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Yazidis Decry PKK for Recruiting Youth in Iraq's Sinjar

The Iraq-based Yazidis Spiritual Council has strongly condemned the PKK terrorist group's practice of recruiting young Yazidis in Sinjar and sending them to fight in northern Syria's Afrin region, according to Chairman Kerim Suleyman.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA) on Friday, Suleyman called on the international community, especially northern Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government, to take steps to expel the PKK -- along with Iraq's Hashd al-Shaabi militia -- from Sinjar. A largely Shiite paramilitary force, Hashd al-Shaabi was formally incorporated into the Iraqi armed forces in 2016. "We strongly condemn this practice by armed groups of sending Yazidis boys and girls from Sinjar to Afrin," Suleyman said. "This is unacceptable." He went on to assert that all armed groups currently operating in the region should be replaced by Iraqi military personnel and Kurdish peshmerga forces.

Blaming the PKK and other armed groups for the mass displacement of Yazidis in recent years, Suleyman added: "These groups threaten the region's stability. Displaced Yazidis don't want to return to Sinjar just to be forced into military service." Yazidi Mahma Halil, a former district governor of Sinjar, said the PKK had begun sending militants across the Iraqi-Syrian border to Afrin following the launch last month of Turkey's Operation Olive Branch. Saying local officials had clear evidence that militants were being dispatched to Afrin, Halil said: "Many PKK militants have been sent from Sinjar to Afrin via the Iraqi-Syrian border." He also criticized Iraq's central government for remaining silent on the PKK's recruitment of young Yazidis in Sinjar -- a practice, he said, had been going on for years. Halil said that both Baghdad and the U.N. had failed to end the PKK's activities in Sinjar, which is located in Iraq's northern Nineveh province. In mid-2014, the PKK managed to establish a foothold in Sinjar on the pretext that it was protecting the local Yazidi community from the Daesh terrorist group who had overrun the region and killed much of the community.

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