Despite the doubts about the “deconfliction zones” agreement between the Russia, Turkey and Iran, Russia announced on 4 August the setting up of the 3rd of the 4 zones planned to the North of Homs. Although the UK-based Syrian Centre for Human Rights (SCHR) reported dozens of breaches of the cease-fire in the hours following the official announcement of their having been set up, the Russian Military Police was deployed. The US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, stated that he wished to work with the Russians to stabilise Syria in the post-ISIS period.
The Raqqa operation by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Arab-Kurdish alliance backed by the US-run ant-ISIS Alliance has continued all this month. On 27th July the SCHR announced that the SDF fighters had captured half of Raqqa. On 1st August the coalition announced that the SDF fighters who advanced from the Western and Southern quarters of Raqqa were now less than 300 m apart – only a few streets – which made observers think that the South of the city would fall fairly rapidly. However this hope was shown to be premature. The two SDF columns only linked up on the 10th, and Heval Gabar, the YPG commander leading the assault, announced that, while his fighters now held half the city, its complete recapture in the face of jihadist snipers, particularly the Chechens (described as “excellent”) could take as long as four months. Another factor slowing down the advance, according to UNO, is that 50,000 civilians could be trapped in the city, probably being used as human shields in the Jihadists’ usual fashion… On the 13th, very fierce fighting was taking place in the old city. Finally on the 29th Newroz Ahmed, a YPG Major and member of the SDF Military Council, declared that it was not possible to indicate when the city would be taken even if she thought that the battle “should not take more that another two months …” Estimating the number of Jihadists still in the city at 700, she stated that she expected the fighting to intensify, pointing out that the SDF did not plan to remain in Raqqa once ISIS was driven out.
This last statement was doubtless an attempt to reduce the tension with Turkey, which has been exerting pressure on the coalition (and especially on the US) all through the month to demand that the SDF be kept out of the operation. On the 2nd two Czechs accused by Turkey of having come to fight alongside the YPG were sentenced to prison sentences. On the 3rd the US Embassy in Ankara was obliged to refute a report in the Turkish media that the US had supplied the YPG with tanks, via Iraq, as well as substantial quantities of arms. The Embassy replied that the overwhelming majority of the trucks going from Iraq to Syria carried humanitarian aid — food and medicines…
However, so long as ISIS still holds strongholds in the region, there is little chance that the Pentagon would give way to Turkish demands that it “drop” the SDF. Since 4th August, President Trump put an end to a programme of military aid by the CIA to the Syrian opposition, initiated in 2013 by his predecessor (but even then with some hesitation). The Americans now have as sole partners in the field… the SDF.
Turkey is visibly trying to take the matters in its own hands. The semi-official News agency Anatolia announced on the 5th that new troops were concentrating very near the Rojava border, with the sending of artillery in particular to Killis Province. This faces Afrin, one of the areas where clashes regularly occur between Turkish troops and their Syrian back-ups and the YPG. On the same day the Turkish President, in a speech for the inauguration of the Malatya football stadium, again criticised the American line of supporting “terrorists” and announced new Turkish Army operations in Syria, before repeating his criticisms and expressing his “embarrassment” on the 24th in Ankara to the US Secretary of State James Mattis. All these Turkish pressures failed to prevent a meeting in Rojava in the 17th between a US Army delegation, accompanied by Brett McGurk, the special Presidential envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition, and the Raqqa Civilian Council. According some people who had taken part in this meeting, the topic of the meeting was the Coalition’s aid to the Civilian Council by supplying water and electricity, city cleaning and help for schools. McGurk also stated that the Coalition would protect the region’s civilians against the regime, whose planes have been forbidden to over-fly the area. He recalled that Syrian planes had been shot down in the past after striking the SDF. Faced with repeated attacks on Afrin by Turkey’s Syrian auxiliaries, the SDF, who described these as “mercenaries”, has not remained inactive: on the 8th they shelled these rebel groups with artillery in the North of Aleppo Province.
On the 22nd Erdoğan repeated that Turkey would never authorise Syrian Kurdish militia to “create a Kurdish state” in the North of the country. This statement arrived a few days after a visit to Ankara of the Iranian Chief of Staff and the day before a visit to Iraq of the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. These various meeting held in Ankara with Senior Iranian, Russian and US Army Officers visiting the city could be aimed at clearing the way for more important action against Afrin. However, after Erdoğan had also mentioned Qandil and Sinjar as possible areas for Turkish-Iranian operations, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards denied, on the 23rd, that they had any project for operations against Kurdish rebels outside Iran’s borders. On the evening of the 29th Turkish rockets were fired, followed by mortar shells, that wounded several civilians in Afrin, including a woman and a child.
While American military support for the SDF seems likely to continue as long as ISIS remains a threat, what is likely to happen afterwards? Rojava’s leaders and beyond them the North Syrian Federal Region proclaimed on 17 March 2016, have good reasons to doubt how US attitudes will change towards them once ISIS is eliminated from the areas it now controls in the country. Recent Kurdish history is sprinkled with tragic examples of such “abandonment”, including American in Iraq in 1975… On the 18th the SDF spokesman, Telal Selo, stated to Reuters that he thought the United States had a “strategic interest” in remaining in Rojava once ISIS was eliminated — the Americans have set up seven military bases in areas controlled by the SDF, including an important one near Kobanê. Nevertheless, the State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, indirectly answered Selo by saying that the plan was (only) to defeat ISIS, and that US wanted Syria to be governed “by Syrians and not by the US”. Regarding relations with Russia, the YPG made an agreement with the Russian Army for the stationing of Russian observation forces in Afrin and Sheba, the recently created Rojava Canton directly in contact with the areas held by the Turks and their auxiliaries.
In parallel to this the institutions of the Federal Region are taking shape. Regarding Defence, Rojava’s first military Academy opened the 23rd in the Amuda district of the Qamishlo Canton. Its first class of student is named “Çiya Rûs” after a “martyred” fighter. The first course covers training in military, cultural and political subjects for 3 months until the participants are given their rank. Regarding governance, Hadiya Youssef, co-Speaker of the Constituent Assembly of the North Syrian Federal Region told AFP on 27 August that according to the organisation plan of a system of Federal Government approved of on 29th August December 2016, three turns of local elections would take place as from September 22nd. Representatives of quarters would be elected, then on 3rd November, elections would be held for the Executive Councils of towns and regions. Finally on 19 January members of the common Legislative Assembly, to be renewed every 4 years. “Each region” added Youssef, “will have its own legislative Council, that can pass laws for its region on condition that they were not in contradiction with the social contract”. These elections would be held despite the hostility of the Damascus regime, whose Deputy Foreign Minister, Faisal Mekdad, dismissed them as a “farce” in an interview given to Reuters and the BBC. Mekdad added that the regime would not allow a “division of the country” and that indeed it intended and even “should” regain control of the areas controlled by the Kurdish militia...
On 1st August the trial began of 48 people suspected of having taken part in the attempted coup d’état of 15-16 July, among them many senior officers and pilots of the Air Force. The accused were all escorted to court handcuffed and surrounded by gendarmes and face life imprisonment in this trial which is also a trial in absentia of the preacher Fethullah Gülen, exiled in Pennsylvania. On the 15th, in an operation covering six provinces, the police arrested 33 members of the Turkish Council for Scientific Research (TÜBITAK), also suspected of taking part in the coup d’état. On the same day 30 people suspected of links with the PKK were arrested at Şırnak. In Turkey today everything can be used as evidence for a charge of terrorism — like this 47-year-old bus driver jailed on the 28th at Ağrı for having worn a T-shirt marked “Kurdistan”: placed in preventive detention by the anti-terrorist units, he is being tried for “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organisation”.
To protest against the implacable repression to which it has been subjected for the last two years, the “pro-Kurdish” party HDP organised some “Vigils for awareness and Justice”. These at first took place at Diyarbakir and à Istanbul, then on the 8th at Van for a week before continuing at Izmir. The Diyarbekir vigil, which ended on the 31st, took place in one of the city’s parks, under pressure from the police who erected barricades and even evacuated the adjoining streets. Faced with this repressive deployment the HDP spokesman Osman Baydemir announced the end of this action: “Fascism has shown its fear of the people, fascism has once again lost the struggle”.
The arresting of journalists and foreign activists also went on in the country. On the 2nd the semi-official News agency Anatolia announced that the French journalist Loup Bureau, who entered the country from Iraqi Kurdistan, had been arrested on 26 July in Şırnak Province for “helping and supporting a terrorist organisation” following the publication on the social media of photos showing him in the company of YPG fighters. On the same day two Czech citizens Miroslav Farkaš snd Markéta Všelichová, arrested in November 2016 in Şırnak Province while trying to cross the border to Iraqi Kurdistan, were sentenced to six years and three months jail for “membership in YPG”. The charge was based on documents found on their mobile phones: photos of them with YPG members, and YPG marching songs. The two Czechs denied having taken part in any military activity and affirmed that they were humanitarian workers. The Czech Foreign Minister, Lubomir Zaoralek, described the verdict as a “very great disappointment” and declared that there would be an appeal.
Still on the delicate issue of international relations, Turkey has finally accepted that German Members of Parliament could visit on the 8 their own troops stationed on the NATO Army base of Konya: a delegation led by the NATO General Secretary, Rose Gottemöller herself, accompanied by several Members of Parliament is due to be able to go on site in September. Turkey had refused another visit mid-July but was probably saw its hand forced by the intervention of a senior NATO leader. This acceptance that could seem at first sight heralding a (relative) warming of Turkish-German relations, hence should not be over-estimated… Moreover the German Foreign Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, stated on the 24th that “as long as Turkey is governed by Erdoğan, it cannot become a member of the European Union”. A statement issued after Erdoğan had called on the Germans of Turkish origin to boycott the principal German parties in the elections due next September. As for the relations with the US, things do not seem going any better — including for President Erdoğan himself. On the 30 August a US “Grand Jury” charged 19 people, including 15 members of the Turkish President’s security, for their attacks on demonstrators in Washington last May. They are all accused of “conspiring to commit violent crimes and could get 15 years jail if found guilty. Only 2 of the 19 are already in United States prison awaiting trial, which is due on 7 September…
Turkey is also “walling itself up” against the Kurds, as announced last May. A wall, 144 Kms long, is being built in Ağrı Province, on its borders with Iranian Kurdistan, with the aim of hindering the movements of Kurdish PKK separatists. However, the longest wall being built remains that along the borders with Rojava: it will be 828 Kms long. According to the Turkish Defence Ministry, 690 Kms were completed in June. Beyond the building of physical walls, the country has also begun discussions with its neighbours to set up a real “diplomatic wall”, a regional alliance essentially directed against the Kurds.
While the main targets envisaged during the discussions were the PKK and the PYD in Rojava, the latter considered a simple offshoot of the first, the increasing proximity of the Referendum on Independence due to take place on 25th September in Iraqi Kurdistan has led to a broadening to include the Iraqi Kurds. For its part, Iran fears that Iraqi Kurdistan might serve as a base for attacks on its territory. It was officially in the context of the triple agreement on Syria (Iran, Russia and Turkey) that the Commander of the Iranian Armed forces, General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, came to Ankara on 15 August for a three-day visit. However, this first visit at such a high level since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, in the course of which Bagheri met with President Erdoğan, was followed by an announcement by the latter a week later, on the 21st, about possible joint Turkish-Iranian action against Iraqi Kurdistan… A Turkish daily even announced that Teheran had proposed a joint attack. However, the Iranian news Agency ISNA published a communiqué from the Regional Command of the Revolutionary Guards’ land forces denying “any preparations for action outside Iranian borders”. The document states at the same time that the Guard would confront any group seeking to penetrate Iranian territory. Two days later, on the 23rd the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Çavuşoğlu, met his Iraqi counterpart, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, in Baghdad. During the subsequent joint Press conference he stated that the two countries would cooperate in their struggle against the PKK, which was characterised by Çavuşoğlu as “a threat to the unity of Iraqi territory”.
Furthermore, an abortive operation by the Turkish Intelligence Services (MIT) in Iraqi Kurdistan embittered relations between Turkey and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK, the party of the former President of Iraq, Jalal Talabani) leading to the expulsion, on the 23rd of that party’s representative in Ankara. According to the Iraqi Kurdish channel NRT, it seems that two MIT agents, arrived at Suleimaniyah Airport without having informed the (PUK) Provincial authorities of their presence, possibly charged with eliminating a senior PKK leader, were captured by the latter at Dokan and taken to Qandil. On the 28th the PKK confirmed having arrested 2 Turkish MIT agents in Suleimaniyah... The PUK, asked by Turkey to help free its agents, accepted to act as a go-between, adding that Turkey had no right to carry out such operations in its land…
In Turkish Kurdistan the violent actions of the Turkish Army and the PKK Kurdish guerrilla continued. On the 1st 2 Turkish soldiers were killed in Diyarbekir Province by the explosion of a bomb as their vehicle was passing. At Tunceli (Dersim) 3 Kurdish fighters were killed after being spotted by a drone. On the 7th a bomb exploded near Batifa, in Zakho district, in Iraqi Kurdistan, as a Turkish Army convoy was passing, wounding three soldiers. In the morning of the 11th, Turkish shelling of the Bradost region in Iraqi Kurdistan started a fire, and again on the next day at the foot of the Qandil Mountains. On the 13th, 2 soldiers were killed in Batman Province by the explosion of a car bomb. Finally on the 24th two villages in the Aqre region of Iraqi Kurdistan, about 120 Km Southwest of Dohuk, were shelled. Finally on the 31st an explosion occurred at Izmir as a bus carrying prison guards was passing, injuring 17. This was probably caused by a bomb placed in a dustbin —it might have been part of a terrorist action but was not claimed.
