"There was medicine from the airplane."
-- victim of the August 25 chemical attack on the village of Gizeh, Amadiya.
With only the last remnants of the PUK continuing to resist, Baghdad's plans for wiping out Mas'oud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) now began to advance rapidly. On August 7, 1988, as we have seen, Ali Hassan al-Majid personally stepped in to urge the Iraqi Army to hasten the completion of the Anfal operation. The following day, the Army High Command issued its "communique of communiques," to announce that a ceasefire had come into effect on Iraq's terms, putting an end to the eight-year Iran-Iraq War that had cost as many as a million lives.1
The ceasefire gave the Iraqi Army the critical boost it required to bring Anfal to a close. The First Corps, which had handled the earlier phases of Anfal from its base in Kirkuk, would now mop up the lingering resistance in the Shaqlawa-Rawanduz valleys. The Fifth Army Corps, based in Erbil, would take charge of operations in Dohuk governorate, along the Iraqi-Turkish border. Other divisions, reportedly including elements of the Third, Sixth and Seventh Armies, were now redeployed to Iraqi Kurdistan from the southern war front around Fao and Basra.
In his review of the Final Anfal campaign, Fifth Corps commander Brig. Gen. Yunis Zareb wrote, "The morale was so high and was clear on the faces of the fighters from the beginning, and especially after the collapse of the Iranian enemy in the victorious campaigns starting from the eternal battle of Fao through the battle of Muhammadthe Prophet of God.2 The formations which took part in [Anfal] had also taken part in those battles."3
This massive concentration of firepower was necessary, the general felt, because of the difficult logistical problems that his troops had to face in classic guerrilla warfare country:
The land is generally hilly with a hard terrain in its northern and eastern parts which lie parallel to the border line of Iraq and Turkey. There are many gardens, forests and natural trees. The surface of the earth consists of rocky lands and a sedimentary surface in the highlands. And the lowlands are a combination of hard land with a mixed soil of sand and mud which gradually descends westward and southward in the direction of the Sleivani and Aqra plains. This area has many rivers and valleys which run from the north and east toward the south and west, forming streams. The movement of the forces and machinery is greatly hindered by the series of mountains, high knolls, valleys and other obstacles.4
It was a military planner's inelegant description of Badinan, the traditional mountainous heartland of Mullah Mustafa Barzani and his sons, the "offspring of treason."
Although the terrain complicated the logistical needs of a regular army, the campaign against the KDP was in other respects more straightforward than the drive to destroy the PUK. The KDP peshmerga were largely concentrated in a single geographical area, Badinan, whereits operations were run from a headquarters at Zewa Shkan, an abandoned village hard up against the Turkish border.5
Although the Ba'ath Party had devoted five months to "purifying" the areas that were under the control of the PUK, it had never abandoned its particular hatred for the KDP. Once allied with the Shah, the KDP had rekindled a close relationship with the clerical regime in Teheran, and on several occasions acted as scouts for the Iranian army on the northern front. The strength of this alliance was curious in a sense, for religious fervor had never been a part of the KDP's identity. Instead, the party was deeply imbued with the traditional values of the steep, narrow valleys of Badinan, a 4,000 square-mile chunk of the Zagros Mountains bounded to the east by the Greater Zab river and to the north by Turkey. There are no major cities in this inhospitable terrain. Badinan has none of the cosmopolitan sophistication of a Suleimaniyeh, none of the thriving industry of an Erbil or a Kirkuk. Tribal structures and loyalties remained powerful, and the KDP had long made common cause with conservative local aghas and sheikhs who were still touched by a certain nostalgia for the days of the Ottoman Empire, when tribal fiefdoms in Kurdistan were granted a large measure of autonomy.6
While the KDP inspired a devoted partisan following, historically centered on the Barzan Valley, it had also made powerful enemies among other tribal leaders. These schisms in turn meant that the final stage ofAnfal had some characteristics that set it apart from the rest of the operation. Some of the tribal groups who had made a separate peace with Baghdad managed to avoid the worst of Anfal. A considerable number of villages survived in Badinan and on its fringes, at least for a time--especially those of the Surchi, the Zebari, the Bradost and the Dolamari. And Kurdish villagers who might otherwise have died were spared if the local mustashar could convince Baghdad that they were not contaminated by peshmerga sympathies.
It was never easy for outsiders to guess the numbers of active peshmerga in the KDP. According to one 1985 estimate, the party had some 6,000 fighters, compared to 5,000 for the PUK.7 A later estimate put the strength of each group at 10,000 in 1988.8 In fact these figures, cited by sympathetic writers, may have been inflated. Military and civilian intelligence reports told the Fifth Corps Commander, Brig. Gen. Zareb, that the total strength of the "saboteurs" in Badinan was no more than 2,600.9
Against this puny force, and against the civilian population of Badinan, Ali Hassan al-Majid's Northern Bureau sent as many as 200,000 troops. According to several former Iraqi military sources interviewed by Middle East Watch, between fourteen and sixteen regular army divisions of 12,000 men each took part in the Final Anfal campaign, in addition to a Chemical Weapons Battalion, units of the Iraqi Air Force and the National Defense Battalions, or jahsh. The regime's strategy, wrote Gen.Zareb, was "based on the guidelines issued by the Northern Bureau and those of the Chief of Staff in the August 7 Kirkuk conference." The underlying doctrine was the simple one that worked so well in the earlier phases of Anfal--the application of overwhelming force, "to operate by moving from the outside toward the inside in order to encircle the saboteurs, with "different forces act[ing] simultaneously to guarantee the encirclement."10
Larger geopolitical considerations also seem to have played a part in this thinking. "The area of operations was adjacent to the international Iraqi-Turkish border," Gen. Zareb observed, "and this caused some perplexity....Accordingly, all forces were ordered to tackle the matter in the best possible way and ensure the secrecy of the operation by not transgressing the frontier."11
The general's final headache was a logistical one. "The magnitude of the engineering work needed for the destruction and removal of the remnants of the saboteurs and their premises in the areas covered by the operation...was so great that it put an extra burden on the shoulders of the command of the unit."12 The removal of the remnants of the "saboteurs" and their premises: in other words, the destruction of some 300-400 Kurdish villages of Badinan.
In the days that preceded the Final Anfal, there were ample signs of what was to come. The massive buildup of ground troops was visible along the main highways of Dohuk governorate, and the area was softened up by intense shelling and aerial bombing, sometimes with cluster bombs. In the village of Spindar, for example, on the southern slopes of Gara Mountain, aircraft dropped cluster bombs on August 24,killing two small boys, cousins aged four and five, as they tended their family's goats in the fields.13
Even as these preliminary attacks began, some families began to flee, especially if their villages lay within walking distance of the Turkish border. But others stayed where they were, waiting for the violence to pass. After all, they reasoned, villages like Spindar had been attacked many times since the mid-1960s. Although Spindar itself had been burned down more than once, the government had never prevented the inhabitants from returning to rebuild.
The regime's control of Dohuk governorate had dwindled to a handful of towns and complexes along the main roads. From these strongholds, army troops had maintained brutally thorough checkpoints since the mid-1980s. "No food was allowed through," one villager recalled, "not even small cans of infant formula, and produce was not permitted to be taken to market."14 Another villager added, "For three or four years before Anfal only women were able to pass through the checkpoints. People resorted to smuggling--flour, rice, salt, oil, kerosene, soap, detergent and sesame paste--but everything cost much more this way. At the checkpoint [in the town of Sarseng] the soldiers confiscated anything they found and set fire to it. Sometimes women were able to hide things underneath their dresses."15 But several witnesses told stories of boys and men being arrested, and disappearing, if they were found concealing food, which was presumed to be destined for the peshmerga.
