West Nineveh: “Sinjar is special,” the officer at the checkpoint said, refusing to allow me to continue on to the Yazidi homeland of Sinjar.
“You will have to go back.”
I had accompanied the Peshmerga as a reporter to the frontlines in the Sinjar mountains in early 2015 during the fight against the Islamic State.
I returned to the city to speak to those who had come back after it was retaken in 2016 when rockets were still being shot at some districts of the city and had, at that time, explored and photographed tunnels that IS had used to hide and keep munitions in.
I had returned in 2022, to ask about the Sinjar agreement for stability and how the local population felt about it.
And yet now, in June 2023, despite having been invited by a prominent and widely respected member of the Yazidi community, I was told it was “too dangerous, it’s for your own safety” – as the first response. Then, “It’s a sensitive area”. Then, “You need extra permissions”.
And while some claim that Turkey’s targeting of local positions of those it says are linked to an international terrorist organisation – the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) - is an “attack on Iraqi sovereignty”, many of the Yazidis who have gone back feel they are denied their right to make even the most basic of personal decisions.
Over a hundred thousand Yazidis who fled Sinjar in 2014 are still in IDP camps in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, with no intention to go back until things improve.