During his 35-year tenure, Saddam Hussein and his regime turned Kurdistan, Iraq, and the region into hell. Imposing two unjustifiable wars on neighboring Iran and Kuwait, Saddam and his regime took the country through numerous catastrophes, atrocities and murdering of countless Iraqis. However, world experts believe the gravest and the best documented crimes of the defunct Iraqi regime were those conducted during the Anfal genocide against the Kurdish people. The Iraqi military campaign code name “Anfal” (spoilers of war) in 1988 was the gratuitous and obvious systematic genocide by all means but there was no international recognition. The Iraqi state recorded and kept detailed documents and videotapes of their crimes, which included executions, torture sessions, mass killing and forcibly relocating the Kurdish people, some dating back to1970s.
Right after the collapse of the Kurdish revolution led by then Kurdistan Democrat Party leader Mustafa Barzani in the mid-1970s, a systematic wave of Anfal operation was planed: forceful evacuation of some quarter of a million Kurds from Iraq's borders with Iran and Turkey. Then, the regime destroyed all of the evacuated villages to create barrier sanitary along these ‘sensitive frontiers’ where the Kurdish resistances have had always taken arms against their oppressors. Most of the displaced Kurds from these areas were transferred into compulsory camps and crude new settlements located on the main highways, surrounded by army, monitored and controlled by Iraqi secret agencies. Similar producers, or even worst were expected in the years ahead.
However, renewed Kurdish arms resistance in late 1970s and the Iraq-Iran war in early 1980s, interrupted the Ba’ath Party’s Anfal plans, at least for several years. Yet the defunct Iraqi regime attempted to resume the Anfal diagram in 1983, when Iraqi troops surrounded one of the complexes where thousands of the Barzani clan families were resettled, and within hours kidnapped 8000 males from the camp aged twelve to seventy! Their fates for the public were known only as “despaired Barzanis.”
In the mid-1970s and the early1980s the procedures used against the Kurdish border villagers and Barzanis, were the techniques that would be used on a grander scale for continuing the Anfal campaign. Undoubtedly, the absence of international objections encouraged Saddam’s regime to believe that they could get away with an even larger method without any hostile response. Actually, in this respect the Iraqi regime seemed to have been accurate in its computation and judgment of the international functioning, which was a green light for Saddam to go ahead with the Anfal preparation!
Therefore, the Anfal Genocide’s full scale was a concerted series of nine military operations which began on February 26, 1988, conducted in several distinctive Kurdish geographic areas, and by September 6, 1988, reached its climax. By then, the now defunct Iraqi regime had shattered 4500 of some 5000 Kurdish villages, and evidently used chemical weapons to attack at least 250 villages and towns, the worst of which was the gassing of March 16, 1988, on Halabja, a town where more than 5,500 civilians died and some 11,000 others injured.
These chemical attacks paved the way for the Iraqi army to replace an estimated two million of villagers in 1988. Hundreds of thousands of these civilians were gather at first stage camps, and then driven away in convoys of sealed military vehicles to southern Iraq. But eventually more than180, 000 of them were massacred by the Iraqi secret firing squads, who were waiting for the victims to arrive at the edge of pre-dug mass graves. The ones that escaped the death squads were buried alive and any information about the victims’ destinies to their relatives or to the public was denied for years.
However, during the 1991 Kurdish up rising which followed the first Gulf War, the Kurds captured millions of paper records and videotapes which were produced by security, secret intelligence, military, Baath party and other Iraq state official agencies. 18 tons of these evidences were eventually relocated to the US National Archives for ‘safe keeping.’ As a result of the second Gulf War, further documents and evidences about the Anfal Genocide was discovered. According to the NIDS, its organization holds approximately 2.4 million pages of official Iraqi documents most of which relates to the Anfal atrocities.
In the aftermath of toppling of Saddam’s regime in 2003, Kurdish authorities sent special teams to search for potential Anfal victims’ mass graves, especially the Barzanis in South Iraq. According to these teams, the vast majority of the Kurdish victims’ remains were recovered in three mass grave sites around Iraq’s Rumadi, Hather and Samawa cities where 1400 of the Barzanis’ remains were relocated, but due to security concerns the remains could not be returned to Kurdistan.
The teams’ searches were based on the defunct regime’s documents, local civilians’ information; and the only five men and a twelve- year- old boy who escaped and survived the mass killings. These survivors’ testimony at the Anfal genocide trail was significant evidence against the defendants.
The former Iraqi regime members did not deny the Anfal Operations in their public and medium announcements and during the trail of those were responsible for the genocide. In one of his recorded video speeches dated September 1983, Saddam gave the clearest hint regarding the fate of the abducted Barzani men. “Those so-called Barzanis, betrayed the country and betrayed the covenants, and we meted out a stern punishment to them and we sent them to hell,” he said. During the Anfal trial, evidences of defendants’ crimes piled against them. “Chemical Ali” also repeatedly told the court trying him for genocide, he had ordered Kurdish villages cleared in the 1988 "Anfal" campaign which cost tens of thousands of innocent children, women and men lives. No doubt, this couldn’t have been achieved without regional and western bureaucrats’ support.