Al-Anfal Campaign

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The al-Anfal Campaign (Arabic: حملة الأنفال; Kurdish: Şallawî Enfal) was an anti-Kurdish campaign led by the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein between 1986 and 1989 (during and just after the Iran-Iraq war). The campaign takes its name from Surat Al-Anfal in the Qur'an, which was used as a code name by the former Iraqi Baathist regime for a series of military campaigns against the peshmerga rebels as well as the mostly Kurdish civilian population of southern Kurdistan.

Photo taken in the aftermath of Halabja poison gas attack.

The Anfal campaign began in 1986 and lasted until 1989, and was headed by Ali Hasan al-Majid, a cousin of the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The Anfal campaign included the use of ground offensives, aerial bombing, systematic destruction of settlements, mass deportation, concentration camps, firing squads, and the chemical warfare, which earned al-Majid the nickname of "Chemical Ali".

The campaign has been characterized as genocidal in nature, notably before a court in The Hague. It is also characterized as gendercidal, because "Battle-age" men were the primary targets, according to Human Rights Watch/Middle East (hereafter, HRW/ME).


[edit] The Campaign

In March 1987, Saddam Hussein's cousin from his hometown of Tikrit, Ali Hassan al-Majid, was appointed secretary-general of the Ba'ath Party's Northern Region, which included Iraqi Kurdistan. Under al-Majid, who "even by the standards of the Ba'ath security apparatus ... had a particular reputation for brutality," control of policies against the Kurdish insurgents passed from the Iraqi army to the Ba'ath Party itself. This was the prelude to the intended "final solution" to the Kurdish problem undertaken within months of al-Majid's arrival in his post. It would be known as "al-Anfal" ("The Spoils"), a reference to the eighth sura of the Qur'an, which details revelations that the Prophet Muhammad received after the first great victory of Islamic forces in A.D. 624. "I shall cast into the unbelievers' hearts terror," reads one of the verses; "so smite above the necks, and smite every finger of them ... the chastisement of the Fire is for the unbelievers." Anfal, officially conducted between February 23 and September 6, 1988, would have eight stages altogether, seven of them targeting areas controlled by the PUK. For these assaults, the Iraqis mustered up to 200,000 soldiers with air support -- matched against Kurdish guerrilla forces that numbered no more than a few thousand.

Accordingly, when captured Kurdish populations were transported to detention centers (notably the concentration camp of Topzawa near the city of Kirkuk), they were subjected to the classic process of gendercidal selection: separating adult and teenage males from the remainder of the community. According to HRW/ME,

With only minor variations ... the standard pattern for sorting new arrivals [at Topzawa was as follows]. Men and women were segregated on the spot as soon as the trucks had rolled to a halt in the base's large central courtyard or parade ground. The process was brutal ... A little later, the men were further divided by age, small children were kept with their mothers, and the elderly and infirm were shunted off to separate quarters. Men and teenage boys considered to be of an age to use a weapon were herded together. Roughly speaking, this meant males of between fifteen and fifty, but there was no rigorous check of identity documents, and strict chronological age seems to have been less of a criterion than size and appearance. A strapping twelve-year-old might fail to make the cut; an undersized sixteen-year-old might be told to remain with his female relatives. ... It was then time to process the younger males. They were split into smaller groups. ... Once duly registered, the prisoners were hustled into large rooms, or halls, each filled with the residents of a single area. ... Although the conditions at Topzawa were appalling for everyone, the most grossly overcrowded quarter seem to have been those where the male detainees were held. ... For the men, beatings were routine. (Iraq's Crime of Genocide, pp. 143-45.)

