(Reuters) – The Yazidis of northern Iraq, an ancient religious minority brutally persecuted by ISIS, want nothing more than peace, security and a better life in their home town of Sinjar – but they want it on their terms.
Many there distrust a new security and reconstruction plan unveiled this week by the Baghdad government and Kurdish regional authorities which hailed it as a “historic” agreement.
“The deal could pacify Sinjar – but it might also make the situation even worse,” said Talal Saleh, a Yazidi in exile in nearby Kurdistan.
The Yazidis have suffered since IS marauded into Sinjar in 2014, one of the Sunni extremist group’s conquests that shocked the West into military action to stop it.
IS viewed the Yazidis as devil worshippers for their faith that combines Zoroastrian, Christian, Manichean, Jewish and Muslim beliefs.
It slaughtered more than 3,000 Yazidis, enslaved 7,000 women and girls and displaced most of its 550,000-strong community.
Since ISIS was driven out of Sinjar by U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in 2015, the town and its surrounding areas are controlled by a patchwork of armed groups including the Iraqi army, Shi’ite Muslim militia, and Yazidi and Kurdish militants with different loyalties.
The government plan would enforce security and allow the return of tens of thousands of Yazidis afraid to go back because of a lack of security and basic services, according to the office of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.
But many Sinjar natives feel the plan is vague, dictated by Baghdad and the Kurdish capital of Erbil. They say it has not included them and entails security reforms that could mean more division and violence.
“The PKK and their Yazidi allies are not just going to leave Sinjar without a fight,” Saleh said.
The security arrangements include booting out the PKK, a Kurdish separatist group that has fought a decades-long insurgency in Turkey and bases itself in northern Iraq.