The two Yezidi units have a combined 13,000 Peshmerga fighters on their payroll. They stayed in their positions in the Yezidi areas even though they received orders to withdraw to KRG-controlled areas. File photo: Rudaw TV
DUHOK, Kurdistan Region – The Kurdistan Region has dissolved two Peshmerga units that were tasked to protect areas in and around the Yezidi town of Shingal following the deployment of Iraqi forces to these places, officials told Rudaw.
The two affected units are Ezidkhan Protection Units and Shingal Command who jointly had more than 13,000 Peshmerga fighters prior to the withdrawal of the Peshmerga from the disputed areas in mid-October.
The Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi has its own Yezidi force and has been in control of Shingal and most other Yezidi areas since then.
A Yezidi Peshmerga commander, who asked not to be named, told Rudaw that a number of their commanders decided not to confront the Hashd al-Shaabi forces when they advanced on Shingal. He said those commanders argued that the Hashd fighters are also Yezidi and they did not want a Yezidi-Yezidi fight to take place.
It added that they reached an agreement with the Yezidi members of the Hashd al-Shaabi to prevent bloodshed.
The Peshmerga Ministry asked its forces to retreat. Only 500 did so, however. The rest remained, the Peshmerga commander said.
He added that former Kurdistan Region president Masoud Barzani, who had been commander-in-chief of the armed forces, stated days after the withdrawal that the Shingal Command had been dissolved.
The Shingal Command was formed on an order from Masoud Barzani after the liberation of Yezidi areas in Shingal in late 2015.
Sheikh Saeed Sileman, who was in charge of the financial department of the command but is now in Germany, stated on his Facebook page that there were 8,250 Yezidi Peshmerga on their payroll before the October 16 events, costing the ministry more than $2 million a month. Each fighter received $300 monthly.
He said the Peshmerga withdrew from many of the disputed areas and Shingal was not an exception. He argued that the Peshmerga ministry should continue to pay their salaries.
Haidar Shasho, another Yezidi commander whose Ezidkhan Protection Force was incorporated into the Peshmerga ministry earlier this year, told Rudaw that his forces who are still stationed in Yezidi areas, have had their salaries cut by the ministry
. He said they cannot withdraw because that would create a security vacuum that would endanger local populations.
Peshmerga spokesperson Halgurd Hikmat confirmed that the Shingal Command had been dissolved.
He said the Peshmerga had an order to withdraw from Shingal in mid-October, but Haider Shasho and Qasem Shasho decided to stay. He said the two commanders made their decision independent of the Peshmerga ministry and "it is now up to them to take responsibility for their decision.”
With regard to the Shingal Command, Hikmat said those who still take orders from his ministry will be absorbed into other units and will receive their salaries.