Haider Shasho speaks to reporters in Shingal in March 2017. Photo: Rudaw TV
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Shiite Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitias are threatening Yezidi forces in a bid to disarm them, but the commander of the Yezidi force says they won’t lay down weapons.
“The Ezidixan Protection Forces is an official force and has been registered by the Ministry of Peshmerga. Those within the Hashd al-Shaabi attempting to prevent the movement of the Ezidixan Protection Forces are some known groups, and the officials of the Hashd al-Shaabi are unaware,” Haider Shasho, the commander of the forces, told Rudaw.
On October 17, Peshmerga forces withdrew from the Shingal region following a takeover by Iraqi forces and the Hashd. The Ezidixan, belonging to the Ministry of Peshmerga and composed of Yezidis, remained.
“We tell everyone that laying down weapons isn’t in our dictionary,” Shasho warned.
He added that the request made by Hashd al-Shaabi is a dream, and that they won’t heed it as they are from Shingal, formed not with the orders of Hashd to be dissolved by its orders.
Hashd al-Shaabi’s official media made no statements regarding movements in Shingal on Wednesday.
Shingal is a disputed or Kurdistani area claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad. The Peshmerga are a force recognized under the Iraqi constitution. The Hashd were recognized as a paramilitary by the Iraqi parliament under the command of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in December 2016.
Amid Turkish warnings to target Shingal, Abadi called on PKK fighters to withdraw
from the Yezidi homeland in April.
The Hashd liberated several Yezidi villages in southern Shingal through the ISIS conflict.
Images circulated on social media on Saturday of US armored vehicles in Shingal. Mayor Mahma Khalil told Rudaw
on Saturday that US forces were stationed in the area.
"On Friday, a US military unit was stationed in the Chel Mira area of Shingal with the aim of creating political stability there," said Khalil.
The US military called claims that it was present in Shingal to stabilize it “bad reporting.”
“So a convoy was sighted, and the purpose of that convoy was to go to a tactical area that was going to directly support Operation Roundup operations,” US Col. Thomas Veale, the director of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, told Pentagon reporters on Tuesday.
Operation Roundup is a US-led international anti-ISIS coalition mission to provide security along the Iraq-Syria border and clear ISIS remnants in the Middle Euphrates River Valley. Its second phase began on Sunday and involved coalition, Iraqi Security Forces, and Syrian Democratic Forces.
“So, that movement that was seen around Sinjar was specifically pertaining to Operation Roundup and has nothing to do with any other topic,” added Veale.
Some 1,000 fighters of the Ezidkhan Protection Force were officially put under the Kurdistan Region’s Peshmerga Ministry in March 2017. Shasho is head
of the Yezidi Democratic Party.