Baghdad, Erbil to finalize new Sinjar security plan: KRG official

The Kurdistan Region’s Minister of Interior announced on Thursday evening that he is scheduled to the Iraqi capital on the following day to meet with the federal government about a new security plan in the Yezidi (Ezidi) majority district of Sinjar (Shingal), located west of Mosul.
author_image Hiwa Shilani

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdistan Region’s Minister of Interior announced on Thursday evening that he is scheduled to the Iraqi capital on the following day to meet with the federal government about a new security plan in the Yezidi (Ezidi) majority district of Sinjar (Shingal), located west of Mosul near the Syrian border.

Minister Reber Ahmed wrote in a tweet that he will "be in Baghdad tomorrow to finalize an agreement with the Federal Government to normalize the situation and restore stability in the Sinjar district." 

The emergence of the Islamic State and its violent assault on Shingal in 2014 led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of members of the religious community. Most of them fled to the Kurdistan Region, while others resettled in neighboring countries or in 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 in what are now widely recognized as acts of genocide.

In Baghdad's harsh response to the Kurdistan Region’s 2017 independence referendum, the Iraqi military and Iranian-back Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) militias attacked multiple territories disputed by the federal and regional governments including, forcing Kurdish Peshmerga forces from them.

Iraqi authorities appointed new officials in Shingal district in place of the elected officials who had withdrawn from the area to relocate when Iraqi forces advanced to the Kurdistan Region's Dohuk province, where they still conduct district business.

There are currently two local governments for Shingal, one of which was appointed by Baghdad and the other that had previously been elected locally.

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), headquartered in the Kurdistan Region and fighting a decades-long insurgency with Ankara over Kurdish rights in Turkey, also formed its own armed faction in the district, known as the "Shingal Protection Units." It now receives salaries from the Iraqi government under the umbrella of the PMF.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has repeatedly asked the PKK to leave its soil, as their armed struggle with Turkey often results in civilian casualties and turns rural and residential areas into conflict zones. 

This, in addition to the already tenuous security situation in Shingal since Peshmerga were pushed from the district and an almost total lack of basic services available there, impedes the return of tens of thousands of displaced Ezidis to their homes.

Last week, beloved Ezidi spiritual leader Sheikh Khartu Hajji Ismael, commonly known as Baba Sheikh, passed away at age 87 while receiving medical treatment at an Erbil hospital.

Read More: Yezidi spiritual leader dies in Kurdistan Region

The holiday that began on Tuesday, known as the Gathering and Feast of Seven Days and also the Jamayi Eid, is a week-long rite in which Ezidis make a pilgrimage to Duhok's temple of Lalish, the religion's most holy site.

Read More: PHOTOS: Take a walking tour of Lalish's main temple

To mark the occasion, Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani pledged his government’s ongoing efforts to provide stability and services to Shingal.

Read More: Kurdistan PM congratulates Yezidis on annual pilgrimage, calls for Sinjar security to be 'normalized'

He explained that, in the interest of safety, the security situation in such areas must be “normalized” so that displaced Ezidis now living in camps “can return to their homes with their heads held high.”

Editing by John J. Catherine