SHINGAL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) – The President of the Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani has verbally agreed to Ezidkhan Protection Units of Sinjar (Shingal) joining the Kurdish Peshmerga Ministry, said the commander of the Units on Thursday.
In a live interview with Kurdistan24, the Commander of Ezidkhan Protection Units Haider Shasho said that they have repeatedly asked the Ministry to accept the Units as a Kurdish Yezidi (Ezidi) force, but there have been disagreements within the Ministry for that request.
Shasho praised President Barzani’s decision to take in Ezidkhan and hoped that it would be quickly implemented. “It will not be in the interest of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Ezidi people in case if the decision is reversed.”
“We want to join Peshmerga Ministry because it is the Ministry of all Kurdish people. We as Ezidis see ourselves as Kurdistani, and our language is Kurdish too. We will never be able to isolate ourselves from Kurdistan which is our homeland,” he stated.
Shasho noted that they want to be directly part of Peshmerga Ministry without being under the influence of any Kurdish political parties in the Region.
Ezidkhan has over 7,000 fighters, 4,870 of whom have already finished military training and serve on the ground in protecting Shingal from the so-called Islamic State (IS), according to the Commander.
The Units was formed after the fall of Shingal into the hands of the extremist group in August 2014. Ezidkhan was logistically and financially supported by Hashd al-Shaabi known as Popular Mobilization Forces which is under the federal government of Iraq.
“We received aid from Baghdad only for four months,” Shasho added. “Since March 2015, we haven’t received anything from Hashd al-Shaabi, and now we have no links with them.”
In another part of the interview, the Commander commented on the presence of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) armed wing in the city known as Shingal Protection Units (YBS). According to him, Ezidi people should not accept YBS presence in the area if it poses a threat to Ezidis and their future and if the force does not respect Ezidis’ opinions.
“We ask our brothers [YBS] to be a part of rebuilding Shingal,” he noted.
Asked whether Peshmerga can protect Shingal alone without the presence of other forces in the area, Shasho said, “Peshmerga is a precious name. They have spilled blood for protecting Kurdistan for decades. It is due to the Peshmerga that Kurdistan has now reached to a state level.”
But he claims that Ezidis need time to resume trust in Peshmerga after the fall of Shingal to the IS in August 2014 when the group committed countless atrocities against the Ezidis.
Lacking sufficient weapons, ammunition and military training to combat IS, Peshmerga was not able to protect Shingal in August 2014 when the jihadists attacked.
Following the military training and armament by the US-led coalition, Peshmerga forces liberated Shingal from IS in Nov. 2015 in less than two days of fighting and with minimum number of casualties.
Shasho highlighted the importance of Barzani’s decision to promote Shingal as a Province, hoping the decision will translate into legal procedures by the Kurdistan Region Presidency and Parliament before Baghdad makes such a move.
“The decision will secure the rights of Ezidis and resolve many issues,” Ezidkhan Commander mentioned. “Shingal has been a victim in the past decade as the Iraqi federal government has failed to implement Article 140 of the constitution which is about the disputed territories.”
Shasho concluded that Ezidis and Shingal have always had a Kurdistani identity, but since the city was part of Nineveh Province, the rights of Ezidis have been largely lost in between.
Over a year passed on the Shingal liberation, the city remains largely destroyed as the US-led coalition air strikes on the IS bases in the area have heavily damaged Shingal. According to Shingal Mayor Mahma Khalil, over 85 percent of Shingal has been destroyed and about 40 percent of the territory is still under the IS control located in the east and south side of the city.
Editing by Ava Homa
(Kamaran Haji Omar conducted the interview)