Following the recapture of Mosul, the next objective of the Iraqi Army was Tell Afar, 80 km to the West, where 1,500 – 2,000 Jihadists are said to be surrounded. It has been regularly bombed by the Air Force in preparation for the ground offensive, the order for which was launched early on the 20th by Prime Minister Abadi. As from the 21st the Iraqi Army announced having retaken several villages. The Hashd al-Shaabi mainly Shiite militia, which had been kept out of the very Sunni city of Mosul are now in the front ranks to take Tell Afar, which is mainly Turcoman and Shiite. On the 26th the Iraqis hoisted their flag on the old city’s citadel and announced the next day that they controlled it almost totally, although some fighting was still taking place nearby. On the 29th rhe Peshmergas announced having killed 130 Kihadists in 3 days as they trued to flee to Syria, but the Jihadists continued fighting, probably suggesting how it will be in the future: a woman blew herself up in a village school sheltering displaced people, causing several civilian casualties and also 3 killed and 2 injured amongst the Peshmergas guarding the place. Abadi finally announced the “complete liberation” on the town on the 31st, meaning by the same token the complete recovery of Nineveh Province — the first one taken by the Jihadists in 2014. ISIS now only holds Hawija in Iraq and a few areas on the Syrian border.
The Minister of the Interior of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Karim Sinjari, had, indeed, recalled on the 7th that the struggle against ISIS was “far from ended” especially because of the presence of “sleeping cells” and of jihadists infiltrated into the displaced persons camps in Kurdistan. Indeed, 1,700 suspects had already been arrested. In Kirkuk, the city’s Police announced on the 21st that 200 suspects had been arrested during the last month.
Finally, according to several reports, some jihadists fleeing Mosul settled in the Hamrin Hills, South of Kirkuk, between Tikrit and Touz Khourmatou, where they have come to back those holding Hawija, to the West, whence they are launching regular attacks towards the Daquq district, mainly inhabited by Kurds of the Kakaï faith. In the night of the 3rd, 2 Peshmergas were killed and 2 wounded, and on the night of the 11th 3 more were killed and 7 injured repelling attacks. In the afternoon of the 13th the Peshmergas repelled another attack on Daquq and on the 15th, 5 members of an Arab family were killed near Tuz Khurmatu. In the night of the 15th, in repelling another attack on the village of Zarga, also near Tuz Khurmatu, 3 Peshmergas were killed and on the 21st, 2 were wounded in their vehicle by a bomb. During the night of the 24th the Peshmergas fought for several hours to repel a fierce attack on Daquq and on the 29th several other attacks on Zarga. On the 26th one Peshmerga was killed and 5 others wounded by the explosion of a bomb as their vehicle passed by. Finally, on the 16th, in Diyala Province near the Iranian border, after ISIS had shelled several electric transmission towers and killed some civilians with improvised bombs, the Peshmergas, helped by the Germyan police, launched an attack on the de Jalawla district.
As the jihadist threat is losing the extent of its territorial control, the differences between the KRG and the central government return to the foreground, especially with the approaching independence referendum. Those that support it, rallied around Masud Barzani, have maintained it for 25 September as decided on 7th June by five Kurdish parties. Thus, in replying to the General Secretary of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, who asked him to go back on this decision, Masud Barzani declared that the Iraqi Kurds had reached the conclusion that they were “neither welcome nor accepted as citizens and real partners” and that it was Baghdad’s attitude that had pushed them to organise the referendum. Other oppositions to this vote have unceasingly been expressed, regionally and internationally, creating the picture of a real “anti-Kurdish coordination”: on the 9th Iran threatened to close its borders and end its support of the Peshmergas against ISIS; on the 11th the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, demanded that Masud Barzani postpone a vote “running the risk of damaging the fight against ISIS”; a demand reiterated by the Secretary for Defence, James Mattis, on the 23rd.
