DUHOK, Kurdistan Region—Trenches and fortifications built by the Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi forces around the town of Ba’aj west of Mosul have prevented the mayor and many civilians from returning to the town, local officials said.
 
“A week ago, we went to the town center of Ba’aj through Hamam Halil road,” Ahmed Yousif, mayor of Al-Ba’aj, told Rudaw. “I tried to open an office there so that I could resume my work. But the Hashd al-Shaabi commanders didn’t let us do so. They told us their work hadn’t finished there and we couldn’t therefore go back to these places yet.”
 
Areas south of Shingal and the town of Ba’aj were recaptured from ISIS more than a month ago, yet no families have returned to these places and government offices there have not been able to resume work.
 
A Yazidi commander with the Hashd al-Shaabi forces has said that the Hashd forces have not committed to their promises and that the fate of their liberated areas is unclear.
 
The Hashd forces succeeded in liberating a number of villages south of Shingal, namely Ba’aj, Girhuzer, Talbanat, Talqasab, Kocho in an operation around mid-May.
 
That operation gained them new territories and access to the Syrian border with Iraq.
 
Yousif said he was hoping that after the Hashd al-Shaabi attack and after ISIS was driven out of Ba’aj he would be able to return to the town. But he is disappointed at the moment, saying that “There is no hope for us to return to Ba’aj.”
 
Other locals, especially among the 400 Yezidis who joined the Shiite force appear to have become disillusioned with the Hashd and their actions.
 
“We joined the Hashd al-Shaabi forces out of good will,” Khudeda Juku, a commander of the Yazidkhan forces with the Hashd al-Shaabi, told Rudaw. “We trusted the Hashd forces. But this didn’t turn out to be the case.”
 
Juku went on to say: “They initially said they would hand over the areas to us after they liberate them. Forty days past the operation, this hasn’t happened. Situations are getting worse day by day. They don’t help us. No family has returned so far, which is why there are no services in the area.”
 
Juku thought that the Hashd forces prevented the mayor from resuming his work because they are trying to replace him with a new mayor from the Shammar tribe.
 
“The fate of these areas remains unknown,” he lamented. “I don’t believe anyone would return. The Hashd al-Shaabi forces have started digging trenches on the border between Iraq and Syria. These trenches are three meters wide and four meters high. They are engaged with big things in these areas. They will not easily hand over these areas to the locals.”
 
Khidir Khudida Rasho, councilor of the town of Girhuzer confirmed that: “No family or government official has returned to these places yet.”

Rudaw

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