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Rudaw

Kurdistan

Crisis Group urges Baghdad to make use of local governance in Shingal

By Rudaw 20/2/2018
A building shown destroyed during the ISIS conflict in northern areas Shingal on June 6, 2018. Photo: Chris Johannes | Rudaw
A building shown destroyed during the ISIS conflict in northern areas Shingal on June 6, 2018. Photo: Chris Johannes | Rudaw

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — An international conflict prevention and resolution NGO has called on Baghdad to stabilize the Yezidi homeland of Shingal by making use of a local administration set up by the KDP in order to facilitate return.

 

Members of this administration "possess the skills needed for the restoration of functioning governance institutions in Sinjar,” stated the International Crisis Group (ICG) in a report published on Tuesday.

 

When ISIS militants brutally marched into Shingal and its surroundings in August 2014, they arrested thousands of Yezidis. Some of them were collectively killed in the region; other girls and women were taken and later sold as sex slaves by ISIS members.

 

The ICG report urged Baghdad to "lead the way" to restore local governance in Sinjar by relying on Yazidis in order to reduce "their dependence on external power.”

 

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had the opportunity at the Kuwait conference last week to make his case for stabilization and rebuilding projects in Shingal.

 

Yazda, a US-based NGO run by Yezidis, was present at the conference. Its executive director, Murad Ismael, participated in high-level meetings at the reconstruction conference.

 

"We are saddened that no Yazidi or minority voices were heard," stated Ismael on February 13. "The situation of the Yazidis and other religious minorities should have been at the heart of these discussions, including the plight of Yazidi women as survivors of an ongoing genocide and sexual enslavement."

 

Yezidi MP Vian Dakhil from the KDP noted that Iraq did not bring the donor conference a single proposal for reconstruction of the Shingal district, despite the city being officially declared a war-damaged zone.

 

The town was liberated more than two years ago, in November 2015, by Kurdish forces including Peshmerga of the Kurdistan Region and PKK fighters.

 

Shingal has been a stronghold for the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the largest party currently in the Kurdistan Regional Government. It controls the ministries of interior, Peshmerga, and office of the prime minister.

 

ICG charged that the KDP "treated the Yazidis... as second-class Kurds" and "barely disguised its ambition... to annex Sinjar."

 

Contrary to the sluggish process of development and return of IDPs to their Yezidi hometowns, Shingal appears to be heading toward a hotly-contested election with some locals expressing that politicians are busy getting themselves posts and positions for themselves at our expense. The KDP has tipped 20 Yezidis in Nineveh province for the upcoming elections.

 

Shingal came under Iraqi central control last October when the Iraqi army and Hashd al-Shaabi took over much of the disputed areas. Prior to this there were still KDP, PUK, and PKK-affiliated Shingal Protection Units (YBS) checkpoints and security institutions in Shingal.

 

A Hashd commander said that his forces coordinate only with Iraqi forces, though they have good relations with the Peshmerga. Abu Mahdi Muhandis, deputy head of the Hashd’s general body, also told Rudaw that the areas will be handed over to locals to administer once the region is completely clear of ISIS.

 

So far, 47 Yezidi candidates have registered for the Iraqi parliamentary elections on May 12, vying for the votes of nearly 160,000 locals. They will campaign on seven lists in provinces of Duhok and Nineveh, as the Shingal region straddles both. 

 

An investigation into mass graves conducted by The Associated Press and published in August 2016, concluded that between 5,200 and 15,000 people are buried in 72 mass graves in territory the militants formerly controlled between Iraq and Syria.

 

The UN has called the massacre of Yezidis genocide.

 

More than half a million Yezidis lived in the Shingal region prior to ISIS. Around 360,000 Yezidis are sheltered in the Kurdistan Region, while about 100,000 have gone abroad.

 

Yazda stated last September that as many as 1,636 women and girls and 1,173 men and boys remain unaccounted for.

 

"Only the effective reentry of the Iraqi state, mediating between factions and reinstating local governance, can fully stabilize Sinjar, lay the groundwork for reconstruction, allow the displaced to return and end foreign interference," added the ICG.

 

Related: Yezidi MP ‘pessimistic’ about future in post-ISIS Iraq 

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