Yezidis criticize Turkish airstrikes in Shingal, fearing it could hamper return of civilians

Several international Yezidi aid organizations criticized Turkish airstrikes in the Sinjar (Shingal) district on Sunday night, fearing it could hamper the minority group’s return.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Several international Yezidi aid organizations criticized Turkish airstrikes in the Sinjar (Shingal) district on Sunday night, fearing it could hamper the minority group’s return.

“Over 150 Yezidi families had just returned to their homes. When will the Iraqi government and the international community apply some courage and political will to resolving security challenges in Sinjar?” Yezidi activist and Nobel laureate Nadia Murad wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

On Saturday, the Iraqi Ministry of Migration and Displacement (MoMD) had announced the return of over 200 Yezidis from Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in the Kurdistan Region’s Duhok province to their homes in Shingal.

Pari Ibrahim, Founder and Executive Director of the Free Yezidi Foundation (FYF), told Kurdistan 24 that Turkey’s “outrageous and unjustifiable” attacks in Shingal destabilize the region.

“This is a violation of international law, a destabilizing action, and an unnecessary and cruel attack that has severe consequences on the Yezidi community seeking to recover from a genocide and rebuild,” she said. “There is no excuse for this egregious action.”

Hayrî Demir, editor-in-chief of EzidiPress, told Kurdistan 24 the timings of the airstrikes show that Turkey is pursuing a more elaborate plan rather than just fighting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) or the PKK-backed YBS (Sinjar Resistance Units).

“Turkey carries out airstrikes at significant times for the Yezidis (always on holidays, commemoration days) and close to refugee camps,” Demir said.

“This shows that Turkey has no interest in peace in the region, but wants to keep the region as a war zone,” he added, “both to use the pretext of fighting the PKK/YBS for airstrikes and to prevent the Yezidis from returning to their homeland and building a normal life for themselves.”

“Last night’s airstrikes are intended to make it clear to the Yezidis that peace is still a long way off in their region. Civilians in the refugee camps are to be frightened and prevented from returning. This form of warfare is a crime. Yezidi organizations are aware of this fact and are therefore very concerned about the lack of action by the international community, but especially by the Iraqi government.”

A senior official from the US commission charged with monitoring international religious freedoms also expressed concerns over the massive number of Turkish airstrikes in Shingal, fearing it would hamper their return.

“With 200 Yezidi families having just returned this week, this violence will deter others from returning,” US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Vice Chair Nadine Maenza told Kurdistan 24.

“NGOs who are working to rebuild will likely leave. The US government and international community must speak out against this.”

This is not the first time Turkey has carried out airstrikes in Shingal. On Jan. 15, 2010, a Turkish strike killed at least five YBS fighters, including the YBS commander known as Sardasht Shingali.

Related Article: Group confirms death of PKK Commander in Turkish airstrikes on Shingal

In April 2017, Turkish airstrikes supposedly targeting the YBS killed five Peshmerga soldiers instead and wounded nine others, resulting in condemnation from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

The PKK found a foothold in Shingal after coming down from its mountain bases on the Iraq-Iran border to back the Kurdistan Region’s Peshmerga forces and Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) to open a safety corridor for the Yezidis.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany