Nearly two years since the north side of Shingal was liberated from the Islamic State, most of the Yazidi population is still displaced. Yazidis are trapped between millstones of the competition of exogenous actors, such as the KDP, the PKK-linked forces, and Baghdad, over the control of the strategically important disputed territory of Shingal.
A “Disputed Territory” Curse in Shingal
The current dynamics in Shingal can be best understood by approaching it as a disputed territory between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) under Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution. Non-Yazidi actors – mainly the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the forces linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and Baghdad – are engaged in competition over the strategically important disputed territory of Shingal. The one-sided pragmatic desire to firmly control the terrain and politics is prioritised over a long-term commitment towards improving the societal, economic and security situation of the Yazidis. The overarching issue is also a long-standing deficit in good governance, rule of law, inclusiveness, or social justice in Shingal.
The Shingal range is a mountainous barrier overseeing the westernmost edge of the disputed territories, as well as sharing a border with Syria. The proven oil and gas reserves in the Shingal district are modest but there are reportedly some 400 unexploited oil wells, mainly in the north. No systematic surveys have been conducted since the 1960s, however the unproven oil and gas reserves could be substantially large. With this possibility on the table, assuming control over the district becomes even more desirable. However, the area has been largely underdeveloped even prior to the war on the Islamic State (IS) and following IS’ retreat by November 2015 it remains significantly damaged. According to a UN-HABITAT report, some 6,000 houses are thought to have been burnt or destroyed. So far neither the KRI nor Baghdad have shown a willingness that goes beyond promises to substantially invest in development and reconstruction of the region, precisely because its status is disputed and thus they are reluctant to commit resources with no guarantee that the region will fall under their control in the future. Furthermore, the current financial crisis has makes possible reconstruction efforts difficult.
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