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Sinjar Resistance Units (YBŞ)



Introduction & Overview


The Sinjar Resistance Units, also known as the YBŞ or the Yekîneyên Berxwedana Sengalê, is an ethnic Yazidi militia which was formed in 2014 (Al-Tamimi, 2021b) in order to protect the Yazidi community in Iraq following attacks upon their community by radical Islamist insurgents. As the second largest Yazidi militia after the HPÊ (Êzîdxan Protection Force), it has primarily been active in fighting against ISIL (Paraszczuk, 2015). Being a founding member of the Sinjar Alliance, a comprehensive command structure uniting all Yazidi forces, the YBŞ works alongside its all-female counterparts in the YJÊ ( Êzîdxan Womens Units - Much like the YPJ and YPG) and they both operate under the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) and collaborate with the People's Defence Forces (HPG) of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) (Tomasevic, 2016). Some segments of the YBŞ later integrated into the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) as part of an effort to assimilate into the regular Iraqi Armed Forces, and these units are formally designated as the 80th Regiment (Al-Tamimi, 2021a).


History & Foundations

 

Formed in response to waves of attacks aimed at the Yazidi community by ISIL in Iraq, the group took part in several major offensives against ISIL, such as the August 2014 Northern Iraq offensive -- in which they killed at least 22 IS fighters and destroyed several armoured fighting vehicles in the locality of the Sinjar Mountains (where they primarily operate from) (Haaretz, 2014). The group received training from their Kurdish counterparts in the YPG and were subsequently sent back to the Sinjar Mountains' frontline zone in order to combat ISIL and protect their community (Reuters, 2014). Sheikh Khairy Khedr, the group's commander, was killed in battle during the clashes in October 2014 after being struck by a mortar shell (Su, 2014).


The YBS also participated in the founding of the Sinjar Alliance, which is an all-Yazidi organisation which aims to establish democratic confederalism within an autonomous Yazidi region in Sinjar (ÊzîdîPress, 2015). Under the Sinjar Alliance, the YBS took part in the November 2015 Sinjar offensive (KurdischeNachrichten, 2015) which succeeded in the joint Yazidi-Kurd forces capturing Sinjar and Gabara and 600+ ISIL casualties (Hanna and Payne, 2015). In an agreement with the central Iraqi government, the YBS joined the Popular Mobilisation Forces, also known as the “80th Regiment” (Al-Tamimi, 2021a) and the central government also demanded that the YBS withdraw from the Sinjar mountain areas which they had been stationed in. The Iraqi government requested this action to eliminate what they viewed as the PKK's presence in the Sinjar area. However, the YBS and other associated groups declined, asserting that they had no affiliation with the PKK (Al-Tamimi, 2021a). In 2018, Zeki Shingali, a prominent Yazidi Kurdish leader affiliated with the PKK, was assassinated by a Turkish airstrike following his attendance at a memorial service for the victims of the Sinjar massacre perpetrated by ISIL (ANF, 2018).



Objectives & Ideology


The group has a broadly left-wing ideological basis similar to many other ethnic minority organisations in the region such as the YPG and the YPJ which it is similar to in terms of both ideology and structure. It holds a belief in Yazidi regionalism which promotes an increase in political power, influence and self-determination for the Yazidi people in the Sinjar region. It aims to gain strength in its ethnically homogenous region (Sinjar) and this occupies an ideological space similar to nationalism albeit on a much smaller and more local/regional scale. The group also subscribes to Democratic Confederalism much like the aforementioned PKK and its associated organisations. Democratic confederalism is a political concept first theorised by the leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan. It focuses on a confederation based upon principles which are centred around autonomy, direct democracy, political ecology, feminism, multiculturalism and self-defence/government. 

 

Military/Political Abilities


The group has fairly limited military abilities due to its small recruitment base as well as equipment inventory. With a reported membership of around 2000+ members (Paraszczuk, 2015), the group is fairly limited in operations and cannot conduct large-scale ground offences much like its Kurdish counterparts in the YPG and the broader SDF coalition, which numbers around 100,000 members (Mahmud, 2021). The group is frequently seen being armed with locally available AK-47s and the group is also known to possess vehicle mounted HMGs (Heavy machine guns) also known as technicals.


