Dohuk, Iraq -- Although the Kurdish Peshmerga forces and allied local fighters, backed by the US-led coalition, have recaptured the Yezidi district of Sinjar (Shingal) and the surrounding villages in northern Iraq from the radical group of Islamic State (ISIS), the displaced Yezidi civilians are still reluctant to return home.
The anti-ISIS battles in Shingal left a great damage in the infrastructure of the area, according to locals. This is why the majority of Yezidis prefer to stay in the refugee camps set up by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
Some displaced Yezidis complained about the ISIS-led mass destruction in their towns and villages in Shingal and its surroundings, while others expressed their concerns about the fragile security situation that surround the Yezidi areas in northern Iraq. The ghost of ISIS still overshadows the whole scene of the region, they argued.
ISIS still poses threat to Shingal
Speaking to ARA News, Shaban Khalaf, a displaced Yazidi from Shingal based in the refugee camp of Bajdkandala near the town of Zakho in Iraqi Kurdistan, said: "One of the reasons why Yezidis do not return to Shingal is ISIS presence in the nearby areas. Current ISIS positions are not very far from Shingal."
"Who knows? Daesh may launch a surprise attack on our areas once again, especially the clashes are still ongoing between the Peshmerga forces and Shingal Protection Units (YBS) on the one hand, and ISIS terrorists on the other, in southern Shingal," he argued, using an acronym for ISIS.
"The terror group still poses a threat to Shingal," he told ARA News.
Khalaf pointed out that Shingal's infrastructure has been destroyed due to the heavy shelling and bombings by the conflicting parties.
"Dozens of houses in the area have been looted and robbed," Khalaf added, pointing out that Shingal needs also an intensive reconstruction campaign "after this devastating war".
"If we did not rebuild the region's infrastructure, Yezidis would not be able to live in the area from now on," he stressed.
Yasser Kaalo, a displaced Yezidi man, spoke to ARA News in the Shariya camp [in Duhok] for Yezidi refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan, saying that most of people fear to face a similar scenario as thousands of women and children are still held hostages at the hands of the terror group.
"Also, the fate of hundreds of people is still unknown," he added. "This had put a negative impact on us."
Kaalo emphasized that also the land-mines planted by ISIS terrorists in Shingal region hinder his return with his family to their hometown.
Yezidis need International Protection
Asfar Darman, another displaced Yezidi, told ARA News: "I believe that there were no guarantees and protection from international powers under a UN resolution to protect the Yezidis in Shingal region, they will not go back home and this will encourage them leave Iraq heading the European countries in search of a better and secured life."
"Unfortunately, Yezidis have lost confidence in everything, they would not easily come back to Shingal, especially if the situation continues as it is," Darman concluded, saying "the international community should bear its responsibility to regain security and stability in the whole region."
In August 2014, ISIS radicals took over the region of Shingal, causing a mass displacement of nearly 400,000 people to Duhok and Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. Tens of thousands of Yezidis remained trapped in Mount Sinjar, suffering mass killings, kidnappings and rape cases, according to local and military sources. Also, more than 3000 Yezidi girls have been taken by the radical group as sex slaves.
On November 13, the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Iraqi Kurdistan, backed by an air cover from the US-led coalition forces, announced the liberation of the entire Yezidi district of Shingal in the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh after fierce battles with ISIS extremists. The Kurdish forces have recently discovered more than five mass graves in the Yezidi region, where hundreds of Yezidi civilians have been summarily executed and buried by ISIS jihadis.