An agreementÂ between Iraqâ€™s federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), in coordination with the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, has bolstered federal authority and paved the way for reconstruction inÂ the Sinjar district.
Friday’s agreement was hailed by the UN mission as the â€œfirst and important step in the right directionâ€ for the district, which witnessed the Islamic State’s genocide against the YazidisÂ in 2014. Since the defeat of the extremist group, Yazidi survivors have continued to face extreme security obstacles, inadequate governanceÂ and a lack of basic provisions.
Sinjar, in Ninevah province, has seen two different administrations in the past, one appointed by Erbil and another by Baghdad. And the district is crowded with armed forces vying for increased influence, including the Kurdistan WorkersÂ Party (PKK), the Sinjar Resistance UnitsÂ and the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) as well as federal authorities and Kurdish peshmerga fighters.Â
â€œThe agreement will directly contribute to accelerate the return of the displaced families to their homes and ensure their stability in their areas,â€Â said the deputy speaker of the Iraqi parliament, Bashir al-Haddad.
While the agreement was welcomed in Washington, it has been criticized by some in the Yazidi communityÂ who say the deal did not bringÂ their people to the table.Â â€œWe will not accept any changes or discussions that we are not a party to,â€ said a statement by the Yazidi-run Democratic Self-Administration Board in Sinjar. It added, â€œFor the talks to be successful, we must be one of the main parties in which our rights are recognized, otherwise we do not accept any discussion or negotiation.â€
The Sinjar deal came together after â€œmonths of hard work and negotiationsâ€ between Erbil and Baghdad, according to KRGÂ Prime Minister Masrour Barzani.Â The agreement empowersÂ authorities to rid the district of its many armed forces by placing the security reins firmly in the hands of the federal government, although details on how exactly this will be done are still vague.
Barzani said,Â â€œBaghdad and Erbil have agreed to work together to solve all issues around security, governance and service provision in Sinjar under the terms of the agreement.â€Â
The deal stipulates the handing over of security services to Baghdad, headed by the National Security Service, the Interior Ministry, the National Intelligence Service and the office of Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.Â
The agreement also calls for a joint committeeÂ that would include Ninevah Gov.Â Najm al-Jubouri andÂ would select people to serve in various administrative positions.Â
The districtâ€™s security is to be limited to three parties: the local police, the National Security Service and the intelligence service. Kadhimi’s office and theÂ Interior Ministry are to appoint 2,500 residents from the district, including 1,000 people from Sinjar and 1,500 from displacementÂ camps, to join the region’sÂ security forces.
The agreement calls for the removal of armed groups in the region, including theÂ PKK andÂ PMU forces.
A yearslong dispute between Baghdad and Erbil over the governance of Sinjar opened the door for outsideÂ groups to use the district as a safe haven, and the PKK established a foothold in the area under the rationale of protecting the local Yazidi community. Around 375,000 Yazidis escaped Sinjar after the Islamic State took control of the region in mid-2014, according toÂ Mirza Dinnayi, the director of the German basedÂ Luftbrucke Irak (meaning Iraq Air Bridge), who specializes in assisting Yazidis to recover from the genocide.
Since 2016, Ankara hasÂ accused the PKK, which has long been involved in armed conflict with Turkey,Â of transforming Sinjar into a base for logistical and command-and-control activities. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made his position clear that he would not allow the PKK to exert influenceÂ in the region. Turkey has regularly conducted cross-border operations against PKK positions, often impacting Yazidi and Iraqi Christian (Assyrian, ChaldeanÂ and Syriac) communities.
â€œWe hope this agreement is carried out in a way that would enable the reinstatement of the control of the Iraqi authorities in Sinjar, the eradication of DAESH [Islamic State] and PKK terrorist organizations and their extensions in the region and ensure the safe return to their ancestral lands of Yazidis and the other people of the region who have been subject to grave oppression and persecution of first DAESH and then of the PKK,â€ read a statement from the TurkishÂ Foreign Ministry.
There wasÂ no mention in the deal that local communities will be brought to the table, although Yazidi sources whoÂ spoke with Al-Monitor said the UN mission’s involvement in the deal givesÂ the agreement a stamp of approval that their interests would be met. Despite initial protests, there is hope that the deal will finally ease the bickering between the Iraqi federal government and the KRG and is a step toward normalizing relations.Â Â
“The upcoming decisions must be in the hands of Sinjar people, based on independency, integrity and competence,” DinnayiÂ told Al-Monitor. “Clear transitional justice mechanisms should be adopted, including the transformation of Sinjar into a province, because it is the only guarantee for building peace and getting out of conflicts, in addition to the need to involve the international community that supports peace and development and reconstruction.”