ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – President of the autonomous Kurdistan Region Nechirvan Barzani on Sunday called for new fundraising efforts to support the rebuilding of the city of Sinjar (Shingal) by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), the federal government of Iraq, and the United Nations.
Barzani’s comments came during a ceremony held in Erbil to mark the anniversary of the beginning of the Islamic State's genocide against the Yezidis (Ezidis) on Aug. 3, 2014, when it overran Shingal.
In a speech made at the solemn occasion, the senior Kurdish official highlighted the unspeakable acts of brutality committed by the extremist group against the religious minority community since that day, five years earlier.
“Today, we are remembering with honor and with pride one of the greatest crimes against humanity in the 21st century, the barbaric and inhumane nature of which are scarcely to be believed,” Barzani said to an audience that included multiple senior Kurdish and Iraqi officials.
The occupation of Shingal by the Islamic State led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Ezidis, many of which were left stranded on nearby Shingal Mountain while others were kidnapped, tortured, sold in the market as slaves, or executed.
Barzani noted that the KRG’s Ezidi Rescue Office have been able to free over three thousand Ezidis from Islamic State militants, with ongoing efforts aimed at rescuing the remaining some three thousand.
He also praised the Kurdistan Parliament’s decision on Saturday to recognize Ezidi genocide and designate Aug. 3 as the official day of remembrance for the tragedy.
Various Kurdish forces, with the support of the US-led coalition, liberated Shingal in November 2015. Over 80 percent of the town, however, still remains destroyed and a very small number of the displaced Ezidis has returned to their hometowns and villages.
The president called on the KRG, the federal government, and the UN to help Ezidis to return to their areas and turn a new page in their life, one of stabilizing and rebuilding the area.
The Kurdistan Region will continue its efforts to promote Shingal as a new Iraqi province, Barzani added. The provincial incorporation is a key demand of many Ezidis that remain in the country, who argue that the presence of multiple security forces and militias in the area have become a primary obstacle to any realistic process of reconstruction and repopulation.
Shingal is located near the Syrian border, in one of the territories disputed between the KRG and the federal government of Iraq.
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 KRG to restore stability in Shingal.
“In memory of all victims and their loved ones, I would like to say to all those feeling challenged, including the authorities here in Baghdad as well as in Erbil: please, set aside your differences or partisan interests,” entreated the envoy.
“And please, place - without any further delay - the needs of the people first.”
Editing by John J. Catherine