The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has officially declared Shingal town cleansed of militants belonging to the ISIL extremist group. More than 10,000 Peshmerga forces (the Kurdish army-equivalent) marched towards Shingal using heavy artillery and tanks last week.
Consequently, two important supply lines to ISIL were cut off, further isolating the extremist group that initially took control of Shingal town in August 2014. In a relatively short period of time, ISIL managed to systematically target Ezidi people, killing men indiscriminately, grooming their children into terrorism, and taking their women as sex slaves.
The liberation of Shingal, perceived as an important step towards defeating ISIL was applauded internationally. Nonetheless, the Ezidi community have not returned to Shingal since ISIL onslaught in 2014, fearing for their safety.
What’s next for Shingal and the Ezidi community?
Many questions loom, particularly since it is widely acknowledged that fighters belonging to PKK (an outlawed group) and YPG (a group funded by US to fight ISIL in Syria) resisted the advances of ISIL continuously, and provided the Ezidi community with much-needed protection in the process.
The failure of Peshmerga forces to protect the Ezidi community in 2014, at a time where they were most at risk will continue to be a blood-stained mark in our history. This is particularly the case because numerous reports surfaced and released by the Kurdistan Regional Presidency showed that the former Iraqi cabinet, led by Nouri al-Maliki was warned about the imminent threat of extremist militants in Iraq.
Logically speaking, if our Kurdish government was fully aware of the risk extremist militants posed, and their possible emergence, should they not have had the foresight to put additional Peshmerga forces in areas such as Shingal? Perhaps this ‘foresight’ is an element that was overlooked at the time.
Rebuilding trust with the Ezidi community
The important factor for Peshmerga forces and KRG is to rebuild trust with the Ezidi community, working with their leaders and community members to reinstate them for their losses and grievances.
Families of victims, and victims themselves must be provided with restitution, and KRG should continue to pressurise the international community through all avenues possible to recognise the genocide and crimes committed against Ezidi people. Otherwise, the chances of KRG influence in the town will significantly decline because the wounds of the Ezidi people run immensely deep.
Shingal town has become symbolic because of the pain and immense suffering attached to it. This should motivate us to work together in assisting with reconstruction of the overall infrastructure of the town. More importantly, establishing rigorous security in the process.
People will not readily re-enter Shingal unless they’re given security, and until the town is rebuilt, jobs re-created, schools rebuilt, families compensated for their losses, the town can never regain any vague notion of ‘normality’.
Counselling for Ezidi victims
Our expectation from the government for the Ezidi people should be beyond compensation and security. We witnessed an entire community become systematically cleansed in the 21st century, how can we ever soothe the wounds of this community?
Many families continue to suffer as their children, wives, sisters, daughters and family members remain held by ISIL in Syria.
How can women re-engage with their communities, particularly those that faced sexual or other forms of abuse while held by ISIL? These are questions that we should ask ourselves, that our government should be propelled to investigate.
The Ezidi community deserves more than our sympathy — tangible actions needed.