BBC 6/1/15: BBC reports from Shengal
In northern Iraq, Kurdish forces are making progress against Islamic State (IS) in the strategically important town of Sinjar, after breaking the siege of nearby Mount Sinjar. Taking back control of Sinjar would mean restoring much of the territory seized by IS from Iraqi Kurds in the last six months.
The BBC’s Jiyar Gol has been on the frontline with Kurdish forces in Sinjar. You can watch his documentary here.
Harvest (ANF), 9/1/15: Interview about the current situation in Shengal with Ali Atalan, the Co-President of the Federation of Êzidi Societies (FKÊ)
The people of Sinjar (Shengal) are drawn into struggle
We have several items from Sinjar to mention and comment on tonight. Once again we are highlighting the differences between the humanism of the liberation movement and the barbarism of ISIS and imperialism.
It has been announced that five mass graves in and around the town of Sinune in Sinjar will be opened and documented under the supervision of officials. Xiyas Surçî, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) spokesman for Mosul, said in a statement today that the mass graves uncovered following the operations of the guerrillas, peshmerga and YBŞ (Sinjar Resistance Units) forces will officially be opened.
Xiyas Surçî said, “Five more mass graves have been located in the areas, mainly around Sinune, that have been liberated following the assault launched by peshmerga forces, HPG (People’s Defense Forces) guerrillas, YPG (Rojava’s People’s Defense Forces) fighters and Sinjar Resistance Units against the ISIS gangs in and around Sinjar. These graves contain people from the Yazidi community who were killed in the attacks by the ISIS.They will be opened and scientifically documented under the supervision of the Regional Government, the central government of Iraq and international institutions.” The PUK spokesman also said that hundreds of Yazidi women, children and elders who were brutally massacred by the ISIS were buried in these mass graves. He added that a detailed work will be needed in order to determine the identities of the people buried there.
Meanwhile, Shengal (Sinjar) Resistance Units (YBŞ) Commander Zerdeşt Şengali called on all Êzidis to support the YBŞ, adding that the stronger the force becomes the better it will be for the Êzidis and for Kurdistan.
Zerdeşt Şengali told the ANF news service that when the ISIS gangs took Mosul in June of 2014, the Êzidi people had realized that Sinjar (Shengal) would be targeted because of its religious, historical and geographical importance. He added, “We called on political and military circles in Kurdistan to review the security situation in Sinjar, but I’m afraid to say that our brothers in the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) and peshmerga did not allow any other military or political force in Sinjar until the massacre started.”
Zerdeşt Şengali said that the YBŞ had been established in order to combat the massacre, coming into being under extraordinary circumstances. He said that their expectations for 2015 are that Sinjar will be liberated and that democratic autonomy would be put in place. “The Êzidi people, who have suffered massacres throughout history, have never submitted to the hegemony of central states. They have always resisted Arab, Turkish and Persian chauvinism. Today, too, the Êzidi people are resisting and will declare democratic autonomy. This is their most legitimate right in order to protect themselves from the massacres that took place last year,” he added.
Zerdeşt Şengali continued, saying that organization required autonomy. “Does autonomy mean we will break away from Iraq and South Kurdistan? No. The autonomy of the Êzidis will take place within the framework of the laws of Iraq and of the Kurdistan region. Such a right exists in the Iraqi constitution. We therefore say that 2015 will be a year when the hopes of the Êzidi people will be realized. In 2015 the resistance of the YBŞ will also develop,” he added.
Zerdeşt Şengali called on the Êzidi people, saying, “The YBŞ established itself after everyone had fled. Therefore, however much the YBŞ consolidates this will benefit the Êzidis, Kurdistan and the peoples of the region. So we call on the Êzidi people to support us and for young Êzidis to join us.”
The HPG (People’s Defense Forces) Sinjar Command and YBŞ (Sinjar Resistance Units) General Command have also issued a joint statement reporting that the operation to liberate Sinjar is continuing and that a number of ISIS members were killed in clashes over the last 24 hours.
According to the statement, the forces of the resistance carried out an attak with heavy weapons targeting the ISIS gangs around the Suka Jer neighborhood yesterday. The number of ISIS fighters killed there couldn’t be ascertained. Guerrilla forces also carried out two other attacks against the ISIS gangs around the Berbiroj neighborhood on late Sunday evening. One ISIS member was killed and one other was wounded in this attack by guerrillas. Fighting continued as guerrilla forces effectively hit the ISIS gang groups who intensified their activities around the Berbiroj neighborhood last night.
