A home in the Shingal region displays YBS and Ezidi flags and PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan's portrait. Photo: Rudaw
DUHOK, Kurdistan Region—The story of Yezidi Kurds in the Shingal region joining the Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi forces continues to date and more than 800 of them have joined the group so far, a Yezidi official who has also joined the Shiite forces told Rudaw. However, the head of Shingal security forces (Asayish) has said this number is around 320.
Many Yezidis joined the Hashd forces after the Shiite paramilitary group started an operation to liberate the ISIS-held areas of south Shingal.
The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) formed a 1,500 force unit known as the YBS for the Yezidis of the region after the PKK fighters positioned themselves on Mount Shingal in 2014. Some of these Yezidis defected from the PKK forces and joined the Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi forces.
According to information obtained by Rudaw, nearly 75 percent of the Yezidis who have joined the Hashd forces were previously YBS fighters. The rest were Peshmerga of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and 20 percent of them Shingal Command led by Qasim Shasho of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).
After the operations waged by the Hashd al Shaabi forces, Naif Jasim, the chieftain of the village of Kocho and leader of the Mandkan tribe, joined the Hashd forces who formed a regiment for him called Ezidkhan Regiment.
Yezidis joining the Hashd forces has caused problems for the Shingal Reconstruction Council which the PKK had formed. Hence, the PKK had to dedicate new staff to the Council.
“I gradually realized they wanted to impose the Apo [Ocalan] ideology on our religion. That is why I decided to join the Hashd al-Shaabi forces,” Khudida Juku, former member of the Shingal Reconstruction Council and current official of the Ezidkhan Regiment told Rudaw about his defection form the PKK forces.
Juku was a prominent member of the Shingal Reconstruction Council.
“I have joined the Hashd al Shaabi forces on principle. They are liberating our areas and then handing them over to us to run them without imposing any conditions on us,” he added.
The PKK formed the Shingal Reconstruction Council in December 2014. The number of the Council at the time was 35, half of who have now joined the Hashd al-Shaabi forces. Hence, the head of the Council was changed and new members were brought in.
“The new staff of the Council has now started to work. We held some meetings with the PKK officials recently. We expect them to do well on the reconstruction of Shingal,” Hussein Haji, the new head of the Shingal Reconstruction Council told Rudaw.
Haji also spoke about the number of YBS fighters who have joined the Hashd forces, saying: “I don’t know for sure how many of them have joined these forces. In addition to the (YBS fighters), member of the KDP, the Peshmerga forces and members from all the other parties have joined the Hashd al-Shaabi forces.”
A year ago, a prominent YBS commander, Khal Ali, along with nearly 100 Yezidis, including some YBS fighters, joined the Hashd forces that later formed a regiment for them called Lalish.
“So far, 800 Yezidis have joined the Hashd al Shaabi forces. Young Yezidis try daily to join the Hashd forces. However, the YBS and Peshmerga are preventing them from doing so,” Juku said.
“According to the statistics we have, 320 Yezidis have this far joined the Hashd forces," Qasim Simo, director of Shingal Asayesh told Rudaw. "Many of them were previously YBS fighters. In addition, Qasim Shivan, a PUK committee executive in Shingal, along with 120 more people have joined the Hashd al Shaabi forces,”
Simo claimed Hashd al-Shaabi officials are upset with the Yezidis because those who had earlier joined these Shiite forces had apparently introduced themselves as representatives of the majority of Yezidis. But the Hashd forces, after liberating their areas, had later realized these Yezidis don’t represent many of their people.
“Nearly 150 people who had earlier joined the Hashd al Shaabi forces have regretted their decision and left these forces,” Simo said.