A Young Yezidi Man Testifies in the US Congress

Zirian Shammo speaking in US Congress

Zirian Shammo speaking in the US Congress

US Congress held a hearing for all minority religions in Iraq, three main religions, Christians, Mandeans, and Yezidis In July 2010.

Zirian Shammo, a Yezidi Kurdish man who lives in Washington, DC represented to speak about his community in Iraq.

 

***

Interview with YPG Spokesman Polat Can about Yezidi People in Sinjar

 We discussed the latest conditions in Sinjar with the Spokesman of YPG Forces in Sinjar Polat Can and some media reports that the YPG hindered a US military operation.

Polat Cano

Mr. Can, what are the conditions like in Sinjar? What happened to the Yezidis that were left behind?

The latest situation in Sinjar is as you know it, and the clashes taking place in the Rabia area are continuing. Up to this point we did not allow ISIS to capture Rabia. The real aim of the fight we’ve put up in Sinjar , Rabia and Sinun is to defend the people that are trapped in the Sinjar area, and to protect and rescue them of course.

We are putting up a great resistance in Rabia and Sinun, these two areas are two important central points.

Especially Rabia, it is a strategically central location because its ‘gates’ open right in-between Sinjar and Rojava, and in the same way it can also lead to South Kurdistan. In order to complete their encirclement of Sinjar, ISIS is attempting to seize Rabia. This way they want to cut-off Sinjar’s communication from the rest of the world and completely detach her from Kurdistan. Many large scale clashes took place and a lot of ISIS members were killed. Some of our friends were martyred. There are still violent clashes in the Sinun region. If you ask why Sinun and Rabia are such important zones, its because the security corridor that the YPG established is right here in between Sinjar and Rojava . Because of this, ISIS are attacking here with all their forces and want to take this area under their control. However, with the resistance we have started this month and which we are continuing, we would like to hold on to these places.

YPG Spokesman Polat Can and Peshmerga Commanders in Rabia, Mosul

If we want to address the Sinjar region, it was as the United Kurdish Forces Hezen Hevbeş yên Kurdistani (HHK) that we made a statement. I want to highlight this. The Sinjar Mountain is completely under the control of the United Kurdish Forces.

“FOR NOW, THERE ARE NO KURDISH CIVILIANS IN DANGER ON THE SINJAR MOUNTAIN”

These United Kurdish Forces, who are they, who do they consist off?

YPG, HPG, Yekineyen Berxwedana Şengale (Şengal Resistance Units) and a small part our Peshmerga brothers. These forces are fighting in coordination together and have complete control over the Sinjar area. All the Yezidis that had fled or were in hiding have been reached. Some of them have crossed over to Rojava.

Our forces moved to Mount Sinjar soon after the arrival of civilians fleeing ISIS. Later on, PKK fighters coming from Qandil Mountains also joined us. We escorted Yazidi Kurds down from the mountain and into safety in Rojava. With the help of the YPG, United Kurdish Forces and the Jazira Canton, more than 220,000 Yezidis have crossed over to Rojava, some have decided to cross over to South [Iraqi] Kurdistan from Feshkhabur via this safe passage we provided. Some 30,000 Yazidi Kurds are still in Rojava, and half of them are staying in Newroz Camp in Derik which was prepared by the local Kurdish administration, some others in cities like Amude and Tirbesipi. Presently we are not aware of any Kurds that are in danger on Mount Sinjar.

“SOME HAVE JOINED ISIS FROM THE IRAQI ARMY”

As the YPG, what do you think has made ISIS so effective? Specialists are claiming that ISIS does not have many supporters, so how does such a group organise large scale and simultaneous attacks?

Let’s put it this way, some Iraqi soldiers, especially Sunni ones, all work for ISIS. We want this to be known. The recent attacks on Sinjar was not only by ISIS, but also by Arabs from the villages neighbouring Sinjar. Many Arabs in Sinjar that were claiming to be the “friends of Kurds” are taking part in these attacks. The Arabs in these areas who are supposedly the neighbours and relatives of Kurds, are now joining ISIS. Those who were promoting Arab chauvinism are fighting in Mosul and Tikrit today against the Kurds, and they are increasing in numbers. Especially those who joined from the Iraqi army, their membership meant new weapons for ISIS, and naturally, this made them stronger.

