ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Local police in the Kurdistan Region announced that they had arrested five suspects on allegations of being involved in setting multiple recent fires that tore through a displacement camp where members of the (Yezidi) Ezidi minority group live. Two have since been released after being cleared of the accusations but the others remain in custody.
The first incident occurred on Aug. 6, with an estimated 20 tents being completely burned down at the Chamshko Camp, which is home to nearly 5,000 Ezidi internally displaced persons (IDPs). It is located in the city of Zakho in northern Duhok Province, near the Turkish border.
The fire caused no human casualties but destroyed the homes of displaced families and resulted in additional extensive property damage.
Two more fires followed with at least ten more homes burnt. Initial reports indicated that the fires could have been due to faulty electric wiring but police investigations are still inconclusive. Such incidents have occurred multiple times in the past in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.
“Three people have been arrested on accusations of complicity in the torching of the displacement camp tents,” a source from Zakho’s security apparatus (Asayish) told Kurdistan 24 on condition of anonymity.
“The Asayish is currently interrogating them and we believe some other people, along with those three,” were involved as part of a group, the source added.
Chamshko Camp administrator, Mamun Guli, affirmed that authorities were viewing the incidents as potentially having been set deliberately. He told Kurdistan 24 about the two additional individuals who were “accused with burning the camp by the police” and had also been arrested but were released after questioning and a determination that they had not been involved in arson.
“We are almost certain that a group is behind them,” Guli said, but gave no indication of what sort of group he meant or what might have been the motivation behind setting such fires. He added that the fires “were not due to electric shorts.”
The Kurdistan Region is home to 1.2 million IDPs and refugees who fled in recent years from Islamic State attacks and the Syrian civil war.
The emergence of the Islamic State and its violent assault on the city of Sinjar (Shingal) in 2014 led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Ezidis. Most of them fled to the Kurdistan Region, while others resettled to neighboring countries in the region or in Western states.
Earlier in the month, the Kurdistan Region Parliament held its final vote to designate Aug. 3, the anniversary of the beginning of the Islamic State's assault on Shingal, as Ezidi Genocide Remembrance Day.
Editing by John J. Catherine