People in Shengal: Nobody but ourselves will protect us

After days of escalation, calm has returned to the Shengal region for the time being. Leaving the resistance positions is out of the question. "Because nobody but ourselves will protect us," as an activist puts it.

After days of escalation, calm has returned to the Shengal region for the time being. The YBŞ resistance units reached an agreement with the Iraqi army after lengthy negotiations, the Shengal Democratic Autonomous Council (MXDŞ) announced. No details were given and talks are said to be ongoing. In any case, the shops in the region are open again, children are playing in the streets, security forces from the Asayîşa Êzîdxanê stand guard at the checkpoints. Images from Shengal show normal life returning.

On Sunday evening, troops from Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi's government launched a major attack on Shengal's Yazidi defense forces. Bombing and fighting broke out in the small towns of Sinunê and Xanesor and in the municipality of Digurê. According to Shengal's autonomy leadership, the unprovoked military action is aimed at enforcing the agreement between Baghdad and Hewlêr (Erbil), which has been harshly criticized and reached over the heads of the Yazidi population.

In October 2020, under Turkish aegis, the South Kurdish regional and Iraqi central governments agreed to sign the Shengal Agreement which included "security and administrative measures", such as the disarmament of local security forces, and defined areas of responsibility for the authorities.

The autonomous leadership of Shengal and the majority of the affected population were sceptical about the agreement. The autonomous administration formed in Shengal after the massacre carried out by ISIS in 2014, has managed the area since then, and was not at the negotiating table. The deal is seen as an attempt by the Ankara-Baghdad-Hewlêr trio to take control of the region and deny the Yazidi people their own political and administrative rights. It is also not the first time that violence or threats of violence have been used to enforce the agreement and defy the autonomy structures. So far, all such attempts have failed due to the resistance of the population. Even now, people are backing their self-government and defense forces.

People of Shengal: We will defend ourselves

"We will resist the attacks and defend our homeland to the last drop of blood," says Heyder Şengalî from the Asayîşa Êzîdxanê. “The current situation here is calm. However, the activities of certain parties are still aimed at making the October 9 agreement a reality. Nevertheless, most of the families who left their homes have returned," said Şengalî, referring to a statement by the autonomous administration. The MXDŞ had accused the KDP leadership of a "deliberate attempt" to trigger a stream of refugees by means of "fake news" and propaganda during the clashes in Shengal.

Şemê Miço and Caklîn Hisên are activists of the Yazidi women's liberation movement TAJÊ. They prepare the food for the security forces of the Asayîşa Êzîdxanê. “We provide our fighters with food, drinking water and other relief supplies. After all, it is our children who are defending Shengal on the front lines. As women, we are ready to help, no matter how difficult the conditions, and to resist until peace prevails,” says Şemê Miço.

"We will not allow the dirty plans against our security forces to succeed," adds Caklîn Hisên. The signatories of the October Agreement wanted to "depopulate" Shengal in order to have free rein for their warplanes to drop bombs on the YBŞ, YJŞ and the Asayîşa Êzîdxanê. "Our message to them is: shame on you. As a Yazidi community, we have experienced countless Ferman [genocidal persecution]. Instead of preparing for another ferman, there should make an effort to heal the wounds of the previous one. No matter how hard you try; the defense of Êzîdxan cannot be destroyed. We are determined to fight and increase resistance. Because it is certain: nobody but ourselves will protect us.”