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Kurdish Leader Wants Battle Areas Added To Iraq's Kurdish Region

  • RFE/RL

Iraqi Kurdish leader Masud Barzani (file photo)

Iraqi Kurdish leader Masud Barzani (file photo)

Iraqi Kurds must maintain control of the city of Sinjar and other areas of northwestern Iraq they are fighting to liberate from the Islamic State, the leader of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region said August 3.

"We have given more than 1,000 martyrs to attach Sinjar to Kurdistan," President Masud Barzani said in a speech marking the anniversary of the fall of Sinjar to IS, which forced tens of thousands of Iraq's Yazidi religious minority to flee into the mountains.

"I demanded the [Kurdish Regional Government] establish a special administration in this area, and I will demand the Iraqi government to make Sinjar the center of the province," he said.

Sinjar lies near the Syrian border and is not within the recognized borders of the three provinces controlled by the Iraq's Kurdish minority.

But the first major IS push in June 2014 saw Iraq's federal army collapse and abandon their positions in the area. The Kurdish peshmerga filled the vacuum and since then, the KRG has de facto expanded its control by around 40 percent.

"Half of Sinjar and its outskirts still aren't liberated," Barzani said in Dohuk, which is the main city in western Kurdistan where many displaced Yazidis are settled.

"We cannot stop until we liberate all of our land from the hands of the enemy and ensure the return of the displaced," he said.

Barzani vowed to take vengeance on IS for its brutal treatment of Yazidis, who are neither Arabs nor Muslims and have a unique faith which IS considers to be polytheism and apostate.

Tens of thousands of Yazidis were massacred and enslaved during the IS invasion, which was later described by the United Nations as "an attempt to commit genocide" and was one of the main justifications for the U.S.-led air campaign against IS that began days later.

"We will hunt down those who committed this crime until the last one," Barzani said. "They have left thousands of bodies on the battlefield, but this is not enough in comparison with the crimes they committed."

According to the KRG figures, 1,280 Yazidis were killed in the IS offensive, 280 died due to the conditions they were subjected to, and 841 are still missing.

More than 5,800 were also abducted by IS, which has used Yazidi girls and women as slaves. Just over 2,000 of them have managed to flee, the KRG said.

The Yazidi community now counts 550,000 members in Iraq, including 400,000 of the more than three million people who have been displaced in Iraq since violence erupted at the beginning of 2014.

With reporting by AP and AFP
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