This feeling about an “anti-Kurdish coordination”: was reinforced by the fact that Mattis, who came from Baghdad where he met Abadi, then went to Ankara to meet the Turkish Minister of Defence end the President Erdoğan… Turkey has also repeatedly expressed its opposition to the referendum: on the 15th its Deputy Prime Minister, Bekir Bozdağ, declared that it violated the Iraqi Constitution and would risk contributing to regional instability, while the Foreign Minister, Mevlut Çavuşoğlu, declared he feared a civil war. Finally, an event exceptional since the Islamic revolution of 1979, senior Iranian officials visited Ankara several times this month and, during one of these visits, the spokesman of the Iranian Foreign Ministry expressed his “support for the territorial integrity of Iraq”, adding that unilateral decisions, carried without regard for the Iraqi Constitution, could “create mew problems” … Çavuşoğlu also visited Baghdad in the 23rd before reiterating his opposition at Erbil the next day — even if he was careful to separate the policy from the fruitful commercial relations that Turkey maintains with Iraqi Kurdistan and excluding any Turkish blockade. The leader of the ultra-nationalist Turkish MHP party did not take such precautions: Devlet Bahceli stated on 23rd that Turkey should “take a stand (…) against Barzani’s preparations for a referendum on independence covering Turcoman towns”. He added that “if necessary Turkey should consider this referendum as grounds for war”. Finally two French Ministers, Defence (Jean-Yves Le Drian) and Foreign Affairs (Florence Parly), arrived from Baghdad to Erbil on the 27th, expressed their “preference for an autonomous Kurdistan remaining within an Iraqi State”.
The position of Ismail Beşikçi contrasts strongly with all these others. Interviewed in Germany by Rûdaw, the Turkish sociologist, who paid for his research works on the Kurds with 17 years of imprisonment, declared that not only had the time come for the Kurds to demand their independence — but it was even overdue.
To the American demands, Barzani replied that “any demand for postponement of the referendum should be accompanied by a proposed alternative that was stronger than this one” and that in the absence of such a proposal the referendum could not be postponed… In an interview with Al-Shark al-Awsat, published on the 30th, he declared that a postponement of the referendum for one year to 25 September 2018 was conceivable… if the Iraqi government and the international community (the United States, the international coalition, the European Union and UNO) guaranteed that the result would then be accepted. This was a position close to that expressed by Molla Bakhtyar, Secretary of the PUK Political Committee: Kurdistan could accept an alternative to the referendum… if the Kurds obtained regional and international guarantees that their rights would be respected in a new agreement with Iraq.
On July 30th Bakhtyar had also, in the event of the referendum failing, raised the threat that the the Kurds would demand the carrying out of “Article 140”. This article of the 2005 Constitution provided for a referendum, to be held in 2007, in the territories in dispute between Baghdad and Erbil, to enable the populations to decide on their fate for themselves. Ten years later they are still waiting for this to happen — and this is not the only article that has not been observed: on the 14th a delegation of the referendum High Committee brought to Baghdad a list of 50 articles that the Iraqi government had failed to observe. Some of them specifically cover the economic governance of the disputed territories: on the 2nd, following the drawing up of an Iraq-Iran agreement for building a pipeline from Kirkuk to Iran, Rebwar Talabani, the Chairman of the Kirkuk Provincial Council, noticed that this agreement, negotiated without consulting the Kirkuk Provincial Council, was in breach of article 112 of the Constitution. This article stipulates that “all matters concerning the policies, the administration and the management of the oil that the province produces must be decided in cooperation with it”. But those who denounce the Kurdish referendum as unconstitutional have been showing little interest in the violations committed by the central government…
The “disputed territories” South of the Kurdistan Region, controlled by the Peshmergas since the flight of the Iraqi Army before ISIS’s attack in 2014, are the main point of disagreement. Baghdad is demanding their return to its administration, and the KRG is replying that the Peshmergas will not leave a land for which they have given 2,000 martyrs – and has also decided to include them in the referendum. On the 9th the Kurdistan Electoral Commission announced it would open polling stations in Mosul and Kirkuk… and “wherever Peshmergas are stationed”. And on the 29th, at the request of the governor of Kirkuk, the Provincial Council, in a session boycotted by the Turcoman and Arab representatives, passed a resolution to this effect: on the 25th the inhabitants will vote on the independence of Kurdistan, then in another referendum corresponding to that mentioned in Article 140, allowing them to decide whether they wish to join the latter.
