The United States US Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Barbara Leaf, stressed that the Yazidi and Christian communities in Iraq do not feel safe to return to their homes.
The statements came in a press conference held on Thursday, May 4, 2023, in Erbil, capital of the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan Region IKR, in the presence of US Consul General Irvin Hicks. Leaf met representatives of a number of media organizations, including Shorsh Khaled, representative of (KirkukNow), and followed by a press conference.
On the current conditions of religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq, Khaled inquired about the role of the United States, especially in the areas of the Nineveh Plains and Sinjar, home for the Christian and Yazidi (Ezidi) communities, where up to the present thousands of displaced families prefer life under tents than returning to their war-devastated regions.
"We continue to support the various minorities, but the only party responsible for the safe and dignified return of minorities to their areas is the Iraqi government," Leaf said.
"I worked in other countries on the issue of the return of internally displaced persons to their areas, and the only important thing related to the return of the displaced to their homes is the issue of security, as it gives them the feeling that they are able to return," she emphasized.
The only party responsible for the safe and dignified return of minorities to their areas is the Iraqi government
"In Sinjar and the Nineveh Plain, especially the Yazidi and Christian communities, they do not feel safe to return to their homes. I heard these concerns from their representatives and I talked about them in my meetings with Iraqi officials."
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 for absence of security, public services and reconstruction.
The extremist militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria ISIS took 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 Kurdistan Regional Government KRG, 2,693 of the abductees are still missing.
Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs Barbara A. Leaf is visiting Iraq and Jordan April 29 – May 5, where she will discuss a range of U.S. priorities in the region, including promoting economic cooperation and discussing security challenges, the US embassy in Baghdad said on May 1st.
"In Iraq, she will meet with senior government officials and civil society to reaffirm our commitment to a secure, stable, and sovereign Iraq. In both Baghdad and Erbil, the Assistant Secretary will focus on advancing our 360-degree partnership with the government and people of Iraq," the statement elaborated.
The US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs believes that it is necessary to implement the Sinjar Agreement, and said, "There are armed forces and factions in those areas, including the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which endanger the lives of its residents, so the Iraqi government must assume responsibility for the situation and think about addressing the security situation of these areas." Regions".
There are armed forces and factions in those areas, including the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which endanger the lives of its residents
The Sinjar Agreement, which was concluded between Baghdad and Erbil in early October 2020, provides for the formation of a new administration and the reorganization of the security and service file in Sinjar.
The agreement also stipulates that the security file for Sinjar be assigned to the local police, the Intelligence Service and the National Security Agency, in coordination with the security forces of the KRG. And it was emphasized to oust all other armed groups including the PKK, wich fights Turkey since 1980s and holds territories in Iraqi in particular in the disputed territories between Baghdad and Erbil, and all other groups affiliated to it.
Barbara Leaf's visit to Iraq and the Kurdistan Region is the second in eight months, as she made a similar trip in September 2022, during which she met with a number of officials in Iraq and the IKR.
"I sensed positive things in this trip compared to the previous one, so my visit was good," Leaf said.