Efforts to rebuild the heavily damaged Sinjar (Şengal) district in northern Iraq, which suffered extensive destruction during the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS), have encountered a major obstacle due to a political dispute over its administration, according to a report released on Thursday by the US-based non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW).
The disagreement between the federal government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has hindered the utilisation of previously allocated funds, resulting in inadequate infrastructure and essential services, impeding the return of over 200,000 displaced individuals, including most of Iraq’s Yazidi minority.
Sinjar remains a contested territory caught in a dispute between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal Iraq government. Currently, the mayor of Sinuni, a town in northern Sinjar, is temporarily acting mayor for the entire Sinjar district. However, administrative and civil documentation services are centralised in the city of Dohuk in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, requiring Sinjaris to travel there for these services.
In 2017, the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS), a Yazidi-led militia, established a self-governing local administration in Sinjar and elected a mayor. However, this mayor has not yet received official recognition from either the KRG or the federal Iraq government.
The Sinjar Agreement of 2020 allocated 28 billion Iraqi Dinars ($18 million) to the Sinjar Reconstruction Fund. However, the ongoing disagreement between Baghdad and the KRG regarding the administration of Sinjar has hindered the effective utilisation of these funds. Discussions to establish a joint committee to oversee the distribution of funds have stalled, and the failure to agree on a suitable candidate for mayor has caused frustration among the local population, who feel marginalised and excluded from the decision-making process.
According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Sinjar witnessed the destruction of 80 percent of its public infrastructure and 70 percent of its homes during the conflict with ISIS from 2014 to 2017. The dire situation is further exacerbated by the scarcity of electricity and water, inadequate education and health facilities, and staffing shortages. The displaced population, including the Yazidi community, remains unable to return due to the prevailing conditions.