Iraq, Sinjar, January 19, 2022
The Sinjar district faces a critical situation, with likely conflict coming between Iraqi army forces and the Kurdish PKK. The Yezidi people are afraid of what may lie ahead.
On the 13th of January 2022, the PKK erected a statue of Zaradasht Shingaly, a high profile PKK representative who had been killed by a Turkish air strike in Sinjar. That very same day, Iraqi army forces removed it, drawing promises from the PKK to not let those events pass without a fight.
The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is a militant Kurdish nationalist organization founded in the late 1970s by Abdullah (“Apo”) Öcalan. Their initial aim was for an independent Kurdish state, later calling for Kurdish autonomy.
The tension between the two forces in Sinjar is not new. They have faced several other near-conflict situations, which were always resolved by agreement and intercession of a third party. This time, however, with the Iraqi army forces having spread throughout Sinjar center in the south and the Sinuni sub-district (to the north of Sinjar), people are more concerned about escalation. After having just recently returned from displacement camps, they are now terrified that they may have to leave their homes again.
The situation in the northern part of Sinjar Mountain is somewhat worse than in the southern part, due to the active role of the PKK there. People have closed all their shops and markets, and all other businesses stopped today, with people locking themselves in their homes with fear in their hearts.
More than anything else, people are asking right now that this conflict be averted. The expectation is that in this situation, as in most others, the Yezidis are the ones who will be killed. The PKK forces in Sinjar consist mainly of Yezidis, as do the Iraqi army troops in Sinjar. With the two forces using Yezidis fighters, Yezidis will be left fighting their own. It is a lose-lose situation for Yezidis — for Yezidi Iraqi troop, for Yezidi PKK, and for Yezidi civilians. .
These events had already been expected since the Iraqi Prime Minister’s visit to Sinjar last year on August 16, 2021. At that time, he promised the Yezidis that he would implement the 2020 Sinjar Agreement between the Iraqi government and Kurdistan Regional Government. According to Turkey’s Anadolu Agency, “On October 9, 2021, the federal government in Baghdad signed an agreement with the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq, which stipulates that the federal security forces will maintain security in Sinjar, in coordination with the KRG forces, and remove all illegal armed groups from the judiciary.”
The agreement also stipulates the end of PKK presence in Sinjar, and the abolition of any role for entities associated with it in the region. People see the present events as actions by the Iraqi government intended to implement the Sinjar Agreement.
The safety and security of Yezidis living in Sinjar, however, is more complicated than this agreement would suggest. It has not yet been guaranteed.