On this day in 1988, more than 5,000 Kurdish civilians were ethnically cleansed in the Al-Anfal Campaign, championed by Saddam Hussein against the Kurdish people. Estimates from 7,000-10,000 were injured in the Halabja chemical attacks. It was, and still remains, to be the largest chemical weapons attack directed against a civilian-pupulated area in history. Assyrians, Shabaks, Iraqi Turkmens, Yazidis, and Jews were also targeted. Sweden, Norway, and the UK officially recognize this tragic event as a genocide. The Anfal campaign included the use of ground offensives, aerial bombing, settlement destruction, mass deportation, firing squads, and chemical warfare. The following was taken from the Kurdistan Regional Government’s UK Page:
WHAT HAPPENED IN THE KURDISH GENOCIDE
Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children were executed during a systematic attempt 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.
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 ‘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 KURDISH GENOCIDE: THE FACTS