ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The people of the Kurdistan Region on Sunday commemorated the Anfal campaigns of the former Iraqi regime in the late 1980s against the Kurdish people that led to the deaths of close to 182,000 people.
In one of the most brutal military crusades against the Kurds in Iraq, the then Saddam Hussein-led government in Baghdad continued its persecution of the group throughout the decade, intensifying in 1988 with an eight-phase operation destroying much of the small settlements in the region, and executing civilians en masse.
A large number of people, including women and children, were forcefully displaced and transferred to camps in southern Iraq, where the government eventually killed some of them and consigned them to mass graves, burying others alive in the desert.
On Friday, authorities from the southern Iraqi province of al-Muthanna found one such mass burial site, with Muthanna Governor Ahmed Manfi affirming to Kurdistan 24 that most of the detected bodies were of women and children. Out of the estimated 182,000, only a fraction have been discovered and exhumed so far.
The main perpetrator behind these acts was then Baathist party Northern Bureau Chief, the infamous Ali Hassan al-Majid, also known as “Chemical Ali.” In 2010, the Iraqi judiciary executed Majid after convicting him of a number of war crimes, including atrocities against the Kurds.
The Kurdistan Region has memorialized the dark chapter in the history of the Kurds, setting April 14 as a day of mourning and commemoration for the lives lost and those still impacted by it.
Earlier today, various officials along with foreign diplomats attended a special ceremony at the Garmiyan Anfal Memorial—located in the Kurdish region of Garmiyan, southern Sulaimani Province—to mark the passing of 31 years since the genocidal operations concluded.
“The racist policies of the Baath regime toward our nation, besides the destruction, terror, and enforcing despotic rule of the authorities of Iraq, ended the lives of over 180,000 people with heavy weapons, deadly gasses, and aerial chemical attacks of Kurdistan,” Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said in a statement on Saturday to mark the day.
“It is our responsibility,” Barzani added, “to fully aid the relatives [of the victims], rebuild their homeland and improve their livelihoods.”
“Despite the political complications and difficulties of the country, treating the wounds of Anfal and compensating [its victims] must be the leading work of the country and government of Iraq,” he stated.
“This is a moral and historic responsibility.”
Editing by Nadia Riva