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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 September 2018

Baghdad holds key to reconciliation in Sinjar, analysts say

Baghdad should restore local governance by relying on Yazidis to reduce 'their dependence on external power', ICG urges

Destroyed buildings are seen in the city of Sinjar. REUTERS/Raya Jalabi
Destroyed buildings are seen in the city of Sinjar. REUTERS/Raya Jalabi

Iraq must stabilise the northern region of Sinjar to help the Yazidi minority that was brutalised at the hands of the ISIL group return home, the International Crisis Group said on Tuesday.

A report by the conflict analysts said that Baghdad must set up a local administration and mediate between factions who hold sway over Sinjar to pave the way for the return of the Yazidis.

The majority Kurdish-speaking Yazidis follow their own non-Muslim faith, earning them the ire of ISIL. The militant group seized Sinjar city and surrounding villages in 2014 and unleashed a brutal campaign against the minority.

Thousands of men were slaughtered, women and girls abducted as sex slaves and boys sent to military training camps.

The UN has called the massacre of Yazidis a genocide.

Of the world's 1.5 million Yazidis, the largest community was in Iraq where it comprised about 550,000 people before being scattered by the ISIL attack.

About 100,000 have fled the country, while 360,000 have been displaced and now live in Iraqi Kurdistan or across the border in Syria.

ICG said Sinjar's occupation by "a succession of Iraqi and non-Iraqi sub-state actors has militarised the population, fragmented the elites and prevented the return of the displaced".

"Only the effective re-entry of the Iraqi state, mediating between factions and reinstating local governance, can fully stabilise Sinjar, lay the groundwork for reconstruction, allow the displaced to return and end foreign interference," it said.

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Read more:

Human Rights Watch urges prosecution of Yazidi militias in Iraq

Iraq year in review: the country may be free of ISIL but lies in ruins

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According to the conflict analysts, the problems of Sinjar are deep-rooted and go back to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.

After the invasion, "real power [in Sinjar] was exercised by … the Kurdistan Democratic Party" of Massoud Barzani, the former head of Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region.

The KDP, it said, "took advantage of the administrative and security vacuum" in the region.

The party "treated the Yazidis as second-class Kurds" and "barely disguised its ambition … to annex Sinjar" to the Kurdish region.

"The KDP made itself still more unpopular by withdrawing its forces from Sinjar ahead of the ISIL assault," leaving the vulnerable community in the hands of the armed extremists.

The ICG said the battle to rout ISIL from Sinjar "brought peace but no political or economic recovery".

Kurdish fighters backed by a US-led coalition captured Sinjar from ISIL in November 2015, before Iraqi paramilitary forces took control of the whole region last October.

ICG said the Baghdad government must reassert its authority by making use of a local administration set up by the KDP in Sinjar.

Members of this administration "possess the skills needed for the restoration of functioning governance institutions in Sinjar" it said.

It urged Baghdad to "lead the way" to restore local governance by relying on Yazidis in order to reduce "their dependence on external power".

This initiative would also "facilitate the provision of international reconstruction aid and improve prospects for the return of the displaced," the ICG said.

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