Barzani: Collaborators with Extremists Will Be Held Accountable

By RUDAW 28-8-2014 – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani has pledged to protect Arab civilians in areas under Kurdish control but has warned that the tribes who collaborated with extremists will be held accountable.

In a meeting with several Arab tribal chiefs at Barzani’s compound in Salahaddin on Wednesday, Barzani said Kurdish forces will respect ethnic and religious diversity in Peshmerga-controlled areas Kurds and other ethnic groups, but that those who helped the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) to threaten Iraqi Kurdistan will have to answer for their alliance. Kurdish leaders and civilians from minority groups that have been attacked by IS extremists, such as the Yezidis, claim that Sunni Arab tribes operating on borders between Nineveh province and the Kurdistan Region sided with the IS militants in their advance on minority villages. Peshmerga forces, with the support of air strikes by the US military, have recaptured several towns and villages in Nineveh but continue to battle IS, an international terror group that is allied with Arab Sunni militias.According to a statement from the president’s office, the Arab tribal chiefs promised to fight extremist groups in their towns and villages. “They will take up arms to expel the terrorists and do their best to preserve religious and ethnic coexistence in their regions,” the statement said.

Barzani said the Kurds are only fighting militants threatening the Kurdistan Region and “we have never wanted to be involved in ethnic or sectarian wars.”Barzani told the leaders of the influential Shammar and other tribes that the balance of power had tipped in favor of the Kurdish forces and that they will “rout the IS militants who have already started to get weaker.” “It is an honor for the people of Kurdistan to fight oppression, darkness and terrorist savagery,” said Barzani. Barzani’s Chief of Staff, Fuad Hussein also told the Arabic newspaper Asharq Alawsat last week that Peshmerga forces faced difficulties reaching the town of Shingal, which tens of thousands of Yezidis fled under threat from IS, because local Sunni tribes were siding with the militants. Sunni extremists consider Yezidis, who practice an ancient religion, devil-worshipers and have killed hundreds in Nineveh province. “Unfortunately, these tribes turned against us; they allied with the IS and the road (to Shingal) became hostile for us,” he explained.