In Badinan, as in the Sorani-speaking areas to the south, the Kurds had long grown accustomed to the harsh routines of wartime. Aircraft bombed, strafed and rocketed them whenever the armed forces received intelligence reports of peshmerga movements. When the planes approached, villagers fled to caves, makeshift shelters or "shades." Occasionally, helicopters would drop infantry troops into a village for house-to-house searches for draft-dodgers and deserters. Artilleryemplacements in the nearest large town or military base rained down poorly directed shellfire, which would sometimes kill some luckless farmer working his fields. As if these Iraqi attacks were not enough, the inhabitants of some border areas also had to contend with raids from Turkish aircraft on search-and-destroy missions against contingents of guerrillas from Turkey's Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which maintained bases inside northern Iraq.16
In the spring of 1987, in accordance with the first decrees issued by the newly appointed Ali Hassan al-Majid, virtually the whole of Dohuk governorate--an area a little smaller than the state of Connecticut--was "redlined." As in the Sorani-speaking areas, there was a fresh flurry of village-burning that April and May, with some forty-nine villages being destroyed in various parts of Badinan.17 The "redlining" was announced over the official radio, said a man from a village near the town of Mangesh. Those who came over to the government side would be considered "our people," the broadcast declared. Those who did not would be regarded as Iranians. To drive home this message, the government blocked off the dirt roads leading to prohibited villages with mounds of earth.18 When the October census came, it had only a very limited effect in rural Badinan; many villages, Middle East Watch was told, did not even know of its existence.
Despite the grim news about Anfal that had filtered through to Badinan via KDP radio broadcasts from Iran, villagers do not appear to have believed that the government campaign of 1988 would be any different from its predecessors. Inexplicably, this absence of any unusual alarm afflicted not merely the civilian population but the KDP itself, whose central committee was meeting inside Iran as the Final Anfal approached, and seemed not to be anticipating anything out of theordinary. Although local peshmerga alerted villagers to the possibility that chemical weapons might be used, the KDP leadership does not appear to have broadcast any emergency alert. "After Halabja, we thought the international community would stop Saddam Hussein," one regional commander said--an astonishingly sanguine attitude, in view of the dozens of chemical attacks that had followed that spring and summer.19
Even in its own highly classified internal documents, the Iraqi military was evasive--almost to the point of silence--on the matter of chemical weapons during the Final Anfal.20 Gen. Zareb's report noted only that a battalion specialized in their use had played "a unique role" in the campaign, "just like all the other groups." The unit was kept in a state of readiness and supervised the use of flamethrowers by infantry troops. Otherwise, Zareb wrote, "It did not have another role during the battle because the battle was within the national geographical boundaries"--a curious scruple on the general's part, given how widely chemical artillery had been used on Iraqi soil in the earlier stages of the Anfal campaign.
Gen. Zareb's assertion may appear contradictory, given that the use of chemical weapons in the Badinan campaign was given wide publicity by the international press. But the explanation is quite simple: chemical bombing operations during the Final Anfal were the exclusive responsibility of the Iraqi Air Force, and the army's chemical artillerypieces that reportedly were deployed in a half dozen locations remained silent.21
Through the testimonies of traumatized Kurdish refugees in Turkey, the world learned quickly of the use of mustard gas and nerve agents in Badinan.22 Listing forty-nine villages that had been "exposed" to gas, Galbraith and Van Hollen concluded that Iraq had "used chemical weapons on a broad scale against its Kurdish population beginning August 25, 1988," and that the attacks had "been accompanied by large loss of civilian life."23
The first gas fell on the KDP headquarters at Zewa Shkan, close to the Turkish border, late in the evening of August 24. Ten peshmerga reportedly died. The next morning, August 25, between about 6:30 and8:30 a.m., Iraqi warplanes launched a number of separate and almost simultaneous attacks, perhaps a dozen in all. Many of them were probably carried out by the same flight of aircraft, since they were concentrated within a strip measuring approximately sixty miles wide and twenty deep. Some of the aircraft targeted a single village or peshmerga base, but in at least two cases the planes hit a whole string of villages in rapid succession. (see map) The intent seems to have been less to kill than to spread mass terror. Perhaps twenty civilians died on the spot, and about the same number of peshmerga. But hundreds more, especially children, succumbed in the weeks that followed.
The precise cause of their deaths remains unknowable; it may have been the lethal after-effects of a combination of mustard gas and Sarin nerve gas; or the consequences of exposure, cold and hunger in the mountains where they fled; or the malnutrition and disease they endured in the camps after they were captured; or a combination of all three. In a sense, the question is academic; whatever the precise cause may have been, it was the Iraqi government that was responsible for their deaths.
In one interview after another, those who lived through the chemical attacks of the Final Anfal told very similar stories.
· The village of Birjinni, in the nahya of Zawita, had the misfortune to lie almost midway between two of the KDP's most important bases--one, the party's regional headquarters, located due north in the village of Tuka, just across the Khabour river, and the other a little way to the east, in the village of Gelnaskeh. All three places were hit by chemical weapons at breakfast time on August 25. The people of Birjinni had been watching the sky since dawn. For several days they had been aware of unusual numbers of aircraft overhead, and they were fearful of a conventional bombing attack. As eight airplanes came into view, many of the villagers fled in fear to the shelters they had built nearby. Three of the planes made a low pass over the village, from east to west, and dropped four bombs each. Surviving villagers told of clouds of smoke billowing upward, "white, black and then yellow, rising about fifty or sixty yards into the air in a column. Then the column began to break up and drift. It drifted down into the valley and then passed through the village. Then we smelled the gas."
It was a pleasant smell at first; "it smelled of apples and something sweet." Others said it reminded them of "pesticides in our fields." Soon, however, "it became bitter. It affected our eyes and ourmouths and our skin. All of a sudden it was hard to breathe."24 The villagers later found that four people from a single Birjinni family had died, including a 58-year old man and his five-year old grandson. The aircraft continued to circle overhead for perhaps a half hour, apparently observing the results of the raid. Others came later that day, dropping conventional weapons that set the tinder-dry late summer fields ablaze. From the mountain saddle on which Birjinni was built, the villagers could see that the surrounding area was filled with refugees, all fleeing northward in the direction of the Turkish border.25
· A few miles to the north of Birjinni, close to the Khabour river, the planes hit Tilakru, a large village that was home to many army deserters. A woman named Halima was preparing breakfast for her children when the bombs fell. She heard muffled explosions and looked out to see clouds of white smoke turning yellow. Her husband, a peshmerga on active duty, had told her how to recognize the signs. Having served in the Iran-Iraq War, he knew very well what a chemical attack looked like.
Halima's children had been asleep on the roof, so she pulled them down as quickly as she could, one by one, and bundled them into the family's air-raid shelter, a hole in the ground covered with wood, leaves and dirt. Looking round in horror, she realized that her one-year old baby, Zozan, was missing. Halima found her crawling around in the courtyard. But by the time she reached her, the child's face had turned yellow and she was gasping for breath and trying to vomit. Halima rushed her into the shelter and flung wet blankets over the walls. Buther infant daughter could not be saved, and she died several days later in a prison camp, as did several other children from Tilakru.26
· From a vantage point in the village of Spindarok, on the far bank of the Khabour, a farmer named Suleiman watched through binoculars as two aircraft attacked the KDP base at Tuka and the hamlet of Barkavreh, a few hundred yards away. With his radio tuned to an air force frequency, Suleiman even overheard snatches of the two pilots' cockpit conversation:
"They are firing at us."
"Drop the bombs on the high places."
"Don't fire while you are behind me. Hold your fire until you are next to me."
Suleiman concluded that the pilots were responding to ground fire. A friend, Obeid, said that in this area at least, there had been specific warnings of reprisals: "The government had told people that if a single bullet were to be fired from a village, a chemical bomb would be dropped. People came from government-controlled areas bringing this information." In the course of some 350 Middle East Watch field interviews, this was virtually the only example cited of the government issuing any prior warning of its intentions.
