Barzani Charity Foundation opens Sinjar office after being blocked there for nearly a year

The Barzani Charity Foundation (BCF) has opened a new office in Sinjar (Shingal) following nearly a year of suspended humanitarian activities in the area which it has blamed on a local faction of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Barzani Charity Foundation (BCF) has opened a new office in Sinjar (Shingal) following nearly a year of suspended humanitarian activities in the area which it has blamed on a local faction of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). 

The aid organization ceased its Shingal operations in April 2019, claiming that members of the Yezidi Protection Units (YBS) was not allowing it to deliver much-needed humanitarian assistance, a charge the group denied.

“A while ago, Mahama Khalil, the mayor of Shingal district who administers the area from Duhok, submitted a request on behalf of the people to the governor of Nineveh (province) to stop any security force from preventing BCS from delivering humanitarian aid.,” Diyan Jaafer, who is running the new office, told local media.

The YBS is compromised of members of Shingal's Yezidi (Ezidi) ethnoreligious minority group and is seen as close associates of the PKK, which has led a decades-long insurgency against Turkey for Kurdish rights. The PKK found a foothold in Shingal after coming down from its mountain bases along the Kurdistan Region's mountainous border with Iran and Turkey to back Peshmerga forces and Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in opening a safety corridor for Ezidis to escape as the Islamic State took over the area.

Jaffer continued, “On April 28, 2019, while returning from delivering a shipment of humanitarian aid to displaced people on Shingal Mountain, we were cut off by PKK militants who took our phones and laptops and then warned us not to come back after accusing us of being affiliated with a certain political party... Since then until last week, our organization has provided no assistance to the district.”

For years, there have been significant tensions between the PKK and the Kurdistan Region's leading political group, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

Mayor Khalil, aligned with the KDP, has previously told Kurdistan 24 that he complained to the Iraqi federal government about “several militia factions in the town that operate under no legal authority,” which he argues has created an unstable security environment for residents. 

Ali Shaabo, head of the Sardasht displacement camp that is under the control of the YBS and located on Shingal Mountain, said, “We are pleased that BCF is resuming their activities and aid in the district, as the displaced are in need of the assistance from all sides, no matter who they are.” 

“We will support their efforts to open an office in the district,” he added.

On Oct. 16th, 2017, In response to the Kurdistan Region’s historic independence referendum, Iraqi forces and Iran-backed militias of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) attacked Peshmerga units in Kirkuk and other disputed areas, including Shingal, ousting the Kurdish forces that had previously fought alongside them in the war against the Islamic State. 

Shingal has two competing district governments: one that was established before the Peshmerga were pushed from the area and is now seated in the Kurdistan Region, and the other that was established afterward and is located within Shingal.

The BCF is one of the most active humanitarian NGOs in Kurdistan that often provides a substantial amount of aid to internally displaced persons and refugees in both Iraq, the Kurdistan Region, and northern Syria, as well as multiple programs to enrich the lives of displaced children.

It was founded in 2005 and, in the organization's own words, “strives to honor the great legacy of Malla Mustafa Barzani, the leader of the Kurdish Liberation Movement and influencer of the contemporary Kurdish nation.”

Editing by John J. Catherine