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Birgit Haubner | photographer

Sinjar (Shingal), northern Iraq | August/ September 2015

On August 3, 2014 'Islamic State' (ISIS) overran Sinjar, a region located in north-western Iraq on the Syrian border. Around 400,000 Yazidis have fled their homes and several thousands were killed or captured. One year later, most parts of the city of Sinjar were still under control of ISIS. Only some thousands families were living in self-made tents on the slopes of Mount Sinjar.

The fighters of the HPG – the military wing of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) – and their Yazidi affiliates, the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS/YPJ-S), fight alongside other militias against ISIS in the area. Just a few meters away from the frontline, they have set up their bases in abandoned houses. The Yazidi YBS consider it necessary to defend themselves, because the Peshmerga forces had abandoned their positions without fighting when ISIS attacked Sinjar a year ago. The HPG is in Sinjar since they evacuated together with the Syrian YPG thousands of Yazidis from the Sinjar Mountains, where they had fled from ISIS.

Also a large number of Kurdistan Democratic Party (PDK) Peshmerga forces are in the Sinjar region. Together with Yazidi battalions, that operate under the umbrella of Peshmerga, they fight ISIS in the area.

The presence of the different Kurdish and Yazidi militias in Sinjar is connected to the conflict over power and influence in the region. While the forces that sympathize with the PKK's ideology, have established structures of local self-government, the PDK want to annex Sinjar to the Kurdistan Region. Sinjar is part of the "disputed territories" between the Iraqi Central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).