In an historic step for the beleaguered Yazidi people of northwestern Iraq, the Supreme Spiritual Council of the Yezidi Nation, led by Baba Sheikh Khurto Hajji Ismail, has proclaimed the establishment of the "Provisional Government of the Autonomous Nation of Ezidikhan." The provisional government arrives just three years after the Yazidi people faced a genocidal assault that brought them to the edge of extinction, following the seizure of their territory by ISIS. The territory, centered around the area of Sinjar, has since been liberated, in part by a newly formed Yazidi militia. The provisional government says it will establish a democratic governance structure for the liberated territory, draft a constitution, and work for the return of the Yazidi diaspora. The statement guarantees gender equality and freedom of expression within the autonomous territory, and states that Ezidikhan will "be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and international law."
Trump's disparate reactions to the similar attacks in Charlottesville and Barcelona provide an obvious but inevitable study not only in double standards, but (worse) the president's actual embrace of racist terror. Whether opportunistically or not, ISIS has claimed responsibility for the Barcelona attack, in which a motorist ploughed into pedestrians on Las Ramblas, a pedestrian thoroughfare packed with tourists, killing 13 and wounding scores. Just five days earlier, a neo-Nazi did the same thing to a crowd of antifa counter-protesters in Virginia, killing one and wounding 19. Mother Jones is among those to provide a sampling of the presidential statements and tweets in response to the two like attacks, just days apart. Regarding Charlottesville, Trump blamed "many sides" for the violence, and said there were "fine people" on the side that was flying the Nazi flag and committed an act of terror. He's also been waxing maudlin about the "beautiful" statues of Confederate generals now coming down around the country. This of course squanders all credibility to tweet that he "condemns the terror attack in Barcelona." But it gets much, much worse...
Following last week's Turkish air-strikes on Kurdish forces in northern Syria, the autonomous administration in the region is said to have issued a call for a "no-fly zone." Tev-Dem, the self-governance structure for Syria's Kurdish autonomous zone, reportedly issued the call after Turkish raids killed at least 20 fighters of its militia force, the People's Protection Units (YPG). Because US-backed Kurdish forces are basically calling for international protection from US ally Turkey, this development further heightens the contradictions that Washington faces in northern Syria. It is telling that the Tev-Dem statement is aggressively touted by Kremlin mouthpiece Sputnik. It has also been reported by Syria Deeply and UPI.
The Pentagon is dispatching some 2,500 ground combat troops to a staging base in Kuwait, from where they are expected to be mobilized to back up forces fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The deployment includes elements of the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Bragg, NC. About 1,700 troops from the same unit are already overseas, spread between Iraq and Kuwait. (Army Times, March 9) The US currently has only some 500 troops authorized to operate in Syria, predominantly Special Forces, and it is unclear if this new deployment breaches that threshold. However, the US Special Forces in Syria are increasingly tasked with keeping peace between Kurdish and Turkish forces rather than actually fighting ISIS. Special Forces are currently deployed at Manbij in what the Pentagon calls a mission to "reassure and deter"—interpreted as providing a buffer between Kurdish-led and Turkish-led forces, to prevent open conflict between them. (Military Times, March 6)
Amnesty International is demanding that Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) immediately end the "shocking and arbitrary" detention of a Yazidi woman who has been held without trial for nearly two years after surviving captivity at the hands of ISIS. Bassema Darwish, a 34-year-old mother of three from the Babira village in Nineva governorate, has been detained by the KRG since October 2014, accused of complicity with ISIS forces who killed three Kurdish Peshmerga fighters when they arrived at the house where she was being held captive in Zummar village. She is currently detained at a prison in Erbil, denied access to family and counsel. She gave birth to a daughter while in custody.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his concern for the human rights violations faced by the Yazidi minority in Northern Iraq on Aug. 3, stating that actions of the Islamic State (IS) may amount to genocide. Two years ago the IS attacked the Sinjar area in Iraq killing nearly 5,000 individuals. The statement claims that 3,200 Yazidi women and children remain in captivity and are subjected to nearly unimaginable violence. The Secretary-General proclaimed these acts may constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity and even genocide. The UN encouraged the Iraqi government to bring perpetrators of these crimes to justice, with a fair trials and due process, while supporting the survivors.
Human Rights Watch has called on the Iraqi and Kurdistan Regional Government authorities to prosecute ISIS fighters for war crimes against the Yazidi minority. "Yezidi victims of human rights abuses have a right to justice, not just government declarations with no consequences," said Skye Wheeler of HRW's women's rights division. Several ISIS fighters are now in custody following recent territory gains by both the Iraqi central government and Kurdish regional authorities. But HRW says so far no authorities in Iraq are investigating or prosecuting ISIS members for war crimes or crimes against humanity. (ARA News, June 23)
Rojda Felat, a Kurdish revolutionary feminist, is leading the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces' offensive on Raqqa, capital of the Islamic State's self-declared caliphate. A three-year veteran of the struggle against ISIS, she is serving as commander of 15,000 Kurdish and Arab fighters, backed by US special forces and warplanes, under the banner of the SDF. "My main goal is liberating the Kurdish woman and the Syrian woman in general from the ties and control of traditional society, as well as liberating the entirety of Syria from terrorism and tyranny," she told the London Times.