Dr. Amy Beam reports from Shingal (a.k.a. Sinjar) city.
[Shingal, Nineveh Province, Iraq, June 23, 2018] Photos and text copyright 2018 Amy L. Beam
Who is in charge in Sinjar city?
Everyone asks me this question. I have been here about a month and will explain as I understand from talking to many military and non-military residents. Please share and follow me on my public Facebook and select to receive notifications. I post every day. Keep reading for a detailed report on security and governance in Sinjar.
First, there are men and a couple of women in uniform all over the city. There are many checkpoints entering the city and also inside the city. They are waving hello, observing everyone, but not checking IDs as cars pass.
According to General Najim al-Jubouri, Commander of all of Nineveh which includes Shingal, there is a battalion of Iraqi Police, a battalion of Iraqi Army, and Hashd al-Shaabi in Shingal.
They don’t talk much to each other and they do not take command orders from each other. This is the same as in 2016.
HASHD AL-SHAABI (also called PMF for Popular Mobilization Forces)
The PMF originally was created and entered Iraq from Iran to fight ISIS with the approval of the Iraqi government. Many Iraqis, including Ezidis joined them later. Now the Iranian Hashd al-Shaabi soldiers have left Shingal.
The Hashd al-Shaabi were officially recognized in 2017 when they cleared the Ezidi villages of ISIS from May 21-28. Many Yezidis who were in Peshmerga, joined the Hashd al-Shaabi to clear their own villages in Shingal of ISIS. They are under the Iraqi Minster of Defense and they get paid $400 per month.
The three leading commanders of Hashd al-Shaabi are Shia and they are Hadi al-Amiri, head of Hashd office in Baghdad; Abu Mahadi al Muhandis, head of Shingal; and Falah al Fayatha, head of Hashd al Shaabi for all of Iraq. Fayatha is said to report to Major General Qassem Soleimani, the top Shia commander from Iran who commands the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC). Soleimani has been in Iraq, mostly in Baghdad, since the funeral of Jalal Talibani in 2017. I do not know where he is now.
The Hashd al-Shaabi are divided between Ezidi and Shia units (and maybe some Sunni). Most are from Shingal and speak “Shingali” (the Ezidi Kurdish dialect), but some are from Sheikhan and Bashiqa and speak Arabic. Some are not Ezidi, but are from Tal Afar and speak Turkish and Arabic.
The Lalish Ezidi Hashd al-Shaabi are led by Khal Ali Serhan Issa, who is greatly loved by his loyal soldiers and all Ezidis for his leadership and bravery in fighting ISIS. Khal Ali is from Khanasor. ISIS killed his father and many of his close friends.
Many of the Ezidi men in Hashd al-Shaabi lost family members. Those who are assigned to guard the empty villages are often originally from those villages, such as in Siba Sheik Khudir, Kocho, and Tal Banat. Many who are working inside Sinjar city are originally from Sinjar.
Those who are assigned to guard the empty Ezidi villages are often originally from those villages, such as in Siba Sheik Khudir, Kocho, and Tal Banat. Many who are working inside Sinjar city are originally from Sinjar.
There are also Shia Hashd al-Shaabi whose commander is theoretically above the Lalish Ezidi unit. They are at Baaj and Tal Afar. There is a lot of cleaning, repair, and rebuilding going on in Tal Afar. There is little to no cleaning and repair going on in Sinjar city.
When ISIS attacked Tal Afar all Shia fled for their lives and also some Sunni fled. Turkmen lived in Tal Afar. Some were Shia and some were Sunni. Many Sunni Turkmen joined ISIS in Tal Afar where many Ezidi women and children where held captive. Turkmen speak Turkish and Arabic.
YJS AND YBS MILITIAS (former PKK, YPG, YPJ, HBS, YBS)
Several checkpoints at the entrance to Sinjar city are guarded by what people incorrectly refer to as PKK, but it looks like they are wearing Iraqi Army uniforms now (but with a neck scarf or head scarf added). One of the checkpoints is women. Next to it is a large poster sign of photos of women who were martyred fighting ISIS.