The revolution progresses elsewhere as well.
Êzidi Kurds who fled the attacks by ISIS on Sinjar (Shengal) Mountain and took refuge in the Beşiri district of Batman province (Turkey) are giving their children lessons in the Êzidi faith in the Qorixê tent city. The Êzidi Kurds living in the tent city are determined to maintain their language and culture. In addition to teaching Kurdish they are also providing faith classes for their children. Teachers from Sinjar are working on a voluntary basis in the tent city.
Pir Celal Xêro says that he is teaching 200 children the tenets of the Êzidi faith, adding, “From Sinjar we came to Batman and began to live in the camps set up by the Batman municipality. We decided to continue the Kurdish language and Êzidi faith classes we had provided for our children in Sinjar. Our aim is to ensure they do not forget the Êzidi faith. This is understandable, but in the 21st century we have suffered a massacre on account of being Kurdish and Êzidi. This is shameful for the whole of humanity. If it hadn’t been for the PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party) none of us would have survived. Fifty years ago in Batman there were many Êzidi, but they were forced to leave their homes on account of incitements by the system. But today there is a mosaic that embraces all peoples, faiths and colors.”
Volunteer teacher Pir Xıdır Xelef said that they were also providing psychological support for the children following the attacks by the ISIS gangs on Sinjar, adding that they were determined to protect their culture and language. “Otherwise we would be assimilated. In Sinjar we gave lessons in Kurdish, English and the Êzidi faith. After securing the facilities here we are continuing to do this. Education is also a way of helping the children get over what they witnessed, and the days they spent without food and water in the mountains,” he said.
The children from Sinjar begin the day by saying Êzidi prayers, which are in Kurdish.
The impact of this struggle to survive is felt elsewhere also. Ali Atalan, the Co-President of the Federation of Êzidi Societies (FKÊ), spoke to Ali Güler in an interview for ANF about the most recent situation in the Kurdish Êzidi area in Shengal (Sinjar) in northwest Iraq and the need for political autonomy in the region once it has been liberated from the ISIS gangs.
* What is the current situation in Shengal?
The revolutionary operation which has been launched to liberate Shengal from ISIS occupation has created a great new sense of hope among the Êzidi community. It was through this operation that around 10,000 of our people were rescued from their suffering in Shengal. The operation to bring freedom to Shengal means the beginning of the construction of a new period.
* How much of the Shengal region is now controlled by Kurdish forces?
Right now Kurdish forces are in control of the whole of Shengal mountain, most of its villages and an important part of the city. The closing of the Rojava-Mosul corridor to ISIS has been the most important development. The Kurdistan Freedom Forces have taken the initiative in the most strategic areas.
* What does it mean that the operation to liberate Shengal took place at the same time as the holiday of Êzidis?
Above all else we consider this push to be a kind of holiday present. Above all else I believe that the Kurdish Freedom Movement as a movement of a conscience endowed with an historical consciousness is correctly orientated with regard to its free land paradigm upon (özgür toplum paradigması) which it has been built. This can explain the Freedom Movement’s sharpest response when confronted with the threat of the destruction of the Êzidi community, one of the most ancient, humanistic and authentic parts of the Kurdish people.
* What is the role of the Shengal Defense Units (YBŞ) in the liberation of Shengal?
The YBŞ is a defense force that operates in a coordinated fashion with the HPG (People’s Defense Forces) operationally, organizationally and philosophically. The YBŞ has taken part in this operation with all its capacity has shown itself entirely capable and successful.
* What is the situation of the YBŞ?
As you know, the YBŞ is a resistance movement formed from Kurdish Êzidis. Even if it is not as large as would be wanted in terms of numbers owing to obvious circumstances, it is meaningful and important from a qualitative standpoint and for the historical mission which it has undertaken.
Likewise, before this no systematic and modern resistance movement had been organized to this level in Êzidi history. With the opening of a corridor from South Kurdistan in past days the amount of people joining the YBŞ has risen dramatically. We believe that this will only increase in the future. The YBŞ has laid the foundations for the creation of a self-defense mechanism in a more systematic, participatory and organized manner in Shengal’s future. It is the duty of every patriotic and, in particular, every Êzidi Kurd to work to strengthen this mechanism and increase participation in it.
