Did Yazidis of Sinjar attack Mosque?

No one entered Rahman Mosque, nothing burnt down

Security forces are deployed in front of the Rahman Mosque in the center of Sinjar district after tensions due to return of a number of Muslim Arab IDP to the town, Nineveh, April 2023. KirkukNow

By KirkukNow in Ninewa

No demonstrators entered the Rahman Mosque in Sinjar (Shingal) district of Mosul to destroy, burn and damage it, except for the clashes occurred in front of the gate of the mosque and ended without any damage, according to five informed sources in the district center to (KirkukNow).

KirkukNow has been investigating the rumors that the Rahman Mosque in the center of Sinjar district was attacked and its belongings were burned and destroyed in a number of media and social networks, which led to accusations and inciting religious violence.

The rumors followed the release of a number of photos and videos showing traces of destruction and burning inside the Rahman Mosque, on the eve of a protest on April 27, 2023, against the return of Sunni Arab Internally Displaced Persons IDP, some of them accused of being involved in the crimes carried out against the vulnerable and tolerant non-Muslim Ezidi community.

"Nothing has been done in the Rahman Mosque. The photos and videos that have been posted date back to the attacks of Da’esh (ISIS) on Shingal, not now," a source in the 20th Division of the Iraqi army in Sinjar told KirkukNow on the condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to the media.

The 20th Division of the Iraqi army is closely aware of the incident, since they were in charge of the safe return of Sunni Arab IDP and then held talks with the protesters in the district, the source added.

There was commotion only in front of the mosque, but no one entered the mosque

The photos and videos of the Rahman Mosque in Sinjar, according to sources in the district, date back to the operations to liberate Nineveh from the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in 2016.

Fakhr Khalaf, a Yazidi cleric in Sinjar, who is also an employee of the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs of the Kurdistan Regional Government KRG, told KirkukNow, “No attack was carried out against Rahman Mosque, no any part of it was touched. The photos circulated for burnt parts of the mosque dates back to the war against Da’esh whom burnt part of the mosque.”

According to previous statistics of the Sunni endowment for KirkukNow, there are 105 mosques in Sinjar district, all of which have been damaged by ISIS, but 13 mosques in the center of the district are the most damaged.

Khalaf posted a video from inside the mosque a day after the incident, explaining that there was no attack, but some social networks claimed that the video was recorded after cleaning up the debris of the attack.

However, a source familiar with the central police of Sinjar, who closely followed the incident, stressed that "there were some tensions only in front of the door of the mosque, but no one entered the mosque, the mosque was not altered or burned.”

According to a video recorded during the demonstration in Sinjar, a number of young people threw stones at the mosque and tried to approach it, but a security force prevented them.

Video: Clashes during the demonstration in front of Rahman Mosque in Sinjar, April 27, 2023.

"Some of the returned Arab IDP were trying to pray in the mosque and chanting religious slogans when clashes broke out in front of the mosque," the police source said anonymously.

On April 14, the Sunni endowment in Sinjar announced a project to repair the Rahman Mosque in the city center and stressed that they are trying to return the IDP.

 KirkukNow have been contacting the Sunni endowment representatives in Sinjar several times since Friday until this report was prepared on Saturday afternoon, but they declined to comment despite promises to respond.

In addition to the majority of Yazidis, there are Shiite and Sunni Muslims and Christians in Sinjar.

"The issue of burning the mosque and altering it is not true at all. I swear to God, if it were true, we would have revealed to everyone that the mosque was attacked, but it is not," Subhi Elias, in charge of Shiite Endownment of Shingal, told Kirkuk Now.

"Some people want to create trouble between the religious communities of Sinjar," he said, without naming anyone.

Sinjar has two administrations and more than eight security forces and armed groups, while the devastation of the war still remains, and thousands of families from the district live in displacement.

I swear to God, if it were true, we would have revealed it to everyone

For the first time since the attack of ISIS on the district of Sinjar, 15 displaced Arab (Sunni Muslim) families returned to the center of Sinjar on Thursday, April 27th.

"The security situation in the city is calm. Sinjar is a miniature Iraq and all religions, religions and ethnicities live there. We will restore brotherhood and coexistence," Ahmad Atiya, one of the returnees, told KirkukNow.

Some of the Arab IDPs were in Jada 5 camp, which the Iraqi government shut on November 18 and decided to return its residents to their homelands.

Jada camps of Nineveh province were installed after the war against ISIS to accommodate women, children and relatives of Iraqi militants of ISIS after being brought back from Syria, where more than 30,000 citizens were in Al-Hawl camp of northern Syria.

The Yazidi demonstrators are demanding a security audit and preventing the return of those they accuse of being "involved in ISIS attacks and crimes against the Yazidis.”

"A committee has been formed and anyone suspected of having links with ISIS will not be allowed to return to Sinjar," the police source affirmed.

ISIS fighterstook over the district of Sinjar in August 2014, killing more than 1,293 Yazidis and kidnapping 6,417 members of the religious community. According to the KRG, 2,693 of the abductees are still missing.

Video: Fakhr Khalaf, a Yazidi cleric, denied that anyone had damaged Rahman Mosque in Sinjar tensions.

“We are not responsible for what has happened in Sinjar. Some people want to create trouble between the Yazidis and other parties, but there has been no attack on the Rahman Mosque and Ezidis never do that,” Haman Mirza Beg, the deputy for the Amir, prince of Yazidis, said.

Before the incident in Sinjar and after the closure of the camp, the United Nations expressed concern about the "safety, welfare and return" of the 342 families in the camp.”

The United Nations has previously formed several committees, with the assistance of security, administrative and tribal officials, to try to reconcile and return of those families whom a member of them have been fighters of ISIS or are accused of supporting it.

In recent years, the return of those accused of helping ISIS has sparked widespread protests in several parts of Nineveh, and in some areas led to tensions. In 2019, the government wanted to establish Omla camp in the subdistrict of Zumar to build a house for relatives of ISIS in northwestern Nineveh, but was suspended due to protests. Despite much opposition to the Jada camp, Iraqi authorities went on relocation of IS families from Syria.

The Sunni endowment and the Iraqi government have not commented on the incident, but the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs of the KRG condemned the attack on a mosque in Sinjar, saying it was a personal plan and had nothing to do with any religion.

The Yazidi Spiritual Council, headed by the Yazidi Amir, denied in a statement that anyone had entered the Rahman Mosque and damaged it, saying the Yazidis "respect all other religions and communities.”

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