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Matthew Barber @Matthew__Barber
, 39 tweets, 15 min read Read on Twitter
1) Today—on the 4th anniversary of the Kocho Massacre, when #IS slaughtered an entire town as part of the Yazidi Genocide—#Turkey bombed a #Yazidi convoy in #Sinjar that was returning from the Kocho Massacre memorial ceremony, killing Mam Zaki, an important Yazidi #PKK leader.
2) The convoy contained leaders & members of the Yazidi #YBŞ defense force and affiliated political institutions, including Mazlum Shingal, the military commander of the #YBŞ, who—like Mam Zaki—is also a #Yazidi. Mazlum (shown in photo) was injured but not killed in the attack.
3) A #Yazidi from #Sinjar (Tel Ezeir) named Harbo, a member of the Self-Administrative Council (a local governing institution that is a civilian political counterpart to the YBŞ defense force), was injured in the attack. Two others were killed; their identities are not yet known.
3b) Photos published by Rudaw of the scene of the bombing:
4) Mam Zaki (real name Ismail Ozden) was not part of the PKK military; he was a civilian and a leadership figure in the political wing of the PKK. He was a #Yazidi from #Turkey who joined the PKK in the 1980s. Photo: @rcallimachi interviewing Zaki in 2015:
5) Historically, #Turkey had a large #Yazidi population, but it declined over time, and the Turkish state almost completely destroyed Turkey's remaining Yazidi community in the 1980s during its campaigns of repression and persecution of #Kurds there.
6) This context makes it understandable why #Yazidis in Turkey would join the #PKK. Mam Zaki became one of the highest-ranking members of the PKK's political side (I was once told that he was 5th in the organization). His son was killed in Turkey in the 1990s.
7) In 2014, the #Yazidis of #Sinjar were deliberately abandoned in a planned and coordinated military withdrawal of the #KDP #Peshmerga. Left to die, the Yazidi Genocide unfolded, though a handful of poorly-armed local Yazidis kept #IS from taking Sinjar Mountain.
8) In that hour of dire need, Kurdish #YPG & PKK forces entered the Sinjar region from Syria, fought their way to the mountain and established the most vital front lines in Sinjar's resistance to IS. Their effort saved the lives of up to 100,000 Yazidis who were evacuated.
9) The entry of the YPG/PKK into the conflict defined the fight against IS in Sinjar for the next several years. Not only did they help Yazidis keep the mountain out of IS' hands, they also made it possible for Yazidis to retain possession of their homeland.
10) Other indications pointed to a desire on the part of the KDP to resettle Yazidis inside the KRI. The PKK developed local security and administrative entities for the Yazidis and I believe that they are responsible for the fact that Sinjar remains a Yazidi homeland today.
11) The presence of PKK affiliates in Sinjar also importantly created a bulwark against the return of KDP hegemony. This vital resistance continued until the Hashd al-Sha'bi liberated Sinjar's southern villages and the Peshmerga finally withdrew from Sinjar last October.
12) Today there is an opportunity to create a de-politicized #Sinjar under the leadership of local #Yazidis rather than external parties. KDP, PKK, and Hashd al-Sha'bi are all out or on their way out of Sinjar.
13) This was not the PKK's plan—obviously they wanted to build a future for their party in Sinjar—but most Yazidis have wanted a quiet, local existence without external political entanglements.
14) Nevertheless, the PKK and its affiliates worked harder to save Sinjar than any other actor—including the US. In the absence of organized security/governance/armed forces, the creation of the #YBŞ and Self-Administrative Council were vital for Sinjar.
15) Mam Zaki was well-known and highly respected in many circles. As a Yazidi, he had visited Sinjar in the past, prior to the Genocide. When the Genocide began, he returned and camped on the mountain to oversee humanitarian aid and other forms of support.
16) Under Mam Zaki's leadership, millions of dollars of food aid were regularly distributed to the displaced Yazidis who remained in Sinjar, the only functioning health centers on the mountain were supplied, and schools for children were created and staffed with teachers.
17) In 2015/2016 when I worked in Sinjar, I visited many small mountain enclaves where groups of families had remained. Many told me that PKK food aid was the only humanitarian aid they had ever received—they had never been visited by a single NGO or seen any government support.
18) I witnessed massive truckloads of flour entering Sinjar from Syria to feed thousands of Yazidis receiving no aid from international community or the US. I can't imagine what would have happened if this support had not existed during the humanitarian crisis.
