Shingal (Sinjar): temporary ceasefire following fierce clashes

Ninewa, May 2022: Protests in Shingal against armed clashes downtown. Independent Youth Group

By Ammar Aziz in Ninewa

Despite the fragile truce following the offensive of the Iraqi army against armed groups in Shingal, each party is accusing the other of igniting the fierce clashes resulted in casualties from both sides.

The armed confrontations downtown of the war-torn Shingal, home to the Ezidi community, forced hundreds of families to escape the fighting in Sinuny sub-district to the district of Shingal and adjacent Duhok Northern Province.

According to the agreement concluded on May 3rd, the commander of the Iraqi army and Shingal Resistance Units Yabasha YBS, affiliated to Kurdistan Workers’ Party PKK, they have decided to ceasefire and resume talks next week.

The meeting came after the Iraqi army offensive against the armed group of YBS in Sinuny sub-district of Shingal on may 2nd. The situation is tense and complicated and hundreds of families decided to escape the to nearby safer areas.

At the early hours of May 2nd, the first day of Eid al-Fitr, troops of the Iraqi army with heavy weapons supported by warplanes attacked two points of Ezidkhan Asayish, part of Yabasha, in Sinuny. Two were killed and 12 were injured from both sides, sources affirmed to KirkukNow.

Hundreds of families have arrived in Duhok Northern Province, part of them joined the camps for the internally displaced persons IDPs and others are in town, figures by the Kurdistan Regional Government KRG ministry of interior show up to May 3rd evening.

Hussein Shingali, member of Autonomous Administrative Council in Shingal, said they have agreed with the Iraqi army to ceasefire temporarily and to resume meetings after Eid holiday, early next week.

Currently, the security situation is stable

“The aim behind the meeting was to restore stability and currently the security situation is stable,” said Saad Qasim, media officer of Division 20th of the Iraqi army deployed in Shingal.

While the statement by the Iraqi army affirms the Iraqi forces only will stay in the district, without any reference to ceasefire agreement with the YBS.

The militants group affiliated to Kurdistan Workers' party PKK in 2014 provided a narrow safe escape from the grip of the extremist militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria ISIS for the civilians to Mount Shingal and from there to the IDP camps in Duhok where still thousands of Ezidis live in tens of camps under tents, reluctant to return to the war-ravaged region.

Yabsha and the Ezidkhan Asayish forces, which are close to the PKK, fighting Turkey since 1980s and holding territories in Iraq, are under the authority of the Autonomous Administrative Council in Shingal which administers Shingal though not recognized by the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government KRG.

The district of Shingal, 120 km west of Mosul, administratively affiliated to Ninewa province, and part of the disputed territories between Baghdad and Erbil, is home to over 300,000 Ezidis.

Duhok, May 2022: Ezidis recently fled clashes in Shingal are back to the IDP camps they left years ago. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR.

The residents of war-torn Shingal call for pacification following end of April prisoner swap between the Iraqi army and the pro-PKK groups which resulted in cautious stability since latest clashes resulted in casualties in both sides.

On the 18th and 19th of April, armed clashes erupted after an army force asked pro-PKK Ezidkhan Asayish members to evacuate a military post near Sinuny sub-district of Shingal. A fighter of Yabsha was killed three injured, in addition to the injury of 21 soldiers of the army Iraqi army and three civilians.

Pir Dyan Jafar, the director of migration and displacement of the KRG in Duhok said they have received another 98 families from Shingal on May 3rd, total 841 families following recent tensions.

The Ezidi community constitutes 30% of the 664,000 Internally Displaced Person IDPs in the adjacent Iraqi Kurdistan Region unwilling to return due to the unstable security and economic conditions.

The fate of more than 2,000 Ezidis is still unknown after they were abducted and enslaved by the militants of IS.

“We have been demonstrating for three days to demand an end to the clashes. We are tired of tension and conflicts. Let us live in peace,” said Khairi Ali, a civil activist in Shingal.

For three days, Ali participated with many young men of Shingal and a number of clan heads in various gatherings and activities to demand the return of stability to Shingal.

"We presented four main demands to the concerned authorities, including keeping Shingal away from the clashes and political disputes and putting an end to the problem of managing Shingal and armed manifestations, because the area suffers from the effects of destruction and is in dire need of services and reconstruction, not to be turned into a battlefield," Ali added.

At present, the Iraqi government considers the implementation of the terms of the Shingal 2020 agreement concluded between the unilateral government and the Kurdistan Regional Government the only way to resolve the Shingal issue, which stipulates the need for forces close to PKK to evacuate their headquarters in Shingal, but the agreement has not been implemented so far in light of the presence of Eight different armed forces.

In the Ezidi-dominant region of Shingal, only three thousand square kilometers, Baghdad federal and Erbil regional governments compete to establish their rule following the claimed defeat of IS in 2017: three local administrations want to administer the district, and eight different armed groups are deployed.

There are more than eight different armed groups within the borders of Shingal district, including the pro-Iran Shiite paramilitary Popular Mobilization Forces PMF, Ezidikhan Asayish (security), YBS, Women Protection Units YPZh, the local police, the federal police, the Iraqi army, the Ezidkhan Peshmerga and the KRG Peshmerga (Kurdish fighter) forces.

Ninewa, May 2022: Bullets hit the window of a house during the clashes between YBS and the Iraqi army in Sinuny. Roj News

The spokesman for the Iraqi Joint Operations Command, Major General Tahsin al-Khafaji, indicated in a statement that "the situation is completely stable in Shingal and all roads are open."

The statement came after a high-ranking security delegation headed by the Deputy Commander of Joint Operations and Chief of Staff of the Army, accompanied by senior military commanders, visited Shingal.

The fears of clashes erupting again have not ended yet

On the other hand, the YBS leadership said in a statement published by the media of the PKK, "Our people must be aware of the dangers and take a stand. For us, we will do what is necessary to protect the gains of our people. We oppose the use of the army to achieve the interests of some local and foreign parties."

Khudeda Alias, the official of the Autonomous Administrative Council in Sinuny district, told (KirkukNow), "The fears of clashes erupting again have not ended yet, because such things have happened in the past despite the existence of some kind of agreement and understanding between the two sides."

Beside the pro-PKK Administrative council, there are currently two other administrations, one of which was established in 2017 in the center of Shingal and the other was formed after the elections of provincial council, currently taking over their duties from Dohuk.

"Part of the army forces that arrived in Shingal withdrew to their previous positions...the rest of the forces are deployed in the center and outskirts of Sinuny district,” Elias says.

"I call on people to staty at hims since we are going to defend our land and people as long as we survive."

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