On the same day as the Paris attacks, a serious blow was dealt against ISIS in Iraq, as the town of Sinjar was liberated from the jihadists by a mixed force led by Kurdish Peshmerga troops. Sinjar has a special symbolic significance, as it was the main town of Iraq's Yazidi minority, which ISIS is bent on exterminating. Thousands of Yazidis were massacred or enslaved by ISIS after they took the town during their surge into northern Iraq last year. The anti-ISIS offensive, Operation Free Sinjar, was backed up by US air-strikes and coordinated forces of the Peshmerga, PKK-aligned Kurdish fighters, and a Yazidi militia. Another 28 villages were liberated in the two-day sweep. The Kurdistan Regional Government claimed that 200 square kilometers were taken in the operation, and some 300 ISIS fighters killed. (BBC News; Rudaw) A Facebook video showed Yazidis celebrating the liberation of their town.
Members of Iraq's Yazidi minority on Sept. 24 submitted a report to the International Criminal Court detailing the crimes committed against their community by militants of the Islamic State (IS) and urged the court to open an investigation. The Yazidi group met with chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in The Hague and said the actions taken by IS since August 2014 in Northern Iraq constituted religious genocide against their people. The report includes statements made by human rights organizations which have concluded that IS targets Yazidi people on religious grounds and the UN statement that IS attacks on the Yazidi group may amount to genocide. Former ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said the court should open preliminary examinations. Although Iraq is not a party to the ICC Rome Statute (PDF), the court could prosecute IS members who are nationals of signatory states.
The Kurdish news agency Rudaw reports Aug. 28 that the First Kakai Battalion of the Peshmerga, a 630-strong force made up entirely of members of the Kakai religious minority, is preparing to go into battle against ISIS along the frontline near Daquq—and protests that they are being denied the weaponry they need. When ISIS swept into northern Iraq last year, commander Farhad Nezar Kakai urged the Kurdistan Regional Government to establish the Kakai force to defend the minority's nine villages near the frontline in Kirkuk governorate. "After the catastrophe of Shingal, we felt that same thing could happen to Kakais," Nezar told Rudaw, referring to the massacre of thousands of Yazidis at Mount Sinjar (as it is more commonly rendered). The Kakai, like the Yazidis, are followers of a pre-Islamic faith, and targeted for extremination by ISIS.
An Aug. 7 account on Daily Beast reports that young Yazidis—including women—are returning to the Mount Sinjar area of Iraq from which they were "cleansed" by ISIS last year, and fighting to reclaim their homeland from the jihadists. They also hope to rescue hundreds of Yazidi women and youth who remain in ISIS captivity. They are organized in a militia called the Sinjar Protection Units (YBS), which the article portrays as trained by and in the political orbit of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Young Yazidi fighters are quoted saying they feel betrayed by the Peshmerga of Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government, which they say abandoned them to ISIS. But we've noted before the problemetic nature of Daily Beast's reportage on Syria and Iraq, and this is no exception. The PKK is called a "Marxist and allegedly terrorist organization" (the word "allegedly" apparently having been added after publication, to go by the cache as it appears on Facebook). It states that the PKK was "[b]uilt on Marxist-Leninist ideals and Kurdish nationalism," without stating that it has in recent years moved away from both towards an anarchist-influenced politics.
The US State Department on June 19 released its "Country Reports on Terrorism 2014," finding that the number of terrorist attacks around the world rose by a third in 2014 compared with the previous year. The number of people killed in such attacks rose by 80%, to nearly 33,000. The sharp increase was largely due to the "unprecedented" seizure of territory in Iraq and Syria by ISIS, and the growith of Boko Haram in Nigeria. Terrorist groups used more aggressive tactics in 2014 than in previous years, such as beheadings and crucifixions. ISIS attacks on religious minorities like Christians and Yazidis are cited. Islamic State was particularly lethal. The reports says the June 2014 massacre at a prison in Mosul, Iraq, in which ISIS killed 670 Shi'ite prisoners "was the deadliest attack worldwide since September 11, 2001." The report notes the "central al-Qaeda leadership" has been weakened, but the network's regional affiliates have gained ground in places like Yemen and the Horn of Africa. (BBC News, Reuters, State Department, June 19)
A new group of 450 military advisors is being dispatched to Iraq, the White House announced June 10, bringing the total of US troops in the country to 3,500. The immediate goal is retaking Ramadi from ISIS. The new advisors are assigned to Taqaddum military base, between Fallujah and Ramadi in Anbar governorate, bringing to five the number of bases housing US troops in Iraq. US advisors are currently training some 3,000 Iraqi troops, but news accounts said that the forces to be trained at Taqaddum are to include "local Sunni fighters." (Reuters, Bloomberg, June 10) This is presumably meant to counter-balance the Shi'ite militias that have been leading the fight against ISIS in central Iraq (and are accused of reprisals and war crimes against Sunni non-combatants), but it still represents an official US embrace of sectarian militias rather than the increasingly fictional "official" Iraqi army.
Thousands of jubilant Kurds flooded the streets of Diyarbakir, southeast Turkey, on June 7, setting off fireworks and waving flags as election results showed the pro-Kurdish opposition likely to enter parliament for the first time. Initial results show the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) taking 80 of 550 seats—a major setback for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose AK Party is poised to lose its majority. Erdogan had been counting on the AKP majority to push through constitutional changes giving him broad executive powers. The elections also brought three Armenians to the Turkish parliament after a lapse of several years—one from the HDP, one from the AKP, and one from the Republican People's Party (CHP). Two members of Turkey's small Yazidi community were also elected on the HDP ticket.