The district of Sinjar in Ninawa countryside in northwestern Iraq (near the border with Syria) came to global attention in August 2014 because of the Islamic State assault and attempted genocide against the Yezidi population residing there. The town of Sinjar was recaptured from Islamic State in November 2015. Regrettably, more than five years later, much of the infrastructure and services that existed prior to August 2014 have yet to be restored, and it is apparent that most of the original inhabitants have still not returned.
In addition to the interview I conducted with the Sinjar municipal office directorate media, I thought I would share a translation I have done of an interview that was conducted by the al-Fallujah TV channel with Fahad Hamid, a Yezidi who has been the de facto mayor of Sinjar since the forces affiliated with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) withdrew from the area in late 2017 amid an official Iraqi central government takeover. The person who was mayor of Sinjar at the time- Mahama Khalil- left along with the KDP's forces and is presently based in Duhok province and still describes himself as mayor of Sinjar. Fahad Hamid admits that he has no legal basis (i.e. no official administrative order) for his role though he says that he was appointed by the Iraqi security forces present in Sinjar following the official central government takeover (i.e. the Iraqi army, local police, National Security apparatus and the Hashd Sha'abi forces).
In this interview (broadcast earlier this month by al-Fallujah TV channel), Hamid discusses the issue of the legal basis for his role, his rejection of the October 2020 agreement between Baghdad and Arbil (which would require the appointment of a new mayor, among other things), and the poor services situation in Sinjar. The translation I have done is a rough transcript. There are interruptions in some instances by the interviewer, which means that some statements are not completed.
Below is the interview as it appeared on al-Fallujah TV channel.
Q: Mr. Mayor, the first thing is a problem of definition we begin with. Today we identify you as the mayor of Sinjar, but there is another person who says I am the mayor of Sinjar, and the talk about the mayor of Sinjar, the other person preceded you in this position. So what is the legitimacy of this position? How can there be two mayors in one district?
A: Dear sir, it is well known by all from date 17 October 2017 when there was the imposition of the rule of law and the respect for the state in the Sinjar district and the affiliates of Sinjar district through the arrival of the Iraqi forces represented in the Iraqi army and the Hashd Sha'abi to the Sinjar district, the Peshmerga forces and the Kurdish Asayish forces affiliated with the KDP were withdrawn; during the withdrawal, there was by the order of the party itself the withdrawal of the administration present that was in Sinjar at that time represented in the mayor and the director of the sub-district of al-Qahtaniyah and the director of the al-Shimalsinuna sub-district and the director of the al-Qayrwan sub-district.
Q: All of these withdrew with the Peshmerga?
A: And with them the councils of the Sinjar district and the councils of the three sub-districts that I mentioned. And of course they withdrew by the order of the KDP to the Kurdistan region with the Peshmerga and the Asayish. There remained an administrative vacuum in Sinjar and the sub-districts. I was entrusted or appointed to the assignments of the mayor's office in a temporary sense by the forces present in Sinjar or the area represented in the Iraqi army and the Hashd Sha'abi and the National Security.
Q: Those who appointed you are the security forces and the Hashd.
A: The security forces represented in the Iraqi army, the Hashd Sha'abi, the National Security, the local police, and with the attendance of the noble men of religion and the sheikhs of the tribes.
Q: The legal basis: your legal basis is sound?
A: No, sorry. During the first six months, the state as the directors in the province of Ninawa were dealing with me as legally legitimate mayor and during this time of six months I went to Baghdad for a week and we met with six ministers. And the Iraqi government from Baghdad and Mosul, all of them were cooperating with us during six months. As for after the six months, things went the opposite way.
Q: Now they are not cooperating with you.
A: Cooperating very little.
Q: The Iraqi government- the Baghdad government specifically- does it recognise you in your present position?
A: Dear sir, they recognise that I have made sacrifices and have come into a position of responsibility with a very difficult situation because since the time I received this position, most of the services offices were not present, even the directors of the offices. I, in particular the municipal office, and hospital...
Q: But what I mean is official recognition. Is there something legal?
A: No I don't have anything legal, as an administrative order until now, there is none. Until now I have no administrative order. As for Mr. Mahama Khalil, he is carrying out a replacement position in surplus, affiliated with Duhok province.
Q: Okay, let us look at the citizen today. The citizen suffers in terms of going, bringing documents etc. from two mayor offices, one in Duhok and one in Sinjar. This is a problem.
A: I agree with you, Mr. Ahmad, on this thing. It is very difficult, and impacts the citizen, impacts the services of the Sinjar district. And indeed it's been during three years and one month approximately: I serve my family, my people and my town from the beginning of this place or position, I have made sacrifices in everything, developing...
Q: Who has the greater legitimacy? You or Mr. Mahama?
A: Mr. Mahama, he has legitimacy from Ninawa province, in truth I tell you. But he has not been to Sinjar for three or four years.
Q: He is threatened, according to what I have heard.
