Three people detained over a month “for circulating Ocalan portraits”

Shingal, December 12, 2021: Tension and clashes erupt between demonstrators and members of the Iraqi army. A video of Roj News Channel.

By Ammar Aziz in Nineveh

Three young people have been imprisoned in Mosul for more than a month on charges of "publishing books and pictures of the arrested Kurdistan Workers' Party PKK leader, Abdullah Ocalan," according to the detainees' families and officials in the region.

The three young men who work for the Ezidi Youth Union Organization, published on December 20, 2021, a number of books and photos for Abdullah Ocalan through a mobile library in Sinuny sub-district of Shingal (Sinjar) district, and were arrested three days later.

Dawud Suleiman (father of Salim Dawud, one of the three detainees) said that his son is a student in the second grade of secondary school and works in the media department of the Council of Democratic Autonomous Administration in Shingal.

“He was arrested due to an argument with an Iraqi army officer who asked him not to hang Abdullah Ocalan’s photos or publish his books, but my son insisted on publishing it. In the meantime, the army arrested my son and two of his comrades who were with him.”

The three detainees are Salim Dawud, 17, Ali Khairy Elias, 21, in addition to the mobile library driver, Khudida Haji Khidir.

"The army forces handed my son over to the Sinuny sub-district police, and he was detained there for 15 days, after that they transferred my son Salim to Mosul, while his two friends were transferred to Tal Afar prison," Suleiman said.

The families of the three young men confirm that they have not been tried yet.

"I inquired about my son in the court and the security forces, and they say that they will be released in these days," Suleiman added.

I inquired about my son in the court and the security forces, and they say that they will be released in these days

Information obtained by KirkukNow indicates that the three young men were referred to the Iraqi National Security Agency after spending 15 days in police custody.

"We appeal to all parties to release my son, because he has not committed any crime. So far, I have spent three million dinars in transactions, and I am still commuting between Shingal and Mosul.”

 Khudida Elias, head of the Autonomous Administration Council in in Sinuny sub-district, said, "These three young men did nothing but publish books and photos of Abdullah Ocalan. We were stunned by their arrest."

The Autonomous Administration Council in Shingal was founded years ago by several Ezidi and Arab parties and other components and is considered close to the Kurdistan Workers Party PKK, which is fighting Turkey since the 1980s and holding territories in Iraqi Kurdistan mounts and the disputed territories between Baghdad and Erbil.

The council is currently managing the affairs of part of Shingal district though it is not acknowledged by the federal government in Baghdad or the Kurdistan Regional Government KRG in Erbil.

It is backed by the locals supporting pro-PKK groups: Ezidkhan Asayish (security), Shingal Struggle (Resistance) Units YBSh (Yabasha) and Women Protection Units YPZh (Yapazha) based in Mount Shingal. Ezidkhan Asayish (security) has about 1,000 fighters and is part of YBSh, in charge of the security in the area.

Yabasha and other factions close to the PKK had settled in 2014 in Shingal and the surrounding areas, following the attack by the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant ISIL militants targeted the vulnerable Ezidi (Yazidi) community.

"As far as I know, after their arrest, they were accused of burning a Humvee military vehicle belonging to the Iraqi army, but the surveillance cameras show that these three young men have nothing to do with burning the military vehicle."

On December 12, 2021, a section of the people of Sinuni district went out in a demonstration to condemn the Turkish bombing of the area, which extended to tense clashes that resulted in the injury of an Iraqi soldier and a number of civilians, in addition to the burning of a military vehicle for the Iraqi army.

The demonstration came after the Autonomous Administration Council in Shingal decided to stop working hours in government departments and non-governmental organizations in the district, due to the continued bombing of Turkish planes and "the silence of the Iraqi army and government regarding the continuation of these attacks", which angered the Iraqi government.

Following the incident, the Nineveh Investigation Court issued arrest warrants for two young men under the Anti-Terrorism Law.

"We contacted the Iraqi National Security Agency and other security agencies and stressed that these young men did not do anything bad and pledged to release them in the next few days, but that requires a decision by the judge," he added.

"The security forces say that the three young men raised pictures of Abdullah Ocalan while participating in the demonstration."

There are more than eight different armed forces within the borders of Sinjar district, including the pro-Iran Shiite paramilitary Popular Mobilization Forces PMF, Ezidkhan Asayish forces, Yabsha, Yapazha the local police, the Federal Police, the Iraqi army, the Ezidkhan Peshmerga and the KRG’s Peshmerga forces stationed in a religious shrine.

Although some of the pro-PKK forces withdrew in 2018 from most of the areas of Shingal to the outskirts, Mount Shingal and Syrian territories under an agreement with the Iraqi government, but part of Yabasha forces are still present in the area with the approval of the Iraqi government.

End of October 2020, the fighters of YBSh withdrew from their bases and offices in Shingal to the outskirts in order to deploy Iraqi federal police according to Shingal agreement between Baghdad and Erbil. Part of them has joined regiment 80 of pro-Iran Popular Mobilization Forces PMF.

In October 2020, the Iraqi government and the KRG signed the Shingal Agreement aimed to reorganize the security and administrative sectors in the district, under which local police, national security and intelligence run the security of the town, while the Iraqi army forces would be deployed in the suburbs yet it has not been fully implemented up today.

Shingal district, 120 km west of Mosul, administratively part of Ninewa province, but the district is one of the disputed areas between the Erbil-based KRG and the Iraqi Federal Government.

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