The group has also received airstrike support on any operations it has been on from the United States Air Force which has greatly bolstered its ability to conduct any sort of offensive operations no matter how limited. In the 2015 Sinjar Offensive the US Air Force conducted over 250 airstrikes during the week-long operation including the preparatory strikes conducted against ISIL targets (Warren, 2015)

 

Approach to Resistance


Although the group utilises violence in order to protect its people in the Sinjar region and to conduct operations against ISIL, it is not a necessarily violent organisation unlike the aforementioned PKK. The group does not conduct offensive operations without support from other groups and it also does not conduct terrorist acts on foreign or domestic soil. As it is effectively an ethnic militia organisation which is dedicated to the protection of the Yazidi people in the Sinjar mountain region it is currently occupied with defending, policing and securing the region and it operates checkpoints within the region. (Aziz, 2020)

 

International Relations & Potential Alliances


Due to both the groups small physical size and stature within local politics it has to rely upon alliances and agreements in order to remain in the picture. As a part of the Sinjar Alliance the group is allied to the Êzîdxan Women's Units and it was also allied to the Êzîdxan Protection Force up until March 2017 when the Êzîdxan Protection Force left the Sinjar alliance and joined the Kurdish Peshmerga. The YBS is also a part of the Popular Mobilization Forces in a Unit designation known as the 80th Regiment (Al-Tamimi, 2021a). The Popular Mobilisation Forces is an Iraqi state-sponsored umbrella organisation which is composed of approximately 67 different armed factions consisting of mainly Shia Muslims but also includes wide numbers of Sunni Muslim groups, Christian groups and also the Yazidi organisations such as the YBS.


Works Cited (MLA-style)

Al-Tamimi, A.J. (2021a). The Asayish Izidkhan: Interview. [online] Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi. Available at: https://www.aymennjawad.org/2021/04/the-asayish-izidkhan-interview.


Al-Tamimi, A.J. (2021b). The Sinjar Resistance Units: Interview. [online] Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi. Available at: https://www.aymennjawad.org/2020/09/the-sinjar-resistance-units-interview.


ANF (2018). Mam Zeki: A life for his people. [online] ANF News. Available at: https://anfenglishmobile.com/features/mam-zeki-a-life-for-his-people-29030.


Aziz, A. (2020). In Sinjar, three administrations and five different security forces exist. [online] Kirkuknow. Available at: https://kirkuknow.com/en/news/61593.


ÊzîdîPress (2015). Independent Yezidi units join Shingal alliance. [online] ÊzîdîPress - English. Available at: https://www.ezidipress.com/en/independent-yezidi-units-join-shingal-alliance/.


Haaretz (2014). Middle East Updates Iran: Willing to Help With Islamic State - After Nuclear Talks Progress. Haaretz. [online] 22 Aug. Available at: https://www.haaretz.com/2014-08-22/ty-article/iran-may-help-with-is-after-nuke-talks/0000017f-e6fb-d62c-a1ff-fefba7240000.


Hanna, J. and Payne, E. (2015). Kurds say they’ve liberated Sinjar from ISIS. [online] CNN. Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/2015/11/13/middleeast/iraq-free-sinjar-isis/index.html.


KurdischeNachrichten (2015). Shingal: KurdInnen starten mit vereinten Kräften Großoffensive gegen IS | Kurdische Nachrichten. [online] web.archive.org. Available at: https://web.archive.org/web/20151117025038/http://kurdischenachrichten.com/2015/11/shingal-kurdinnen-starten-mit-vereinten-kraeften-grossoffensive-gegen-is/.


Mahmud, R. (2021). Why Arabs are increasingly joining the SDF in Syria’s northeast. [online] en.majalla.com. Available at: https://en.majalla.com/node/295071/politics/why-arabs-are-increasingly-joining-sdf-syrias-northeast.


Paraszczuk, J. (2015). Yazidi Militias Fight IS In Iraq, Amid Kurdish Rivalries. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. [online] 11 Jun. Available at: https://www.rferl.org/a/islamic-state-yazidi-militias-kurdish-region/27066780.html.


Reuters (2014). Kurdish Militants Train Hundreds of Yazidis to Fight Islamic State. [online] web.archive.org. Available at: https://web.archive.org/web/20160818105348/http://www.aina.org/news/20140817144252.htm.


Su, A. (2014). No Escape From Sinjar Mountain. [online] Foreign Policy. Available at: https://foreignpolicy.com/2014/11/04/no-escape-from-sinjar-mountain/.


Tomasevic, G. (2016). On patrol with the Sinjar Resistance Units. Reuters. [online] 13 May. Available at: https://widerimage.reuters.com/story/on-patrol-with-the-sinjar-resistance-units.


Warren, Col.S. (2015). Department of Defense Press Briefing by Col. Warren via DVIDS from Baghdad, Iraq. [online] Available at: https://www.defense.gov/News/Transcripts/Transcript/Article/628932/.


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