Image Our new home
Gulf War Image Gulf War Image

Mon April 29, 1991: First Customers

We had a meeting at 0700, then some of use erected the mess tent. Our vehicles began arriving from Incirlik on flatbed trailers. Later in the morning I helped erect the medical screening tents. While in the inprocessing area I heard one Kurd giving a friend an impromptu English lesson, repeating over and over "Dip-lo-mat-ic Im-mun-i-ty"! In the afternoon I went up to the main camp and helped supervise Kurdish crews who were putting up GP-small tents (no more Smurf tents!) The first refugees arrived about 1700, some by chopper. Over 100 were processed in.

The camp plan is the work of an Engineer NCO and is based on Kurdish cultural preferences about living. Eight GP-small or 12 Smurf tents in a circle make up a zozan (Kurdish for neighborhood). These held an average of 60 people, sometimes close to 100, when the camps finally filled, and were about right for a single extended family group. Four zozans in a square made up a block, bounded by fire lanes. Four blocks make up a Gund, a term that was never used much in practice, and four Gunds made up a subcommunity. The camp was to have five subcommunities surrounding a central administrative and supply area. I was told the NCO's name but never wrote it down. I hope he got a very major award.

         FIRE LANE              +--+--+ +--+--+

       F  o  o   o  o  F        |  |  | |     |

       I o    o o    o I        +--+--+ + GUND+

       R o    o o    o R =====> |  |  | |     |

       E  o  o   o  o  E        +--+--+ +--+--+

       L  o  o   o  o  L        +--+--+ +--+--+

       A o    o o    o A        |  |  | |  |  |

       N o    o o    o N        +--+--+ +--+--+

       E  o  o   o  o  E        |  |  | |  |  |

          FIRE LANE             +--+--+ +--+--+

Gulf War Image Gulf War Image
Gulf War Image The inprocessing center.
Gulf War Image Moonrise over the hills

Tue April 30, 1991: In Business

Today was spent supervising the Kurds in tent erection. (Every Army tent has a panel saying to do something or other before erection. I keep thinking that only the Army would think people need instructions to have an erection!) I spend the morning getting a mis-laid (sorry - no pun intended)section corrected. The area allotted to each zozan is about 25 meters square. It is possible to get a circle of 8 tents in that tight a space, but only with very careful supervision. In the afternoon my crew got some new zozans erected. The Kurds quit about 1530, so I ran errands and escorted incoming refugees until 1730, then did laundry and got a cold shower. It was a tiring day. Several hundred more Kurds arrived, bringing us up to over 1000 by the end of the day.

Gulf War Image Camp Red-Eye has reached full size by now.

Gulf War Image The inprocessing area.
Gulf War Image Below: Kurdish workers help erect more tents.
Gulf War Image Gulf War Image

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Created January 10, 2000; Last Update 11 June 2020

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