Suleiman counted thirteen bombs in all. Although most of them fell outside the village, he learned later that two bombs had landed close to the peshmerga headquarters, on the western outskirts of Tuka. According to three separate accounts, fourteen peshmerga died there, and one civilian. Since the wind was blowing from the east, all the farm animals on the western side of the village died, although no one inside the perimeter of the village was harmed.27
· The village of Warmilleh lay a little nearer to Turkey, between the Khabour and the western edge of Mattin Mountain, a peshmerga stronghold. The nearest guerrilla camp was in Bazeh, a three and a half hour walk across the mountains to the east. The people of Warmilleh, like those of Birjinni, had been expecting an attack on the morning ofAugust 25. Again, it came at about 8:00 a.m. This time, they counted six aircraft, but only two of them took part in the attack, dropping six bombs each. "We were lucky," a villager remembered, "for the wind was in the opposite direction to where the people were sheltering under the trees, half a kilometer away."28 Five people were affected by the drifting gas. They vomited; their skin turned black and peeled off. But a peshmerga doctor arrived later that afternoon, administered injections, and the five injured villagers joined their families' northward flight to the Turkish border.
Directly across the river, the planes also hit the village of Bilejaneh. The chemicals drifted on the wind to a hamlet called Bani. "I got sick and had to vomit," said a man who lived there. "We left Bani that afternoon and went to Bilejaneh and Girka. After that we had to cross the main road [from Begova to Kani Masi]. The army was not there yet. The first troops arrived at 2:00 a.m. on August 26 and cut off the escape route to Turkey. Those who crossed the main road before this were lucky. We got there at about 1:00 a.m., just before the soldiers."29
· North of the main road, one direct route to Turkey led through the villages of Ruseh and Nazdureh. "When the military came and began camping out on the road to Nazdureh, people expected an attack and fled," according to a KDP peshmerga from Ruseh, who had sent his family on ahead to Turkey.
The army attacked the next morning. The Iraqis were trying to seal the border area. People who were close to the border managed to cross, but those who failed were arrested and disappeared. I was near the border when the chemical attack happened. I saw yellow smoke. I was on top of the mountain, but people in the valley below were affected. My brother, who was two or three hundred meters away from me on the mountain side, was also affected by the chemicals. He began frothing at the mouth and choking and his skin became dark. Thenhe died. His name was Salim, and he was 45-years old. We buried him there on the spot.30
· The most concentrated attacks, however, came along Gara Mountain, the great ridge that begins near the town of Sarseng and stretches east for twenty miles or more. Here, the air force targeted at least fifteen and perhaps as many as thirty separate villages.31 On the southern slopes, the neighboring villages of Avok, Swareh, Sidara and Spindar (nahya of Sarseng) were all hit at about 8:00 a.m. on the same morning, August 25. There was a peshmerga base in the mountains nearby, and the people of Swareh had moved to the ravines and caves of Avok a year or so earlier in response to the government's continuous bombing and shelling.
A young women named Khadija was in one of these caves with her nine children when the bombs fell. Her elder sister, Aisha, had just gone outside to wash the dirty plates from breakfast. Khadija heard a series of powerful explosions, as if the bombs had fallen right overhead, and the mouth of the cave was quickly obscured by white smoke. The smoke smelled like "the same medicine that is sprayed on apples," and everyone inside the cave grew dizzy and found it hard to breathe. Their eyes burned and teared. Two teenage boys who had been hiding among the bushes outside tried to sprint to safety. But the planes cut them down with machinegun fire, and both youngsters died.
After about an hour, when the smoke had cleared, the family ventured out fearfully to look for Aisha. They found her lying on the ground outside the cave. She was sighing and moving her lips as if she wanted to speak, but no words came. She had vomited, and her skin was black. A few yards away the grass was blackened and burned, and dead farm animals lay all around. Aisha lived only another two or three hours. When the family washed her body that night for burial in the villagecemetery, her dry and blackened skin came off in their hands.32 Another young woman, Amina, also died in the attack. Others died later as they tried to hide out in the mountains, but many families managed to escape by walking through the narrow Ashawa Valley, close to the extravagant mountaintop palace which President Saddam Hussein had recently built himself.
· To the north side of Gara Mountain, the villages of Bawarkeh Kavri and Mergeti ("Meadow of the Mulberry Tree") lay next to each other in a small valley, separated only by a 10-minute walk. The army had burned Bawarkeh Kavri four times before Anfal, but the village had always been rebuilt. The valley had been "redlined" by the government in 1987, and both villages housed peshmerga bases.
Again, the bombing began at about 8:00 a.m. on August 25. Five or six bombs fell in Bawarkeh Kavri and nine or ten in Mergeti, witnesses said, but they struck some distance away from the KDP base. There was white smoke, and all the chickens and birds died, as did the goats. But none of the villagers lost their lives in the attack, even though those who were downwind of the gas suffered the usual symptoms--vomiting, tearing and dizziness. They ascribed their good fortune to the peshmerga, who had warned them a few days before that an attack might be imminent and showed them how to protect themselves by closing all the doors and windows and shrouding their heads in wet towels and blankets. That same evening, the villagers saw the ground forces approaching and fled to the mountains.
· It was a similar story in Sarkeh and Gizeh, neighboring villages deep in the folds of Gara Mountain, about ten miles south of the town of Amadiya. There were no guerrilla bases here, although fighters did pass through at frequent intervals. As the villagers sat down to breakfast, Mushir, a peshmerga in his early twenties, saw six aircraft discharge their bombs over Sarkeh before flying on to attack Shirana, the next village to the east. Mushir ran west toward Gizeh, the village of his birth. But it was deserted; the warplanes had already paid their visit.
"There was medicine from the airplane," said Khadija Sa'id, an old, partially sighted woman from Gizeh. "We noticed smoke, felt dizzyand fell down. My sister went blind. The smoke smelled like old alcohol, but the smell did not stay."
"I felt dizzy, about to faint," added her sister, Fahma. "Tears were coming from my eyes, and I fell down. I tried to wash my face. I vomited. Those who vomited survived. Others died at the beginning. Now I am like this; I can see only a little bit." The villagers of Gizeh fled to caves in the mountains, as they had in the past. On the evening of the same day, they watched ground troops enter the village and burn it to the ground.33
In psychological terms, these attacks were every bit as devastating as the regime presumably intended them to be. The raids terrified peshmerga and civilians across Badinan. With no village farther than twenty miles from the chemicals, word of them spread rapidly. The suddenness and intensity of the attack on so many fronts at once threw the KDP into disarray, and many peshmerga simply abandoned their posts to try and rescue their families and reach the border. Said one fighter,
I could not find any of my fellow peshmerga. They had all gone to help their relatives, and the chemical weapons had created a lot of fear among the people. We did not know how to fight them. We knew how to fight tanks, how to chase a military caravan until we ambushed it, and how to escape aerial bombardments. But we did not know how to fight chemicals.34
Immediately after the bombs had fallen, word reached the villages that resistance was useless. According to a young man who was a peshmerga in Spindar, the next village to the west of Swareh,
Even before the army entered our village we received a message from Mas'oud Barzani not to resist. The [KDP]leadership command told us, "Everything has ended; the revolution is over; we cannot fight chemical weapons with our bare hands; we just cannot fight chemical weapons." The KDP's First Branch told us, "You have a choice: if you want to surrender, do so in order to save the civilians, because the party does not have the ability to care for so many civilian casualties." We could not take so many elderly people and children to the border.35
Such scattered fighting as did take place after the first wave of chemical attacks cannot properly be called resistance. The best that the KDP could manage was a string of isolated rearguard actions, in which splintered groups of peshmerga tried to slow the army's advance. But their efforts were useless, for the places where the peshmerga tried to make a stand, such as the narrow defile known as Darava Shinyeh (or "Shinyeh Passage"), were also acutely vulnerable to renewed attacks from the air. According to one KDP veteran, these battles were "all very short ones, like pinpricks," and military helicopters continued to harass the fleeing peshmerga throughout the next day, August 26.36
Perhaps the most cowardly of all the chemical attacks was the bombing of the bridge at Baluka, one of the main crossing points on the fast-flowing Greater Zab river. The village of Baluka itself had been emptied during the border clearances of 1976, although a few families had straggled back, accompanied by the peshmerga. Now, with the sanctuary of Turkey barely four miles away across the mountains, villagers had begun to converge on the Baluka bridge from all directions, in flight from the army. At about 1:00 p.m. on August 25, the warplanes appeared over Baluka. They released two bombs on the village and several more over the river. The bridge was quickly covered in a greenish cloud and the corpses of farm animals piled up on the bridge, making it impassable.
