ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Rudaw.net) – Erbil, Baghdad, and the international community must pull together to ensure security in Shingal, otherwise the Yezidis will not return, Vahram Petrosyan, head of Armenian-Kurdish Department at Yerevan University, told Rudaw.
“If Arab tribes are settled in these places, Yezidis will not return,” he told Rudaw’s Rozhas Abubakir.
“Nobody will return if they have no guarantees that this won’t be repeated.”
ISIS militants swept into Shingal in summer 2014, capturing and killing thousands of Yezidis – a religious minority considered devil worshippers by the group’s extremist brand of Islam.
Although ISIS has been mostly defeated, its sectarian ideology has left its mark. Many Yezidis who fled abroad or to the Kurdistan Region are too frightened to return. There are now fears their ancestral homeland will be settled by Arab tribes making it impossible for them to go back.
In an interview following a special conference on the Yezidi genocide earlier this month, Petrosyan said he is proud the Arminian parliament was the first to recognize and condemn the ISIS attack on the Yezidi people as genocide. He praised his government for allocating funds and accepting Yezidi refugees.
“It is our duty to help those who are victims of genocide,” he said.
As a people who suffered genocide at the hands of the Ottomans in the early twentieth century, Petrosyan says Armenians know all too well how such episodes impact the identity of communities subject to ethnic and cultural cleansing.
Erbil and Baghdad must overcome their differences before they can properly address the issue, he said. “This is not a time to say who is to blame.”
Improving security in Shingal and putting a stop to the settlement of Arab families are essential steps, he said. If they fail to do so, the Yezidi people will not return.
Recognition, condemnation, prevention, and punishment of those responsible are vital steps to address all genocides – steps the international community was too slow to take, Petrosyan said.
“First of all we must create a security atmosphere there, guarantee the security of Yezidis, those who intent to return home,” he said.
Shingal is wracked by economic problems and damaged infrastructure. Baghdad and Erbil must settle the question of disputed territories and their shared budget before they can properly assist the Yezidis.
“The Kurdistan Regional Government can’t handle this alone, it needs Baghdad’s help,” he added.