* What kind of destruction has the Shingal city center and its historical places of worship suffered [under ISIS occupation]?
This has not yet been entirely determined. If we consider what an inhumane organization like ISIS is capable of, we can guess that they have ravaged and destroyed every place of worship belonging to the Êzidi faith. The hostility of ISIS to Êzidism, which is the oldest faith in Mesopotamia, arises from a fascist character which is both historical and current. It is a duty of civilization and of humanity to support and protect the most humanist Yazidi faith against these kinds of attacks which aim at its destruction.
* What kind of system do you want as Êzidis for Shengal after all of this?
In order for the Êzidis to avoid a new genocide they must have an officially recognized status. This status does not need to be confined to Sinjar. The creation of a status of democratic autonomy that would include the Êzidis, Nestorian Christians, Şebeks and other peoples in Şêxan would be the best response to the August 3, 2014 Êzidi genocide. If we leave aside certain organizational and political calculations, it is a humanitarian, conscientious and democratic-national duty to recognize the rights of the Êzidi community, which constitutes one of the most ancient manifestations of the Kurdish
* What is required for the creation of autonomy for Shengal?
Above all it is necessary that the needed steps are taken and work sped up to reorganize in the area of self-defense in order for the Êzidi community to be able to express itself in a political, cultural and diplomatic system. It is necessary that an active ideological and political struggle is waged against attempts by certain collaborationist Êzidis who tie themselves to certain forces and surrender for the sake of certain material gains, and who darken the future of this oppressed people which thirsts for freedom and which has been socially fractured and seen its unity broken. An international Reconstruction Fund For Shengal must be created to rebuild Shingal, the mines which have been laid must be cleared, a self-defense force made up of Êzidis must be created, a sustainable economic system must be established, a system of self-management must be set up and ultimately its autonomous status must be recognized. This should be accomplished within a certain framework by which the rights of Shengal are recognized through a referendum on its relationship with Iraq and the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government).
* What is the attitude Kurdish parties such as the KDP, YNK and PKK and what are you demanding from them?
It is necessary to evaluate each of the Kurdish movements which you mentioned separately with regard to their efforts toward the salvation and future of Shengal. By all means it has been very meaningful and gratifying to see the common struggle for the salvation of Shengal which eventually emerged, regardless of the motivations with which certain groups have acted and continue to act. We hope that the tragedy of Shengal and its longing for freedom will unite all national forces and put an end to certain meaningless conflicts. Shingal is a part of Kurdistan and a home to the Êzidis. Every Kurd can, and in fact ought to, struggle for its liberation and its freedom. Some Kurdish groups have a fractionary understanding by which they say ‘this part belongs to us and other Kurdish organizations cannot come here.’ This understanding will in no way be accepted by the Êzidi community.
Once more it is well known how the powers which have held such an understanding behaved in the course of the events of August 3 and how they left the Êzidis at the mercy of ISIS. Therefore the Êzidis no longer trust them while their confidence in those forces which operate according to the philosophy of the PKK have only increased. Indeed, the Êzidi community looks upon these forces as a guarantee for their own future, their freedom and their security. Despite this we continue to look upon the unification of national forces and the convocation of a national congress as correct and important. Our foundational demands from them is the recognition of an autonomous status for Shengal, the right for the people of Shengal to determine their own fate, and the granting of this authority without conditions. If we want to guarantee the future of the Êzidii community and the Êzidi faith, the only option before us is the recognition of the democratic canton system.
Our expectations are that all national resistance forces – this is the guerilla and peshmerga forces – will operate together against the enemy. Just as they have done so in Kobanê, they can and must do this without problems in Shengal.
* What kinds of expectations do you have from international states and bodies, as well as Kurdish organizations, for the reconstruction of Shengal and other regions where Êzidis live?
International organizations and states can and should act around questions such as the creation of an international fund for the reconstruction and development of Shengal, the recognition of its autonomy by the UN, the recognition of the genocide and the prosecution of the criminals responsible, and transformation of the YBŞ into the legitimate defense force of the Êzidis. If there is a serious political will to counteract the results of this genocide, even if partially, then it is mandatory that serious steps be taken around these questions. Otherwise these powers will be responsible for the ultimate destruction of this community which is now under threat of liquidation and of disappearing. It is unnecessary to remind the international powers of their responsibilities and their necessary obligations around this subject. This reality has now emerged quite openly.
Published by Harvest