ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Masoud Barzani, has called for a joint effort action plan to be worked out between Baghdad and Erbil to rehabilitate the city of Sinjar (Shingal) and facilitate the return of Yezidis (Ezidis) displaced by the Islamic State.
The comments came in a statement released on Saturday, Aug. 3, which marks five years since the beginning of the extremist group's attack on the Ezidi majority city and the start of its radical fighters' horrific crimes against the religious minority.
In a statement, Barzani said, “Erbil and Baghdad need to work together to rebuild the city of Shingal to provide a suitable foundation for displaced Ezidis to return to their home.”
“What happened to Ezidis at the hands of the Islamic State is a continuation of heart-rending adversaries the people of the Kurdistan Region have suffered throughout history,” he added, in reference to the regime of Saddam Hussein's deadly Anfal campaign against the Kurds.
He called for strengthening “local and international efforts to identify the attack on the ethnic minority as genocide, and to intensify the search to find and recover the kidnapped and missing Ezidis.”
A statement by Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani read that the region, in cooperation with the federal government, would “do everything possible to ease the suffering of our Ezidi brother and sisters and also to help them get back to their homes and compensate them for their losses.”
Also on Saturday, Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani urged the United Nations to officially declare the Islamic State's acts against Ezidis as a genocide. In a tweet, he said, "On 5th anniversary of genocide against Yezidis in Shingal, we solemnly remember those who fell victim to ISIS atrocities in Kurdistan & beyond. We won’t rest until we eradicate terror & bring kidnapped victims home. We urge UN to recognize this genocide to prevent similar acts."
Multiple UN agencies and commissions have referred to the Islamic States' crimes against Ezidis as acts of genocide since 2016.
On Thursday, head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert called for swift action from both the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to restore stability to war-torn Shingal.
On Saturday, the Kurdistan Parliament held its final vote to officially designate Aug. 3 as Ezidi Genocide Remembrance Day.
So far, 80 mass graves containing the remains of Ezidis have been found in Shingal and its surroundings among the remains of what used to be a thriving city, now mostly rubble. At least 68 temples and other religious buildings were also destroyed.
Disputed between Erbil and Baghdad, the area is currently under the control of Iraqi security forces and mostly Shia militias. These forces, plus a limited number of Peshmerga and other Kurdish fighters, are present in Shingal and its outskirts, with reports of tensions over who will control the strategic town that lies near the Syrian border.
Editing by John J. Catherine