Furthermore, because ISIS believe looting to be halal, those who joined them did so with the excuse that they were attacking the properties of infidels, but they stole the property and assets of our people.

As you know,  US announced that there was no need for a rescue mission. According to your sources, how many people are stranded on the mountains and in what condition are they?

The Kurds who are on the mountain are the Kurds who have refused to leave Sinjar. ISIS wasn’t able to enter every village and some of the ones they did manage to enter, we took back in a day. The holy places of the Yezidi people are also under our control; like holy Grave of Sharfaddin. This place is also a target for ISIS however, until now we have not allowed them to get close. Kurds in these villages and the ones currently staying on the security corridor have not left. It is not possible for me to give you an exact number but a large majority of these people are still here.

“THERE ARE KURDS WHO HAVE BEEN CAUGHT IN BETWEEN THIS CONFLICT. WE NEED A SAFETY OPERATION FOR THEM”

How do you evaluate the announcements made by the US administration? And I would like to ask you this, was there any agreements made between your forces and the US forces and was there any co-ordinated joint efforts?

On August 12, we announced the same thing as the Pentagon; that the Kurds in Sinjar Mountain were safe. I would also like to make it known that, according to the information we have received, there are some villages which fall to the south of Sinjar that has been caught in between this war. We also have some people who have fallen into the hands of ISIS, and some who have been kidnapped and are being held hostage. If a military operation is needed, then I believe it should be for these Kurds.

There is news that the village of Kocho is under siege and that the people are being forced to convert to Islam, is this true?

Yes, this is true. These villages exist and they are situated towards the south of Sinjar City. The people that reached the Sinjar Mountain are good, they are in areas we control and free from ISIS. But water, food, medicine and other human necessities you can imagine are needed. Whoever wants to leave can do so with the help of United Kurdish Forces or the Jazira Canton Officials. We help them cross to Rojava or South Kurdistan. For this we requested international support and aid. We also asked the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government for help in providing aid for these people. We requested doctors, we also requested for the wounded and the ill to be transferred and treated. I will repeat it again, we need humanitarian support.

“WE HAVE A GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH THE UK AND THE USA”

I would like to ask you about your relationship with the USA. According to reports by some newspapers, the YPG hindered the US forces which caused altercations between YPG and the US, but then tensions were eased by the intervention of the Peshmerga. What actually happened?

It’s a complete lie and has been fabricated to create propaganda as no such thing occurred. We have a good relationship with both the US and the UK. Infact, with our help on the ground their helicopters delivered a lot of aid. We do not need to mention names of the officials that we are meeting, but there is no problem between us. All news in regards to this has no basis.

***

For updates from Kurds in Syria, Turkey and Iraq follow me on Twitter: @mutludc

For feedback, question and interview requests: mciviroglu@gmail.com or +1202-241-0506

President Obama’s Full Statement on the Iraq Crisis

President ObamaGood evening. Today I authorized two operations in Iraq — targeted airstrikes to protect our American personnel, and a humanitarian effort to help save thousands of Iraqi civilians who are trapped on a mountain without food and water and facing almost certain death. Let me explain the actions we’re taking and why.

First, I said in June — as the terrorist group ISIL began an advance across Iraq — that the United States would be prepared to take targeted military action in Iraq if and when we determined that the situation required it. In recent days, these terrorists have continued to move across Iraq, and have neared the city of Erbil, where American diplomats and civilians serve at our consulate and American military personnel advise Iraqi forces.

To stop the advance on Erbil, I’ve directed our military to take targeted strikes against ISIL terrorist convoys should they move toward the city. We intend to stay vigilant, and take action if these terrorist forces threaten our personnel or facilities anywhere in Iraq, including our consulate in Erbil and our embassy in Baghdad. We’re also providing urgent assistance to Iraqi government and Kurdish forces so they can more effectively wage the fight against ISIL.

Second, at the request of the Iraqi government — we’ve begun operations to help save Iraqi civilians stranded on the mountain. As ISIL has marched across Iraq, it has waged a ruthless campaign against innocent Iraqis. And these terrorists have been especially barbaric towards religious minorities, including Christian and Yezidis, a small and ancient religious sect. Countless Iraqis have been displaced. And chilling reports describe ISIL militants rounding up families, conducting mass executions, and enslaving Yezidi women.

