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PUK throws support behind Yezidi leader Shasho for Iraq elections

By Rudaw 31/1/2018
Haider Shasho speaks to reporters in Shingal in March 2017. Photo: Rudaw TV
Haider Shasho speaks to reporters in Shingal in March 2017. Photo: Rudaw TV
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The KDP and PUK will not nominate anyone for the one-seat Yezidi quota in the Iraqi parliament with a PUK official saying it will support the candidacy of Yezidi leader Haider Shasho.

"We have not had candidates for the Yezidi quota in any election, and we will not have it now," Jamil Khedir, the head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan's (PUK) office in Shingal, told Rudaw.

“Nevertheless, we will support the candidate of Shasho's party, because they consider themselves Kurds while the other parties do not consider themselves Kurds,” added Khedir.

Shasho is the head of the Yezidi Democratic Party founded last year. He was a member of the PUK's Central Council until April 2017. 

Shasho previously had problems with Kurdish authorities in Erbil for having ties with Baghdad. He was also briefly arrested in 2016 on charges of receiving salaries from the central government.
The issue was resolved after he was promised that his force would be incorporated into the Peshmerga forces.

"We really tried for all Yezidi parties to run in elections on a joint list, but they could not agree. We have a candidate for the quota seat and we are confident that we will win it," Shasho said.

The Yezidi Party for Reform and Development has won the seat in the last two Iraqi parliamentary elections. Four parties are currently contending for the seat. 

The head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party's office in Shingal has said they do not have candidates for the quota seat and that they will not support any party running for it. 

Yezidis are an ethno-religious minority in the Shingal region. When ISIS came to Shingal in August 2014, they faced genocide with thousands having been kidnapped and killed. 

When ISIS attacked Shingal, then, Shasho, then a member of the PUK, fought the group near Sheikh Sharafadeen shrine on Mount Shingal, encouraging many to stand by him and fight.
Later on he formed the Ezidkhan force, but the Peshmerga ministry cut the salaries of his force late last year after they refused to withdraw in the face of the Iraqi military incursion into disputed areas in October. 

Iraqi MP Vian Dakhil of the KDP, a Kurdish Yezidi, has expressed disappointment with the parliament for not adding more seats for the group. Every 100,000 voters are allocated one seat in parliament, therefore entitling the 500,000-strong Yezidi population to five seats, according to Dakhil.

It is estimated that 400,000 Yezidis were displaced because of the ISIS war and most haven’t returned ahead of elections in May.

"I am very pessimistic about the future of minorities in Iraq... [They] have been very much neglected," Dakhil added. 

She reiterated that earlier this month a number of MPs submitted a motion to the speaker of the parliament, Salim al-Jabouri, to increase the number of seats allocated to Yezidis under the country's quota system, but were turned down.

Some 1,000 fighters of the Ezidkhan Protection Force were officially put under the Kurdistan Region’s Peshmerga Ministry in mid-March. 

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