Some in the Domiz camp said the PYD protects Kurds against both rebel fighters and regime soldiers, while others described the PYD militiamen as regime sub-contractors terrorizing residents.
‘‘The regime and the PYD work together,’’ said Abdel Khader Taha, a 37-year-old laborer from Qamishli who sported a colorful tattoo of Barzani on his chest. Taha said he fears all Kurds will one day be targeted by Syrian rebels because of the PYD’s perceived collusion with the regime.
Taha and others in the camp seemed ambivalent about Syria’s future.
While favoring Kurdish autonomy, they acknowledge that carving out a self-rule zone, like in Iraq, is difficult because Kurds are dispersed across the country. Refugees say they fear the Muslim Brotherhood, the pan-Arab Sunni movement driving the anti-Assad rebellion, will disregard Syria’s ethnic and religious minorities once Assad falls.
‘‘We fear a big ethnic war in Syria,’’ said Ali Kalash, 57, a former Syrian civil servant, standing with a group of men in one of the tent-lined alleys of the camp.
Staying in Iraq may be their best option, and the Kurds are getting an easier start than hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees who have fled to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.
Ali Sindi, the planning minister in Iraq’s Kurdish region, said his government has a special obligation to the Syrian Kurds because of the uncertainties over their future after the fall of the regime.
Many of the new arrivals have found jobs, in part because they’re willing to work for less than the locals.
Biran Hassan, 25, left Qamishli nine months ago and now works as a waiter in a hotel in Irbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region, making $500 a month — just half what local residents get paid. Most of the hotel staff are Syrian refugees.
Faisal Mahmoud, 42, left behind his family in the Syrian town of Kobani and arrived in Domiz last week. If he can find work as a cook, he'll bring them to Iraq, he said.
Some are even carving out a life in the camp, administered by the government and a U.N. agency.
Cousins Rezzan and Ibrahim Jegarkhouen invested $2,000 to build a cinderblock shack and turn it into a barbershop, spending a recent sunny afternoon whitewashing the walls.
Even before the Syrian uprising, there was little work in their hometown of Qamishli, and the move to Iraq presents an opportunity, they said. ‘‘If there is no democracy (after the fall of Assad), we will not go back,’’ said Ibrahim.
Khader Qassem, 30, has planned even further ahead.
Since arriving with his wife and five children eight months ago, he has replaced a U.N.-issue tent with a cinderblock shack complete with tiled floors, running water and a washing machine. He has also built an adjacent grocery, for a total of $7,000.
‘‘I want to stay here for at least 10 years,’’ Qassem said of Iraq. ‘‘We have more rights here than in Syria.’’