Human Lives Human Rights: In the previous part, we examined a general history of the Kurdish independence, and now we will examine the situation of Iraqi Kurds.
It is not possible to talk about human rights in Kurdistan, and not mention the bitter period of repression of the Kurds in the last years of the 80s, a series of brutal repressive behaviors that came to be known as the Anfal operation and the result of the cooperation of the police and security forces of the Baathist government.
In the final years of Iraq’s war against Iran, some Iraqi Kurds who were not happy with Saddam’s regime began to cooperate with Iranian forces, and this cooperation caused one of the most brutal repression operations in history.
During the course of this seven-month operation, over 180,000 civilians from Iraqi Kurdistan lost their lives, while approximately 1. 5 million individuals were uprooted from their homes and either compelled to migrate or forced to reside in labor camps against their will.
Based on statistical data, the Anfal operation, which spanned from February to September 1988, targeted the provinces of Kirkuk, Diyala, Nineveh, and Salahuddin. During this period, over 4,200 villages were decimated, and more than 180,000 innocent individuals fell victim to the Iraqi army, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies, in collaboration with the forces of the People’s Mojahedin Khalq Organization.
This operation, widely documented by numerous countries and international organizations, stands as one of the most atrocious crimes against humanity due to the sheer scale and brutality of the killings. Executed under the direct command of Saddam Hussein and carried out by the Baath regime, its primary objective was the destruction and annihilation of the Kurdish people.
Throughout these tragedies, European and American human rights advocates, along with international organizations, frequently maintained silence or, in certain instances, even provided support by supplying chemical weapons. However, following the United States-led coalition’s invasion of Iraq and the subsequent capture of Saddam Hussein and some of his associates, they were brought to trial in the special court for Iraqi leaders. The charges against them included crimes against humanity and genocide, marking a significant turning point in seeking justice for these heinous acts.
The Anfal operation stands out for its swift and extensive destruction, targeting a vast number of areas and lands within a short period of time. Tragically, over 180,000 Kurds lost their lives during these attacks, while more than 4,000 villages, 3,100 mosques, and 100 churches were razed to the ground. The operation also resulted in the destruction of over two million cattle, leaving a devastating impact on the environment. Countless gardens, green spaces, rivers, and springs were obliterated as a consequence of this destructive campaign.
According to Dr. Kendal Nezan, a renowned contemporary history researcher, the tragic event of the Anfal operation completely upended the foundations of life in Iraq. This horrific campaign, culminating in the genocide of Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan, resulted in the obliteration of approximately 90% of villages and over 20% of cities and towns. Moreover, rural areas became infested with more than 15 million landmines, posing a grave threat to the local population. Around 1. 5 million individuals from these villages were forcibly relocated to regime camps, leading to a significant displacement of the Kurdish population.
Furthermore, Hilterman, a researcher specializing in the Anfal region, highlights that following the arrest of these individuals in their villages, they were transported to the regime’s facilities in Kirkuk. From there, they were forcibly moved to the western regions of Iraq, traversing deserts from the north to the south, using heavily armored vehicles provided by the regime. Shockingly, a large number of men, women, and even children were ruthlessly executed and buried in mass graves using loaders. This grim reality sheds light on the extent of the atrocities committed during the Anfal operation.
Furthermore, during the Anfal operation, we observed the most extensive utilization of chemical weapons against innocent civilians ever recorded in the history of these abhorrent weapons. It is undeniable that approximately 200 Kurds lost their lives due to exposure to the harsh winter conditions in 1988 while attempting to escape to the Iranian borders.
Following the brutal Anfal operation, the oppression and torture of the Kurdish people persisted for several years. However, after the ousting of the Iraqi dictator in 2003, a few documents were released that indicated the involvement of certain Kurdish leaders, such as Masoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, in collaborating with the Iraqi Baathist government during this operation.
Regrettably, the Kurdish community has overlooked the involvement of these individuals in the repressive actions, primarily due to a lack of comprehensive information, limited strategic perspective, and deep-seated bias against these two families.