The district of Sinjar in Ninawa countryside has become a point of tension on account of an agreement that was struck between the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government regarding Sinjar in October 2020. The most notable terms of that agreement (according to documents published in Arabic-language media) are as follows:
- The appointment of a new mayor.
- The exclusive management of Sinjar's security portfolio by the Sinjar local police, the National Security apparatus, and the national intelligence apparatus in 'coordination with the security apparatuses in the Kurdistan region.'
- 'All armed formations and illegal groups' to be distanced 'outside the borders of the Sinjar district': a responsibility designated to the Joint Operations Command and the Hashd Sha'abi Commission.
- The Joint Operations Command is to end the PKK's presence in Sinjar district and the surrounding areas.
Explicitly and implicitly therefore, the agreement stipulates the removal of both the PKK affiliates (primarily represented in the Sinjar Resistance Units and the Asayish Izidkhan) and the Hashd groups from the Sinjar district. But there are serious questions about how far this agreement can actually be implemented, because both the PKK affiliates and Hashd groups have recruited locals. So where would these personnel actually go? There are also claims of overlap between the PKK affiliates and the Hashd (e.g. the Sinjar Resistance Units' relations with the Hashd Sha'abi Commission). It is also questionable how the forces intended to manage Sinjar's security portfolio would coordinate with the security apparatuses in the Kurdistan Regional Government.
To discuss more the current situation in Sinjar, I interviewed the media of the Sinjar municipal office directorate on 22 December 2020. The interview is slightly edited and condensed for clarity. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
Q: May I ask a little a little about the situation in Sinjar?
A: The situation in Sinjar currently is witnessing complete calm.
Q: Have the forces of the Sinjar Resistance Units and the Asayish Izidkhan withdrawn?
A: The forces of the Sinjar Resistance Units are an official Yezidi force affiliated with the Hashd Sha'abi Commission: where will they withdraw? They have withdrawn from the centre of the town but are present in its surrounding.
Q: Yes. And likewise the Asayish Izidkhan?
Q: In addition to the Sinjar Resistance Units and the Asayish Izidkhan, who are the other factions present in the district from the Hashd?
A: The Yezidi forces affiliated with the Hashd Sha'abi: Lalish Regiment, the Yezidi Force Fourth Regiment, and the Kojo Forces. All of these forces are affiliated with the Hashd Sha'abi Commission.
Q: How do you assess the services situation in Sinjar generally? in terms of electricity, water and other services?
A: In terms of electricity the situation is worn out and there is no electricity. Out of 24 hours there comes to the citizen less than 3 hours [of electricity], and the water likewise: there are neighbourhoods where no water has reached them at all. And the other services in terms of the government are non-existent: only some projects affiliated with the municipal office and there is not in that the required level.
Q: What are the most important projects of the municipal office during the past year? And what are the most important challenges?
A: Paving some of the main streets and the middle bridges for the streets and the sidewalks. The challenges: the infrastructure is entirely destroyed in the town and the projects are very scarce. Therefore the challenges are great.
Q: What is the number of inhabitants in Sinjar currently? And what is the proportion of original inhabitants who have returned?
A: The inhabitants currently: the centre of the town, 6000 families reckoned at 18000-19000 individuals.
The proportion of returning inhabitants: all of them are people of the same area, they are the ones who have returned to them. And if we include the villages and residential complexes, perhaps almost more than 40% have returned to their original areas.