Yazidis Wary amid Stalled Sinjar Offensive

By Shelly Kittleson for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The road to the front line runs close to the Syrian border, through Yazidi towns once occupied by the Islamic State (IS) and bombarded by airstrikes.

Peshmerga fighters allied with various other forces say they will move forward as soon as the president of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) authorizes them to do so.

Meanwhile, several members of the Yazidi ethno-religious minority expressed bewilderment to Al-Monitor about the halt of the offensive in late December 2014, after major gains were obtained with the help of US airstrikes, when over 3,000 square kilometers (1,864 square miles) in the Sinjar area were reportedly taken back from IS in less than 48 hours.

The Sinjar area in northwestern Iraq was hurled into the international spotlight last year when the peshmerga withdrew during an attack by IS, leaving the Yazidis, deemed “devil-worshippers” by IS, at the extremist group’s mercy.

IS took many Yazidi women and girls captive and killed men en masse. Other Yazidis escaped to the mountains, where they subsequently suffered in the harsh summer heat and conditions, from which many had to be evacuated. Tented encampments still littered the mountains when Al-Monitor crossed through them on its way to the front line in late March 2015.

At the front line, ​Isa Zaway, commander of peshmerga Brigade 4, refused to say how much of the city of Sinjar had been retaken, but he did say that the “strategic points are under the control of the peshmerga.”

Taking Al-Monitor to a high point overlooking the city, which came under fire during the visit, Zaway noted that the peshmerga in the area worked “hand in hand” with the Kurdistan Workers Party, an officially designated “terrorist organization,” and the People’s Protection Units, sharing information and weaponry.

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