Shingal: PMF recruits locals for new brigade

Members of the Popular Mobilization Forces PMF during training, Nineveh, April 2023. Exclusively KirkukNow

By KirkukNow

The paramilitary of Popular Mobilization Forces PMF intend to form a brigade from the people of Shingal (Sinjar), be deployed in the region.

According to a high-ranking official of the PMF in Shingal, who is currently working as an assistant to the commander of the new brigade, they have launched registration of volunteers since March 19, as over 3,000 locals are scheduled to be appointed.

Barakat Khidir, 29, an Ezidi (Yazidi citizen and a father of three children, visited the headquarters of PMF in Shingal last week with a number of his companions to register his name.

Barakat says that he learned about the PMF intention to form a brigade in Shingal through a number of people who had previously registered their names to engage in the PMF.

"I decided to become part of this force and serve in Shingal."

Abu Abbas Bashkani, assistant commander of the Sinjar Brigade of the PMF, told (KirkukNow), “The decision to form the brigade was issued by the General Authority of Hashid (PMF). The aim of its formation is to serve security and stability in Sinjar.”

“Hashid played a big role in the war against Daesh (ISIS) in this region and was part of the forces that liberated Sinjar from the grip of the terrorists, so it was decided to form the brigade to continue playing this role,” he emphasized.

“We are here and we will stay here."

The militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria ISIS took control of Shingal in August 2014, and the residents of the district were subjected to killing, kidnapping and displacement for being non-Muslims, before it was recaptured in 2015 by the Iraqi security forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga.

More than 2,000 fighters who ousted IS and took control of Shingal late 2015 were recruited under the 80th regiment of PMF after the federal and Kurdistan Regional Governments KRG signed Sinjar agreement.

We are here and we will stay here

KirkukNow has been trying but could not get a comment if this step is part of Shingal agreement which is opposed by part of the Ezidis particularly supporters of pro-PKK groups, local police, national security and intelligence will be in charge of security downtown and the federal troops to be deployed in the outskirts.

Shingal, located 120 km west of Mosul, center of Nineveh province, used to be home to over 100,000 adherents Ezidi ethno-religious minority and one of the disputed territories between Baghdad and Erbil. Ezidis also live in Shekhan, Bashiqa and other areas of Duhok Northern Province.

In the Ezidi-dominant region of Shingal, only three thousand square kilometers, Baghdad federal and Erbil regional governments compete to establish their rule: three local administrations want to administer the district where five different armed forces are deployed.

The militant groups are Iran-backed PMF, Shingal Resistance Units YBS or YBSh and Ezidkhan Asayish, affiliated to the Kurdistan Workers Party, fighting Turkey and holding territories north of Iraq, federal and local Police, Iraqi army and the Kurdistan Regional Government's KRG Peshmerga.

During the past few years, the PMF formed two regiments from the people of Shingal, whose members were deployed south of Mount Shingal.

On the fate of these two regiments, Bashkani said, "These two regiments will become part of the Sinjar Brigade, and two other regiments will form a prelude to the formation of the brigade."

"Currently, 1,600 armed men have been appointed within the framework of the previous two regiments, and another 2,000 are scheduled to be appointed."

The formation of the Sinjar Brigade comes at a time when stability has not been restored to the war-torn district, as tens of thousands of families are still living in displacement, some of them in camps in Dohuk, despite the passage of eight years since the ISIS war.

Barakat Khadr, who registered his name last week in the new brigade, said, "I want to protect our land and the stability of the region by joining this force."

The main motive for the locals to join the brigade is unemployment due to absence of stability and security in the region.

"The salary that I will receive will secure a decent life for me and my family members."

hashdy. Al. sha3bk
Two fighters from the Popular Mobilization Forces in Shingal, Nineveh, April 2023. Exclusively for KirkukNow

According to (KirkukNow) observations, ISF and the militant groups have been in constant conflict over the past three years to impose influence in the district.

There has been a state of dissatisfaction among the people of Shingal over the past years regarding the issue of the presence of multiple forces and instability. Locals have been demonstrating, aksing the militant groups to evacuate their bases in towns for the local police yet it has not led to tangible results.

The assistant commander of the Sinjar Brigade in the Popular Mobilization said, "There will be no discrimination in registering the members of the new brigade. Anyone who wants to join can review us... The brigade will start its duties immediately after approving the budget."

Regarding the locations of the brigade, Bashkani said, "We will send an entire regiment to Sinuny district and other areas located north of Mount Sinjar, while the rest will be stationed in the southern part.”

With this we can protect the security and stability of the region in cooperation with other Iraqi security forces and agencies

“With this we can protect the security and stability of the region in cooperation with other Iraqi security forces and agencies."

Ceasefire Center for Civilian rights published a report on January 31st, 2022, (They are in Control) highlights the role of the paramilitaries, in particular the Popular Mobilization Forces PMF, following the defeat of ISIS in 2017. 

"The presence of competing and unaccountable armed actors was responsible for widespread violence against civilians in the post-invasion period. Ethnoreligious minorities, which did not have armed groups protecting them, were particularly vulnerable to attack," the report says.

Many of the fighters of the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBŞ or YBSh) were merged into the General Board of PMF in 2020.

YBSh fighters are mainly Ezidis. When Shingal fell under grip of ISIS in August 2014, Iraqi troops backed by Kurdish Peshmarga (fighters) and pro- PKK fighters' ousted ISIS in October 2015 and deployed in several areas in the region.

Pro-PKK fighters secured a resuce corridor for Ezidis to escape Shingal to Mount Shingal and from there to the camps for IDPs in Duhok under the KRG.

Turkey-PKK conflict is a concern for Ezidis of Shingal as the Turkish army regularly conducts cross-border operations and air raids on PKK bases in northern Iraq. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed end of January 2021 to attack Shingal at any time in pursuit of PKK-affiliated groups based in the region.

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