Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children were executed during a systematic attempt of former Iraqi Ba'ath regime to exterminate the Kurdish population in Iraq in the Anfal operations in the late 1980s. They were tied together and shot so they fell into mass graves. Their towns and villages were attacked by chemical weapons, and many women and children were sent to camps where they lived in appalling conditions. Men and boys of ‘battle age’ were targeted and executed en masse. The campaign takes its name from Suratal-Anfal in the Qur’an. Al Anfal literally means the spoils (of war) and was used to describe the military campaign of extermination and looting commanded by Ali Hassan al-Majid. The Ba’athists misused what the Qur’an says. Anfal in the Qur’an does not refer to genocide, but the word was used as a code name by the former Iraqi Ba’athist regime for the systematic attacks against the Kurdish population. The campaign also targeted the villages of minority communities including Christians.
But the Kurdish genocide began decades before the Anfal and has claimed countless victims. The genocide perpetrated over decades began with the arabisation of villages around Kirkuk in 1963. It involved the deportation and disappearances of Faylee Kurds in the 1970s-80s, the murder of 8,000 male Barzanis in 1983, the use of chemical weapons in the late 1980s, most notably against Halabja, and finally the Anfal campaign of 1988. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people perished, families were torn apart, many still live with severe health problems. At the same time, 4,500 villages were razed to the ground between 1976 and 1988 undermining the potential of Iraqi Kurdistan's agricultural resources and destroying Kurdistan’s rural way of life and heritage.
What does Anfal mean?
The term al-Anfal is the name given to a succession of attacks against the Kurdish population in Iraq during a specific period. These attacks were named “al-Anfal” by Saddam Hussein and his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid (known as the ‘Chemical Ali’), who used this term to describe the carefully planned and orchestrated eight-staged genocidal campaign between February 23rd and September 6th 1988. In Kurdish society, the word Anfal has come to represent the entire genocide over decades.
The Kurds genocide: The facts
An estimated 1 million people in Iraq have ‘disappeared’ since the 1960s, all presumed murdered or missing.
Human Rights Watch reported in its 1993 comprehensive report on Anfal in Iraq that at least 50,000 and possibly as many as 100,000 Kurds are estimated to have been killed at the hands of the Ba’ath regime. However, since then, several sources have stated that as many as 182,000 or even more people were killed in that operation.
Gendercide: Throughout the Kurdish Anfal, men and boys of ‘battle age’ were rounded up and ‘disappeared’ en masse. Most of these men and boys were captured, transported to mass graves and shot in mass executions. Of the total victims of Anfal, an estimated 70% were men, approximately aged 15 to 50.2
Thousands of women and children also vanished. Unlike the men, however, they were taken from specific areas as opposed to throughout the region. Evidence also shows that many were taken to internment camps where they were executed or died from deprivation.
During the 1980s, the Kurdish population was attacked with chemical weapons, killing thousands of men, women and children indiscriminately.
During the Anfal, 90% of Kurdish villages and more than 20 small towns and cities were completely destroyed. 4
Anniversaries and key dates
16th March: Halabja Day, commemoration of the chemical bombing of the town of Halabja in 1988
14th April: Commemoration of Anfal genocide against the Kurds in 1988
10 July: Commemoration of the 40,000 displaced civilians from Kirkuk and the Kirkuk districts in 1962
31 July: Remembrance of the Barzani disappearance in 1983
18 August: Remembrance of the mass killing in Surria village in 1969
4 September: Remembrance of the mass killing of Fayli Kurds in 1980
The following are some of the anniversaries of the chemical bombardment of towns and villages which took place across Kurdistan in hundreds of communites, in 1984, 1987 and 1988:
26, 28 February: Chemical bombardment of villages Sargalu, Yakhsamar, Guezilla, Dolli Jafayti in 1988
16 March: Chemical bombardment of Halabja city in 1988
18 March:Chemical bombardment of villages Abnab village and Halabja district in 1988
16 April: Chemical bombardment of Shekh Wasanan village and surrounding areas in 1987
17 April: Chemical bombardment of villages Qzlar, Sangar, Mawlaka in 1987
20 April: Chemical bombardment of villages in the Dolli Balisan Provinces in 1987
21 April: Chemical bombardment of the Qarakh district in 1987
3 May: Chemical bombardment of villages Goptapa, Aakar, Maylan, Sarchma, Shekhanm Kalasher, Chamy Rezan, Qochlakh, Zare in 1988
23 May:Chemical bombardment of villages Malakh Gorasher, Kandol, Bardok, Ble, Tahe, Nazanin, Balisan in 1987
28 June: Bombardment of Sardasht city of eastern part of Kurdistan (Iran) in 1987
1 July: Chemical bombardment of many villages in Duhok district in 1987
9 August: Chemical bombardment of the villages in the Bahdinan district and Gali Baze area in 1988
16 September: Chemical bombardment of Mergapan village in 1984
Anfal campaign 1988
Anfal campaign in 1988 was performed in eight stages, in which 182,000 civilians lost their lives. Thousands of villages were destroyed, bringing the total destroyed since the 1970s to 4,500 The eight stages were orchestrated as follows:
21 February 1988 – 18 March 1988: The first stage of the Anfal campaign started in Dolli Jafayty Marg
22 March 1988 – 14 March 1988: The second stage of the Anfal campaign started in the Qaradakh district
31 March 1988 – 14 April 1988: The third stage of the Anfal campaign started in the Garmyan district
20 April 1988 – 18 April 1988: The fourth stage of the Anfal started in the Askar district, Goptapa, Shwan, Qala, Swaka, Dashti Koya
24 May 1988 to 31 August 1988: The fifth, sixth, seventh stages of the Anfal campaign started in Shaqlawa and Rewandiz districts
25 August 1988 – 6 September 1988: The eighth stage of Anfal campaign started in the Badinan district
International recognition of the Kurds genocide
It is time for the international community to formally acknowledge that genocide took place in Iraq.
The Kurdish people in Iraq want the international community to recognize and understand the horror they have endured. They need this recognition in order to achieve justice for those who were brutally murdered, as well as the survivors who continue to bear the physical and mental scars.
It is imperative that the world recognises the genocide was perpetrated over decades, culminating in the Anfal operation of February to September 1988, and that we send out a clear message that genocide should never happen again.
The Iraqi High Tribunal has recognised various acts against the Kurds as genocide. The Iraqi Parliament has done the same. We need you in Britain, in Europe, in other parts of the world to join the call for justice and acknowledgement of what happened to the people of Iraqi Kurdistan.
The people of Kurdistan are forward-looking and want to build their lives and their country. But they cannot forget what befell their people. Help their voice to be heard.