The Search for the Disappeared in Iraqi Kurdistan
Across northern Iraq, Kurds, freed for now from President Saddam Hussein's grip, have begun revealing the horrors of nearly a quarter of a century of repressive rule. In former Iraqi police stations and prisons, Kurdish officials have discovered torture chambers and execution sites where they say thousands of political prisoners died under torture or were shot in the 1980s. Meanwhile, municipal grave diggers and villagers, now free to tell their stories, have led Kurdish investigators to hundreds of unmarked, single and mass graves. The Kurds have long charged the Saddam Hussein government with gross violations of human rights. Some especially severe cases have been independently substantiated and widely publicized; most notably the attacks with chemical and conventional weapons on Kurdish towns and villages in the late 1980s in which thousands--and most likely tens of thousands--were killed. But it was not until the March 1991 uprising, when the Kurdish resistance fighters, or peshmerga, drove the Iraqis from the region, that the systematic nature, and extent, of Baghdad's repression became fully known.