KHANASOOR, Iraq — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said March 25 that Turkey had begun operations against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the Sinjar region in northern Iraq. “We said we would go into Sinjar. Now operations have begun there. The fight is internal and external,” Erdogan said before a crowd in Turkey’s Trabzon province.
Two days prior to Erdogan’s statement, PKK fighters began withdrawing from Sinjar in order to avoid the targeting of civilians in the area.
For Dezhwar, a young Yazidi fighter in the Sinjar area, the silence of the international coalition against the Islamic State (IS) regarding the all-out Turkish attack on the city of Afrin, home to a sizable Yazidi community, was a bitter reminder that in the game of realpolitik between states, minorities such as the Yazidis have no one to turn to.
Despite the Turkish president’s threats, Iraq’s Joint Operations Command said late March 25 that no foreign forces had crossed the border into Iraq and there were no reports of unusual military activity.
The news from Afrin is gloomy for many Yazidis in Sinjar who survived IS attacks in the summer of 2014. Reports say that their shrines are being burned in Afrin and that some Yazidi civilians who stayed behind in the area have been forced to convert to Islam by extremist elements of the Free Syrian Army backed and armed by the Turkish government.
Yazidi civilians in Sinjar fear that they are the next target of the mighty US-supplied F-16s of the Turkish state, as Erdogan threatens “another Operation Olive Branch” in Sinjar to “clear the region of terrorists.”
In August 2014, Dezhwar, who served in the 2nd Division of the Iraqi army for eight years, watched as IS caused havoc in Sinjar, killing and enslaving thousands of Yazidis and blowing up their shrines. While Iraqi and Kurdish forces abandoned the Yazidis, and Turkey was alleged to have allowed its territory to become a main artery for foreign fighters who arrived from across the world to reinforce IS in Raqqa and Mosul, Dezhwar watched as a group of Syrian Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) came to the rescue of Yazidi civilians. He was so impressed by the bravery and discipline of the YPG fighters that he and around three dozen other Yazidis stayed behind and, supported by the group, formed the nucleus for a local Yazidi militia that became known as the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS).