Today 16th March, is the memory of the tragedy of the Kurdish city of Halabja. Thirty-three years have passed since this tragedy, but to this day the spilling of innocent Kurdish blood has not stopped. In (1988) the Arabic Ba’ath Party and Saddam Hussen’s genocide of Kurds and the role of western governments, and organisations

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By: Dilman Ahmed.

Republic of Ireland

March 16th 2021

  • The Anfal Camapign.

AL-Anfal is Arabic for the spoils of war.

It is the name of the eighth sura, or chapter, of the Quran. It tells a tale in which followers of Mohammed pillage the lands of nonbelievers. Some say the government chose the term for its campaign against the Kurds of northern Iraq because it suggested a religious justification for its actions. Saddam’s Anfal was a mammoth campaign of civic annihilation, displacement and mass killing. The Anfal was unleashed against the Kurds from February through September 1988, and was tied to Saddam’s goals in the final phase of the Iran -Iraq war.

The Anfal began in earnest in early 1988. The whole operation lasted around 200 days. During that time Saddam ordered Iraqi aircraft to drop poison gas on PUK and KDP targets and civilian villages, killing hundreds indiscriminately. The Iraqi regime had become the first in history to attack its own civilian population with chemical weapons. 

A directive from Baghdad ordered commanders to bomb rural areas of the north day or night in order to kill the largest number of persons present. The same directive declared that all persons captured in those villages shall be detained and interrogated by the security services, and those between the ages of 15 and 70 shall be executed after any useful information has been obtained from them. There were eight Anfal attacks in all, each following a similar pattern. First, air attacks dropped chemical weapons on both civilian and Peshmerga targets. Next, ground troops surrounded the villages, looting and setting fire to homes.

Then townspeople were herded into army trucks and taken to holding facilities, the largest being Topzawa, an army camp near Kirkuk. At these camps, men and boys deemed old enough to carry a weapon were separated from women, the elderly and young children. Routinely and uniformly, these men and boys were taken to remote sites, executed in groups, and dumped into pre-dug mass graves. Many women and children were also executed, especially those from areas that supported the Kurdish resistance.

At the tragic and painful end of the illegal operations which Al-Ba’ath party announced as “Conclusion of Al-Anfal” the Kurdistan as a region was suppressed among fire, smoke, and ashes, the Kurdish  nation severely wounded, with 180,000 individuals killed and over 5.000 city and villages deadly destroyed.

These eight stages covered every province of the territories of Kurdistan. Some people somehow survived but they were living in constant fear. The majority of survivors were treated worse than prisoners of war, they were under arrest in mass-detentions camps. This terrible crime was carried out in plain view of the world. The world reacted to the situation in a narrow muted form, with some governments either ignoring it or simply not reporting it. This terrible silence was typical of governmental organizations from all over the world including Western Governments.

The US policy and how it dealt with the Kurdish crisis in the time of the genocide  is the most important issue here, as America has a moral responsibility because the US portrays itself as world leader in championing  democracy, fairness and transparency.

  • Attack on Halabja; The symbol of the wounded City.

Halabja is one of the Kurdistan cites. On the morning of March 16, 1988, the Iraqi army began bombing the Kurdish town of Halabja, some 15 miles from the Iranian border. Halabja’s residents were more or less expecting the attack; Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Kurdish peshmerga fighters had just attacked nearby Iraqi military positions and sought refuge in the city. But the attack that followed was different from previous shellings: residents rushing for shelter in their cellars detected an odd smell, like sweet apples, and were surprised at how quiet the bombs seemed. There were other ominous signs: sheep and goats were falling in the streets, birds were dropping from tree limbs. Soon people began feeling the effects of chemical weapons a stabbing pain in the eyes, uncontrollable vomiting, tremors, confusion. Residents attempting to flee saw smoky clouds of gas hovering over the ground and a dusting of white powder. Many of them, grandparents and children alike, fell ill and died. . An estimated 5,000 people died in Halabja from the lethal mix of mustard gas, sarin and VX nerve agent dropped on the town. Thousands of others have died from long–term medical complications from the bombings, and the town has seen a huge spike in birth defects, cancer, infertility and miscarriages. The attacks, which were ordered by Ali Hassan al–Majid, mark the only time since the Holocaust that poison gas has been used to kill women and children. Photographs document the slaughter. At the time, the United States largely ignored Iraq’s use of weapons of mass destruction, and vetoed U.N. efforts to condemn Iraq for their use. 

Though the bombing occurred during the notorious Anfal campaign against the Kurds, the Halabja attack is usually considered a separate case because it occurred outside of the Anfal’s prohibited zones. Experts have referred to Halabja as a war crime and a crime against humanity and it has been compared to the destruction of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. It is considered a genocide in its proper terms. 

Understanding the meaning of the word Genocide, it is perhaps easier to put into perspective how this term applies to the intentional and brutal systematic mass killing of the Kurds and the Kurdish ethnicity by Iraq’s central government. 

According of (United States Holocaust Museum, 2014-2015)

“genocide” did not exist prior to 1944. It is a very specific term, referring to violent crimes committed against a group with the intent to destroy the existence of the group. In 1944, a Polish-Jewish lawyer named Raphael Lemkin (1900–1959) sought to describe Nazi policies of systematic murder, including the destruction of European Jews. He formed the word genocide by combining Genocide, from the Greek word for race or tribe, with the Latin word for killing. In proposing this new word, Lemkin had in mind “a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves.” The next year, the International Military Tribunal held at Nuremberg, Germany, charged top Nazi officials with “crimes against humanity.” The word genocide was included in the indictment, but as a descriptive, not legal, term. The crime of Genocide was recognised on December 9, 1948 due to the tireless efforts of Lemkin himself, by the United Nations which approved the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This convention establishes genocide as an international crime, which signatory nations “undertake to prevent and punish.” It 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:

•          Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.

•          Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.

•          Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.

•          Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The specific “intent to destroy” particular groups is unique to genocide. A closely related category of international law, crimes against humanity, is defined as widespread or systematic attacks against civilians. While many cases of group-targeted violence have occurred throughout history and even since the convention came into effect, the legal and international development of the term genocide is concentrated into two distinct historical periods: the time from its coining until its acceptance as international law (1944–48) and the time of its activation with the establishment of international criminal tribunals to prosecute persons responsible for committing it (1991–98). Preventing genocide, the other major obligation of the convention, remains a challenge that nations and individuals continue to face” 

Based on this definition above; 

 The genocide of the Kurds did not happen as a surprise act, And it didn’t happen at the touch of a button.

The Baath political party was formed in Iraq under the real name “nationalism” or rather “Arab nationalism”.  She was seeking to gain power and at the same time the approval of their Arab tribal leaders and their chiefs, while she was full of hatred and anger toward Iraqi society at the time from the two national majorities.  Arabs and Kurds.  As for the Kurds, these decisions from the middle were harsh and an open wound to this day.  Peace be upon the Kurds who are

victims in the recent past and to the present day., After all these victims and all these records, unfortunately, Western governments and centers such as the United Nations, Amnesty International and others have not made an official decision about what happened to the Kurds, as it is in fact a genocide of the Kurds.  This is unfortunate for humanity in this era.