A young child plays on Mount Shingal where he lives with his family in a camp of Yezidis displaced from their homes. Photo: Hannah Lynch/Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The political and security situation on the ground is hampering efforts to rebuild Yezidi communities in the Shingal area, causing aid agencies to withdraw from the area.
Most of the NGOs that were assisting Yezidi communities in Shingal and Nineveh have left. “They have withdrawn due to instabilities and current political turmoil,” Murad Ismael, executive director of Yezidi advocacy group Yazda, told Rudaw.
Iraqi forces took control of Yezidi areas in Shingal and northern Nineveh province, near Bashiqa, in October as part of military advances throughout the disputed areas.
A ceasefire has held for the past month and the Kurdish and Iraqi forces have held security talks, but tensions remain as no political talks have been held to resolve the underlying disputes between Erbil and Baghdad that arose after Kurdistan’s independence vote.
A Yezidi leader accused Shiite militias of looting homes in Shingal.
With the departure of international charities, Yazda is hoping their recent registration in Baghdad will ensure their own vital work can continue, unimpeded.
The group announced on Tuesday that it completed official registration with Iraqi authorities, receiving certification from Baghdad’s NGO department.
Ismael explained that they began the registration process before Iraqi forces took control of the Shingal area. “This was not sparked by recent developments, however, these recent changes made acquiring an authorization from the central government for our work in Sinjar and Nineveh Plains more pressing,” he said.
Yazda is a registered organization in the USA, UK, Germany, Sweden, Australia, and in the Kurdistan Region.
In addition to its global advocacy efforts for Yezidis – the organization works closely with UN Goodwill Ambassador Nadia Murad – it has many ongoing projects in Shingal: a mobile health clinic, small business and development projects, and education efforts.
With the area now under the control of the central government, authorization with Baghdad will allow Yazda to continue to access Shingal and Nineveh areas, Ismael explained.
“Continuation of these projects is crucial” at this time, said Ismael, especially because “most of the international and local NGOs have left these areas.”
Some 350,000 people were displaced from the Shingal area when ISIS militants overran northern Iraq and committed genocide against the Yezidi community, according to KRG figures. Ismael said that between 80,000 and 90,000 have returned to Shingal and some 40,000 have returned to Bashiqa, northeast of Mosul. They are in need of essential services like health care, water, electricity, and education.
Tens of thousands have also emigrated abroad.
“The Yazidi community remains vastly displaced and a long-term solution should be provided so that people can someday return to their homeland and live with dignity,” said Ismael.
He also called on Kurdish and Iraqi authorities to re-open roads to allow travel between Duhok, where most of the Yezidi IDPs are living, and their communities in Shingal and Bashiqa.