30 Mar 2024

Community Leaders Announce the Northern Sinjar Social Cohesion Agreement


Community Leaders Announce the Northern Sinjar Social Cohesion Agreement


Mosul, March 30, 2024 – Ezidi (Yazidi) and Arab community leaders announced the “Northern Sinjar Social Cohesion Agreement.” Among other things, the community leaders commit to rejecting violence and extremism, support state processes and institutions, and turn to the rule of law to settle differences and conflicts. The agreement also calls upon government actors to unify the administration and security configuration in Sinjar and expedite the compensation process for those who lost relatives in the conflict with ISIS or during military operations. The full text of the agreement can be seen in the annex of this press release.


In the summer of 2014, the terrorist organization ISIS perpetrated its most heinous crimes in Sinjar District of Ninewa Province, including genocide against the Ezidis and taking thousands of women as sex-slaves. In the process, ISIS implicated different tribes and communities and pitted them against each other. Almost 10 years later, many of the wounds, grievances, and conflicts they caused require serious attention.


The U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), in collaboration with Al-Tahreer Association for Development (TAD) and other Iraqi partners, has successfully facilitated a groundbreaking problem-solving dialogue process in Northern Sinjar, Ninewa Province, aimed at advancing peace and social cohesion in the area.


USIP undertook this initiative at the request of community and government leaders, given the Institute’s longstanding engagement in Iraq and success in facilitating this type of dialogue. The USIP-led dialogue process underscores the power of dialogue and cooperation in addressing complex challenges. The Ezidi-Arab agreement is a significant milestone and the culmination of the will of the people of Northern Sinjar to co-exist peacefully, resolve issues through dialogue, and seek their rights through the rule of law and institutions of the state,” said Sarhang Hamasaeed, director of Middle East Programs at USIP.


Over the past year, USIP and TAD implemented a comprehensive five-phase dialogue process involving Ezidi and Arab community leaders from various parts of Northern Sinjar. The process commenced with rigorous research and analysis to understand the issues causing tension in the area, followed by intra-community dialogues to identify key concerns and common ground. Subsequently, inter-community dialogues were conducted to bridge differences and foster mutual understanding between the two communities.


The initial phases of the process focused on the areas of Borek and Gohbel settlements, along with neighboring villages, where Ezidi-Ezidi and Arab-Arab dialogues were facilitated. Through these dialogues, communities were able to articulate their concerns and explore practical solutions, culminating in the signing of a joint agreement and the formation of a follow-up committee for implementation. Building on this success, the dialogue process expanded to include other areas in Northern Sinjar, resulting in each community reaching internal agreements and establishing communication channels for ongoing collaboration. The intra- and inter-dialogue phases eventually culminated in the Northern Sinjar Social Cohesion Agreement signed by 40 leaders in Northern Sinjar on March 30, 2024.


Senior government officials participated in the ceremony announcing the agreement in Mosul and expressed support. The officials were from the federal Government of Iraq, including the National Security Advisory, the National Security Service, and the Ministry of Migration and Displacement; the Kurdistan Regional Government; the Governor of Ninewa, Deputy Head of Ninewa’s Provincial Council, and members of the council.  The governor signed the agreement himself and together with the officials met privately with the representatives of each community to directly listen to their needs and asks of the government.


The dialogue process and agreement were misinterpreted by some, among other things, as reconciliation and foregoing justice and the rights of victims. On the contrary, the participating leaders from both communities together stressed and agreed on the importance of justice among the rights on which  they seek action of state institutions, and the response of the officials was positive.


“Working in Sinjar was very difficult and the dialogue sessions were not easy, but starting small and expanding the process helped with rebuilding communications, which helped with finding common ground,” said Raed Khattab Mhaimeed, the lead facilitator of the dialogues.


“Important work still lies ahead to help the people of Sinjar to recover from ISIS’s crimes and develop their areas. Real progress would require serious efforts by the federal Government of Iraq and Ninewa Provincial Government as well as continued support from the international community” said Abdulaziz Al-Jarba, chairman of TAD.




Northern Sinjar Social Cohesion Agreement


 March 30, 2024




At the request of community leaders in Sinjar and government leaders from Sinjar, Ninewa province, the Federal Government, and the Kurdistan Regional Government, the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), along with its Iraqi partners, facilitated a carefully planned problem-solving dialogue process that began over a year ago involving Yazidi (Ezidi) and Sunni Arab community leaders in different parts of Northern Sinjar. USIP’s dialogue process is comprised of five phases: research and analysis; intra-community dialogue to understand issues of concern and find common ground; inter-community dialogue to find common ground between the communities; the reaching of an agreement; and implementing the agreement.

