URGENT—HAPPENING NOW March 3th 2017: #Peshmerga are attacking local #Yazidi militia in #Sinjar. Explanation and updates will follow and continue.
The Peshmerga Rojava, an Iraqi KDP militia comprised of Syrian Kurdish refugees, have launched an assault on a Yazidi civilian area. The #Peshmerga attacked the #Yazidi town, Khanasor, at 6:30 am Iraqi time (March 3).
Khanasor is a safe & secure area that has been free of #IS since December 2014. There is no justification to begin fighting there. For over 2 years, Khanasor has been under control of the YBŞ, a militia comprised of local #Yazidis from Sinjar, affiliated with the PKK.
The YBŞ has been the most effective Yazidi militia in fighting #IS, killing jihadists, saving Yazidi lives, and retaking land from IS. But its existence is resented by the KDP which wants to control Sinjar with its own militias (the Peshmerga).
Sinjar is not part of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, but is a disputed territory competed over by both Erbil and Baghdad. Yet neither Baghdad nor Erbil came to the aid of the Yazidis when they were targeted with genocide on Aug 3, 2014. Instead, the Peshmerga withdrew before IS attacked Sinjar, abandoning the Yazidis to slaughter and enslavement.
To fill that gap, local Yazidis formed their own militias, and many sprang up, spearheading the fight against IS in that area. The YBŞ became the most successful such militia due to its PKK support and backing.
The PKK also sent commanders to train and lead it. The PKK used this opportunity to expand its political influence, opening party centers in the area and trying to convert Yazidis to its ideology. Many Yazidis joined and the PKK now has a firm foothold in the Sinjar region, with its Tevda political wing officially registered as a legal political party in Baghdad.
Baghdad tolerated the PKK presence in Sinjar, knowing that they would serve as an impediment to KDP ambitions in Sinjar.
The KDP—whose Peshmerga forsook the Yazidis—now want the YBŞ to dissolve so that they can again rule Sinjar as though nothing happened. The KDP wants to eliminate the YBŞ presence and go back to business as usual. They speak of "pushing the PKK out of Sinjar." But this rhetoric ignores one fact: the YBŞ is local, not foreign. The political landscape has changed—this is a PKK affiliate in Iraq. Whereas the YBŞ is a local Yazidi force, the Peshmerga that are now attacking them are not Yazidi, not from Sinjar, and not from Iraq.
The Peshmerga Rojava are a militia force created by the KDP by recruiting Syrian Kurdish refugees out of refugee camps inside Iraq. These are men who fled the violence of the Syria conflict. The KRG hosts their refugee camps, and the KDP sent asa'ish into their camps to recruit them for this militia. Whereas Yazidis in Sinjar banded together forming militias to defend their own area, the Peshmerga Rojava are a foreign force, inside another country, on the KDP payroll, now used to implement the political will of the KDP.
Today the political agenda is cleansing Sinjar of political rivals—even if they are Sinjar's people, genocide survivors, & enemies of IS Sinjar’s status needs to be resolved carefully, not in this matter.
Yazidis have begged for international help to enable them to build a local administrative framework with nonpartisan institutions. This is achievable, as I have discussed here: http://www.nrttv.com/En/birura-details.aspx?Jimare=4855 …
This violence is unacceptable and will set the Yazidi community back even further. Specifics on the attack: Yesterday, Peshmerga Rojava forces gathered between Khanasour & Snune, by the hundreds.
The YBŞ denied them entry to Khanasour, telling them that if they need to enter Syria, they can do it at a crossing that goes directly into YPG-controlled territory, and negotiate with the YPG as to whether they can enter or not.
Of course, allowing this army into Khanasor would obviously have amounted to losing control of it. The YBŞ also told them that it was a safe town with a large civilian presence, and that there was no need for conflict there.
An eyewitness I spoke to described officers among the Peshmerga Rojava with their faces covered, which has sparked rumors of Turkish intelligence leading this operation. I think that we cannot speculate on this at the moment, but everyone is talking about how this attack comes immediately after Barzani's meeting with Erdogan.
The YBŞ told the Pesh Roj that as the area was secure, it did not need additional troops, and that they should focus their energy on fighting #IS, which still controls Yazidi towns south of Sinjar Mountain. The Peshmerga Rojava brought additional forces and prepared for an assault. They sent in some humvees and armored vehicles.