Among Ezidis, people refer to YPG, YPJ, HBS, YBS all as PKK, so it is causing confusion. They incorrectly call everyone PKK. The PKK are Kurds from Turkey and Qandil mountain and most of them are gone. A few are living and manning checkpoints in the far southeast Ezidi village of Eskeenia. They include at least three women at the first checkpoint (one speaking Arabic, one not able to speak Arabic, and one Ezidi from Syria). The PKK men are stationed after the first checkpoint to Eskeenia.
The PKK originally trained the YPG (men) and YPJ (women) who are mostly Kurds and Ezidis from Syria. The YPG trained the HBS who are Ezidis mostly from Shingal and they have had a few name changes. They are now called YBS (men) and YJS (women). They can’t go home because they are already home. They are Ezidis. These are the militia that are incorrectly being called PKK.
One guard at the western end of Shingal explained to me, first he wore a PKK uniform, then a YPG uniform, and now he wears an Iraqi Army uniform. He is Ezidi.
There are no PKK flags or posters of Ocalan anywhere in Sinjar or the villages on the south or north sides of the mountain. There are also no Kurdistan flags or Kurdish party flags. The Iraqi flag is flown.
There are also Iraqi police inside Sinjar city. They are wearing their blue, black and grey uniforms. Their job is to guard the Iraqi government offices, what few there are. Lt. Sanar Suleymar Khudir is the police chief in Sinjar.
There is an Iraqi Army post on the same block as the Lalish Hashd al-Shaabi command headquarters. Hashd al-Shaabi and Iraqi Army do not interact with one another. Anyone who wants to meet one of the men in the Iraqi Army can go to the shop on the same street where they always come in for food, snacks, and soft drinks. The Iraqi Army men are not from Shingal. They speak Arabic and do not understand Kurdish. Some are from Tal Afar and speak Turkish, also.
The Iraqi Army also man some of the checkpoints, including the one leaving Shingal Mountain and entering Sinjar city and also the last checkpoint on Highway 47 going to the Syrian border.
THE MAYOR OF SINJAR
Abu Saood Fahad is the Ezidi mayor of Sinjar. He was appointed by mutual agreement by various Ezidi leaders and he maintains an office in Sinjar. The “other” mayor is Muhamma who was appointed a long time ago by the Kurdistan Regional Government. He now lives in Duhok and is not recognized by people in Sinjar as the mayor. Mayor Abu Saood Fahad is a busy man, helping people with their requests of every kind as private citizens clean, repair, and open shops and move into houses without central government assistance. Abu Saood appointed men to be neighborhood security guards to know who comes and goes in each neighborhood.
THE EZIDI PROGRESS PARTY
The Ezidi Progress Party headquarters was rebuilt after partial destruction by a coalition airstrike to kill ISIS who were using it as a headquarters. It now has a number of large meeting rooms. Saeed Batush Qaro is the party leader. The Party recently elected their candidate to Parliament, . Most people who want to do a project in the city seek the advice and support of the Ezidi Progress Party.
THE DIRECTOR OF SINJAR HOSPITAL
The Director of the Sinjar Hospital has not returned to run it since he left in 2014. The general complaint and biggest grievance in Shingal is that there are no doctors in the hospital. When I visited there were between 3 and 5. When I called a few days later to speak with them, they had returned to Duhok. There are an estimated 950 pregnant women in Shingal and living in tents on the mountain with no doctors or hospital to deliver their babies. They have to travel over a bumpy road to Tal Afar (1.5 hours) or Mosul (2.5 hours) or all the way to Duhok (6 hours) to deliver their baby.
Several foreign NGOs have paid for renovation of a wing of the hospital and to staff it with one doctor and one pharmacist at all times.
IN SUMMARY, the recovery of Sinjar city is an evolving process with many groups assuming authority. While there are many shops open, the town still has an empty feel to it. It feels very much like the freedom of no government control. Each private person is busy doing his or her work. The biggest conflict I witnessed was a minor traffic accident. Within minutes every security force showed up because there is not much else to do. Boredom and heat are the rule of the day for security forces.
Dr. Amy L Beam, author of The Last Yezidi Genocide, is a human rights activist providing humanitarian aid, media coverage, and assistance for Yezidis displaced by Islamic State terrorists. She is helping primarily those Yezidi women and children who were held captive and then escaped to freedom in Kurdistan. Dr. Beam is also documenting the Yezidi genocide with written and video testimonies.