ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – An Iraqi official from the contested district of Sinjar (Shingal) on Thursday said representatives of various groups had agreed to establish what would be a parallel body to administer the area.
“Hashd al-Shaabi commanders, PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party], and representatives of Shia and Sunni Arabs of Shingal met today and formed a committee to administer” the district, Fahad Hamid Omar, the acting mayor of Shingal, told Kurdistan 24.
By PKK, Omar means the entity affiliated with the group the Sinjar Resistance Units that employs local Yezidis (Ezidis).
“The first step of this committee would be to appoint a new mayor for Shingal and all its sub-districts,” he added. Omar himself was given the post by Baghdad following the events of Oct. 16, 2017, when Iraqi forces overran disputed areas, forcing the retreat of the Kurdish Peshmerga.
The gathering comes days after a dispute between Hashd al-Shaabi militias and Ezidkhan Peshmerga fighters that led to the former temporarily detaining 30 members of the latter.
Due to its strategic location on the Syrian border, Shingal has suffered from political tensions and conflict between various Kurdish and Iraqi forces since 2014.
“We disagree with the formation of this committee,” Haider Shasho, the Head of the Ezidi Democratic Party, told Kurdistan 24. Shasho had been officially invited to the gathering but said he had declined the offer.
The “committee is illegal and the PKK and the Hashd [al-Shaabi] know well that this move goes against the wishes of Shingal” and its people, Shasho asserted.
Had the decision come from the Nineveh Provincial Council, the Ezidi leader said, they would have concurred.
Shingal is one of the disputed areas between the Kurdistan Region and Iraq and is inhabited by a majority of Ezidis. Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution calls for a referendum in territories disputed between Erbil and Baghdad to decide who governs them.
Most of the Ezidi factions in Shingal prefer autonomous status and international protection. However, some want this region to be under Baghdad, while others prefer the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
Meanwhile, some Ezidi leaders have called on the new Iraqi and Kurdish governments to create a governorate in the Shingal region as part of the Nineveh Plains, similar to Halabja in the east.
“It’s very important for Shingal to be a governorate, for its own services, administration, and security. We hope we can achieve that,” Shasho told Kurdistan 24 on Monday.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany