Thirty three years have passed since the army of Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein murdered thousands of Kurdish people in ‘Anfal’ during a campaign of extermination against the Kurds of Iraqi Kurdistan. 182,000 Kurds, mostly children and women, were massacred in ‘Anfal’, as reported by Yeni Ozgur Politika.
The first phase of the massacres was carried out by the Ba’ath regime in six different locations of Iraqi Kurdistan. It started at the Cafeyetî stream region and ended in Bahdinan. The biggest of these massacres took place in the Garmiyan region.
After the collapse of the Ba’ath regime in 2003, the Iraqi Kurdistan Government and other Iraqi institutions began to search for the mass graves that were the consequence of ‘Anfal’. According to data provided by the Kurdistan Region’s Ministry of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs, to date, 63 mass graves have been found in the desert in the central and southern regions of Iraq. Since these discoveries, only 3,737 bodies have been transported from these mass graves and buried in the homelands.
171 bodies, buried in three mass graves, were discovered in 2020
In 2020, three more mass graves were discovered in the Samawa Desert. The Ministry announced that 171 bodies were found in these graves. The bodies were kept at the Forensic Medicine Institute in Baghdad. The Ministry of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs spokesperson Adil Mela Salih stated that the bodies could not be transported from that location due to coronavirus pandemic regulations.
“The DNA tests are still being conducted and we will transport the bodies to Kurdistan as soon as possible”, Salih said.
Out of 3,737 victims of the Anfal genocide that were returned to Iraqi Kurdistan, 3,237 bodies were taken to the Garmiyan region and buried there whilst the remains of 500 bodies were taken to the Barzan region. The bodies of the victims were identified by the personal belongings and signs that they had as they were murdered. DNA tests were not conducted for any of these victims.
Mehmud: The Iraqi Kurdistan government does not pay enough attention to these concerns
A former member of the Kurdistan Parliament’s Ministry of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs, Salar Mehmud, has criticised the government’s approach towards the massacre. “To find the people who were murdered, buried in those mass graves, and to bring them back. This has not been a national issue for the Kurdistan Regional Government so far. It is not even the subject of a file in the negotiations between Iraq and the Regional Government”, he noted.
The ‘Anfal genocide’ must be recognised
So far, what took place during the ‘Anfal’ has not been formally defined and recognised as ‘genocide’ by the world’s leading states and supra-state bodies. Only Iraq has recognised it as a ‘genocide’. After 60 sessions, on 24 June 2007, the Iraqi High Criminal Court recognised that the massacre in ‘Anfal’ and ‘Halabja’ constituted genocide. It was recognised as genocide by Iraq’s parliament as well.
Hakim Şex Letîf has stated that they worked extensively during the trials that were held for the Halabja Massacre and ‘Anfal’. “When the trial sessions were held for the Halabja Massacre and Anfal, we made many attempts to prevent the Kurdistan Regional Government from accepting this. But we were ignored. Because this situation prevents these massacres from being recognised as ‘genocide’ at the international level. An international court should be held to determine the nature of the crimes of the Ba’ath regime”, Letif said.
Families of the victims place demands for the return of the bodies to Iraqi Kurdistan
The only demand that the families of the victims of ‘Anfal’ have reportedly placed is to bring the bodies back and bury them in their homeland. They also criticise the lack of attention about the genocide and many have complained that the ‘Anfal Massacre’ only comes to the agenda on the anniversary of the massacre.