SHINGAL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Had the Kurdistan Region been an independent state, Kurdish Yazidis (Ezidis) would not have faced genocide and the atrocities they suffered at the hands of the so-called Islamic State (IS), a Ezidi Commander said on Thursday.
On Aug 3, 2014, IS stormed the Ezidi-majority city of Shingal, west of the Kurdistan Region. The jihadist group kidnapped and enslaved thousands of Ezidi women and girls, and carried out large scale executions of the Ezidi people.
“Had there been an independent Kurdistan, we [Ezidis] wouldn’t have faced the August 3 massacre. If Kurdistan were a sovereign country 100 years ago, similar to other nations in the world, the number of genocides and hateful attacks on the Ezidi people wouldn’t be as high as it is now,” Haider Shasho, Commander of Ezidkhan unit in Shingal, said during an interview with Kurdistan 24.
74 massacres and attacks have been carried out against the Ezidi community in Iraq in recent history.
Should the Kurdistan Region become an independent state, he noted, Ezidis and all those living in the Kurdistan Region would be shielded from persecution, future genocides, and other atrocities many have suffered from in Iraq.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is set to hold an independence referendum on Sep. 25, to decide whether to secede from the rest of Iraq.
In mid-2014, following the emergence of IS in Mosul, the Iraqi army abandoned the area, leaving behind heavy weaponry and military equipment in the hands of the jihadist group which allowed for the jihadist group to quickly expand and invade nearby towns and cities, including Shingal.
In a successful military operation, Peshmerga forces, with the support of US-led coalition air strikes, liberated Shingal from IS in Nov. 2015.
Qassim Shasho, the Commander of the Ezidi Peshmerga units, explained to Kurdistan 24 that Ezidis continue to face threats in the 21st century.
“After thousands of years, the number of Ezidis around the world still hasn't exceeded a million as they have endured one genocidal campaign after another throughout history,” said the Ezidi Peshmerga Commander.
He emphasized that Ezidis do not want to be part of Iraq, recognizing Ezidis have historically faced cruel treatment in the country.
“We as Ezidis have two options: either our areas officially become a part of the Kurdistan Region and secure a protected future, or we all abandon Iraq and move abroad.”
The Kurdistan Region is home to over 400,000 displaced Ezidis who fled to the region to escape the jihadist threat in 2014. Some have traveled to neighboring countries while other immigrated to Europe and other western nations.
Editing by G.H. Renaud