By nightfall on August 26, the combat was effectively over. "The zealousness of the [army] fighters was boosted by the collapse of thesaboteurs and their complete inability to resist," Gen. Zareb noted with satisfaction in his written report on the Final Anfal.37
In many cases, the ground troops and jahsh -- or chatta ("bandits"), as they are known in the Kurmanji-speaking areas--moved into the abandoned villages on the same day as the chemical attacks. In others, they waited a day or two. But the occupation of Badinan was effectively complete by dawn on August 28, exactly on Gen. Zareb's original schedule. Tens of thousands of refugees headed for Turkey; others were captured in their homes, or surrendered after a brief, vain attempt at flight; others hid in the mountains until the September 6 amnesty.
In coordination with the first wave of attacks, the Iraqi Army occupied the highway that runs east from the small border city of Zakho until it meets the Greater Zab river at Baluka. The idea was evidently to seal off the Turkish border and stem the flood of refugees. In this, however, the army was strikingly unsuccessful. Although many died along the way, some were caught, and others were chased and strafed by fighter aircraft, between 65,000 and 80,000 Kurds did manage to make the crossing. In the impromptu camps that a reluctant Turkish government found itself obliged to open along the border, the refugees told their stories and displayed their injuries to the few members of the foreign press who managed to gain access. Those who lived in villages south of the highway found it more difficult to escape, and a lower proportion of them reached safe havens in Turkey.38
Many of those who could not break through the blockade line along the Zakho-Baluka road still managed to evade capture by hiding out in the mountains. They watched impotently as the bulldozers crawled back and forth through the valleys below, crushing everything in their path. Along the great east-west spine of Gara Mountain, south of Amadiya, the scattered peshmerga fighters took charge of a sprawling caravan of thousands of refugees. On foot and on horseback, they travelled east for three days, but found it impossible to get across the Greater Zab, because all the bridges were now controlled by the army. Retracing their steps to the west again, the refugees heard on the radios that the peshmerga carried that thousands of their fellow Kurds had found sanctuary in Turkey. As news of the recent chemical attacks spread, the peshmerga tried to keep up the morale of the civilians by telling them that foreign pressure on the Iraqi regime would soon force Saddam Hussein to declare a halt to the fighting.
Although they had no bread or other supplies, there was meat aplenty in the form of abandoned farm animals. But the most pressing problem was the lack of drinking water: all the rivers and springs lay in the valleys below, and these were in the hands of the army and jahsh, who were shooting at anything that moved. The fugitives went for three days without water, and according to at least one account many young children died on Gara Mountain as a result of diarrhea and dehydration.39 But a surprising number did survive the ordeal, and on their twelfth day in hiding, just after the radio had broadcast noon prayers, news came that the Revolutionary Command Council had decreed a general amnesty.
Many thousands of others were less fortunate. The villagers of Gizeh, for example, which had been attacked with chemical weapons on August 25, held out in the mountains for ten days--not quite long enough to benefit from the amnesty. Starving and exhausted, they wereeventually hunted down by soldiers who made them walk for four hours to Amadiya. There they were hustled into trucks that drove off to the west, in the direction of Dohuk. Gizeh was one of the worst hit villages in the whole of Badinan: according to Mushir, the young peshmerga from Sarkeh, ninety-three of its men were captured by the army and were never heard from again. Only Mushir and two others survived.
Some were captured in their homes on the first day of the assault. Part of the population of Mergeti, on the north side of Gara Mountain, did flee immediately after the August 25 chemical attack, but almost a hundred other people, including many of the older residents, were seized as soldiers and Kurdish chatta forces reached the village that evening. The troops warned them that if there was any resistance from peshmerga in the vicinity, they would all be executed on the spot.
In Warakhal, some way to the east in the nahya of Nerwa Reikan, a local mustashar told the village elders that their people should turn themselves in to the army; since they were not peshmerga, they had nothing to fear. The villagers obeyed, and were rounded up and packed into trucks. Their first destination was the complex of Deralouk, built where the main east-west highway crosses the Greater Zab. They remained there for three hours, crowded into animal pens, before being separated by age and sex. The women counted as eighty-three men from Warakhal were loaded into IFAs and driven off. They asked the jahsh what was to become of them, but were ordered to shut up. But there is evidence that the militiamen knew the answer only too well, for some of the women heard them muttering among themselves that it would be "a great loss for these people to disappear."40
From this point on, the story of the Final Anfal closely parallels what had happened during earlier stages of the campaign. The captured villagers were detained, for a few hours or a few days, in temporary holding centers on or near the main east-west highway. Sometimes there was a rudimentary interrogation. Several of these processing points were complexes like Deralouk, built to house displaced Kurds during earlier periods of the Iran-Iraq War. Captives from the area around Gara Mountain were kept briefly in the complexes of Sori Jeri and Kwaneh, and in a school in Sarseng. In the town of Amadiya itself, the police station, the army base and the headquarters of the Teachers Union wereall used. The temporary facilities were badly stretched, and transportation of so many prisoners also proved to be a problem, with many of the army IFAs breaking down. One civilian truck driver told Middle East Watch that his vehicle was commandeered, along with two civilian buses, to transport fifty or sixty prisoners--men, women and children--from the army brigade headquarters in Amadiya to Sarseng, and thence to Dohuk.41
Closer to Zakho, the complexes of Bersivi and Hizawa served the same purpose. Many people also told of being taken to the army fort in Mangesh, or to a primary or intermediate school in that town, sometimes lured there by false promises of amnesty. They remained in Mangesh for up to three days. Some were given meager rations of Kurdish flat bread and sun-heated water; others received nothing at all, although sympathetic townspeople reportedly threw food in at the windows.42 After three days, the IFAs were set to move again, this time to the south, toward Dohuk.
In the Sorani-speaking areas of Iraqi Kurdistan, faced with orders to exterminate their prisoners on an industrial scale, the executioners were sometimes sloppy about their work. From the Third Anfal alone, the Germian campaign, at least six survivors have surfaced to tell their stories. This is not the case in Badinan, where after more than a year of intensive research Middle East Watch has been unable to find a single male who emerged alive from the camps and the firing squads.
Between April and September 1992, and again in April 1993, MEW staff travelled extensively in Badinan, conducting dozens of interviews with survivors of the Final Anfal--Khatimat al-Anfal. In eachformer village group, surviving witnesses were asked to construct a list of those who had died or disappeared. In many cases, they were able to do so, giving complete names where possible and identifying anyone who had been an active peshmerga, a draft dodger or an army deserter. The lists provided by villagers from Badinan invariably included only adult and teenage males--with the signal exception of Assyrian and Chaldean Christians, as well as Yezidi Kurds, whose fate is detailed below.
The numbers reported to MEW from thirty-six villages give some hint of the probable death toll from the Badinan campaign. Some places went unscathed, with everyone making it across the border into Turkey; some lost a single man; many a dozen or twenty; a few suffered brutally, losing almost their entire adult male population--seventy-four from the village of Ikmala in the nahya of Al-Doski, for example, either eighty-three or eighty-seven (according to two separate accounts) from the village of Warakhal in the nahya of Nerwa Reikhan, and ninety-three from Gizeh. In all, these thirty-six villages lost 632 of their menfolk to Anfal, including a few boys as young as twelve or thirteen.43
All of these men and boys were last seen alive in Iraqi Army custody, either crammed into IFA trucks, handcuffed by the roadside at their place of capture, or (predominantly) in the fort at Dohuk, which functioned, so to speak, as the Topzawa of the North.44 None of them has been seen alive since their disappearance almost five years ago, and the only possible conclusion is that they were killed en masse by firing squads, just as their predecessors had been in the earlier stages of Anfal.
Hundreds of women and young children perished, too, as a result of the Final Anfal campaign. But the causes of their death were different--gassing, starvation, exposure and wilful neglect, rather than bullets firedfrom an AK-47. In the first seven Anfal operations, the mass disappearance of women and children frequently mirrored the pattern of peshmerga resistance. In the Final Anfal, there was no resistance to speak of. The KDP was simply routed, and this may help explain why the women and children of Badinan were spared. As for their menfolk, the standing orders could not have been clearer:
"We received orders to kill all peshmerga, even those who surrendered," Middle East Watch was told by a former lieutenant colonel in the Iraqi Army. "Even civilian farmers were regarded as peshmerga if they were working within a prohibited area. All men in the prohibited areas, aged from 15-60 [sic], were to be considered saboteurs and killed. The prohibited areas were shown in red on the army maps, and they covered everything except the paved highways." These orders, the officer explained, were conveyed in writing to the divisional level (tahriri) and then passed on orally to the lower-ranking officers. The reference is clearly to Northern Bureau directives 3650 and 4008 of June 1987, which contained the standing orders for the two-year period including Anfal. The lieutenant-colonel went on to explain that women and children in his own local area of operations, were to be rounded up, trucked to the army's divisional headquarters at Begova where he was stationed and then later resettled in a government complex.45
"Ali Hassan al-Majid's orders were clear," agreed another former officer who had served in the Istikhbarat. "They were to kill all men aged from 15-60. He did not want to see them again, they must be killed off." However, "people were killed according to the mood of the officer in charge. Some were good-hearted and let people go, while others killed them."
The "good-hearted" behavior of some officers is borne out by the testimony of witnesses. A Yezidi Kurd from the village of Mezeh (nahya of Sarseng) was among the thousands who hid out in the mountains after fleeing before the army's attack at the end of August. "Some forty to fifty women could no longer bear the hardship," he recalled, "and surrendered to an army unit in Shkafkeh village. The commander, who was friendly, gave them food and water, but told them he was under orders to kill everyone. So he sent them back into the mountains, saying that he was incapable of killing women and children, and told them to wait for anamnesty."46 Chatta units in this area also crossed peshmerga lines to warn everyone to stay where they were, since there was a general order to kill anyone who surrendered.
At least one large group of villagers was spared as the result of a private deal with the army. This startling case involved a group of 160 families from the village of Spindarok, who tried to flee toward Turkey on the first day of the Final Anfal. They had only made it as far as the main road when they encountered an important tribal leader, the father of one of the mustashars. They assured the man that there were no peshmerga in their ranks, and he in turn approached military intelligence on their behalf. The following afternoon they surrendered to the army, which trucked them to the Zakho headquarters of Istikhbarat. There they handed over their weapons and gave statements. After this they were allowed to go free, moving in with relatives in Zakho. (Their own village of Spindarok was burned and bulldozed.)47
Some of the captured men and boys of Badinan were lined up and murdered at their point of capture, executed by firing squads on the authority of a local army officer. The most notorious case is that of Koreme, a village of some 150 households just two and a half miles north of the town of Mangesh.48 Koreme was known locally as a pro-government village, and many of its men served as agents of Amn. Bythe time of Anfal, however, Koreme was already a village-in-hiding; since the previous year its population of 1,000 or so had taken refuge beneath damp rock overhangs in the ravines nearby. In the aftermath of the August 25 chemical attacks, Koreme--like innumerable other villages--held a fierce debate about what to do. By the 27th, several hundred people had decided to risk fleeing to Turkey. But later that same day other terrified villagers they encountered in the mountains warned them that they had left it too late; all routes to the border were now blocked by soldiers.
The Koreme refugees turned back, accompanied by a number of people from the village of Chalkey who had joined them in the ravines. They walked all night, in constant fear of attack. By the afternoon of August 28, they had reached the outskirts of Koreme once more. The soldiers and the jahsh, however, had got there first. As soon as they saw the troops, the men raised their hands high in the air to signal surrender.
The officers in charge, two young lieutenants in their twenties, had the villagers separated on the spot by age and sex. This done, they appeared unsure of what they should do next, but after a pause one of the lieutenants ordered a group of thirty-three men and teenage boys to stand apart from the others.49 Their ages ranged from thirteen to forty-three. As the other villagers were led away behind a hill, out of sight, the men were made to squat on their heels. The soldiers continued to tell them that no harm would come to them, and even offered them cigarettes and water. While they waited, one of the officers called his superiors in nearby Mangesh on his walkie-talkie. He reported that he had captured a group of "armed subversives" and asked for instructions. As soon as he put the radio down, the lieutenant shouted the order to his men to open fire. Twenty-seven of the thirty-three prisoners were killed--eighteen from Koreme and nine from Chalkey. Remarkably, however, six survived--even though the soldiers later went down the line to administer the coup de grace.50 The bodies were left to lie where theyhad fallen and to rot in the hot summer sun for more than a week before soldiers returned to bury them in two shallow pits.
To this day there is considerable speculation as to why Koreme should have been singled out in this way. Of all the theories that have been floated, the most plausible may be that their former role in Amn holds the key to the mystery. As a loyalist village, Koreme would have been expected to abide by the "redlining" of 1987 and register its inhabitants under the October census. Instead the village went into hiding. The regime would therefore have regarded its former Amn agents as especially traitorous, and captured official documents make it clear that this kind of desertion was punishable by summary execution.51
Koreme was not the only case of a mass execution in the field. Something similar took place on a smaller scale in Mergeti, the village on the northern slopes of Gara Mountain that had been attacked by chemical weapons on August 25. Most of the men were peshmerga, and they escaped to the mountain. But as we have seen, as many as one hundred villagers were captured in their homes by soldiers that same night. They were held for an hour or so by the spring that was Mergeti's only source of water. As they waited there, the soldiers set fire to their homes.
An Istikhbarat officer then reportedly called his superiors by walkie-talkie and told them that a number of "saboteurs" had been arrested. A member of the jahsh, who was standing nearby and spoke some Arabic, quietly told the villagers what the man had been ordered to do: "Separate the men and women and kill all the men older than fifteen." Twelve men were made to stand aside, and at nightfall the women were taken away on foot to the nearby town of Sarseng. In the confusion and darkness, an apparently tender-hearted infantry officer managed to conceal four of the men in the larger group of women in anattempt to save them.52 The other eight were taken by their captors to the nearby village of Bawarkeh Ka'ba, away from the mountains.
The soldiers' commanding officer was furious. "Why did you bring them here?" he shouted. "I ordered you to kill them. Why did you not implement my orders?" The man repeated his command: the men were to be taken back to their place of capture and shot. At a spot about 300 yards outside Mergeti, the prisoners were bound together hand and feet, blindfolded and handcuffed, and shot with Kalashnikovs.53
Thanks to Brigadier General Zareb's meticulous account of troop movements during the Final Anfal, it is possible to say with some precision who was responsible for the Mergeti and Koreme murders.54 Although Mergeti is not mentioned by name in Gen. Zareb's report, the village clearly fell within the area of operations of the Iraqi Army's 41st Infantry Division. The 41st controlled a detachment of commandos from the Sixth Army Corps, as well as three infantry brigades, numbers 103, 114 and 706. The commander of one of these three brigades--it is not specified which--was in charge of the division's first joint task force that was deployed against Gara Mountain from its base in Sarseng and wouldhave moved eastward through Mergeti in the first hours of the campaign.55
Within the plan of attack devised by the Fifth Army Corps, Koreme was part of the Khabour Basin area of operations. (see map) Stretching from Zakho and Batufa in the north to Mangesh in the south, this theater was in the hands of the 29th Infantry Division. Three infantry brigades were also assigned to the operation--numbers 84, 238 and 435--together with a tank battalion, an assortment of mechanized forces, field engineers, artillery units and waterborne troops, and sixteen National Defense Battalions, or jahsh.
The campaign was further subdivided into eight joint task forces, two of which--the sixth and seventh--were based in Mangesh.56 While the seventh task force was instructed to drive eastward and take the villages of Majalmukht and Alkushki, the sixth was to move north, as far as the twin villages of upper and lower Baroshki, on the south bank of the Khabour river. A secondary detachment was to peel off to the northeast, and to take Koreme. It was this unit that carried out the executions, and from the testimonies of witnesses, the assumption must be that the order came from the sixth task force commander of the 29th Infantry Division, based in Mangesh.