After a few days of such treatment, without a single known exception, the men thus "processed" were trucked off to be killed in mass executions. According to HRW/ME, the "standard operating procedures" of the gendercidal killings (extended, in some cases, to other segments of the population -- see below) were "uncannily reminiscent of ... the activities of the Einsatzkommandos, or mobile killing units, in the Nazi-occupied lands of Eastern Europe":

Some groups of prisoners were lined up, shot from the front, and dragged into predug mass graves; others were made to lie down in pairs, sardine-style, next to mounds of fresh corpses, before being killed; still others were tied together, made to stand on the lip of the pit, and shot in the back so that they would fall forward into it -- a method that was presumably more efficient from the point of view of the killers. Bulldozers then pushed earth or sand loosely over the heaps of corpses. Some of the grave sites contained dozens of separate pits and obviously contained the bodies of thousands of victims. (Iraq's Crime of Genocide, p. 12.)

The genocidal and gendercidal focus of the Iraqi killing campaign varied from one stage of Anfal to another. No mass killings of civilians appear to have taken place during first Anfal (February 23-March 19, 1988). The most exclusive targeting of the male population, meanwhile, occurred during the final Anfal (August 25-September 6, 1988). This was launched immediately after the signing of a ceasefire with Iran, which allowed the transfer of large amounts of men and matériel from the southern battlefronts. It focused on "the steep, narrow valleys of Badinan, a four-thousand-square mile chunk of the Zagros Mountains bounded on the east by the Greater Zab River and on the north by Turkey." Here, uniquely in the Anfal campaigns, lists of the "disappeared" provided to HRW/ME by survivors "invariably included only adult and teenage males, with the signal exception of Assyrian and Caldean Christians and Yezidi Kurds," who were subsidiary targets of the slaughter. Many of the men of Badinan did not even make it as far as "processing" stations, being simply "lined up and murdered at their point of capture, executed by firing squads on the authority of a local army officer." (Iraq's Crime of Genocide, pp. 178, 190, 192; on the fate of the Christians and Yezidi Kurds, see pp. 209-13.) The best-known case is the assault on the village of Koreme, where a forensic investigation conducted by Middle East Watch and Physicians for Human Rights in May-June 1992 uncovered the bodies of 27 men and adolescent boys executed on August 28. (See Middle East Watch/Physicians for Human Rights, The Anfal Campaign in Iraqi Kurdistan: The Destruction of Koreme [Human Rights Watch, 1993].)

Even amidst this most systematic slaughter of adult men and boys, however, "hundreds of women and young children perished, too," though "the causes of their deaths were different -- gassing, starvation, exposure, and willful neglect -- rather than bullets fired from a Kalashnikov [rifle]." (Iraq's Crime of Genocide, p. 191.)

[edit] Gendercide

In its book Iraq's Crime of Genocide (ISBN 0-300-06427-6), Human Rights Watch/Middle East writes: "Throughout Iraqi Kurdistan, although women and children vanished in certain clearly defined areas, adult males who were captured disappeared en masse ... It is apparent that a principal purpose of Anfal was to exterminate all adult males of military service age captured in rural Iraqi Kurdistan." (pp. 96, 170). Only a handful survived the execution squads.

On June 20, 1987, directive SF/4008 was issued under al-Majid's signature. Of greatest significance is clause 5. Referring to those areas designated "prohibited zones," al-Majid ordered 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, of which we should be duly notified." However, it seems clear from the application of this policy that this referred only to males "between the ages of 15 and 70." HRW/ME takes this as given, writing that clause 5's "order [was] to kill all adult males," and later: "Under the terms of al-Majid's June 1987 directives, death was the automatic penalty for any male of an age to bear arms who was found in an Anfal area." (Iraq's Crime of Genocide, pp. 11, 14.) A subsequent directive on September 6, 1987, supports this conclusion: it calls for "the deportation of ... families to the areas where there saboteur relatives are ..., except for the male [members], between the ages of 12 inclusive and 50 inclusive, who must be detained." (Cited in Iraq's Crime of Genocide, p. 298.)

