ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Baghdad will together rebuild the predominantly Yezidi (Ezidi) town of Sinjar (Shingal) and promote its status to that of a province, with a local administration that reflects the unique makeup of the area, the Kurdistan Region’s Prime Minister, Nechirvan Barzani, said on Monday.
Barzani’s comments came during a speech delivered at a ceremony at the Erbil International Airport (EIA), where local and foreign dignitaries were present to receive the body of the late Ezidi leader, Mir Tahseen Beg. Beg died on Jan. 28 at the age of 86 in Germany after suffering from a long-term illness.
The top Kurdish official stated that Ezidis should play a larger role in governing themselves and the “administration of their areas should reflect their unique situation,” suggesting Shingal should become a governorate of its own. “In the Kurdistan Region and Baghdad, we will take serious steps in this regard.”
Barzani mentioned he would be working with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi and the international community to rebuild Shingal.
The emergence of the Islamic State and its violent assault on Shingal in 2014 led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Ezidis. Most of them fled to the Kurdistan Region, while others resettled in neighboring countries in the region or Western states.
Others were not as lucky and remained stranded in the war zone, where they experienced atrocities and mass executions at the hands of the extremist group for years. Militants subjected women and girls to sexual slavery, kidnapped children, forced religious conversions, executed scores of men, and abused, sold, and trafficked women across areas they controlled in Iraq and Syria.
“Da’esh committed barbaric crimes against the Ezidis,” Barzani continued. “Da’esh Kidnapped our Ezidi mothers and girls, selling them in markets [as slaves], and separated women from their children and husbands, crimes that had not been committed in the current century.”
Prior to the 2014 attack, there were roughly 550,000 Ezidis in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq. As the jihadist group took over large swaths of territory in Nineveh Province, 360,000 Ezidis escaped and found refuge elsewhere, according to the KRG’s Ezidi Rescue Office.
So far, 69 mass graves which contain the remains of Ezidis have been excavated along with untold numbers of individual graves.
The Kurdish and Ezidi Peshmerga forces, with the support of the US-led coalition, liberated Shingal from the Islamic State in Nov. 2015, but the town remains a ghost-town, with little to no basic services available.
Shingal, one of the disputed territories between Erbil and Baghdad, is currently under the control of Iraqi forces and Shia militias. Iraqi forces, Shia militias, a limited amount of Kurdish fighters, and Peshmerga are present in Shingal and its outskirts, with tensions between them over who will control the strategic town, which lies near the Syrian border.
Barzani said that the KRG would put forward all its efforts to find and rescue the remaining missing Ezidis, stating the rescue office had so far liberated 3,342 Ezidis from the hands of the Islamic State. However, some 3,000 more have yet to be freed.
“Their rescue will be our [government’s] priority,” he added.
Editing by Nadia Riva