Gen. Zareb was well pleased by the performance of his officers. By August 29, he was able to report that the 29th and 41st Infantry Divisions had "occupied all [their] target places" and "completed all the duties assigned to [them]."57 Over the course of the next week, other units and task forces continued mopping-up operations and drove the last of the peshmerga into Turkey and Iran. By September 6, the last strategic border hilltop had been occupied, and from a military point of view the Final Anfal was complete. Gen. Zareb applauded the "military and civilian security authorities" for laying the groundwork for the successful campaign, and paid tribute to the comrades of the Ba'ath Party for "raising the degree of enthusiasm and zealousness of the fighters."58
The general detected the same sterling fighting qualities in the jahsh. "The combatants of the National Defense Battalions zealously and enthusiastically fought to achieve the target of destroying the saboteurs in their positions," he wrote. "In all the convoys, they used to march ahead of the troops because they knew the area and also because of their good physical fitness, especially for mountain-climbing. They...played an active role in the destruction of villages and the collection of plunder."59 There was a meticulous inventory of the "plunder": cattle and goats; rugs, mattresses and blankets; watches, cash and pieces of gold; picture albums, eating utensils, packets of powdered milk, toothpaste...60
His forces had met "almost no resistance," the general reported, and this was reflected in the army's casualty figures. Only thirty-one men died in the Final Anfal, and eighteen of those were jahsh, who had dutifully played the role of cannon fodder assigned to them by the army and the Ba'ath Party. As for the "saboteurs" taken into army custody during the Badinan campaign, they were listed as follows:
Saboteurs Surrendered 803
Saboteurs Captured 771
Others, of course, had died in the field. But these were not tallied accurately, with the exception of forty-eight peshmerga reported killed in clashes with the 29th Division. Instead, Gen. Zareb contented himself with a terse notation: "Too many bloodstains were seen in all the places cleaned by our forces."
The Dohuk Fort squats by the roadside at Nizarkeh, on the eastern outskirts of the capital of the governorate. It is a huge concrete structure, built of Soviet design in the 1970s and protected by a battery of four anti-aircraft guns on the roof. Of the 13,395 "saboteurs" captured in Badinan, most were taken to the fort, trucked there in army IFAs from their place of capture. Some male prisoners from the southern part of Badinan were reportedly also taken to the city of Mosul, but no one has apparently returned alive to tell the story of what happened there.
Most of the inmates were held on the second floor of the fort, which was so crowded that the prisoners spilled over into the corridors. They stayed in Dohuk between two and five days, although some old people were kept there longer, for periods of as much as a couple of weeks. Some women spent the whole of the first night in the courtyard of the fort, confined to the same trucks that had brought them. As in Topzawa, the newcomers were segregated on arrival: men and boys of military service age to one side and women, children and the elderly to the other. Soldiers took brief statements from the men and confiscated their IDs, but no one else was questioned. With their customary fondness for keeping documentary records, security agents made videotapes of these brief interrogation sessions.
As their wives and sisters stood by, powerless to help, the men were beaten with wooden batons and lengths of plastic tubing, kicked, punched and slapped. Army guards amused themselves by putting lighted matches to the prisoners' beards and mustaches. Children screamed and tried to run to their fathers, but were driven back with kicks and blows. Iram, a young woman from Gizeh, on Gara Mountain, watched as soldiers beat her brother-in-law bloody. She begged them, "by God and by the Prophet," to let her cross the courtyard to wash his wounds. The soldiers refused. "You have no God and no Prophet," they sneered.61
When the registration process was completed, the prisoners were dispersed to filthy communal cells that were strewn with human waste. "It was like living in a toilet," one elderly woman recalled in disgust. There were thousands in the fort, men packed into the ground level cells and women, children and the elderly on the floor above. Hundreds morearrived each day. They were from all the major tribes of the Badinan area--Doski, Sindi, Reikan, Barwari, Sleivani and others. Several hundred of the prisoners were from Yezidi and Assyrian Christian villages, and these people were segregated from the Muslim detainees by a partition wall.
In many respects the conditions at Nizarkeh were even more squalid than at Topzawa. Most strikingly, there was no attempt to feed the inmates. Although there were faucets in the courtyard, guards barred the prisoners from using them. Small amounts of insanitary, sun-warmed water were available from barrels in the yard, but there was no effort to distribute this systematically. There was not even bread. "You Kurds have been sent here to die," was the comment that many prisoners reported hearing from their guards.
Small gestures of sympathy from local townspeople helped to ward off starvation--something that happened at a number of other detention facilities for Kurds during Anfal. Once, a Kurdish guard dumped two sacks of bread in the courtyard, and the fitter children scrambled for these. But other children, and some of the older adults, did succumb to hunger and disease. As many as twenty died in one two-day period in early September, according to one account.62 Over time, the longer-term elderly inmates were able to buy food from their jailers, in the same way as their fellow Kurds in Nugra Salman. When only the elderly remained, security also became more lax, and some relatives even managed to slip inside the fort for brief visits. At night the prisoners would slip out to the barbed wire perimeter fence to collect large plastic sacks of food that the people of Dohuk left there.63
For the younger inmates, the guards' brutality continued as a matter of daily routine. New arrivals saw recent bloodstains on the floors and walls. Any woman attempting to visit her husband on the lower levelof the fort was beaten back. Men were savagely beaten with pruning hooks of the sort that Kurds customarily use in their fields. One overweight young man was pummeled senseless, stuffed into the trunk of a Volkswagen Passat and driven out of the fort. He was not seen again. Others were pounded on the head and upper body with concrete blocks, sometimes when they were tied to posts in the courtyard. "I saw it myself when officers killed one young man with such a block," said an old man from the Amadiya area. "I cried and prayed to God to save us all."64
On another occasion, a prisoner saw soldiers and Istikhbarat officers taking turns to beat a group of twelve young men in peshmerga dress. The army men were yelling and cursing them: "Are you not ashamed of being saboteurs, donkeys, sons of dogs!" Later, the witness saw the bloodied bodies of the twelve young men being dragged away by soldiers. He was told by a guard that they were peshmerga who had surrendered or been captured by helicopter on Mattin Mountain.65
Another young man who was a carpenter in Dohuk learned that a friend's father was among the detainees in the fort, and rushed there immediately with sacks of bread and grapes. At the gate of the fort he asked an Amn agent for permission to enter. "How could you go in?" the man asked. "You'll get beaten. Let me show you what happened to some of the people in there." The Amn man took the carpenter to a patch of lower ground outside the fort and pointed to a number of bloodstains, as well as what appeared to be the remains of human brains. The guard explained that these belonged to people from the villages of Spindar and Swareh, on the slopes of Gara Mountain. Eighteen of them had been killed here, summarily executed.66
After a few days in this hellish atmosphere, the first groups of women and children were told to assemble in the huge central courtyard, where vehicles were waiting to take them away to a new destination. Sometimes these were closed buses with two small windows in the rear,sometimes minibuses or coasters, sometimes ordinary army IFAs. Armed guards--identified as Amn and Istikhbarat--waited to accompany the convoys. The final images that the women took with them from Nizarkeh were of the continued sufferings of their menfolk. As one group waited to depart, they saw cursing soldiers beating a number of men in the courtyard with cement blocks and sticks. The men were blindfolded and handcuffed. As the buses pulled away, one woman cried, "Let our children die too, now that their fathers are dead."67 And in the days that followed, the older inmates of the Dohuk Fort saw more buses come--some of them khaki-colored, others blue--to take away the younger men.68 With hardly an exception, they have never been seen again.
The vehicles carrying the women and children headed south toward Mosul, before turning on to the Baghdad road. In one truck, a pregnant woman from the Amadiya area began to go into labor. The other women yelled at the driver to stop, but he refused, and a belligerent soldier aimed a kick at the pregnant woman. But as the crowded truck continued to bump along the highway, she gave birth to her baby. The child survived, and they called it Hawar, or "scream."