Then the assault was launched this morning. The Peshmerga fired first. The fight was brought to the YBŞ who are in a defensive position, now trying to defend Khanasor.
The YBŞ are weaker than the Peshmerga in terms of weaponry, so they have avoided this fight for a long time. The fighting is occurring now between Khanasour and Snune, but close to Khanasour, about 1-2 km from the edge of the town. The Peshmerga are launching katyusha rockets toward the city. The YBŞ lacks significant heavy weaponry.
The #YBŞ has not been the beneficiary of the American weapons support to the #KDP that is now being used to attack a #Yazidi town.
Importantly, of all Yazidi collective villages (mujamaʿāt) on the north side of Sinjar, Khanasor has had one of the highest return rates of displaced #Yazidi families, coming home from the camps.
This is because it suffered less destruction by IS than other collectives, so more homes are intact. This also means that the Peshmerga are attacking one of the most functional Yazidi civilian areas.
Families are now terrified and fleeing, just as they did when #IS first attacked and began this genocide. Since the Peshmerga Rojava are on the road to Snune, I believe the families are fleeing west toward Syria.
I have highlighted some of the roads around Sinjar Mountain on this map. Peshmerga came from the north to Snune, then west to Khanasor.
One of the concerns now is whether they will attack the mountain itself, via the road that runs south from Snune to the mountain. The mountain itself is largely dominated by the YBŞ presence.
Many families live on top who decided to stay and fight #IS to the death. They never went to the camps in Dohuk. The mountain top never fell to IS, because of these brave people who stood when others fled.
I am actually in disbelief that the Peshmerga have attacked the Yazidi homeland. I am literally sick to my stomach. I just spoke to a man inside Sinjar, who said: “This is the wrong time to fight here. We have one enemy, which is Da'esh. The Peshmerga Rojava do not have any right to start a fight here in Sinjar—they are from Syria—They are fighting next to our families." This is an unprovoked attacked in which the Peshmerga Rojava are opening fire on a #Yazidi town.
Consider this: The KDP maintains a force of KDP-loyal Yazidi Peshmerga in Sinjar, under Qasim Shesho’s command. Why are they not sent to attack Khanasor? Because it would look so disgusting to send Yazidis to attack other Yazidis, yes? So apparently it is more acceptable to send a force of Syrian Muslim Kurds to attack Yazidis, because after it’s all done, they can send in the forces of Qasim & Haider Shesho to control the whole mountain, and claim that they don't have Yazidi blood on their hands.
I am told now that—already—Qasim Derbo (another Yazidi KDP commander) has gathered his forces in Snune, with other Pesh Roj forces, perhaps to be ready to move in and control an area once the Peshmerga Rojava have eliminated the YBŞ in a particular area. Let’s imagine for a moment.
What happens if the KDP succeeds in crushing the YBŞ in Sinjar? Then KDP asa’ish—with their pervasive brutality—control all of Sinjar again. Then every Yazidi who was ever connected to any PKK affiliate will get the special treatment.
Then he—and she—will get the Ba'thi-style, Asad-style, Saddam-style, mukhabaraat-style, KDP asa'ish-style special treatment.
The same everywhere: the arrests and torture begin, and families with the wrong political alignments will be abused for years. This will lead to greater emigration from the country.
Yet this could all have been avoided had the US directly supported the building of local, self-administrative institutions in Sinjar, something that almost every Yazidi has begged for over the past 2 1/2 years.
Instead, the US administration (the last one) told the Yazidis, "work with the Kurds" (as if that had any meaning). And they signed new agreements of cooperation with the KDP, so that the KDP can continue to benefit from ever-increasing US support. But at least a full-blown Peshmerga attack on Yazidis did not happen under the last US administration. No, that's happening now.
People in Sinjar are saying now that both sides have taken casualties but we don't have any numbers yet on how many killed on each side. Fighting has ebbed at the moment; hopefully it will end altogether and not flare up again.
We have to wait to see what happens now. I will sleep for a few hours and give more updates as soon as I can. Just remember that for 2 1/2 years, almost all Yazidis (even many who belong to the KDP) have begged the world, and particularly the US to help mediate a transition to a new Sinjar where local people have a say in their lives through self-administrative institutions that are decoupled from the big parties that keep Sinjar in a choke-hold.
The US pledged support to help develop a nonpartisan, local, security force in Sinjar, directly under Iraq's ministry of interior, not affiliated with any party. And nothing happened.