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Terrorism

Displaced Iraqis return to Sinjar due to ‘renewed’ security despite govt failures

Published: Updated:

Displaced people who fled Sinjar in northern Iraq are returning because of a “renewed sense of security,” one resident told Al Arabiya, despite the Iraqi government’s slow progress in regaining control of the area.

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The war-torn town strategically located near the Syrian and Turkish borders was retaken from ISIS in 2015 after the extremist group’s brutal repression of the Yazidi population.

It is beginning to show signs of regeneration after an October 2020 deal that was implemented to curb the powers of the various militias that control territory nearby. The deal was intended to reaffirm the authority of the Iraqi government, but residents still face issues including a lack of government services.

Al Arabiya spoke to residents and local dignitaries of the town that has been under the control of the Kurdish forces, local Yazidi leaders, the Iraqi Army and the PMU at different times since it was retaken from ISIS in 2015.

“We came back to Sinjar for the renewed sense of security,” one resident told Al Arabiya’s Rola al-Khatib as part of the channel’s Face to Face series. “There is security.”

When asked about services available in Sinjar, the man said there were “none whatsoever.”

Some of the local children told al-Khatib that their school was teaching a Kurdish curriculum in the Kurdish language, indicating the Iraqi government’s failure to assert its authority in the region.

Posters of Iranian military leaders Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, killed in a January 2020 US air strike, were visible in the town.

Legacy of violence

More than a year of brutal rule by ISIS left a significant mark on Sinjar. Al Arabiya attended a funeral in Kocho, the site of the bloodiest massacre of Yazidis by ISIS, where family members reclaimed bodies from mass graves and laid them to rest with a ceremony.

Unexploded ordnance is also littered around the town. A lieutenant-colonel told al-Khatib about how an Iraqi Army captain and two officers were killed when sweeping for mines in al-Adnaniyah, 19 kilometers away from Sinjar.

Read more:

ISIS ‘coming back with a vengeance’ in Iraq: Kurdish general

Life after ISIS: Haunted by their experience, former militia plead for second chance

Former ISIS members tell their stories in Al Arabiya’s latest ‘Face to Face’ series