A: No, it is not an issue of threats.
Q: It is possible he will be killed.
A: No no, sir. There is no threat. Had he been remaining in his place and position, he as the administrator and the three directors, I would be the first of people to welcome him. But what was it? The order of the political party: withdraw. Sir, it is well-known that on 30 October 2018, the mayor and the three directors and the governor of Ninawa and the head of the Ninawa provincial council and a number of members of the Ninawa provincial council represented in the KDP, and with them the Ninawa operations commander who at that time was Mr. Najm al-Juburi, and the police commander, and with the SWAT forces: they came to Sinjar at the date I mentioned. A demonstration was held, they stood at the entrance of Sinjar for a period of six hours or eight hours, they did not let them enter.
Q: Let us move to another issue. The recent agreement that arose between the federal government and the Sinjar district and their entry into the agreement that occurred with the Region: how do you assess the agreement that happened recently? And what are the positive and negative dimensions of it for the people of Sinjar?
A: Of course this agreement is completely rejected by the people of Sinjar present on the ground of the reality, on the land of fact. Why? Because the agreement contracted between Baghdad and Arbil was for their political interests only, and not for the interests of the people of Sinjar, because we are the people present since the day of 3 August 2014 the day we consider the great betrayal and a black day in the history of man- in the thousands who remained on the mountain: they are the ones who sacrificed, and defended Sinjar. And those who go on the agreement: why are we as the ones who sacrifice not a party in the equation? We do not accept this thing. Because Sinjar is Iraqi and will remain Iraqi affiliated with Baghdad and not affiliated with the Kurdistan Region or another side. Therefore we consider this decision erroneous.
Q: But this is an agreement of Baghdad, for you say we are affiliated with Baghdad, it is an agreement of Baghdad.
A: Yes, we are affiliated with Baghdad, but what...
Q: The decision came from Baghdad.
A: Dear sir, the KDP is not the guardian of Sinjar and is not the guardian of the Yezidis.
Q: Okay, and Mr. al-Kadhimi and the Sinjar agreements: rejected?
A: Sir, if it is for their political interests, we do not accept this thing, and this decision is rejected. You have seen the demonstrations that occurred: around ten demonstrations in Sinjar and in the sub-district of Shimalsinuna, and also statements of those who rejected this thing, and not only from the people of Sinjar, but also from Sahl Ninawa, and the Shi'a brothers, from the Turkmen, from the Sunni brothers. This is rejected among all the sides.
Q: But a question: why are they all dividing Sinjar like this? Sinjar is not a place suited for this kind of thing. It is a beautiful town. Why all these divisions? There is a conflict over Sinjar.
A: Dear sir, Sinjar is a refined land, a varied garden.
Q: Yes, but there is destruction in this garden.
A: But it regrets us to say that Sinjar had Yezidis, the Shi'a and Sunni Muslims, the Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen, and Christians, all of them were present...
Q: But what happened?
A: When there was the event of 3 August 2014, that occurred upon all of Iraq, and now we have made the sacrifices and incurred losses, as the Yezidi people. Sir, ten days ago, there was a meeting of the people of Sinjar with the prime minister in the ministers council in Baghdad. Sir, their talk was the same as yours, they said: you are multiple sides, not in agreement. Sir, in the hotel approximately forty personalities- I was among them: we agreed as four Yezidi parties, among them the Yezidi Democratic Party, the Yezidi Movement for Reform and Progress, the Yezidi Progress Party, and the Freedom and Democracy Party I think: four Yezidi parties; with the presence of the men of religion, and the tribes of the Yezidis. All of them agreed in the hotel- I among them- each of them brought out their common points: all of them agreed on a joint statement and nineteen points. And on the next day in the morning, twenty of those who met in the night in the hotel went to the ministers council, and one of them from these parties present on the land of reality read out the statement and gave the requested points, but they did not do anything, frankly.
Q: Okay, why has there been no development in the services situation in Sinjar despite the fact that enough, the security situation as you describe it is stable? Why have services not returned to Sinjar?
A: Sir, the services situation, frankly, I tell you: the government is falling short with the people of Sinjar.
Q: The Ninawa government or the Baghdad government?
A: The Ninawa government and the Baghdad government: both of them. They have not offered you I tell you 10%, but the breathing is present, the activity is present from the Lord of the Worlds and then the charitable and humanitarian organisations. Of course the budget from 2014 until now, there is no budget. We have not seen anything, and indeed the portion of the projects have been through the municipal offices of Ninawa or the Ninawa governor has been very little. Yes.
Q: Okay, here in Sinjar: is it the rule of the strongest that has control?
A: No sir. The first role is for the Iraqi army which is now present inside the town of Sinjar, the peripheries of Sinjar and the border area; the federal police, the Iraqi army are present. The first role is for the Iraqi army.
Update (28 December 2020): name of mayor of Sinjar based in Kurdistan region corrected.