Operation Mercy was formed after the Gulf War in 1991 to aid the thousands of Iraqi Kurds fleeing Saddam Hussein’s forces and stuck in the mountains between Iraq and Turkey. The situation was desperate. The rocky terrain made it difficult to dig latrines as well as graves. The cold and rainy weather left thousands of Kurds vulnerable, hungry, and in unsanitary conditions. Many were dying from exposure, especially the very young and very old. Mr. Bertil Engqvist of Örebro, Sweden was one of the many private persons who volunteered to help in the relief efforts on the Turkish/Iraqi border. He, together with other friends, helped arrange for truck loads of blankets and supplies to be shipped from Europe to the Kurdish people. More volunteers arrived to help with shelter, sanitation, and food distribution. In this context Operation Mercy was born.
From these humble beginnings in 1991, Operation Mercy has expanded beyond relief into development and continues to work in various capacities in over twenty countries throughout Central Asia, the Middle East, the Caucasus, and North Africa.