19) While the PKK and affiliates did what they could to bring life back to these families, the KDP imposed an economic blockade to starve Sinjar, preventing all goods from reaching the people there and inhibiting recovery/reconstruction. Politically motivated, it was disgusting.
20) In addition to overseeing food aid, support for medical & school resources, and the creation of administrative institutions, Mam Zaki was highly respected as a mediator who solved a lot of local conflicts and rivalries in Sinjar.
21) Mam Zaki belonged to the Yazidi Chilka tribe. Today, a Yazidi man described him to me thus: "He saw himself as a Yazidi first, before seeing himself as a member of the PKK. He was very close to the significant Yazidi figures and community. Everyone knew and respected him."
22) Today, Turkey killed this man whom they labelled "terrorist." Supporters of the Turkish government love to invoke the PKK's inclusion on the "terror list" as though the list is a divinely-inspired document, rather than a fallible human document with political ramifications.
23) We should oppose all forms of violence against civilians, but we should also recognize that Kurdish violence has occurred in the context of rampant abuses, oppression, and terror waged against Kurds by the Turkish state.
24) I am confused as to why the PKK would be on the terror list while Turkey is not. Is terrorism something that only a non-state actor can perform? Does anyone believe for a moment that the PKK has conducted more violence than that waged by Turkey against the Kurdish people?
25) When a convoy of #Yazidis who saved #Sinjar from the Islamic State (#IS) is bombed by #Turkey, I think we should seriously consider who the terrorists are in this picture.
26) The attack occurred in Sinjar itself, not on the Syrian border. The convoy was returning to Khanasor from Kocho, passing along the road that curves around the westward end of the mountain, from Shilo to Bara.
27) Mam Zaki, Mazlum Shingal, and others in their entourage had been in Kocho for the genocide memorial and Mazlum had spoken to journalists. One person told me that Rudaw broadcasted some of Mazlum's speech on TV. Later, Rudaw reported on Zaki's death:…
28) Some people are connecting this event to a speech made by #Iraqi PM Abadi's in Turkey yesterday, which they believe was interpreted as a green light to Turkey to attack the PKK in Sinjar.
29) Today is not the first time that Turkey bombed Sinjar. On Apr. 25, 2017, it bombed Yazidi YBŞ positions, but Yazidis were able to vacate their bases ahead of time and none were killed. The Turkish planes did fire on a Peshmerga base by mistake, killing several KDP Peshmerga.
30) Yazidis were very upset about that incident and met with US officials to plead with them (yet again) for protection for Sinjar. High-level State Department officials gave Yazidi advocates assurances that they would not allow Turkey to bomb Sinjar again.
31) On March 23, 2018, following threats from Erdogan that Turkey would attack Sinjar, the PKK announced that it would be withdrawing its guerrilla forces from Sinjar, but would leave behind the local YBŞ force. Figures like Mazlum & Mam Zaki—who are both Yazidis—remained.
32) Today's episode & the killing of Mam Zaki ultimately underscore the failure of the US to provide any meaningful leadership in resolving the Yazidi Genocide. Sinjar has been caught in a proxy conflict involving at least 7 major state and non-state actors for four years.
33) At every new stage of this disaster, the US could have (and was begged to) initiate adequate intervention to end this competition and allow Yazidis to return home. Instead, the US sits on the sidelines while occasionally "expressing disapproval" to various political actors.
34) Four years on, the Yazidis remain in tents in camps, while the KDP keeps the Dohuk-Sinjar road closed to NGO and civilian traffic. Yazidis cannot visit their homes unless they travel through Mosul, a dangerous route for them. Reconstruction is almost non-existent.
35) High level officials and heads of state from countless governments around the world have expressed sympathy with the Yazidis and pledged to rebuild Sinjar and help end this Genocide.
36) They commission reports, assessments, and surveys, but take no meaningful political steps to hold accountable the actors who actively continue the victimization of the post-Genocide #Yazidi community.
37) Previous threads on related issues:
a) On Turkey's bombing of Sinjar in Apr '17:
b) On US/Turkey/PKK/Sinjar:
38) May we honor the memory of Mam Zaki—a true human being who devoted his life to the dignity and human rights of others—by finally doing something meaningful to resolve the Yazidi Genocide.
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