A Kurdish Peshmerga outpost sits just kilometers north of the Yezidi village of Kocho. Photo: Rudaw
SHINGAL, Kurdistan Region - More than 150 Yezidis who had recently joined Hashd al-Shaabi have withdrawn and returned back to Kurdish Peshmerga-held areas in Shingal, according to a local official.
“Some of them were Peshmerga and returned back to their work,” said Shingal Asayesh (security) chief Qasim Simo.
Qasim Simo told Rudaw “In the last few days more than 150 Yezidi Kurds withdrew from Hashd al-Shaabi and came back to Peshmerga-held areas in Shingal. Security and Peshmerga forces will facilitate their return, even those previously were Peshmerga will return back to their works.”
He revealed that returning back Yezidis previously joined the primarily Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary units (PMUs) is ongoing on a daily basis.
“The Yezidi Kurds who joined Hashd al-Shaabi had different purposes, after they realized what they had gone for wasn’t the case, they started returning back.” Simo added
Of the 300 Yezidis in the Shingal region who were believed to had joined the Hashd al-Shaabi, 150 have now returned, according to Simo.
The unofficial demarcation between Hashd and Kurdish Peshmerga frontlines is just north of Kocho.
When ISIS militants attacked Shingal and its surroundings in August 2014, they arrested thousands of Yezidis, many from the village of Kocho. Some of them were killed collectively in the village and the fates of the rest are unclear to date.
In mid-May Naif Jasim Qasim, leader of the Mandkan tribe and chieftain of the village of Kocho, returned to the Kurdistan Region after being in Germany for more than a year. He visited Baghdad and directly joined the Hashd al-Shaabi forces.
Local officials were concerned Qasim’s decision would sway more Yezidis towards Hashd.
The Hashd launched an offensive named "Shingal Martyr's" in early May that captured a number of villages in Qairawan town in the Shingal region.
There are 13 villages and complexes in Qairawan town in the Shingal region, claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad and subject to Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution. The center of Qairawan town is inhabited by Arabs, but the surrounding complexes and villages including Tal Banat, Tal Qasab, Kocho and Gir Azer are mostly Yezidi.