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.
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).
Today, Yazidi fighters play a major role in defending themselves and Sinjar. Both YBŞ and YJS consist of fighters whose families were either murdered, kidnapped or tortured by ISIS during the siege, ANHA reports.
Remembering those days with sadness, women fighters of the YJS now feel empowered and strong enough to resist any oppression against their people. YJŞ fighter Deniz Zerdeşt, whose mother and sister were kidnapped by ISIS, decided to join the female fighters to defend her people and expressed her motivations as a fighter.
“If we had taken up the ideas of our leader Apo (Abdullah Ocalan), if we had understood his ideology before, we would not have been subjected to that massacre. I can provide an example from my own story. If I was trained earlier, my mother and sister would not have been kidnapped by ISIS.”
Not only female fighters but male fighters think alike. YBŞ fighter Şervan Şengal points to the peshmerga forces who fled the region and left them to their fate during those days.
“ISIS kidnapped women from our society and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) did not protect our society. As Yazidis, as people of Sinjar, we did not see that they defended our society. And we were not trained. But today, we are strong enough to stand up against our enemies. We follow the path of our leader and martyrs.”
Another YBŞ fighter, Dilşêr Feqir, expressed similar views. “When there were conflicts, they all fled. But the fighters of our leader Apo came and saved thousands of Yazidis from slaughter.The guerrilla did not have as many guns as the peshmerga had, but still they saved the lives of Yazidis.”
These angered statements from the Yazidi fighters are not only expressed because the peshmerga abandoned them during the massacres in 2014. The fighters express the view that the KDP, who abandoned them in the past, are now trying to determine the Yazidis future. They are critical of the agreement the KDP made with the Iraqi Government last December regarding the future of Sinjar. Both fighters and the civilians have criticised the Iraqi government and the KDP for signing the agreement without consulting the local Yazidi people over their future.
They continuously state that they demand autonomy and have the power to defend themselves and they continue to protest against the terms of the Sinjar Agreement.