ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq called on Friday for the establishment of a unified administration in Sinjar (Shingal) after witnessing firsthand that the members of the Yezidi (Ezidi) religious minority who have returned are still living both there and on nearby Mount Shingal in squalid, dire conditions.
“I was shocked to see that now, nearly five years after the capture of Sinjar by Da’esh [Islamic State] and the area’s subsequent liberation, many people are still living in tents, on the very mountain top they fled to at the onset of the terror campaign,” said Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert after visiting multiple locations in the provinces of Duhok and Nineveh.
Before going to Mount Shingal, she met with Ezidi leaders such as Baba Sheikh, the Ezidi Supreme Spiritual Leader and member of the Ezidi Spiritual Council, and other council members in Shekhan.
“With this in mind, I call upon the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government to consult with the local leadership in Sinjar district and to establish stable governance and security structures without delay, and so facilitate the reconstruction of affected areas and the return of displaced persons from Sinjar,” Hennis-Plasschaert said.
“In August the world will commemorate the horrific events of five years ago. A single administration and the provision of security and services is the very basis for the reconstruction of Sinjar,” she added.
“A continued failure to provide these, is a travesty of justice and creates the perfect breeding ground for a new wave of violence and instability.”
She also met Dohuk Governor Farhad Saleem Atrushi to discuss ongoing challenges the province faces as a result hosting large numbers of displaced people, many of whom are Ezidis.
The United Nation’s Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) said that Ezidis face a wide range of serious hurdles to their return home, such as an unstable security situation that includes clashes between armed groups and checkpoint harassment, damaged and contaminated houses, inadequate basic services, and outright discrimination.
“Obstacles are varied and often complex, painfully resulting in stalled returns on the ground,” Hennis-Plasschaert said.
Five years after the genocide perpetrated by the Islamic State against the Ezidi community, Shingal is still often referred to as a ghost city.
When it was overrun by the Islamic State in August 2014, the city was home to some 88,000 residents, most of them Ezidis. After taking over, the jihadist group kidnapped and massacred untold numbers and thousands of women and girls were forced into sexual slavery.
Tens of thousands of Ezidis from Shingal and surrounding areas remain displaced in the Kurdistan Region, Europe, North America, and other areas abroad. Thousands are still missing.
Almost four years have passed since the 2015 liberation of Shingal by Kurdish forces supported by the US-led coalition. Since late 2017, it has been under the control of Iraqi forces and Hashd al-Shaabi (PMF) militias.
Much of the city remains uninhabitable rubble and very few of its former residents have returned to their homes.
Editing by John J. Catherine