The Yazidi fighters that have managed to oust the Islamic State from their home in Sinjar, northern Iraq, are clamoring for help in organizing their own militia, asserting that they cannot trust Arabs or even Kurdish Muslims after the massacre the tiny religious minority endured last summer.
Speaking to the Kurdish outlet Rudaw, Yazidi militia leader Qassim Shesho claims the absence of Islamic State fighters in Sinjar does not mean the region is safe, and that no Yazidi can feel secure in that area without the ethnic group establishing its own armed forces there.
“We need a complete Yezidi army, with weapons, Hummers and training… Without these measures, people will not return,” he stated. Yazidis will not feel comfortable returning to Sinjar, he continued, because other ethnic groups from the region may turn against them yet again: “We cannot trust Arabs anymore… they helped Daesh [ISIS], killed Yezidis and took our women and children.” “Only one in the hundred [sic] can be trusted,” Shesho concluded.
The Yazidis are described by many as a “Kurdish sect,” as many speak Kurdish and identify secondarily with the Kurdish ethnicity (though not the majority faith of the Kurdish population, Sunni Islam). Their religion is linked to Judeo-Christianity and centers around a figure known as the “Peacock Angel,” which Muslims believe to be Lucifer. As such, Islamic State jihadists have attempted to eliminate Yazidis entirely through genocide to punish them for “devil worship.”
Yazidi exiles that escaped the genocidal attack on their community in Sinjar last summer told media outlets that they were especially endangered by Sunni Arabs aiding Islamic State terrorists in identifying Yazidis to kill and enslave. One refugee told Rudaw in August: “It wasn’t even IS who did most of the killing, it was our Sunni Arab neighbors… We looked after these people’s children, and as soon as ISIS appeared, they immediately turned against us.”
As a result, international observers have expressed concern that Yazidi Kurds may begin revenge attacks on Arabs who return to live in Sinjar, where both groups lived in relative peace before the Islamic State arrived. Reuters reported an increase in the number of reported revenge killings of Arabs by Yazidis in February.
Shesho told Rudaw today that he is not only concerned about the return of Arab populations to Sinjar, but refuses to trust Kurdish Muslim foreigners who have taken up the fight against the Islamic State, particularly the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Marxist terrorist organization that has sent fighters to Iraq to help the Kurdish Peshmerga forces. While adamantly against the Islamic State– once calling them “perverts and loser“– the Shesho rejects the PKK as yet another gang of foreign invaders. “Why don’t they stay in their own country? They don’t have the right to be here,” Shesho told Rudaw, arguing that the Marxist Muslim Kurds are “destroying” Sinjar.
This is not the first time Shesho condemns the PKK, which also unilaterally declared Sinjar a Kurdish district under its rule in November. Shesho rejected the designation at the time, arguing that the PKK does not have authority to speak on behalf of all ethnic Kurds.