As the battle to re-take territory in northern Iraq from ISIS continues, people are slowly starting to return to areas already liberated. PAX is concerned that Yezidis returning to their homes in Sinjar will become victims for the second time. The conflict against ISIS has spawned the growth of local militias with competing claims to Sinjar. PAX urges all parties to make comprehensive and inclusive plans for the post-ISIS future of Iraq in the report Sinjar After ISIS: returning to disputed territory.
Victims twice over
Even while Iraqi and coalition forces are preparing to retake Mosul from ISIS, nearly 25,000 residents of Sinjar have returned. The Yezidi residents of Sinjar in particular suffered during ISIS's initial offensive, and under ISIS rule. Nearly the entire population of Sinjar was forced to flee, and massacres there and in nearby villages claimed the lives of around 15,000 Yezidis.
Yezidis who manage to return to Sinjar are now confronted with a plethora of militarized groups in competition for power. Their safety is far from guaranteed.
Not like it was
The situation on the ground in Sinjar has changed since the days before ISIS control. Any remnant of central authority is gone. Local militias have sprung up to take up police-keeping duties and to protect local communities. The various armed groups can be divided into four main camps, defined by their degree of allegiance to competing Kurdish factions, to Baghdad, or by their independence. They are vying for control on the city.
"The people of Sinjar need work together to create a council to govern Sinjar. It shouldn't be put together by the Yezidi Protection Units, by the Yezidi Protection Forces, or by the Peshmerga. The people should be allowed to decide for themselves," says a local official in Sinjar.
Iraq post-ISIS contains the potential for new conflict. Policy, even that for Sinjar, needs to take into account Iraq as a whole. Current policy does not go beyond getting rid of ISIS, and as such is shortsighted. Rather, policy makers have to deal with the roots of the conflict that led to ISIS in the first place. The international coalition against ISIS must also assume its responsibility for post-ISIS Iraq.
Only an inclusive peacebuilding plan, developed in consultation with all local communities, can break the cycle of violence and contribute to sustainable peace and stability in Iraq.
Download the report Sinjar after ISIS.