When the Yezidi population in the Sinjar area was subjected to the attempted genocide by the Islamic State in 2014, the first main ground forces that provided an effective defence for the population were those forces linked to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Today, the PKK affiliates in the area are primarily embodied in the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) and the Asayish Izidkhan, the latter of which functions as an internal security force. Alongside these affiliates there has been the development of a civil services administration called the 'Autonomous Administration,' whose services offices are called the 'People's Municipal Offices.' These institutions have exact parallels in the areas of northern and eastern Syria controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces.
Ultimately, the goal of this Autonomous Administration in Sinjar is to cement the formal establishment of an autonomous region in Sinjar that is still part of Iraq but is not affiliated with the Iraqi central government in Baghdad or the Kurdistan Regional Government.
To learn more about the People's Municipal Offices in the Sinjar area and the kinds of services they provide, I conducted an interview with the media for these People's Municipal Offices. It should be noted that the focus of this interview was on the case of Khanasor in the Sinjar area. This interview was conducted on 24 December 2020. It is slightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Q: First can you clarify to which side the People's Municipal Office in Khanasor is affiliated?
A: Affiliated with the Autonomous Administration in Sinjar.
Q: Yes, so not affiliated with the central government in Baghdad.
A: No, and not the [Kurdistan] region either.
Q: Currently what is the number of inhabitants in Khanasor?
A: Before 2014 the number of inhabitants was around 30,000 and currently the inhabitants are around 15,000-20,000.
Q: How is the services and humanitarian situation in general? For example national grid electricity? Does the water reach the homes etc.?
A: The national grid electricity: currently there is none approximately. It comes and is cut: so sometimes in the night it continues for a number of hours but in the day it is very worn out and especially in the winter season because the poles and transformers are old, or the new ones, according to the needs of the region, have more pressure on them than their power.
And the water: there is an old project that is still like before, meaning there is no support from the government to renew it for political reasons like the rest of Sinjar in terms of the services and infrastructure. And currently the municipal offices affiliated with the Autonomous Administration in Sinjar manage the services in all the residential complexes in services centres through its autonomous and voluntary capabilities in terms of cleaning, distribution of water by the tankers in a virtually free manner on the masses of the residential complexes, villages and the Sinjar district centre.
The water network in general is worn out and needs renovation and the old wells are a great obstacle before the solution to the water problem that faces the municipal offices affiliated with the Autonomous Administration in Sinjar, because most of them are breached. Therefore the municipal offices distribute water to the citizens through the tankers but it is not a root solution, yet the citizens are content wth the services that each municipal office affiliated with their area offers.
Q: Is there a municipal office in Khanasor affiliated with the central government? Or more or less all the services are offered by the People's Municipal Office?
A: The governmental municipal offices are present in some of the residential complexes but their role is small or shortcoming because the vehicles present in those municipal offices do not work sufficiently to resolve the problems of the citizens or most of them have stopped working except the cleaning vehicles. There is no municipal office in Khanasor affiliated with the government.
Q: Yes, so in Khanasor for example the People's Municipal Office offers most of the services? Can you give examples of the work of the People's Municipal Office in Khanasor?
A: The works of the municipal office of Khanasor: cleaning the streets and neighbourhoods of the Khanasor on a daily basis, distributing water to some of the neighbourhoods through the water network and other areas through the tankers and especially its role is heling the families who have returned to their homes. Also: renovating the streets, renovating and renewing the bridges, renovating the paths of the holy sites, helping the students with buses to convey them to their schools for free, providing electricity to the inhabitants of Khanasor through the generators at a price cheaper than the civilian generators.
Q: Are there NGOs helping the efforts of the municipal office, or all the financing comes from charitable donors?
A: With regards to the NGOs, there is no great support for the municipal offices except on very few occasions. Sometimes aid comes from outside Iraq from the Yezidis who live in the foreign states.
Q: What are the most important challenges in terms of the services and humanitarian situation? And do most of the people in Khanasor support the People's Municipal Office?
A: The difficult challenges are finding a root solution for the water problem instead of the tankers and finding a solution to make available national grid electricity to all the region. The people of the region are content with the services of the municipal offices.
Q: The security situation in the locality is in the hands of the Sinjar Resistance Units and the Asayish Izidkhan?
A: Yes and there is federal police inside the locality.
Q: Right. As for the people of the locality and the People's Municipal Office what is your stance towards the recent agreement between Baghdad and Arbil?
A: the people of the locality completely reject the [Kurdistan] Region and Baghdad agreement because there was no true representative from the inhabitants of the district in the meeting.
Q: Yes. In the long-term are the People's Municipal Offices in the region trying to establish an autonomous region in Sinjar?
A: Yes, daily they expand their services to those who return to their regions and not in the long-term. They opened a branch in the Sayabiya residential complex in the name of the People's Municipal Office in Sayyiba [/Sayabiya].
Q: And is it possible for us to say that the best solution for the area is to establish an autonomous region in Sinjar particular to its peoples?
A: Absolutely, because the distancing of the people of the region from the region is not reasonable and it is not a solution. On the contrary it increases the problems, and it is a great barrier before the IDPs for their return to their regions.