Iraqi state holds key to Yazidi return to Sinjar: ICG

Iraqi state holds key to Yazidi return to Sinjar: ICG

Iraq must stabilise the northern region of Sinjar to help the Yazidi minority brutalised at the hands of the Islamic State group return home, the International Crisis Group said Tuesday.

A report by the conflict analysts said Baghdad must set up a local administration and mediate between factions who hold sway over Sinjar to pave the way for the return of the Yazidis.

The Kurdish-speaking Yazidis follow their own non-Muslim faith that earned them the hatred of the Sunni Muslim extremists of IS, who seized Sinjar in 2014 and unleashed a brutal campaign against the minority.

Thousands of men from the Kurdish-speaking minority were slaughtered, women and girls abducted as sex slaves and boys sent to military training camps.

The UN has called the massacre of Yazidis a genocide.

Of the world’s 1.5 million Yazidis, the largest community was in Iraq where it comprised some 550,000 people before being scattered by the IS offensive.

Around 100,000 have fled the country while 360,000 have been displaced and live in Iraqi Kurdistan or across the border in Syria.

ICG said Sinjar’s occupation by “a succession of Iraqi and non-Iraqi sub-state actors has militarised the population, fragmented the elites and prevented the return of the displaced”.

“Only the effective reentry of the Iraqi state, mediating between factions and reinstating local governance, can fully stabilise Sinjar, lay the groundwork for reconstruction, allow the displaced to return and end foreign interference,” it said.

– ‘Second-class Kurds’ –

According to the ICG, the problems of Sinjar are deep-rooted and go back to the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.

After the invasion, “real power (in Sinjar) was exercised by… the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)” of Massud Barzani, the former head of Iraq’s Kurdish autonomous region.

Kurdish fighters backed by the US-led coalition against IS captured Sinjar from the jihadists in November 2015

The KDP, it said, “took advantage of the administrative and security vacuum” in the region.

The party “treated the Yazidis… as second-class Kurds” and “barely disguised its ambition… to annex Sinjar” to the Kurdish region.

“The KDP made itself still more unpopular by withdrawing its forces from Sinjar ahead of the ISIS (IS) assault, leaving the population to the jihadists’ mercy.”

The ICG said the battle to rout IS jihadists from Sinjar “brought peace but no political or economic recovery”.

Kurdish fighters backed by the US-led coalition against IS captured Sinjar from the jihadists in November 2015, before Iraqi paramilitary forces took control of the whole region last October.

ICG said the Baghdad government must reassert its authority by making use of a local administration set up by the KDP in Sinjar.

Members of this administration “possess the skills needed for the restoration of functioning governance institutions in Sinjar”, it said.

It urged Baghdad to “lead the way” to restore local governance in Sinjar by relying on Yazidis in order to reduce “their dependence on external power”.

This initiative would also “facilitate the provision of international reconstruction aid and improve prospects for the return of the displaced,” the ICG said.

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