About five hours after leaving Dohuk, the convoys pulled up outside a prison, or military base, in the small town of Salamiyeh, on the east bank of the Tigris a few miles south of Mosul. On arrival, there was a brief registration process and Istikhbarat, which had overseen the Dohuk Fort, handed the women and children over into the custody of new guards, whom witnesses identified as belonging to the Iraqi police and Popular Army. The prisoners found themselves in a huge single-story building, divided into perhaps two dozen large, overcrowded halls, each some fifty yards in length. Every hall held people from a particular region, but all the inmates were from Badinan; not a word of Sorani washeard. Here the women were to stay for anything between ten days and two weeks.
The prison regime at Salamiyeh was a distinct improvement on the Nizarkeh fort, and none of the women reported being specifically harassed or abused. Recollections of Salamiyeh varied from case to case. Perhaps memory is dimmed by time and trauma; on the other hand, it may well be that prison conditions changed over time. Some women recalled a diet of nothing but "hard, rough bread" and water from tanks in the yard; other said that they received three meals a day, including bread, rice, soup and jam, and that water was readily available from faucets. There were even iceblocks to counter the summer heat, and a small prison shop that sold a few basic staples. Although there was no soap, the women could wash their clothes each day in the courtyard.
Even so, conditions at Salamiyeh were grim. The prisoners were detained here with no semblance of legal process; no charges were ever brought against them, and they were never given any reason for their confinement. Women and children slept on the bare concrete floor without blankets and used filthy, overflowing toilets. The inmates of different halls were forbidden to communicate with each other. There was no medical attention, and at least two deaths were reported during the two weeks that the Salamiyeh prison was in service. One of the dead was a child from Gizeh village, who was crushed beneath a water tank. Soldiers removed the body, and refused to tell the child's mother where they were taking it.
Above all the women suffered the constant mental torment of not knowing what had become of their husbands and brothers. At least two witnesses said that some of the Badinan men were taken for a time to Salamiyeh, although they were held in separate quarters. One woman from the nahya of Guli learned from the guards that her husband and three brothers were alive in the prison. Another, who was held in Hall No.7 with other prisoners from the Sarseng area, found one day that the steel door of her cell had been locked. It remained that way for six days. On the sixth morning, it was left open for two hours. From her vantage point close to the door, the woman had a partial view of the courtyard outside. "I saw men, blindfolded with their hands cuffed behind them," she told Middle East Watch. "They were wearing Kurdish cummerbunds and headscarves (jamadani)." It was the first time she had been aware of male prisoners at Salamiyeh. "I saw those men being put into military vehicles, closed vehicles with only a small hole in the back." As each pairof vehicles was loaded up, they drove away. Another two took their place, then another two, and another. She saw many men moved out of Salamiyeh in this way. She surmised that this had been going on during the six days that the door of Hall No.7 had remained locked: "It had to be for a purpose; otherwise the doors were always left open."69
Shortly after the removal of these blindfolded male prisoners, there was a sudden burst of gunfire. But it turned out to be nothing more ominous than joyful guards letting off their weapons into the air. President Saddam Hussein had declared a general amnesty, they told the women. Now their husbands would be safe. There was to be music, a big party. They even expected the Kurdish women to dance with them.
1 Cordesman and Wagner, op. cit. p.3, calculate that there were between 450,000 and 730,000 Iranian and between 150,000 and 340,000 Iraqi deaths. These figures are based on unclassified CIA estimates.
2 The Battle of Muhammad the Prophet of God was the Iraqi drive to remove Iranian troops from the mountainous northern front in mid-June 1988.
3 Analysis: Operation End of Anfal, p.39.
5 While the PUK had regional commands (malband), the KDP had four branches, or lak, which handled both political and military affairs. Zewa Shkan housed the first lak; the second lak, based in the Smaquli Valley, handled operations in Erbil governorate; the third, in the Qara Dagh village of Ja'faran, ran KDP affairs in al-Ta'mim (Kirkuk) governorate; and the fourth, in the Chwarta area, was responsible for Suleimaniyeh. The KDP also had special units known as the Barzan Forces in Hayat (nahya Mergasur). Middle East Watch interview with Hoshyar Zebari, Washington, D.C., June 7, 1993.
6 Among Kurdish tribes, aghas are the secular and sheikhs the religious leaders. The definitive work on the subject is Martin Van Bruinessen, Agha, Shaikh and State, op. cit..
7 Van Bruinessen, "The Kurds Between Iran and Iraq," p.27.
8 A. Sherzad, "The Kurdish Movement in Iraq, 1975-1988," in Kreyenbroek and Sperl, eds., The Kurds: A Contemporary Overview, p.138.
9 The Army estimated that the KDP itself had between 1,800 and 2,000 fighters in Badinan, divided into a half-dozen local committees. In addition to the KDP, there was a unit of 250-300 PUK peshmerga in the valley of Zewa Shkan, close to the Turkish border and northeast of the summer resort of Amadiya; 200-220 combatants of the Iraqi Communist Party; and seventy "saboteurs" of the Kurdistan Popular Democratic Party of Sami Abd-al-Rahman, a KDP breakaway group. The KDP continues to dispute the accuracy of the army figures. According to senior KDP officials, the organization's combat strength on the eve of Anfal was 8,000, with an additional 36,000 villagers formally registered as members of the civilian "backing force." Middle East Watch interview with Hoshyar Zebari, Washington, D.C., June 7, 1993.
10 "Analysis: Operation End of Anfal," p.2.
11 ibid, p.32.
12 ibid, p.33.
13 Middle East Watch interview, Dohuk, June 10, 1992.
14 Middle East Watch interview, Gund Kosa village, September 5, 1992; see also the 1987 government recommendations on tightening the economic blockade, above p.90.
15 Middle East Watch interview, Kwaneh complex, August 29, 1992.
16 Since the 1930s, Turkey and Iraq had frequently cooperated in suppressing Kurdish dissent. In 1982 the two governments signed an agreement authorizing Turkey to send its armed forces into Iraq in pursuit of rebel Turkish Kurds or in joint operations with the Iraqi Army against Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga. See The Economist, June 18, 1983.
17 According to surveys by the Kurdistan Development and Reconstruction Society (KURDS), a local relief agency.
18 Middle East Watch interview, Dohuk, September 4, 1992.
19 Middle East Watch interview, Zakho, September 1, 1992.
20 Even in internal communications, the Iraqi government evidently treated the matter of its chemical weapons with the utmost secrecy. Letter no. Sh 5/19299 from the Amn director of the governorate of Erbil to all branches, dated December 17, 1988 and classified "secret and personal for addressee only," reads: "Pursuant to the memorandum from the Honorable Office of the Presidency, no. 4/4/11/44154 of December 4, 1988, a decision has been taken to give all letters (memoranda) which contain information about the production of chemical weapons the highest degree of secrecy. Take all necessary measures, keep this memorandum to yourself, and sign for its receipt."
21 One mustashar did allege that chemical artillery was used against the village of Warmilleh, but this could not be confirmed in interviews with residents. Middle East Watch interview, Zakho, September 1, 1992. On the events in Warmilleh, see below pp.272-273.
22 There have also been persistent rumors about Iraq's use of biological weapons, including reports of mysterious and localized outbreaks of disease in peshmerga-controlled areas. At least one document proves that the Iraqi Army did possess stockpiles of such weapons. In a "highly confidential and personal" letter no. H1277, dated August 8, 1986, Erbil district commander Gen. Abd-al-Wahab Izzat instructs all units in his area to carry out a half-yearly stocktaking of all biological and chemical agents in their possession.
23 Galbraith and Van Hollen, op. cit., pp.1, 42. Their list appears to include a number of villages that were affected by windborne gas from other locations. A persistent difficulty in documenting Iraqi chemical attacks is in distinguishing primary sites from other places suffering the secondary effects, and the list on
pp. 323-327 includes only proven primary targets. This is not only a problem of methodology; it is also the most vivid illustration of the indiscriminate character of these weapons.