The debate on the referendum was also sharp within the Kurdistan Region. The Movement for Change (Gorran) has remained on its line demanding that the Kurdistan Parliament be reactivated under the same conditions that were prevailing when it was closed in 2015 (which Gorran calls “normalisation”, not “reactivation”) as prerequisite to the referendum, defining the later as illegal if not the subject of law passed in accordance to rules. On the 12th Gorran called for the referendum to be postponed until such a time as it could be organised “under correct conditions” and that Parliament could also discuss the method of designating the President of the region (the main point of disagreement between Gorran and the KDP).
A meeting of over 5 hours between the KDP and Gorran on the 21st in Suleimaniyah failed to reach any agreement. On the 24th the PUK Political Committee reiterated its insistence that Parliament be reactivated before the referendum and announced a new meeting with Gorran. Some people in Kurdistan have demanded a referendum postponement, fearing its consequences. These include the Minister of Agriculture, Abdul Sitar Majid, concerned about possible shortages and a substantial increase in the price of agricultural goods. Others analyse the vote as a way of avoiding the internal political problems, like the millionaire founder and owner of the TV channel NRT, Shaswar Abdulwahid. Abdulwahid launched a campaign in the 5th entitled “No for now” (Nexêr le êsta da), before announcing on the 8th the creation of a movement with the same name, calling for the postponement of the poll, then of a satellite TV channel on NileSat, that began broadcasting at 8.p.m. the same night — the PUK expelled one of its M.P.s, Farhad Sangawi, for joining this movement.
Despite the particularly tense context, the analysts agree that there will be a massive YES if the referendum is held as announced, especially as the Kurdish delegations recently arrived at Baghdad to negotiate have not won any advance. On the 15th Shakhawan Abdullah, Vice-President of the KDP block in the Iraqi Parliament, even announced that his party would not nominate any Minister for the posts reserved for them in the central government: “It’s pointless” he explained, “Wages were cut in Kurdistan even though the Finance Minister was a Kurd. The chief of staff was also a Kurd and the Peshmergas have received neither wages or arms …”.
The 3rd August was, for the Yezidis, the third anniversary if ISIS’s attack in Sinjar. Before this there were about 400,000 Yezidis living in the Sinjar. About 3,100 were killed and 6,800 kidnapped to become fighters or sex slaves. Thousands of captured men were assassinated. A few hundred families have returned to Sinjar but there are many who have not returned because of the lack of social services like health and education or even fear of the jihadists’ return. They are also aware that the jihadist ideological attitudes are also represented among their Arab neighbours. About 3,400 women and children remain in captivity while 200,000 have found refuge in Iraqi or Syrian Kurdistan, and are often living in camps. According to Sinjar City mayor’s office, about a thousand families have returned. Some Yezidis blame the Iraqi government of that period for the ISIS invasion, notably the then Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, whose sectarian policy had led to ISIS’s easy capture of Mosul. Others blame the Kurdish Peshmergas for having abandoned them in their flight. (A report published by the KRG in 2015 reports that 18,000 Peshmergas fled before ISIS’s attack on Sinjar). Many now say they cannot trust the Kurdish Asayish (armed police) in the area and ask for international protection.
The 3rd August was also the day the UN Enquiry Commission on Syria declared that the ISIS genocide against the Yezidis was continuing: the captured women are still being raped daily and the children beaten while the States are failing in their duty to prevent these crimes. The families of of people still in ISIS’s hands are worried at the fate of their relatives — when Tell Afar was partly liberated from the jihadists, only 7 Yezidis were saved, whereas it was estimated that the number of prisoners in the town was more like 500, mainly women and children. A member of the KRG commission charged with locating and “exfiltrating” Yezidis reduced to slavery by ISIS said he feared that the extremist group had transferred its prisoners to Syria, and some Yezidi Rights defenders think that many may now be in Turkey.
On a less depressing note, it was announced at the end of the month that a project of several UNO agencies jointly managed with the German Federal Republic had enabled 562 houses to be rehabilitated in 11 villages in the Sinunî sub-district, North of mount Sinjar. On the 26th, hundreds of Yezidi families have received title deeds for their new homes at a ceremony organised by UNO-Habitat, the UNDP and the German Government.Another event worth mentioning is that a film about the sufferings inflicted by ISIS on the Yezidis in Sinjar, Under Black, by the Kurdish film director Shîrîn Cîhanî, was shown at the 13th AOF (Action on Film) Festival which took place in the US from 17 to 26 August. The title Under Black refers to the black flag carried by ISIS troops. The film was first shown in the Kurdistan Region on 8th March, at the occasion of the international Womens’ Day.