A group of Ezidi youths in the district of Shingal, home to the Ezidi community in Ninewa province, have been demonstrating since May 2, demanding the implementation of four main demands related to the deadlock in the district.
The group, which has more than 50 members, meets every day from 5 to 6 pm in the center of Shingal and Sinuny subdistrict to express their protests in various ways to resolve the situation in their war-torn region.
Shingal, west of Mosul, after the expulsion of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters, is going through an unstable security situation and direct confrontations between different armed groups in the region, each trying to impose its domination over the district.
“After the fighting between YBS and the Iraqi army, we decided a striked to end the fighting. We have been in Shingal for 20 consecutive days. Later, we have been continuing this activity in Shingal and Sinuny for 10 days,” Saeed Shamo, a member of the independent Ezidi youth group, told KirkukNow.
Initially, the group was all men but now women are also participating.
“On average, 200 to 250 people participate daily, and some days the number of participants has reached 1,000,” Shamo said.
Participants include teachers, civil society activists, civil servants, traders and different classes.
"Our only condition is that the participants must have no political orientation and must participate in order to achieve four demands,” Shamo affirmed
The four demands are: an end to armed clashes, the withdrawal of all armed groups from the entire district except the local police, the establishment of an independent administration, and a concrete promise to implement their demands.
"We have visited several security forces in the region to implement our demands and we are going to go to Baghdad to meet the prime minister and president," Shamo defiantly said.
"What is important is that we have informed the consulate and the United Nations and they have supported such a move," he added.
Early may armed clashes between the Iraqi army and groups such as Shingal Resistance Units YBS, close to Kurdistan Workers’ Party PKK which is fighting Turkey since 1980s and holding territories in Iraq, downtown of the war-torn Shingal, home to the Ezidi community, forced two thousand families to escape the fighting in Sinuny sub-district to the district of Shingal and camps for the internally displaced persons IDPs in the adjacent Duhok Northern Province and left casualties in both sides.
At the early hours of May 2nd, troops of the Iraqi army with heavy weapons supported by warplanes attacked two points of pro-PKK Ezidkhan Asayish (Security), part of Yabasha or YBS, in Sinuny. Two were killed and 12 were injured from both sides, sources affirmed to KirkukNow.
On the 18th and 19th of April, armed clashes erupted after an army force asked Ezidkhan Asayish members to evacuate a military post near Sinuny. A fighter of YBS was killed and three injured, in addition to the injury of 21 soldiers of the army Iraqi army and three civilians.
Mirza Khalaf, a Peshmerga commander at the Sharafaddin shrine in Mount Shingal, said, “We discussed the demands of the people of Shingal. We support any demands of the people of Shingal within the framework of the law. We support the idea of police to guard towns and other armed groups to leave.”
"We told them that the best solution is to implement the Shingal agreement," Khalaf said.
Mirza Khalaf's proposal is the same point that the Iraqi government has constantly insisted on implementing Shingal pact to resolve the Shingal issue.
At present, the Iraqi government considers the implementation of the terms of the 2020 Shingal agreement concluded between the unilateral government and the Kurdistan Regional Government the only way to resolve the Shingal issue, which stipulates the need for armed forces to evacuate their headquarters in Shingal, a new administration to be elected and locals to be employed to serve as local police, but the agreement has not been implemented so far in light of the presence of Eight different armed forces.
"Our supporters participated in the group's demonstration for a couple of days, but then they said they did not want any political group to participate, so we withdrew," said Khudeda Elias, head of the pro-PKK Autonomous Administrative Council in Sinuny district.
"If the Peshmerga, army, Hashid and other groups withdraw their forces from Shingal, we will follow their demands and withdraw our forces," Elias said.
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.
They also played a remarkable role in the war against ISIS. Most of the YBS militants are Ezidis and part of the YBS and Ezidkhan Asayish under the Autonomous Administrative Council, as part of those fighters has officially joined the Shiite paramilitary of Popular Mobilization Forces PMF, known as Al-Hashid Al-Shabi.
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 PMF, Ezidikhan Asayish, YBS, Women Protection Units YPZh, the local police, the federal police, the Iraqi army, the Ezidkhan Peshmerga and the KRG Peshmerga (Kurdish fighter) forces.
“We withdrew our forces from Dugre community in Sinuny district recently at the request of the group... but I don't think the group can solve the problems through their pressure,” said Eido Haider Murad, brigadier commander of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s KRG Ministry of Peshmerga MOP.
The international community has welcomed Shingal agreement yet the cabinet of prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has failed to implement the agreement as pro-Iran groups and groups affiliated to PKK argue the agreement has not been concluded per demands of the locals.
Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq SRSG and head of United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq UNAMI, then welcomed the signing of the agreement, calling it an important step towards helping the people of the region and the return of refugees to their homes.
In April, Jennifer Gavito, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran Affairs, reiterated US support for the Shingal agreement and stressed continued work with both the Baghdad and Erbil to move forward. He stressed the importance of the next Iraqi government to provide opportunities for minorities and refugees.
The United States Ambassador to Iraq Matthew Tueller said the issue of armed groups and militias in the disputed territories and particularly in Shingal requires “a very wise political handling of the issues when you have groups become so entrenched within the economic and security institutions and have their own weapons.”
The US ambassador to Iraq said this in response to a question by Salam Omer, editor-in-chief of KirkukNow, in a farewell meeting organized by the US embassy in Erbil on Sunday for a number of media outlets in Erbil.
However, the direction of the events in Shingal is unclear, but for Samia Qasim, an Ezidi activist, more people should participate in the demonstrations to insist on implementing their demands, which are different from the points in the Shingal agreement.
“I joined the group because I understood that the demands are in the interest of the people of Shingal... We want to send a message to the world that we women have made the most sacrifices Men will stay on the street.”