ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Members of an Iraqi militia in the northern town of Sinjar (Shingal) arrested dozens of Yezidi (Ezidi) Peshmerga known as Ezidkhan early Monday morning before they were eventually released.
“Last night, around 12:30 a.m. to 1a.m., a group of Hashd al-Shaabi’s Badr Organization stormed an office of the Ezidkhan Protection Force in Shingal and arrested 30 Peshmerga fighters,” Ezidkhan Commander Haider Shasho told Kurdistan 24 earlier on Monday.
“We don’t know why they did this. Therefore, we have closed the main road of Shingal to Snune to halt Hashd al-Shaabi’s movement to the area,” he added, calling for their immediate release.
Shasho said his forces had warned the militia that if their Peshmerga were not released by noon on Monday, the Ezdikhan force would also close the main road to Shingal as well as take unspecified, “further measures.”
Kurdistan 24 contacted representatives for the Hashd al-Shaabi, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), in Nineveh province for details about the situation, but there was no immediate response.
“Such incidents are not in the interest of the region. It is more like a terrorist act because we have not been notified or informed,” Shasho added. “The militia forces are integrated forces of the federal government and have to act responsibly.”
He noted that he had contacted other Shia commanders in Nineveh in places such as the town of Talafar about the incident but all were unaware of the raid.
The Ezidi commander suggested that members of the Badr Organization, who are prominent among the Shia PMF forces operating in the area, detained the Peshmerga because “we are not under their command.”
Later in the day, a source told Kurdistan 24 the PMF had released the 30 Peshmerga fighters in Shingal after detaining them for 12 hours.
The Ezidkhan Protection Force is made up of 8,000 fighters and falls within the command of the Kurdistan Region’s Peshmerga Ministry. Following the withdrawal of Peshmerga from Shingal last year, Ezdikhan fighters have been in charge of various Ezidi religious sites and shrines in the area, namely Sharfaddin tomb.
According to Shasho, Shia militias have threatened Ezidis and looted property in the area since they deployed to Shingal in October 2017, notably at a cement factory and the local Agriculture Directorate.
“Hashd al-Shaabi militia groups do not act responsibly; each group does whatever it wants.”
Peshmerga forces liberated Shingal from the Islamic State (IS) in November 2015. Over 80 percent of the area has been destroyed in the fight against the extremist group and most of its former residents remain displaced in the Kurdistan Region.
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.
Editing by John J. Catherine and Karzan Sulaivany