Yazidis in Sinjar will suffer losses in Iraqi elections

The aftershocks of the war against ISIS can still be felt in Sinjar.

DESTROYED BUILDINGS in the city of Sinjar. There has been no reconstruction of Yazidi communities. (photo credit: REUTERS)
DESTROYED BUILDINGS in the city of Sinjar. There has been no reconstruction of Yazidi communities.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Yazidis will likely suffer large losses in the upcoming Iraqi elections due to the lack of clarity of their political landscape. This is a tragedy because they represent an indigenous part of Iraq. Yazidis are divided by electoral politics and many are connected to Kurdish political parties and movements. Extreme nationalist and political differences have resulted from frustration and despair.
A total of 51 Yazidi candidates running in the elections are divided into six parties. Yazidis feel persecuted and unstable. Hundreds of thousands were displaced in 2014 and they remain displaced people in fear of returning to their areas of origin due to differences between the federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government, and differences among the political parties. Most of the estimated 600,000 Yazidis in Iraq live in the north of the country. Prior to 2014 many lived in the area of Sinjar near the Syrian border. The uncertainty about the future and difficulty of returning to Sinjar causes them to prefer to migrate out of Iraq, although it is difficult after Europe closed its borders in 2015. Since Islamic State (ISIS) attacked Sinjar in 2014 more than 120,000 Yazidis have sought refuge in Europe.
The aftershocks of the war against ISIS can still be felt in Sinjar. Most of the area and its towns and villages have not been cleared of explosives and the destruction left behind by ISIS. Engineers have not invested in an effort to rebuild what was destroyed. Many Yazidis fear a repeat of the tragedy of 2014 when Yazidis were targeted for genocide, including the systematic killing, rape, sale, purchase and displacement of women.
After the genocide there was looting and destruction of Yazidi homes and infrastructure in Sinjar. Even though the area was liberated from ISIS, since last October year Sinjar has come under the control of the pro-Iranian Popular Mobilization Units (PMU). The Iraqi federal government asserted control over Sinjar and has permitted ISIS Sunni Arab terrorists to return to their villages. These are the same extremists who joined ISIS in 2014 and targeted their Yazidi neighbors. Many of these Arabs were descendants of those brought to Yazidi areas in the 1960s and 1970s under Saddam Hussein’s rule.
The Kurdish Peshmerga helped liberate Sinjar in 2015 but the Iraqi government has not permitted them to return to Sinjar after October 2017, when the Peshmerga were expelled by the federal government and PMU. The lack of oversight by the Iraqi judiciary and the ongoing election campaigns have led to political parties in Sinjar seeking to buy the votes of local Yazidis.
Corruption and deception are at the forefront of these political campaigns. Because of the lack of resources in the Yazidi community and for Yazidi candidates, it has become possible for other parties to buy the votes of locals. Parliament speaker Salim Jubouri rejected a draft proposal based on the decision of the Federal Court to give reserved seats to Yazidis in relation to their population. This would have created a more fair and equitable representation.
Running in the general legislative elections outside the quota, all these political factions do not allow Yazidis to get seats in the Iraqi parliament in proportion to their representation in the Iraqi population. All this will have a negative impact on the participation of the minority community in the upcoming elections. It also allows for the possibility that the Shi’ite militias will win more votes in Sinjar. Yazidis will not settle in Sinjar also due to the fact that the US and its allies have refused to move bases to Sinjar to provide security and Baghdad has not allowed the deployment of other military forces to Sinjar, such as the KRG and its Peshmerga. This has a larger context in the region of allowing Iran’s influence to pass through Sinjar on its road of influence through Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean.
The writer is a Yazidi community activist and leader.