WHAT HAPPENED IN THE KURDISH GENOCIDE

Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children were executed during a systematic attempt to exterminate the Kurdish population in Iraq in the Anfal operations in the late 1980s. They were tied together and shot so they fell into mass graves. Their towns and villages were attacked by chemical weapons, and many women and children were sent to camps  where they lived in appalling conditions. Men and boys of ‘battle age’ were targeted and executed en masse. The campaign takes its name from Suratal-Anfal in the Qur’an. Al Anfal literally means the spoils (of war) and was used to describe the military campaign of extermination and looting commanded by Ali Hassan al-Majid. The Ba’athists misused what the Qur’an says. Anfal  in the Qur’an does not refer to genocide, but the word was used as a code name by the former Iraqi Ba’athist regime for the systematic attacks against the Kurdish population. The campaign also targeted the villages of minority communities including Christians.

But the Kurdish genocide began decades before the Anfal and has claimed countless victims. The genocide perpetrated over decades began with the Arabization of villages around Kirkuk in 1963. It involved the deportation and disappearances of Faylee Kurds in the 1970s-80s, the murder of 8,000 male Barzanis in 1983, the use of chemical weapons in the late 1980s, most notably against Halabja, and finally the Anfal campaign of 1988. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people perished, families were torn apart, and many still live with severe health problems. At the same time, 4,500 villages were razed to the ground between 1976 and 1988 undermining the potential of Iraqi Kurdistan’s agricultural resources and destroying Kurdistan’s rural way of life and heritage.

WHAT DOES ‘ANFAL’ MEAN

The term al-Anfal is the name given to a succession of attacks against the Kurdish population in Iraq during a specific period. These attacks were named  “al-Anfal” by Saddam Hussein and his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid (known as the ‘Chemical Ali’),  who used this term to describe the carefully planned and orchestrated eight-staged genocidal campaign between February 23rd and September 6th 1988. In Kurdish society, the word Anfal has come to represent the entire genocide over decades.

THE KURDISH GENOCIDE: THE FACTS

  • An estimated 1million people in Iraq have ‘disappeared’ since the 1960s, all presumed murdered or missing.
  • Human Rights Watch reported in its 1993 comprehensive report on Anfal in Iraq that at least 50,000 and possibly as many as 100,000 Kurds are estimated to have been killed at the hands of the Ba’ath regime.1  However, since then, several sources have stated that as many as 182,000 or even more people were killed in that operation
  • Gendercide: Throughout the Kurdish Anfal, men and boys of ‘battle age’ were rounded up and ‘disappeared’ en masse. Most of these men and boys were captured, transported to mass graves and shot in mass executions. Of the total victims of Anfal, an estimated 70% were men, approximately aged 15 to 50.2
  • Thousands of women and children also vanished. Unlike the men, however, they were taken from specific areas as opposed to throughout the region. Evidence also shows that many were taken to internment camps where they were executed or died from deprivation.3
  • During the 1980s, the Kurdish population was attacked with chemical weapons, killing thousands of men, women and children indiscriminately.
  • During the Anfal, 90% of Kurdish villages and more than 20 small towns and cities were completely destroyed. 4

ANNIVERSARIES AND KEY DATES

  • 16th March: Halabja Day, commemoration of the chemical bombing of the town of Halabja in 1988
  • 14th April: Commemoration of Anfal genocide against the Kurds in 1988
  • 10 July: Commemoration of the 40,000 displaced civilians from Kirkuk and the Kirkuk districts in 1962
  • 31 July: Remembrance of the Barzani disappearance in 1983
  • 18 August: Remembrance of the mass killing in Surria village in 1969
  • 4 September: Remembrance of the mass killing of Fayli Kurds in 1980

The following are some of the anniversaries of the chemical bombardment of towns and villages which took place across Kurdistan in hundreds of communites, in 1984, 1987 and 1988:

