When the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) seized Yazidi villages in Sinjar in Iraqi Kurdistan in 2014, thousands of civilians were killed, thousands of women were kidnapped to serve as slaves and more than half a million people became refugees. According to reports, 2,213 Yazidis were murdered, 7,000 were kidnapped and the fate of around 3,000 women and children is still unknown.
The first armed unit to arrive in the region to assist the Yazidi people was a People’s Defence Forces (HPG) unit. Later, more HPG fighters and also People’s Defence Units (YPG) fighters from Rojava arrived in the area and the locals created their own self-defence units, the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBŞ) and the Sinjar Women’s Protection Units (YJS). However the region has again been targeted by Turkey since 25 April 2017.
The attacks intensified after the Sinjar agreement was signed between the Iraqi government and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) about the future of Sinjar on 9 October 2020. According to the deal more than 8,000 troops were to be deployed in Sinjar, and the Yazidi Asayish (Public Order) Centres created by the local residents were no longer to be active in the region. this last caused outrage among locals, and they took to the streets of Sinjar and protested against the deal for several weeks.
In July 2021 both the Dutch and the Belgium parliaments both recognised the attacks launched by ISIS on 3 August 2014 against the Yazidi population, and the massacres and practices that followed, as genocide and crimes against humanity.
However, in August 2021 Turkey attacked Sinjar many times, on 17 August even targeting a hospital near the village of Sikêniyê in Sinjar (Shengal), Iraqi Kurdistan, in which several people died and others were wounded. This attack followed another strike the day before, on 16 August, which targeted the passengers of a vehicle near a market in Sinjar. Teo people died in the attack near the market, including a senior commander of the Sinjar Defence Units (YBS) Seid Hesen. On 2 September, Turkey again attacked, this time targeting a Yazidi Public Security checkpoint with drones.
Yazidis have drawn attention to the contradictory attitude of the world states regarding what Yazidi people are going through through. On the one hand the whole world condemns ISIS attacks against the Yazidi people, on the other hand they remain silent in the face of attacks by Turkey, they say to ANF.
Suad Hiso, the spokeswoman for the Rojava Yazidi Women’s Union believes that the reason for the attacks is to destroy the autonomy of the Yazidis.
“They targeted our pioneers to throw them into disorganisation. They murdered Mam Zeki and commander Zerdeşt Şengalî. They murdered the great patriot and leader Seîd Hesen and his nephew. They didn’t even stop there, they bombed the hospital and the patients. As Yazidis we condemn these massacres, we do not accept them. We are aware of their goals,” she says.
She recalls the demographic changes made in Afrin, which has been under the control of Turkey and its mercenaries since 2018.
“We (Yazidis) were internally displaced by the Turkey’s attacks on Afrin. Around 25,000 Yazidis lived in Afrin before, there are now only 2,000 left. The attackers kidnapped and murdered our people.” She continued:
“They force Yazidi women to wear hijab, and they force our people to convert to Islam, just like ISIS did. On 30 August, they opened a camp of 350 houses for the families of hired gangs between Qimar and Tirinde, two Yazidi villages. It’s got everything from a mosque to a Quranic course. This is changing the demographics and culture. We Yazidis are not against any religion. But everyone should live on their own land, with their own faith. It is a shame that they came to the territory of the Yazidis and imposed Islam on the Yazidis,” she said and added the Yazidi people in Sinjar are now under a similar threat.
“Turkey wants to take control of Sinjar and change its demographics, just as it did with Afrin.”
“The Yazidis in Sinjar who survived the genocide of ISIS are today being bombed by Turkish planes today before the eyes of the world. Two days ago, they bombed Sinjar again, a Yazidi Asayish checkpoint. But the world’s governments, as well as Iraq and the KDP remain silent. They want to force the Yazidis to leave Sinjar and become refugees in Europe. The international community is turning a blind eye to this situation just as they did when 4,000 villages were burned by Turkey in the 1990s. We call on humanity and on human rights organizations around the world; Let’s call a stop to these genocides together.”
Meanwhile, Hisên Hesen, co-chair of the Afrin Yazidis Association, calls the international community to take a stand against the attacks. “They do not respect the will of the Yazidis” he says:
“Neither Turkey nor the KDP accept the will of the Yazidis to establish their own lives and administrations, and defend themselves. They’re trying to break that will. International powers have already quietly endorsed these attacks. This is a disgrace to humanity. An oppressed people is living under threat of murder and being driven from their land. In response, we, the Yazidis of Afrin, call on the Yazidis all over Kurdistan and around the world. Let us stand up for Sinjar and our people.”
Faruq Tozo, co-chair of the Jizîr Regional Yazidi House draws attention to the fact that attacks have increased in August.
“There are very few examples across the world of attacks targeting a hospital. It is particularly unacceptable in terms of human morality in the 21st century, according to the laws of war. However, no world state or international institution is speaking out against the crimes of the Turkish state. They are not standing in the way of massacres.” He continues:
“Yazidis who survived the ISIS genocide are being slaughtered by Turkish planes. I ask the states of the world; I wonder what ‘genocide’ means to you. Do you only recognise genocide when ISIS does it? Why you don’t want to see what the Turkish ISIS is doing?”