In recent days, Yezidi women, men and children from the area of Sinjar have fled for their lives. And thousands — perhaps tens of thousands — are now hiding high up on the mountain, with little but the clothes on their backs. They’re without food, they’re without water. People are starving. And children are dying of thirst. Meanwhile, ISIL forces below have called for the systematic destruction of the entire Yezidi people, which would constitute genocide. So these innocent families are faced with a horrible choice: descend the mountain and be slaughtered, or stay and slowly die of thirst and hunger.

I’ve said before, the United States cannot and should not intervene every time there’s a crisis in the world. So let me be clear about why we must act, and act now. When we face a situation like we do on that mountain — with innocent people facing the prospect of violence on a horrific scale, when we have a mandate to help — in this case, a request from the Iraqi government — and when we have the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre, then I believe the United States of America cannot turn a blind eye. We can act, carefully and responsibly, to prevent a potential act of genocide. That’s what we’re doing on that mountain.

I’ve, therefore, authorized targeted airstrikes, if necessary, to help forces in Iraq as they fight to break the siege of Mount Sinjar and protect the civilians trapped there. Already, American aircraft have begun conducting humanitarian airdrops of food and water to help these desperate men, women and children survive. Earlier this week, one Iraqi in the area cried to the world, “There is no one coming to help.” Well today, America is coming to help. We’re also consulting with other countries — and the United Nations — who have called for action to address this humanitarian crisis.

I know that many of you are rightly concerned about any American military action in Iraq, even limited strikes like these. I understand that. I ran for this office in part to end our war in Iraq and welcome our troops home, and that’s what we’ve done. As Commander-in-Chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq. And so even as we support Iraqis as they take the fight to these terrorists, American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq, because there’s no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq. The only lasting solution is reconciliation among Iraqi communities and stronger Iraqi security forces.

However, we can and should support moderate forces who can bring stability to Iraq. So even as we carry out these two missions, we will continue to pursue a broader strategy that empowers Iraqis to confront this crisis. Iraqi leaders need to come together and forge a new government that represents the legitimate interests of all Iraqis, and that can fight back against the threats like ISIL. Iraqis have named a new President, a new Speaker of Parliament, and are seeking consensus on a new Prime Minister. This is the progress that needs to continue in order to reverse the momentum of the terrorists who prey on Iraq’s divisions.

Once Iraq has a new government, the United States will work with it and other countries in the region to provide increased support to deal with this humanitarian crisis and counterterrorism challenge. None of Iraq’s neighbors have an interest in this terrible suffering or instability.

And so we’ll continue to work with our friends and allies to help refugees get the shelter and food and water they so desperately need, and to help Iraqis push back against ISIL. The several hundred American advisors that I ordered to Iraq will continue to assess what more we can do to help train, advise and support Iraqi forces going forward. And just as I consulted Congress on the decisions I made today, we will continue to do so going forward.

My fellow Americans, the world is confronted by many challenges. And while America has never been able to right every wrong, America has made the world a more secure and prosperous place. And our leadership is necessary to underwrite the global security and prosperity that our children and our grandchildren will depend upon. We do so by adhering to a set of core principles. We do whatever is necessary to protect our people. We support our allies when they’re in danger. We lead coalitions of countries to uphold international norms. And we strive to stay true to the fundamental values — the desire to live with basic freedom and dignity — that is common to human beings wherever they are. That’s why people all over the world look to the United States of America to lead. And that’s why we do it.

So let me close by assuring you that there is no decision that I take more seriously than the use of military force. Over the last several years, we have brought the vast majority of our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan. And I’ve been careful to resist calls to turn time and again to our military, because America has other tools in our arsenal than our military. We can also lead with the power of our diplomacy, our economy, and our ideals.

But when the lives of American citizens are at risk, we will take action. That’s my responsibility as Commander-in-Chief. And when many thousands of innocent civilians are faced with the danger of being wiped out, and we have the capacity to do something about it, we will take action. That is our responsibility as Americans. That’s a hallmark of American leadership. That’s who we are.

So tonight, we give thanks to our men and women in uniform — especially our brave pilots and crews over Iraq who are protecting our fellow Americans and saving the lives of so many men, women and children that they will never meet. They represent American leadership at its best. As a nation, we should be proud of them, and of our country’s enduring commitment to uphold our own security and the dignity of our fellow human beings.

God bless our Armed Forces, and God bless the United States of America.

***

President Obama’s Statement on Iraq