  • 26, 28 February: Chemical bombardment of villages Sargalu, Yakhsamar, Guezilla, Dolli Jafayti in 1988
  • 16 March: Chemical bombardment of Halabja city in 1988
  • 18 March:Chemical bombardment of villages Abnab village and Halabja district in 1988
  • 16 April: Chemical bombardment of Shekh Wasanan village and surrounding areas in 1987
  • 17 April: Chemical bombardment of villages Qzlar, Sangar, Mawlaka in 1987
  • 20 April: Chemical bombardment of villages in the Dolli Balisan Provinces in 1987
  • 21 April: Chemical bombardment of the Qarakh district in 1987
  • 3 May: Chemical bombardment of villages Goptapa, Aakar, Maylan, Sarchma, Shekhanm Kalasher, Chamy Rezan, Qochlakh, Zare in 1988
  • 23 May:Chemical bombardment of villages Malakh Gorasher, Kandol, Bardok, Ble, Tahe, Nazanin, Balisan in 1987
  • 28 June: Bombardment of Sardasht city of eastern part of Kurdistan (Iran) in 1987
  • 1 July: Chemical bombardment of many villages in Duhok district in 1987
  • 9 August: Chemical bombardment of the villages in the Bahdinan district and Gali Baze area in 1988
  • 16 September: Chemical bombardment of Mergapan village in 1984

Anfal campaign 1988

Anfal campaign in 1988 was performed in eight stages, in which 182,000 civilians lost their lives. Thousands of villages were destroyed, bringing the total destroyed since the 1970s to 4,500 The eight stages were orchestrated as follows:

  • 21 February 1988 – 18 March 1988: The first stage of the Anfal campaign started in Dolli Jafayty Marg
  • 22 March 1988 – 14 March 1988: The second stage of the Anfal campaign started in the Qaradakh district
  • 31 March 1988 – 14 April 1988: The third stage of the Anfal campaign started in the Garmyan district
  • 20 April 1988 – 18 April 1988: The fourth stage of the Anfal started in the Askar district, Goptapa, Shwan, Qala, Swaka, Dashti Koya
  • 24 May 1988 to 31 August 1988: The fifth, sixth, seventh stages of the Anfal campaign started in Shaqlawa and Rewandiz districts
  • 25 August 1988 – 6 September 1988: The eighth stage of Anfal campaign started in the Badinan district

INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION OF THE KURDISH GENOCIDE

WHY THE NEED FOR RECOGNITION

It is time for the international community to formally acknowledge that genocide took place in Iraq.

The Kurdish people in Iraq want the international community to recognise and understand the horror they have endured. They need this recognition in order to achieve justice for those who were brutally murdered, as well as the survivors who continue to bear the physical and mental scars.

It is imperative that the world recognises the genocide was perpetrated over decades, culminating in the Anfal operation of February to September 1988, and that we send out a clear message that genocide should never happen again.

The Iraqi High Tribunal has recognised various acts against the Kurds as genocide. The Iraqi Parliament has done the same. We need you in Britain, in Europe, in other parts of the world to join the call for justice and acknowledgement of what happened to the people of Iraqi Kurdistan.

The people of Kurdistan are forward-looking and want to build their lives and their country. But they cannot forget what befell their people. Help their voice to be heard.

THE VIEW OF THE KRG

The KRG believes that international recognition will contribute to achieving several objectives, including:

  • Prevention of similar crimes in Kurdistan, other parts of Iraq and rest of the world.
  • Raising the awareness of the international community regarding these crimes and providing more evidence to support the prevention of future massacres.
  • Punishing the remaining perpetrators as a deterrent.
  • Taking early measures in Iraq, by the Iraqi government and the international community, to stop any attempt leading to these types of crimes. Still there are remnants of the Baath party and other groups with similar chauvinistic and sectarian beliefs, actively attempting to bring back the old dictatorship regime that certainly will commit mass crimes against the Kurds, the Shia and other parts of the population.
  • Encouraging or enforcing the move from the concept of absolute sovereignty to conditional sovereignty in which states must accept the responsibility to protect their people or face intervention by the international community.
  • Supporting the concept that connects global security to local security, meaning that helping preventing these crimes in a country will help improve security in other countries.
  • Rehabilitation of the victims

THE LEGAL DEFINITION OF GENOCIDE

Although the word ‘genocide’ is often used colloquially, as shorthand for the deliberate mass-murder of civilians, its definition under international law is more specific.  Genocide under international law requires both a material element (specific acts such as killing members of a racial group) and a mental element (those acts must have been committed with the specific intent to destroy a particular group).

