Despite the terror group’s cynical exploitation of the Yazidis in Sinjar, the community rejected the PKK-linked alternative to vote in favour of the ruling KDP.

When Daesh was at the height of its reign of terror in Iraq and Syria, the world was shocked by the images coming out of the Sinjar region in Iraq.

Members of the Yazidi minority were killed, tortured, and enslaved by Daesh. While the international community celebrates having freed them, the Yazidi community continues to be exploited by the PKK terror group.

The PKK has entrenched itself in Sinjar and exploits the Yazidis as propaganda shields. For a long time, PKK and its sympathisers would argue that the group enjoys high support among the Yazidis.

However, the recent parliamentary election results in Iraq show quite the opposite.

All three seats of Sinjar's electoral zone were won by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) candidates, namely Mahma Khalil, Viyan Dakhil, and Majid Shingali. The KDP is the ruling party of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and has strong and positive relations with Turkey. The election preference of the Yazidi people were clearly in favour of the ruling party in northern Iraq, and KRG prime minister Masrour Barzani especially thanked the community for their vote of confidence.

On the other side, the PKK-affiliated political party gained only about 2,000 of the votes.

The election result was contested on the basis of low turnout by the Ezidi Freedom and Democracy Party in Sinjar, which is linked to the PKK and its Yazidi front group named YBS, and the Shia Coordination framework which has ties to Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF)-linked parties. However, low voter turnout appears to be a general problem in Iraq’s elections.

Moreover, the results in Sinjar say a lot about the false narrative circulating the region and the Yazidi minority.

Before the massacre by Daesh against the Yazidi people, the KRG was in control over the disputed territory of Sinjar. However, when Daesh entered the region, the PKK sensed a new opportunity. By fighting off Daesh, it could improve its public relations and gain control over the Sinjar Mountains to secure an unofficial link from Iraq to Syria.

After securing the said transport link, the PKK stopped fighting Daesh and formed the YBS. It was the Kurdish Peshmerga forces that pushed Daesh out of the eastern parts of Sinjar and later on, the PMF units cleared the south of Sinjar from Daesh elements.

With these developments, the Sinjar region was effectively divided into three until the Kurdish referendum for independence. After which, the PMF units expelled the Kurdish Peshmerga forces out of Sinjar and allowed the PKK to stay. Soon after, the PKK front group YBS gained an official position in the PMF and started to receive salaries from Baghdad.

While this happened on the ground, the PKK, its front groups, and sympathisers exploited the tragedy of the Yazidi people for their propaganda.

Across western capitals, the PKK has galvanised support for their agenda by underlining that they are the sole protectors of the Yazidi people and need to be supported to protect the community. Moreover, the PKK and its front groups would from time to time present themselves as the sole representatives of the Yazidi community.

While this propaganda received much attention in the West, the Yazidi people continued to live in camps for Internally Displaced People (IDP) and were prevented by the PKK from returning home.

The warnings by the KRG against the PKK and the strong emphasis by Turkey that a safe zone for the PKK in the Sinjar region would not be tolerated fell on deaf ears. Repeatedly, the KRG and especially the KDP party underlined that PKK presence has to end to enable a safe, voluntary, and dignified return of Yazidi IDPs back to their homes in Sinjar.

Turkey for its part conducted several drone strikes against senior PKK terrorists in the region and tried to push the Iraqi federal government to take action against the PKK.

However, both Turkish and Kurdish warnings were pushed aside by the cynical exploitation of the Yazidis. After each Turkish drone strike, propaganda machinery has worked to label them as attacks against the Yazidi people even though no civilians died in the precise attacks.

Despite these propaganda efforts, Turkish pressure helped Erbil make a deal with Baghdad regarding the situation in Sinjar, whereby PKK and PMF units would be pushed out by the Iraqi army. After some initial progress, the deal was hindered by Iran-aligned PMF units and the collaboration between the PKK and the PMF. Shortly after, Iran also started to shield the PKK from further Turkish military operations. The result was that the status-quo in Sinjar continued and the PKK did not leave.

In line with these events, this week’s Iraqi election results signal the collapse of the fairytale about Sinjar. The Yazidi people want to return to the pre-war situation and do not support the PKK.

In reality, the Yazidi people’s desires are in the interest of Turkey, the KRG, and the Iraqi government. Implementation of their wishes would only harm the PKK and PMF.

Keeping in mind how much the Yazidi people have suffered due to terrorism, it is time for the international community to see the reality, avoid distraction caused by propaganda, recognise the election results, and take action on the behalf of the Yazidi people.

The world has to facilitate the return of Yazidis to their homes and free them from the exploitation of terror groups.

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