24 Soil samples from Birjinni were collected on June 10, 1992 by a forensic team assembled by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and Middle East Watch. They were subsequently analyzed at the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment of Great Britain's Ministry of Defence at Porton Down, and found to contain trace evidence of the nerve gas GB, also known as Sarin, as well as of mustard gas. See the PHR-Human Rights Watch statement, "Scientific First: Soil Samples Taken from Bomb Craters in Northern Iraq Reveal Nerve Gas--Even Four Years Later," April 29, 1993.
25 A full account of the chemical attack on Birjinni is contained in Middle East Watch/Physicians for Human Rights, The Anfal Campaign in Iraqi Kurdistan: The Destruction of Koreme, pp. 31-44.
26 Middle East Watch interview, Gri Gowr complex, August 27, 1992.
27 Middle East Watch interviews, Hizawah complex and Zakho, September 1, 1992.
28 Middle East Watch interview, Warmilleh village, August 31, 1992.
29 Middle East Watch interview, Batufa, April 9, 1993.
30 Middle East Watch interview, Batufa, April 9, 1993.
31 A number of Middle East Watch interviews produced strikingly similar lists of the villages attacked with chemicals along Gara Mountain: to the northern side, Dehukeh, Bawarkeh Kavri, Mergeti, Havintka, Birozana, Drisheh, Mijeh, Kavna Mijeh, Spindar Khalfo and Geyrgash; on the mountain itself, Garagu, Goreh, Zewa Shkan, Baluti, Gizeh, Zarkeh, Razikeh, Sarkeh, Rodinya, Shirana and Ikmala; and on the southern side, Spindar, Swareh, Avok and others.
32 Middle East Watch interview, Dohuk, June 10, 1992.
33 Middle East Watch interviews, Jezhnikan complex, May 3, 1992 and Sarseng, April 11, 1993.
34 Middle East Watch interview, Dohuk, June 6, 1992.
35 Middle East Watch interview, Dohuk, June 2, 1992.
36 Middle East Watch interview, Amadiya, August 29, 1992. According to this fighter, the helicopter attacks included the renewed use of chemical weapons.
37 "Analysis: Operation End of Anfal," p.39.
38 It is clear that a very serious incident occurred either in the Bazeh gorge, through which thousands of civilians fled in an attempt to cross the main Zakho-Baluka road, or in nearby Bazeh village, a peshmerga headquarters. During their September 1988 interviews with refugees in Turkey, Galbraith and Van Hollen spoke with two people who reported witnessing a massacre of some 1,300 people, including women in children, in Bazeh village. According to these accounts, the victims were machinegunned and then buried in mass graves dug by bulldozers. The British film-maker Gwynne Roberts interviewed two teenage refugees in Turkey, who claimed to have witnessed a chemical attack on the Bazeh gorge in which "more than 3,000" people died. According to one of these witnesses,"thousands of soldiers with gas masks and gloves" entered the gorge the next day, dragging the bodies into piles and setting fire to them. However, Middle East Watch interviews in Bazeh and surrounding villages turned up no recollection of such an event four years later. Neither were there any reports of significant deaths or disappearances of women and children that might have occurred during an attack such as those described. Exactly what took place at Bazeh remains an enigma.
39 Middle East Watch interview, Dohuk, September 7, 1992.
40 Middle East Watch interviews, Jezhnikan complex, May 3 and July 13, 1992.
41 Middle East Watch interview, Amadiya, August 29, 1992. Gen. Zareb, in his "Analysis: Operation End of Anfal," acknowledged the problem of frequent vehicle breakdowns.
42 There is a brief account of conditions at the fort in Mangesh in The Destruction of Koreme, p.58.
43 According to a dossier compiled by the Kurdistan Reconstruction and Development Society, some 310 villages were destroyed in the Dohuk governorate during the Final Anfal. The internal Iraqi Army figure for the total number of males taken into custody during the Final Anfal, including "saboteurs" who surrendered or were captured, is 3,063. See below p.289. The pattern of male disappearances from villages surveyed by Middle East Watch suggests that the total numbers may be rather higher.
44 It should be noted, however, that at least some of the Dohuk prisoners were subsequently transferred to Topzawa, which remained in operation to the very end of the Anfal campaign.
45 Middle East Watch interview, Zakho, June 24, 1992.
46 The commander himself is extremely unlikely to have been under orders to kill all those he apprehended, regardless of age or gender, since there are no documented instances of this occurring. If this report of his comments is accurate, he may have had in mind what would happen later to those he handed over into the custody of Amn and Istikhbarat. Middle East Watch interview, Khaneq complex, August 27, 1992.
47 In a curious footnote to this story, the families were detained after the September 6 amnesty by Amn, which sent them on via the fort at Dohuk to the complex of Baharka--entirely in line with the bureaucratic logic of Anfal. Middle East Watch interview, Hizawa complex, September 1, 1992.
48 The story of this village is told in considerable detail in The Destruction of Koreme, especially pp.12-29, 45-52.
49 There was some debate among the villagers as to whether all the members of this group had been carrying weapons when they surrendered. See The Destruction of Koreme, pp.45-47.
50 The sloppiness of the Koreme execution was remarkable in itself. Even more surprising was the fact that one of the six who survived, a 34-year old man, was wounded by the gunfire, but removed to the hospital in Mangesh the nextday by a jahsh unit. He was treated there and eventually transferred to the fort at Dohuk--which he also, inexplicably, survived. See The Destruction of Koreme, pp.51-52.
51 According to Ba'ath Party membership forms found in the Iraqi government archives, merely concealing prior membership in another political party constituted grounds for the death penalty.
52 These four were later disappeared from the fort at Dohuk, according to a Middle East Watch interview, Dohuk, June 9, 1992.
53 This account is based on the testimony to relatives of one of the eight men, who was wounded in the shooting, escaped temporarily to a nearby jahsh post in the complex of Qadish, but was later handed over by his fearful family to Amn in Sarseng. From there he disappeared. The seven men who died were Muhammad Saleh Abd-al-Qader (b.1938), Serdar Sa'id Muhammad (b.1957), Mustafa Abd-al-Qader Mustafa (b.1926 or 1928), Suleiman Sha'aban Checho (b.1956), Adel Muhammad Khaled (b.1961), Ramadan Ahmad Hamou (b.1968) and Hamid Ahmad Hamou (birthdate unknown). The temporary survivor was Banjin Mustafa Abd-al-Qader (b.1966). The full names of the twenty-seven men executed in Koreme are given in The Destruction of Koreme, p.50.
54 "Analysis: Operation End of Anfal," pp.17-19.
55 ibid, p.16.
56 ibid, pp.17-19.
57 ibid, p.27.
58 ibid, pp.38-39.
59 ibid p.39.
60 ibid pp.57-60.
61 Middle East Watch interview, Jezhnikan complex, May 3, 1992.
62 Middle East Watch interview, Telkabber complex, August 28, 1992.
63 Apart from a handful who reportedly died of disease and starvation, the elderly prisoners survived Nizarkeh. So, by a curious quirk, did at least two younger men who were confined with the elderly because of their injuries. One was the wounded survivor of the execution squad at Koreme; the other was a man suffering from the effects of the poison gas attack on Warmilleh, the only adult male to survive from that village. Middle East Watch interviews, Koreme and Warmilleh villages, May 30 and August 31, 1988.
64 Middle East Watch interview, Jezhnikan complex, May 3, 1992.
65 The witness identified two of the peshmerga as Muhammad Taher Musa, age twenty-five, from Zewa Shkan village (Sarseng), and Lazgin Omar, age between twenty and twenty-two, from Ikmala village (Mangesh). Middle East Watch interview, Bateli, Dohuk, June 12, 1992.
66 Middle East Watch interview, Dohuk, September 4, 1992.
67 Middle East Watch interview, Kwaneh complex, August 29, 1992.
68 One witness described the blue vehicles as being "as long as buses, but not looking like buses," with a single small window high up on one side, near the driver's compartment. This witness saw between seven and ten of these buses leaving the fort each day for several days. Middle East Watch interview, Dohuk, September 4, 1992.
69 Middle East Watch interview, Bateli, Dohuk, June 12, 1992.