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New proceedings against Iraq's dictator Saddam Hussein after 35 years of genocide and war crimes

The operation "Anfal" is only part of the crimes of genocide

Bolzano/Bozen, Göttingen, 21. August 2006

The Operation "Anfal", central point of the prosecution, is only part of the crimes of genocide against the Kurds, the Kurdish-speaking Yesidi, the Assyro-Chaldaeans and the Turkmans of North Iraq/Kurdistan. Is Saddam Hussein responsible for the annihilation of half a million Kurds? At the outset of the new proceedings of the Special tribunal in Baghdad against Iraq's dictator Saddam Hussein the Society for Threatened Peoples recalls that the genocide against the Kurds including the Kurdish Yesidi living amongst them, the Christian Assyro-Chaldaeans and the Turkmans was begun in 1968 by Saddam Hussein and continued with more crimes until he was overthrown in 2003. Formally General Ahmed Hassan Al Bakr was head of state until 1979, but Saddam Hussein was already the strong man of the regime. "According to our estimates some 500,000 people in North Iraq could have been killed in the 35 years of the rule of Saddam Hussein", said the General Secretary of the German section of the Society for Threatened Peoples (GfbV), Tilman Zülch, today in Göttingen.

1. The Anfal Offensive
The trial beginning today Monday in Baghdad is concerned with the so-called "Anfal offensive", the crime against the Iraqi Kurds with the highest number of victims, which lasted from March 1987 until September 1988. The poison gas attacks on Kurdish villages and on the town of Halabia were accompanied by mass deportations, the destruction of 4,000 villages and by mass executions. Up-to-date estimates of serious Kurdish institutions in North Iraq show that 182,000 people died as a result of the Anfal offensive and its aftermath. Western human rights organisations had previously estimated the figure at 100,000, the British Near-east expert Prof. David McDowall at 150,000.

Jointly charged with Saddam Hussein are: the organiser of the "Anfal" operation, Ali Hassan Majid, since then called "Chemicals Ali", the then Minister of Defence, Sultan Hashim Ahmad, the former head of the secret service, Saber Abdul Aziz al-Duri, a former commander of the Republican Guard, Hussein al-Tikriti, the former military commander, Farhan Mutlak al-Juburi and the former Governor of the Province Nineve, Taher Tafvik al-Ani. In March 1987 "Chemicals Ali" was appointed General Secretary of the central office of the Baath Party in North Iraq. Immediately afterwards the campaign of annihilation began against the Kurdish civilian population. It was under his command that poison gas was used for the first time against an ethnic group inside Iraq. The resistance of the Kurdish liberation movement was to be finally broken by wiping out large parts of the Kurdish population. Following the conquest of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein Chemicals Ali was appointed its governor and was responsible for countless murders of Kuwaitis.

Under the code name of "Anfal" the Iraqi army carried out more than forty poison gas attacks on Kurdish townships from April 1987 until 1988. The Iraqi army had instructions to deport or kill the Kurds in selected parts of the provinces of Arbil, Dohuk, Suleymanis, Kirkuk and Mosul. All persons between the ages of 14 and 70 who were arrested in the forbidden zones were to be liquidated on the spot. German-language media in the spring of 1987 already published reports of the GfbV on the poison gas attacks on Kurdish and Assyro-Chaldaean villages. But it was not until the poison gas attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja that the attention and indignation of the world were aroused. In this town of the province of Suleymania alone 5,000 children, women and men died under this bombing. In Germany peace activists and environmentalists protested at the same time against chemical weapons, against those of the Americans in the Pfalz however, which fortunately were not used, while those were used for two years to destroy the Kurds, which thanks to the German firms which had built up poison gas systems.

As a rule the "Anfal operation" always worked according to the same pattern. First of all air raids on the villages and then the entry of the Iraqi infantry, who liquidated the injured, both men and children and raped the women. The villages were razed to the ground, the gardens and fields were burned. Tens of thousands of men between the ages of 14 and 50 were dragged off to transit camps, often carried off to desert regions and frequently killed. Survivors were packed into the newly built blocks of flats. They could not leave these camps until they were released by Kurdish forces in1991. The number of the so-called Anfal women, single persons, bereaved, whose husbands, sons and brothers, often the whole family were killed or dragged away and have disappeared during the Anfal offensive, is estimated today at some 50,000. When in the summer of 1991 Kurdish negotiators asked in Baghdad their Iraqi counterparts on the whereabouts of the Kurds who had been dragged away, Al-Majid, who was present said: "It cannot have been more than 100,000 who were killed during the Anfal operation."

2. The massacres in the 1960s and 1970s
The GfbV and other human rights organisations have constantly reported on pogroms and massacres in these years. We will just mention one here. 55 inhabitants of the Assyro-Chaldaean village of Soriya, between Zakho and Dohuk, fled from advancing Iraqi troops to a cave. 38 of them, children, women and men burned to death there.

3. Mass flight and displacement in 1975
Following the collapse of the Kurdish resistance movement under Mustafa Barzani, after the mediation of an agreement signed in Algeria, which was engineered between the Iraqi regime and the Shah of Persia by the American Foreign Minister, Henry Kissinger, 250,000 Kurds had to flee to Iran and 500,000 Kurds were driven out of their villages from 1975 to 1978. 14,000 Kurdish resistance fighters landed in concentration camps. It must be assumed that in this period several thousand Kurds died during their flight, expulsion or incarceration.

4. The disappearance of the Faili Kurds in 1980
In 1980 the Saddam Hussein regime deported 10,000 young male Faili Kurds from Baghdad, as well as from their native region around the towns of Kanaquin and Mandali in the southernmost Kurdish area on the Iranian border. These Shiite Kurdish-speaking people are also on the Iranian side of their settlement area termed Lurs. Those deported have simply disappeared from the face of the earth. One must assume that they were executed.

5. Twelve years before Srebrenica: the annihilation of 8,000 members of the Barzani people in 1983
In the year 1983 Iraqi government troops drove 8,000 boys and men from the Barzani people, among them also Assyro-Chaldaeans, together and took them away. Now the first mass graves have been opened up and one must assume that these 8,000 victims were interned in concentration camps in the south of Iraq, then executed and buried secretly in mass graves.

6. 1985: 300 Kurdish children interned, tortured and murdered
Records show 300 Kurdish children and young people imprisoned in the year 1985 to have simply disappeared. In 1987 amnesty international discovered the following. Many of the young people had been beaten, sexually abused and tortured with electroshocks. Detailed information has been provided on 29 executions. Sometimes it was only by paying a fee that parents could collect the bodies of their children.

7. 1991: Mass flight and persecution of two million Kurds
After the rebellion instigated by President George Bush senior the Iraqi army struck back and drove some two million Kurds to the Turkish and Iranian borders. No one knows the exact number of those who did not survive the rigours of this flight through the 2000 metre-high snow-covered mountains in March/April 1991. It could have been tens of thousands. Rescue personnel of the GfbV found a camp with 50,000 refugees 2000 metres up in the mountains, a camp which had not yet been reached by relief organisations. Children and old people had already begun to die. The GfbV team was able to provide medicine and humanitarian assistance for two weeks, but for many the help came too late. No one knows the exact number of those murdered by the advancing Iraqi forces, the losses of the fleeing or displaced people in the most inhospitable places. Here too it will have been some tens of thousands.

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