[edit] Arabization

"Arabization," another major element of Al-Anfal, was a tactic used by Hussein's regime to drive Kurdish families out of their homes in cities like Kirkuk, which are in the valuable oil field areas. The campaign used heavy population redistribution, most notably in Kirkuk, the results of which now plague negotiations between Iraq's Shi'a United Iraqi Alliance and Kurdish Democratic Alliance. Hussein's Ba'athist regime built several public housing facilities in Kirkuk as part of his "Arabization," shifting poor Arabs from Iraq's southern regions to Kirkuk with the lure of inexpensive housing.

Iraq's Kurds now strongly resent Arabs still residing in Ba'ath-era Kirkuk housing, and view them as a barrier to Kirkuk's recognition as a Kurdish city (and regional seat) in an increasingly sovereign Kurdish Autonomous Region. Many Kurds believe that since Hussein's "Arabization" was a form of ethnic cleansing, they should be allowed to "undo" its campaign in post-Saddam Iraq, such as, expelling those Arabs who came north as a result of Hussein's programs.

[edit] Results

[edit] Statistics

One of 24 Assyrian churches bombed in 1988. Other groups such as Assyrians, Shabaks, and Turkmen were targeted as well.

During the Anfal campaign, the Iraqi government:

  • destroyed about 4,000 villages in Iraqi Kurdistan [1]
  • Independent sources estimate 50,000-100,000 deaths; Kurds claim about 182,000 people killed
  • destroyed 1,754 schools, 270 hospitals, 2,450 mosques, 27 churches[2]
  • wiped out around 90% of Kurdish villages in targeted areas.[3]

Amnesty International collected the names of more than 17,000 people who disappeared during 1988. [4] Middle East Watch has documented three cases of mass executions in late 1988; in one of them, 180 people were put to death.

[edit] Violation of Human rights

The campaigns of 1987-1989 were characterized by the following gross violations of human rights:

a) mass summary executions and mass disappearance of many tens of thousands of non-combatants, including large numbers of women and children, and sometimes the entire population of villages;
b) the widespread use of chemical weapons, including mustard gas and the nerve agent GB, or Sarin, against the town of Halabja as well as dozens of Kurdish villages, killing many thousands of people, mainly women and children;
c) the wholesale destruction of some 2,000 villages, which are described in government documents as having been "burned," "destroyed," "demolished" and "purified," as well as at least a dozen larger towns and administrative centers (nahyas and qadhas); Since 1975, some 4,000 Kurdish villages have been destroyed by the Former Iraqi Regime.
d) Human Rights Watch estimates that between 50,000 and 100,000 people were killed [5]. Some Kurdish sources put the number higher, estimating 182,000 Kurds were killed. (Also see [6])
e) Army engineers even destroyed the large Kurdish town of Qala Dizeh (population 70,000) and declared its environs a "prohibited area," removing the last significant population center close to the Iranian border.

[edit] Genocide

Genocide is defined by the 1948 Geneva Convention as "acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group". Kurds have always referred to the al-Anfal as the genocide.

In December 2005 a court in The Hague ruled that the killing of thousands of Kurds in Iraq in the 1980s was indeed an act of genocide. [7] The Dutch court said it considered "legally and convincingly proven that the Kurdish population meets requirement under Genocide Conventions as an ethnic group. The court has no other conclusion than that these attacks were committed with the intent to destroy the Kurdish population of Iraq."

[edit] Trial

In an interview broadcast on Iraqi television on September 6, 2005, Iraqi president Jalal Talabani said that judges had directly extracted confessions from Saddam Hussein that he had ordered mass killings and other "crimes" during his regime and that he deserves to die. Two days later Saddam's lawyer denied that he had confessed.[8]

In June 2006, the Iraqi Special Tribunal announced that Saddam Hussein and six co-defendants will face trial on August 21 in relation to the 1980s Anfal campaign.[9]

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

fa:عملیات انفال nl:Al-Anfal-campagne ru:Анфаль sr:Операција Анфал

Al-Anfal Campaign

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