In Northern Sinjar, the process initially started in Borek and Gohbel Settlements and villages in their environs. In collaboration with Al-Tahreer Association for Development, USIP facilitated Ezidi-Ezidi and Arab-Arab dialogues, each community separately, to first gain a deeper understanding of the issues of concerns among each community and identify common practical solutions. After reaching internal agreement, USIP and its partners facilitated inter-community Ezidi-Arab dialogues that led to the signing of a joint agreement and the establishment of a follow-up committee to work on its implementation. The process has also sought to steer communities away from practices that may cause more harm in the community and towards resolving differences and grievances. 

After Borek and Gohbel and the neighboring Arab villages, the process was broadened to include other areas in Northern Sinjar. In January 2024, each community separately reached their own internal agreement and established a communication and follow- up committee to work with the other side. The process has succeeded in establishing common ground to prevent past tragedies; enabling the people to live in peace; and ensuring a better future for their children and grandchildren.

The agreement is a significant milestone and the culmination of the will of the people of Northern Sinjar to co-exist peacefully, resolve issues through dialogue, and seek their rights through the rule of law and institutions of the state. The agreement could be a key building block towards peace and social cohesion in all of Sinjar. 

In a disgraceful crime that is an affront to humanity, Sinjar witnessed a massive calamity that qualifies as one of the most heinous and bloodiest crimes in modern history when the terrorist organization ISIS attacked the city and viciously killed whomever they found in their way, including men and women, without showing mercy for the elderly or children. The terrorist organization further reinforced its criminality by abducting hundreds of men and women – with the fate and whereabouts of the majority of them remaining unknown. It was quite evident that the terrorist organization was keen on targeting the social fabric in Sinjar with the purpose of creating a rift among these communities that could be used to stir further conflicts and destabilize the area, hoping to capitalize on them in the future.

Against this backdrop, the wisdom of the community leaders was strongly present in preventing the success of opportunistic terrorist attempts and objectives. The shared history based on solid brotherly relations across time and a robust common ground built on solid foundations constituted the starting point for home-grown initiatives to address the challenges.

Considering the above, leaders and key dignitaries of the community, including Northern Sinjar Ezidi and Arab tribal leaders, social elites, and decision-makers are determined to stand up to the challenges that undermine social cohesion, seeking to bring about genuine stability that would guarantee a free and safe life in dignity for all where peace and brotherhood would thrive. Taking note of the above, they commit to achieve the following:

·         Support the state’s authority and engage interactively to support state institutions so that they attain the quality capacity needed to meet the key demands and needs of the locals.

·         Support the rule of law, rendering it the key reference in governing the area without resorting to, accepting, or supporting any practices that would contradict the enforcement of the law.

·         Support the security forces and develop the sense of responsibility among the locals for a productive meaningful contribution in supporting security forces in enforcing the law.

·         Promote the spirit of amicability, tolerance, coexistence, fostering the culture of acceptance, and dialogue as the language to reach common grounds.

·         Renounce all forms of violence, while countering its narrative with moderate and correct ideas and seeking to deny any chance for the generation of radical ideas regardless of whether they are religious or nationalist ideas or conducts that would open the door to extremism.

·         Confront any attempt to sow the seeds of dissidence, divide, and undermining social cohesion.

Working to deliver on the community commitments above and fostering social cohesion across Northern Sinjar, parties to this agreement seek support from the Iraqi state institutions and international community to implement the following recommendations:

·         Settle the issue of administrative arrangements in Sinjar district to put an end to the suffering of locals who bear transportation costs of long journeys since the administrative capital of the district is located far and outside the area.

·         Consolidate the security arrangements by making all security forces report to a single administration that receives orders from the government and operates within the purview of its security process.   

·         Organize effective aid and relief campaigns to address the destruction and ruin Sinjar has suffered when it was under the control of the terrorist organization ISIS or during the military operations to defeat it; the volume of support and logistics provided for reconstruction purposes has been modest so far and falls short of being commensurate to the level of devastation.

·         Expedite the processing of reparation applications and disburse benefits for families of martyrs and missing persons who were killed in terrorist attacks or during the liberation operations.  Most Sinjar residents have yet to receive the appropriate compensation for their damaged or destroyed property; they continue to face the challenge of red tape bureaucracy, preventing them from accessing their entitlements and benefits.  Therefore, we find that the optimal option in this regard would be to take legal steps to ensure expedited processing of their compensation applications.  

·         Given the impact of climate change on the region, and risks related to livelihoods therein, we ask the federal and local governments to rush to the rescue of the locals by carrying out potable water and irrigation projects to enable investing in the vast agricultural lands in the area, which would boost the national economy in diverse ways.