Shingalis call for pacification following prisoner swap

Ninewa: A group to the Sinjar Resistance Units (Yabsha) fighters. Media of Yabsha

By Ammar Aziz in Ninewa

The residents of war-torn Shingal call for pacification following prisoner swap between the Iraqi army and the militant groups affiliated to Kurdistan Workers’ Party PKK which resulted in cautious stability since latest clashes resulted in casualties in both sides.

On the 18th and 19th of April, armed clashes erupted after an army force asked pro-PKK Ezidkhan Asayish members to evacuate a military post near Sinuny sub-district of Shingal. A fighter of Yabsha was killed three injured, in addition to the injury of 21 soldiers of the army Iraqi army and three civilians.

According to (KirkukNow) follow-up, the security situation is relatively stable at the moment all over Shingal, and no armed confrontations reported.

"The tension and clashes between Yabsha and the army affected the lives of the citizens, some of them are afraid that they will be exposed to other tragedies,” said Salam Mirza, a civil activist.

“I have information that there are families who intended to return from displacement, but they postponed their return because of those clashes, in Shingal,” he added.

The Ezidi community constitutes 30% of the 664,000 Internally Displaced Person IDPs in the adjacent Iraqi Kurdistan Region, while the fate of more than 2,000 Ezidis is still unknown after they were abducted and enslaved by the militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in August 2014.

The reason for these problems is the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Iraqi government, which have neglected Shingal

"The clashes affected the commercial movement, the market, and the lives of citizens," Mirza explained. "The reason for these problems is the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Iraqi government, which have neglected Shingal and do not want to address the situation permanently."

According to the Shingal agreement which was concluded between the single Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government in October 2020 to reorganize the security, administrative and service file in the Sinjar district, the local police, the National Security Service NSS and the Intelligence will handle the security of Shingal downtown, while the armed forces of the federal government to be stationed at the outskirts.

As for the pro-PKK forces, they will not be given any security or administrative role in and supposed evacuate the area. The terms of the agreement have not been implemented so far, as more than eight different armed forces are present within the borders of Shingal, including the Popular Mobilization Forces PMF, Ezidikhan Asayish (security forces), Yabsha, the local police, the federal police, the Iraqi army, and Ezidikhan Peshmerga (Kurdish soldiers) and the Peshmerga forces of the KRG stationed at Lalish temple in Shekhan district.

The agreement was hailed by the Unites States and the United Nations UN yet it was frimely rejected by the Autonomous Administration Council in Shingal - which has been formed since 2019 by the various components of the Shingal with the aim of managing the security and administrative issues of Shingal.

Yabsha and the Ezidkhan Asayish forces, which are close to the Kurdistan Workers' Party PKK, which if fighting Turkey since 1980s and holding territories in Iraq, are under the authority of the Autonomous Administration Council in Shingal.

PKK fighters have secured a safe escape for the Ezidis back in 2014 when extremist militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria ISIS stormed Ninewa province and took large swathes of Iraq.

Later in 2015, Yabsha and Asayish Ezidikhan played an important role in restoring the district from the grip of ISIS. A large part of the Yabasha forces is affiliated with the Shiite paramilitary of the Popular Mobilization Forces PMF, including payrolls.

Ninewa, 2020: Iraqi army patrol deployed downtown in Shingal district. KirkukNow

Though efforts to conclude a substantial agreement has failed, both parties have agreed to exchange prisoners.

"On April 18, the Iraqi army arrested 35 militants affiliated with Yabsha in the village of Ziban. On the other hand, Yabsha forces captured 47 Iraqi soldiers, but later they were all exchanged," said Khudeda Alias, Chairman of the Autonomous Administration Council in Sinuny sub-district of Shingal district.

KirkukNow could not verify the swap of the prisoners.

Saad Qassim, information officer of the Iraqi Army's 20th Division stationed in Shingal, said in a statement to (KirkukNow), "Unfortunately, these confrontations arose last week due to an argument between a soldier and a Yabsha fighters. Both parties are responsible for what happened, but thank God the problem was dealt with properly and the situation is currently stable in Sinjar."

Qassim denied to comment about the issue of the army and Yabsha detainee swap. “We have no relations with Yabsha and Ezidkhan Asayish. We will not let any person or entity destabilize the situation in Sinjar."

A high-ranking source in the Sinjar police anonymously told (KirkukNow), "Al-Yabsha and the Iraqi army have exchanged all prisoners between them," and added that the Iraqi army controls two military points of Yabsha and Ezidkhan Asayish in the areas of Umm Ziban and Shalo, but "the situation has calmed down and it is under the army's control."

Ninewa: An armed force affiliated with the Shingal Resistance Units Yabasha in Shingal. Media of Yabsha

“The residents are still afraid of renewed clashes. These forces have created psychological problems for the people and the tensions have negatively affected them, while we are still experiencing fear and suffering following Daesh (ISIS) trauma,” said Rakan Rafou, a resident of Shingal.

"How long will we pay the bill for the conflicts of the political and armed forces? Any party that wants security in Shingal has to try to solve its problems with other forces, not to make fiery statements every day and expose the people to calamities."

Since the end of the ISIS war in Iraq in late 2017, there have been continuous disputes between the Iraqi army and pro-PKK forces in Shingal, escalated to armed confrontations as the army seeks to impose its influence and control over the region.

"Our disputes with the army are not over yet. The army forces have seized several military points from Yabsha and they must evacuate them. If the army does not hand these military points over to us, we will take tougher positions," Khudeda vowed.

In Mid-March, the local administration of war-torn Shingal declared a midnight to dawn curfew effective from March 16th to further notice for security reasons. Observers in Shingal say that Iraqi security forces were lately targeted by bombs fired by the groups affiliated to the PKK.

The locals are upset with the instability intrigued by the deployment of several armed parties in the area.

The district of Shingal, 120 km west of Mosul, administratively affiliated to Ninewa province, and part of the disputed territories between Baghdad and Erbil.

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