News from the Revolution in Rojava and Wider Kurdistan
(ANF) Ali Atalan, the Co-President of the Federation of Yazidi Societies (FKÊ), has spoken to Ali Güler in a new interview for ANF about the most recent situation in Şengal (Sinjar) and the need for political autonomy in the region once it has been liberated from ISIS. The interview has been translated into English below.
-What is the current situation in Şengal?
The revolutionary operation which has been launched to liberate Şengal from ISIS occupation has created a great new sense of hope among the Yezidi community. It was through this operation that around 10 thousand of our people were rescued from their suffering in Şengal. The operation to bring freedom to Şengal means the beginning of the construction of a new period.
-How much of the Şengal region is now controlled by Kurdish forces?
Right not Kurdish forces are in control of the whole of Şengal mountain, most of its villages and an important part of the city. The closing of the Rojava-Mosul to corridor to ISIS has been the most important development. The Kurdistan Freedom Forces have taken the initiative in the most strategic areas.
-What does it mean that the operation to liberate Şengal took place at the same time as the holiday of Êzî?
Above all else we consider this push to be a kind of holiday present. Above all else I believe that the Kurdish Freedom Movement as a movement of a conscience endowed with an historical consciousness is correctly orientated with regard to its free land paradigm upon (özgür toplum paradigması) which it has been built. This can explain the Freedom Movement’s sharpest response when confronted with the threat of the destruction of the Yezidi community, one of the most ancient, humanist and authentic parts of the Kurdish people.
-What is the role of the Şengal Defense Units (YBŞ) in the liberation of Şengal?
The YBŞ is a defense force that operates in a coordinated fashion with the HPG operationally, organizationally and philosophically. The YBŞ has taken part in this operation with all its capacity has shown itself entirely capable and successful.
Yezidis Should Join The YBŞ
-What is the situation of the YBŞ?
As you know the YBŞ is a resistance movement formed from Kurdish Yezidis. Even if it not as large as would be wanted in terms of numbers owing to obvious circumstances, it is meaningful and important from a qualitative standpoint and for the historical mission which it has undertaken. Likewise before this no systematic and modern resistance movement had been organized to this level in Yezidi history. With the opening of a corridor from South Kurdistan in past days the amount of people joining the YBŞ has risen dramatically. We believe that this will only increase in the future. The YBŞ has laid the foundations for the creation of a self-defense mechanism in a more systematic, participatory and organized manner in Şengal’s future. It is the duty of every patriotic and in particular every Yezidi Kurd to work strengthen this mechanism and increase participation in it.
-What kind of destruction has the Şengal city center and its historical places of worship suffered [under ISIS occupation]?
This has not yet been entirely determined. If we consider what an inhumane organization like ISIS is capable of, we can guess that they have ravaged and destroyed every place of worship belonging to the Yezidi faith. The hostility of ISIS to Yezidism, which is the oldest faith in Mesopotamia, arises from a fascist character which is both historical and current. It is a duty of civilization and of humanity to support and protect the most humanist Yezidi faith against these kinds of attacks which aim at its destruction.
Autonomy Is Unavoidable
-What kind of system do you want as Yezidis for Şengal after all of this?
In order for the Yezidis to avoid a new genocide they must have an officially recognized status. This status does not need to be confined to Sinjar. The creation of a status of democratic autonomy that would include the Yezidis, Nestorian Christians, Şebeks and other peoples in Şêxan would be the best response to the August 3 2014 Yezidi genocide. If we leave aside certain organization and political calculations, it a humanitarian, conscientious and democratic-national duty to recognize the rights of the Yezidi community, which constitutes one of the most ancient manifestations of the Kurdish people.
-What is required for the creation of autonomy for Şengal?
Above all it is necessary that the needed steps are taken and work sped up to reorganize in the area of self-defense in order for the Yezidi community to be able to express itself in a political, cultural and diplomatic system. It is necessary that an active ideological and political struggle is waged against attempts by certain collaborationist Yezidis who tie themselves to certain forces and surrender for the sake of certain material gains, and who darken the future of this oppressed people which thirsts for freedom and which has been socially fractured and seen its unity broken. An international “Reconstruction Fund For Şengal” must be created to rebuild Şengal, the mines which have laid must be cleared, a self-defense force made up of Yezidis must be created, a sustainable economic system must be established, a system of self-management must be set up and ultimately its autonomous status must be recognized. This should be accomplished within a certain framework by which the rights of Şengal are recognized through a referendum on its relationship with Iraq and the KRG.
Şengal Is A Part Of Kurdistan
-What is the attitude Kurdish parties such as the KDP, YNK and PKK and what are you demanding from them?
It is necessary to evaluate each of the Kurdish movements which you mentioned separately with regard to their efforts toward the salvation and future of Şengal. By all means it has been very meaningful and gratifying to see the common struggle for the salvation of Şengal which eventually emerged, regardless of the motivations with which certain groups have acted and continue to act. We hope that tragedy of Şengal and its longing for freedom will unite all national forces and put an end to certain meaningless conflicts. Şengal is a part of Kurdistan and a home to the Yezidis. Every Kurd can and in fact ought to struggle for its liberation and its freedom. Some Kurdish groups have a fractionary understanding by which they say ‘this part belongs to us and other Kurdish organizations cannot come here.’ This understanding will in no way be accepted by the Yezidi community.
Once more it is well known how the powers which have held such an understanding behaved in the course of the events of August 3 and how they left the Yezidis at the mercy of ISIS. Therefore the Yezidis no longer trust them while their confidence in those forces which operate according to the philosophy of the PKK have only increased. Indeed the Yezidi community looks upon these forces as a guarantee for their own future, their freedom and their security. Despite this we continue to look upon the unification of national forces and the convocation of a national congress as correct and important. Our foundational demands from them is the recognition of an autonomous status for Şengal, the right for the people of Şengal to determine their own fate, and the granting of this authority without conditions. If we want to guarantee the future of the Yezidi community and the Yazidi faith, the only option before us is the recognition of the democratic canton system.
Our expectations are that all national resistance forces – this is the guerilla and peshmerga forces – will operate together against the enemy. Just as they have done so in Kobanê, they can and must do this without problems in Şengal.
-What kinds of expectations do you have from international states and bodies, as well as Kurdish organizations, for the reconstruction of Şengal and other regions where Yezidis live?
International organizations and states can and should act around questions such as the creation of an international fund for the reconstruction and development of Şengal, the recognition of its autonomy by the UN, the recognition of the genocide and the prosecution of the criminals responsible, and transformation of the YBŞ into the legitimate defense force of the Yezidis. If there is a serious political will to counteract the results of this genocide, even if partially, then it is mandatory that serious steps be taken around these questions. Otherwise these powers will be responsible for the ultimate destruction of this community which is now underthread of liquidation and of disappearing. It is unnecessary to remind the International powers of their responsibilities and their necessary obligations around this subject. This reality has now emerged quite openly.