Shingal region –  The leadership of Shingal´s Resistance Forces (YBS), an Ezidi militia initiated by the People´s Protection Units (YPG) has issued a statement and rejected allegations by security forces affiliated to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) which have accused the YBS and the Kurdistan Workers´ Party (PKK) of establishing an al-Hashd al-Shaabi milita in Shingal.

YBS fighters at a YPG checkpoint
YBS fighters at a YPG checkpoint

Al-Hashd al-Shaabi or better known as Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) is an anti-ISIS program launched by Baghdad which aims at mobilizing and arming Iraqi militias that are supposed to fight alongside the regular Iraqi army against ISIS.

The allegations “were far from the truth”, the YBS said in a statement, adding that the PKK had never formed an al-Shaabi militia. Such claims would be counterproductive in the fight against ISIS. Under the same pretext, Massoud Barzani, the President of the Kurdistan region ordered the arrest of the Ezidi HPS supreme commander Haydar Shesho some weeks ago.

“No militia was established on behalf of us within the framework of al-Hashd al-Shaabi. Allegations that the PKK established such a militia do not correspondent to the truth.” The Ezidi community is called on not to believe those claims: “Such statements only aim to denounce the PKK and the YBS. The security forces´ (Asayesh) statement is lacking any basis”, it further reads.

The YBS was founded with the help of Kurdish YPG and PKK forces after ISIS committed genocide against Ezidis on August 3, 2014. The militia recruits Ezidi volunteers who are being trained and equipped by both the YPG and PKK. Having 1,500 fighters, the YBS makes the second biggest Ezidi militia in Shingal right after Shingal´s Protection Force (HPS).

YBS units play a leading role in fighting ISIS alongside YPG and PKK forces in the embattled city of Shingal and participate in conducting counteroffensives in the west of Shingal mountains. 100 of their fighters are said to have been killed.

A photo showing YPG fighters next to an Ezidi sanctuary

Weeks before the genocide in Shingal, the ruling KDP had already tried to prevent the PKK from gaining influence in that area, now fearing for its own influence which has declined there following its failure to protect Ezidis. Around 10,000 Peshmerga fighters, mostly KDP militias fled Shingal when ISIS overran the region and left the civilians to the terrorist organization. PKK fighters then advanced to Shingal, defended the flood of refugees and established an escape corridor together with YPG forces for tens of thousands Ezidis who were trapped in the mountains. As the result of that Ezidis established their own self-defense militias, including the YBS.

In response to this political development, KDP-affiliated media and security forces aggressively try to take actions against the PKK and Ezidi forces in Shingal. Because the PMU predominantly consist of Shia militias known for their ruthlessness in retaken areas, the KDP seizes the opportunity and exploits the Kurdish majority population´s reluctance to denounce the Ezidis´ resistance forces and the PKK. But al-Hashd al-Shaabi also includes Christian forces such as the Assyrian Nineveh Plain Protection Units (NPU).