Genocide is defined in the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (often referred to as the Genocide Convention). After affirming that genocide is a crime under international law whether committed in time of peace or war, the Genocide Convention defines genocide as:

Any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The Genocide Convention does more than define the crime, it holds states responsible for preventing and punishing genocide. This obligation is stated in Article 1 of the convention under which states must prevent or punish genocide, individually or through the United Nations, and the International Criminal Court can be involved.

GENOCIDE AGAINST THE KURDS IN IRAQ: IRAQ AND INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION OVER TIME

Several bodies internationally have recognised the killings of Iraq Kurds by Saddam Hussein’s regime as genocide.

1993 – 1994
US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) launched an extensive investigation into the attack on the Kurds by Saddam Hussein’s regime and in 1993 concluded that it was genocide. HRW attempted to bring this to the forefront of the UN. The Centre for Strategic and International Studies’ 1994 report on Iraq recognised that the Anfal was an act of genocide.

In 1993, the HRW produced a comprehensive report from the investigations titled “The Anfal Campaign Against the Kurds”, which says that a charge of genocide is justified in the case of the Iraqi military operations in 1988, which it says far transcended legitimate counterinsurgency. The reasons HRW gives include the murder and disappearance of tens of thousands of non-combatants selected on the basis of their ethnic-national identity. It also cites the use of chemical and nerve agents against civilians; the near-total destruction of Kurdish assets and infrastructure; and the abandonment of large numbers of vulnerable people.

2003
Following the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, and the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s government, the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal (SICT) was established. It has since tried former senior Ba’ath Party, army, security and government officials for gross human rights violations. The trial for abuses committed during the Anfal campaign concluded on 24 June 2007, six months after Saddam Hussein was executed. Three of the six defendants – Sultan Hashim Ahmad, Hussein Rashid al-Tikriti, and Ali Hassan al-Majid were sentenced to death for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Ali Hassan al-Majid known as Chemical Ali was also convicted of genocide. The SICT Appeals Chambers confirmed the death sentences on 4 September 2007.

2005 – 2007
The issue lost momentum internationally until the trials of Saddam Hussein and his accomplices gained global media coverage after 2003. The Hague ruled that the actions against the Kurds constituted genocide in a landmark case in 2005 – the Frans Van Anraat Trial. The Iraqi High Tribunal found Sultan Hashim Ahmad, Hussein Rashid al-Tikriti, and Ali Hassan al-Majid guilty of genocide in 2007, a milestone toward legitimizing international recognition of the genocide.

Since 2007, there has been an increased effort from the KRG towards the international recognition of the Anfal and other acts as genocide, especially by  the Ministry of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs.

2008
The research institute Swiss Peace recognised the Anfal as genocide in 2008. Also in 2008 the Iraqi Presidential Council approved Resolution 26 ratifying a parliamentary resolution condemning the crimes of Saddam Hussein’s regime against the Kurds as acts of genocide. This resolution affirmed the previous parliamentary resolution that declared all acts committed against the Kurds in Iraq-Kurdistan by the former regime were to be considered genocide.

2009
In 2009, several prominent Senators and Congressmen recognised the anniversary of the Anfal by calling for the Congress to recognise the Anfal as genocide. Later that year, the Swedish Socialist party recognised the Anfal as an act of genocide.

2010
In March 2010, the Iraqi Supreme Court ruled that the 1988 attacks were indeed genocide.

2011
In August 2011, The Iraqi Court of Justice, Iraqi Council of Representative, and the Iraq’s Parliament officially recognised the Faylee killings as genocide.

COUNTRY CASES

UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND

Early day motion 1172

RECOGNITION OF THE KURDISH GENOCIDE

  • Session: 2012-13
  • Date tabled: 12.03.2013
  • Primary sponsor: Robert Halfon

That this House warmly welcomes the historic resolution of 28 February 2013 to unanimously recognise the Kurdish genocide; further welcomes the constructive responses to the mood of the House by both the Foreign Office Minister and his Opposition counterpart in agreeing to work together and with Kurdistan regional government representatives to try to overcome legal obstacles and find a suitable pathway for recognition by the Government; believes that the debate showed Parliament at its best with compassion, honesty and compromise; and hopes that these discussions can allow the Government, which is deeply respected in the Kurdistan region, to help lead the way in bringing comfort and justice to its people whose lives and society remain deeply affected by the genocide, which will be marked in many places, including by British parliamentarians in the Kurdistan region itself, on the anniversary of the chemical bombardment of Halabja on 16 March 2013.

