Pro-PKK forces insist to stay in Shingal despite deadline

Shingal 2020: checkpoint by pro-PKK Ezidkhan Asayish in Sinuny sub-district. Photo by KirkukNow.

Ammar Aziz, Shingal

Pro-PKK groups in Shingal insist to stay downtown and on the mountain as arguing their members are locals while Iraqi army officials insist to oust armed groups to be replaced by Iraqi security forces.

Few days ago, supporters of Shingal Autonomous administrative Council, close to PKK, Kurdistan Workers' Party, a Kurdish rebel group fighting Turkey and controlling northern Iraqi territories, took the streets in Shingal in protest of April 1st deadline set by Iraqi army for pro-PKK forces to evacuate Shingal downtown and mountain.

"We don't care about deadline, we are the guardians of Shingal," Hasso Ibrahim, deputy of Shingal council, told KirkukNow. "Members of Ezidkhan Asayish are from the town so they are not ready to leave," he added.

"We don't care about deadline; we are the guardians of Shingal,"

Shingal Autonomous administrative Council is a local civil administration founded few years ago, close to PKK forces, Ezidkhan Asayish, YBSh (Sinjar Resistance Units) and YPZh based in Shingal Mountain. Ezidkhan Asayish (security) has about 1,000 fighters and is part of YBSh in charge of the security in the area.

When Shingal fell under reign of Islamic State ISIS in August 2014, Iraqi troops backed by Kurdish Peshmarga (fighters) and pro- PKK fighters' ousted ISIS in October 2015 and deployed in the region.

Shingal, located 120 west of Mosul, centre of Nineveh province, on the border of Iraq-Syria, is home to the Ezidi religious minority considered by the so-called Islamic State ISIS as infidels. It's one of the disputed territories between Baghdad and Erbil.

"The Iraqi army were calm for the last few days so we did the same. We are ready to negotiate and make a deal on the condition we stay in town and on the mountain," Ibrahim added.


Shingal March 28, 2021: Protests in Shingal against Baghdad-Erbil agreement to oust pro-PKK forces by Iraqi army. Photo by KirkukNow. 

The Iraqi army is trying to implement Shingal agreement concluded by Baghdad-Erbil last October. Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Region Government KRG agreed to appoint a new mayor and jointly provide security by a unit of 2500 local volunteers in order to oust other militias in particular affiliates of PKK Ezidkhan Asayish (Security) and Shingal Struggle Units YBSh.

Natiq Alo, Shingal local police spokesman said there are negotiations between both parties. "Ahead of deadline, there were discussions.. I can't say there is agreement but there is a good understanding. Both sides are downtown and the situation is calm."

"Ahead of deadline, there were discussions.. I can't say there is agreement but there is a good understanding. Both sides are downtown and the situation is calm."

Alo said the discussions aim at to prolong stability but no decision taken about Ezidkhan Asayish.  

The complex texture of the security and administrative situation in Shingal is an aftermath of ISIS reign and a source of concern of the Ezidi community in general and in particular for those returned home in hope of leading a normal life post ISIS trauma.

In the Ezidi-dominant region of Shingal, only three thousand square km, Baghdad federal and Erbil regional governments compete to establish their rule: three local administrations want to administer the district, and eight different security forces are deployed.

The militant groups are Iran-backed Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces PMF, Shingal Protection Units (YBSh) and Ezidkhan Asayish which are pro-PKK, local Police, Iraqi army, police and KRG's Peshmerga (Kurdish fighter).

Shingal autonomous administrative council earlier denied its Ezidkhan Asayish and YBSh to leave the town per Iraqi army request which set March 26th as deadline later extended to April 1st. The Council told the Iraqis in a meeting on March 12th the issue of its armed groups is political not security which requires a legal frame work not military.

Senior Iraqi officials met the pro-PKK administration several times yet no agreement concluded. Iraqi army and security commanders insist that Shingal agreement is to be implemented and armed groups to leave and replaced by local police.

The spokesman for the Joint Operations Command, Major General Tahsin al-Khafaji told Iraqi semi-official TV channel the government persists to materialize Shingal agreement and only groups mentioned in the agreement to stay in town.

Following mid-march meeting with the Shingal autonomous administrative council, Iraq's national security adviser Qasim al-A'araji said Shingal security is a federal is a federal issue to be run by Iraqi army and police will be people of the town.


Pro-PKK Ezidkhan Asayish (security) on alert to face Iraqi army troops in Shingal on March 11, 2021. Photo by Ibrahim Ezidi. 

Early March, tensions erupted between Iraqi army and police in Shingal and Pro-PKK demonstrators protesting the decision of ousting their "Ezidkhan Asayish." Shingal administration which embraces some Arab tribe chieftains says it has come as a will of the locals and it represents them.

Local officials believe that negotiations will lead to agreement and confrontation is unexpected.

Khodeda Chuki, mayor of Sinuny sub-district of Shingal said "discussions are ongoing till they make a deal. All the groups cooperate with the administrations of the district and sub-districts to keep the current situation."

"All the groups cooperate with the administrations of the district and sub-districts to keep the current situation."

Chuki said that Iraqi army officers told him all their attempts are for the stability of Shingal.

Turkey-PKK conflict is a concern for Ezidis of Shingal as the Turkish army regularly conducts cross-border operations and air raids on PKK bases in northern Iraq. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed end of January to attack Shingal at any time in pursuit of PKK-affiliated groups based in the region.

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