Yezidi volunteers rebuilding a temple in Bashiqa in June. Photo: Rudaw TV
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A Yezidi activist organization is calling for the roads to Shingal and Bashiqa to be reopened to allow Yezidis freedom of movement to their homes.
The main roads connecting the Kurdistan Region with the Shingal area and Bashiqa, north of Mosul, have been closed since Iraqi forces and Shiite militias took over the areas in October, pushing Kurdish forces out of the disputed areas following Kurdistan’s independence vote.
Shingal and Bashiqa are traditional homelands of the Yezidis, many of whom are still sheltering in the Kurdistan Region’s Duhok province, yet unable to return home after ISIS.
“The blockage of the two main road systems forces displaced Yazidis to take an 8-hour risky journey through Erbil and Mosul,” Yazda stated.
“The Yazidi community remain vastly displaced to the Kurdistan Region, therefore, it is a human rights violation to prevent citizens from reaching their homeland,” the US-based advocacy group stated on Tuesday.
Yazda asked the Iraqi government and the KRG to reach an agreement to reopen the routes.
A ceasefire has held between Iraqi and Kurdish forces since late October. Security-level talks between the two sides appear to have stalled and no political-level talks have taken place yet despite urging from international allies. The KRG has made concessions in the face of Baghdad’s opposition to the independence referendum, but Iraqi officials have so far resisted beginning discussions to resolve matters.
A local administration has reportedly been appointed in Shingal, but Yazda Executive Director Murad Ismael said recently it is “not official and not functional.”
This has also created a problem for the KRG’s special commission investigating ISIS crimes, which can no longer access
locations in Shingal.
Yazda points out the importance of ensuring Yezidis are able to freely able to travel to their homes during the traditional Three Day Fast in December – Eida Rojiet Ezi – from December 12 to 15. Many will want to visit temples and graves in their home towns during this time.
Shingal was liberated from ISIS in November 2015 but reconstruction of the heavily damaged town has been slow. Access has repeatedly been cited as a problem. Several armed groups have been active in the area.