Name

Party

Constituency

Date Signed

Anderson, David Labour Party Blaydon 13.03.2013
Blackman, Bob Conservative Party Harrow East 14.03.2013
Bottomley, Peter Conservative Party Worthing West 12.03.2013
Caton, Martin Labour Party Gower 21.03.2013
Corbyn, Jeremy Labour Party Islington North 14.03.2013
Dobbin, Jim Labour Party Heywood and Middleton 13.03.2013
Donaldson, Jeffrey Democratic Unionist Party Lagan Valley 18.03.2013
Durkan, Mark Social Democratic and Labour Party Foyle 12.03.2013
Edwards, Jonathan Plaid Cymru Carmarthen East and Dinefwr 18.03.2013
Gapes, Mike Labour Party Ilford South 18.03.2013
George, Andrew Liberal Democrats St Ives 12.03.2013
Glindon, Mary Labour Party North Tyneside 22.03.2013
Halfon, Robert Conservative Party Harlow 12.03.2013
Hancock, Mike Liberal Democrats Portsmouth South 18.03.2013
Hopkins, Kelvin Labour Party Luton North 18.03.2013
Leech, John Liberal Democrats Manchester Withington 13.03.2013
Llwyd, Elfyn Plaid Cymru Dwyfor Meirionnydd 19.03.2013
Long, Naomi Alliance Party Belfast East 19.03.2013
Marsden, Gordon Labour Party Blackpool South 20.03.2013
McDonnell, Alasdair Social Democratic and Labour Party Belfast South 14.03.2013
McDonnell, John Labour Party Hayes and Harlington 22.03.2013
Meale, Alan Labour Party Mansfield 13.03.2013
Pugh, John Liberal Democrats Southport 14.03.2013
Ritchie, Margaret Social Democratic and Labour Party South Down 13.03.2013
Roy, Lindsay Labour Party Glenrothes 21.03.2013
Shannon, Jim Democratic Unionist Party Strangford 13.03.2013
Ward, David Liberal Democrats Bradford East 19.03.2013
Williams, Hywel Plaid Cymru Arfon 16.04.2013

SWEDEN

The Swedish Parliament, which has a single-chamber system, is divided into 15 committees based on different policy areas. Eight parties are represented in the Parliament, and every party is represented in each committee, where the number of members from each party depends on the size of the party in the Parliament. All items of parliamentary business are comprehensively considered in the committees before the Parliament takes a final decision. During the autumn 2012, the committee of foreign affairs submitted a proposal for the Parliament to officially welcome the decision of Iraq’s Supreme Court to recognize Anfal as genocide. The proposal was adopted by the Swedish Parliament in December 2012.

NORWAY

The Norwegian Foreign Minister, Espen Barth Eide, in a parliamentary debate recognised the judgement of the Iraqi Supreme Court that Saddam Hussein’s’ Anfal campaign, including the chemical weapons attack on Halabja, constituted genocide.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Two members of the US Congress have tabled a resolution calling on the House of Representatives and the government to recognise the genocide against the Kurds in Iraq.

On November 19th 2013, United States Representatives Chris Van Hollen and Marsha Blackburn introduced resolution H.RES.422 to recognise the campaign of genocide against the Kurdish people in Iraq through which it reaffirms its commitment to the friendship between the United States and the Kurdish people in Iraq.

The resolution deplores the genocide crimes committed against the Kurdish people and calls for the United States Government to examine the decades-long campaign aimed at exterminating the Kurds and to recognise the crimes as acts of genocide according to the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (UN Genocide Convention), to which the United States is a signatory.

The recognition of the Kurdish genocide by the US Government will send to the world a message of support for human rights and justice, the resolution says.

The bi-partisan motion presented by the Representatives Chris Van Hollen, a member of the Democratic Party, and Marsha Blackbern of the Republican Party, has been submitted and referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, which considers issues that impact the diplomatic community.