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Robert Cusack

Iraq: Yazidi villagers flee fighting between rival Kurdish factions

Kurdish Prime Minister Barzani and Turkish Prime Minister Yildirim visited the Peshmerga in January [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 3 March, 2017

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Yazidi villagers were reported fleeing fresh violence after Syrian Kurdish fighters launched an attack against pro-PKK fighters in the Sinjar region of Iraq.

Hundreds of Syrian Kurdish Peshmerga fighters attacked the Yazidi town, Khanasor, on Friday in an attempt to overpower the regional influence of the PKK.

Peshmerga Rojava forces loyal to the Kurdish government in Erbil attacked Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) at around 6:30am Iraqi time [0330 GMT] in the region north of Sinjar, Iraq.

In response to the attack, Iraqi majority-Shia militia forces (PMU), aligned with Baghdad, announced they would deploy to protect the local Yazidi population.

"Iraqi PMU will now consider new operations to remove all illegal KDP and ISIS sieges on the Yazidi people in Sinjar," the PMU announced on Twitter.

In scenes resembling the 2014 invasion of Yazidi areas by Islamic State, which proceeded to carry out a genocide on Yazidis, hundreds of families reportedly fled the fighting.

The fighting erupted after the Peshmerga Rojava forces moved into areas controlled by the YBS, a militia which receives support, training and backing from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

The YBS were formed after the PKK removed Islamic State from the Sinjar region and established a defensive force with the local Yazidi population.

The PKK has been locked in a decades-long conflict with the Turkish state, which also indirectly supports the Peshmerga Rojava through the regional Kurdish government in Erbil.

Erbil is looking to increase its influence over the Sinjar region and repel the local PKK presence, said Matthew Barber, an American expert on the local Yazidi population.

The individual militias

KDP = Kurdistan Democratic Party. Founded in 1946, it is the dominant party in the Kurdish Regional Government and is headed by KRG President Masoud Barzani. Ideologically conservative, it has its own armed Peshmerga forces usually called the 80 Unit.

YBS = Sinjar Resistance Units. A Yazidi armed force trained by the YPG and the PKK following IS' August 2014 attack on Sinjar and Sinjar mountain, the historic heartland of the Yazidi population.

PKK = Kurdistan Workers' Party. Armed group founded in 1978 in Turkey; one of its founders and current leader Abdullah Ocalan has been in jail in Turkey since 1999. Waging an armed campaign against the Turkish state since 1984, and outlawed in Turkey as a terrorist group, the PKK has its base in the Qandil Mountains, located in the northeast of Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) territory.

PMU = People's Mobilisation Units, sometimes referred to as the Hash al-Shaabi. A state-sponsored umbrella organization of mainly Shia militias, with some Christian and Yazidi brigades.


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