"This was the first time people were taken away to end them."
-- farmer of Golama village,
Germian--the warm country--is a large hilly plain at the southernmost tip of Sorani-speaking Iraqi Kurdistan, bordering on Iraq's Arab heartland. It is bounded to the west by the highway between the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and the town of Tuz Khurmatu; to the north by the Kirkuk-Chamchamal road; to the east by the Qara Dagh mountains; and to the south by a shallow triangle of towns--Kalar, Kifri and Peibaz.1 Almost exactly in the geographical center of Germian lies the nahya of Qader Karam, once a busy market center of some 10,000 people.
By the end of the first week in April, the straggling remnants of the defeated peshmerga from the Sergalou-Bergalou area had worked their way southward to take refuge in the PUK's strongholds in Germian. Villagers fleeing from the second Anfal headed south and west as well. Some fighters from the second malband took up fresh defensive positions in Sheikh Tawil, which had been flooded with the refugees from Qara Dagh. Others headed for the village of Bashtapa on the Aqa Su river, which bisects the Germian plain.2 (Local people call it the Awa Spi, or "white river," for the milky color of its flow.)
Compared to the Jafati valley and even to Qara Dagh, the flat terrain of Germian was much less favorable to guerrilla warfare. This was, however, the political heartland of the PUK revolt, and the sons of its farming villages made up the bulk of the organization's fighting forces. The villages were also filled with deserters and draft dodgers, and the peshmerga enjoyed an extensive and well-organized network of local support. "They used to come at night and get food from the villagers and give political lectures for the villagers as to why they should fight the government and why they should not join the jahsh," said a woman from the village of Sheikh Hamid, which lay close to the important PUK stronghold at Tazashar.3 "The peshmerga had ordered each family to buy one weapon," added a man from the nearby settlement of Kani Qader Khwaru. "It was like a law, and the people agreed with this because they saw it was necessary. The armed civilians would join the peshmerga in the defense of their villages. They were referred to as the 'backing force.' All the villages had this type of civil defense unit."4
Yet there was little the peshmerga could do to withstand the ferocious assault of the Iraqi Army. This was a more conventional war, though of a grossly one-sided kind. For more than a week, the area was enveloped in wave after wave of assaults by infantry, armored divisions, artillery, air force and jahsh. The people of Germian were persuaded to surrender by the near-impossibility of escape; never before had they seen such overwhelming concentrations of troops and militia. The army did not leave the area until all living things had been captured, and they pursued any fleeing villagers, by helicopter and on foot, into the mountains and into the towns and cities.5
The Iraqi Army mercilessly exploited the PUK's weaknesses in Germian. There were no strongly fortified bases here--no Bergalou, noYakhsamar, no heavy weaponry. The few peshmerga villages with a fixed troop detachment, or teep, were easily cut off from their supply lines; deprived of reinforcements, the isolated fighters could either flee or fight until they ran out of ammunition. Peshmerga arriving from the areas of the first and second Anfals were exhausted, and there was a general collapse of morale in the wake of the chemical attacks on the Jafati Valley, Qara Dagh and Halabja. The Iraqi regime seems to have found poison gas much less necessary during the Germian campaign, although it did come into play against at least one troublesome target.6 Some beleaguered peshmerga strongholds held out for as much as five days, but in most places the resistance crumbled quickly.
It is possible to reconstruct the battle plan of the Iraqi Army in Germian in some detail, thanks to a sequence of some thirty-three "secret and urgent" military intelligence cables, which give an hour-by-hour update of conditions on the battlefield.7 These documents depict a series of enormous pincer movements, with troop columns converging from at least eight different points on the perimeter of Germian, encircling peshmerga targets and channeling the fleeing civilian population toward designated collection points by blocking off all other avenues of escape. (see map) The cable traffic describes some 120 villages "stormedand demolished," or "burned and destroyed." Almost none of these is described as a military target; in only a handful of cases is there any report of resistance being encountered; in the rare cases where a village is searched, the soldiers tend to find nothing more incriminating than "pictures of saboteurs and the charlatan Khomeini."8
The intent of the operation could not be more clear: it was to wipe out all vestiges of human settlement. Several of the Istikhbarat field reports make this explicit. "All the villages that the convoy passed through were destroyed and burned, since most of the villages were not marked on the map," reports the Kalar column on April 13. The Pungalle column returns to base on April 20, "after completing the demolition of all the villages within its sector."9 No matter how thorough, a single pass was not enough; in mid-August the troops returned to "burn and remove any remaining signs of life."10 In one case after another, the names of the villages that have been eliminated correspond to the site of mass disappearances described to Middle East Watch by survivors.
Early in the morning of April 7, the first troops and jahsh battalions moved out from their base in Tuz Khurmatu, at the southwestern corner of Germian. Over the next two days, other units leftKirkuk, Laylan, Chamchamal and Sengaw, all converging from different directions on the town of Qader Karam. The Tuz Khurmatu column quickly divided into three task forces. One headed southeast from the town of Naujul toward the Awa Spi river. A second, larger task force moved east along the sandy river valley. Preceded by airstrikes, it dealt quickly with the resistance from the second malband survivors at Bashtapa, and quickly reported having wiped out seventeen villages at the cost of just eleven dead--eight of them jahsh.11
Two of these villages were Upper and Lower Warani, a new fallback position for the peshmerga in Bashtapa. The Waranis had suffered grievously in the past, having been burned down on three separate occasions since 1963. The twin villages also provided a bitter illustration of the effects of Ali Hassan al-Majid's demand for aerial and artillery bombardment designed to "kill the largest number of persons present in those prohibited zones."12
In the months preceding Anfal, there were three fatal attacks by government helicopters. One killed an old man resting in his fields at harvest time; another, a fifteen-year old girl and her mother, fetching water from the river; another, two young shepherd boys, brothers aged eight and eleven.
But Anfal was different. The troops arrived at breakfast time, set fire to the houses, killed all the farm animals and rounded up many of the villagers. Others managed to flee into the hills, where they remained for several days. But they realized that they were encircled on three sides, and had no alternative but to head south toward the highway, where they surrendered to a jahsh unit commanded by a mustashar named Adnan Jabari. It was the first day of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, one elderly man remembered--April 17. Trucks were waiting to take them away, and many of them were never seen again. Thesurviving villagers later made a list of 102 people from Warani who had disappeared.13 As with all the villages in the Daoudi tribal area, those who vanished included large numbers of women and children.
Meanwhile, the third Tuz Khurmatu task force launched a ferocious attack on the PUK base in Tazashar, some twelve miles due north of the Awa Spi river. Tazashar was a perfect example of the dilemma that the PUK faced in Germian. A small village of only about twenty households, it had assumed a certain strategic importance because of its location on an all-weather road close to the main Tuz Khurmatu-Qader Karam highway. A small contingent of 20-25 peshmerga dug in here to fight the army forces that were advancing south from the main road. The army brought in heavy weapons and tanks, and airplanes and helicopters lent aerial support. The outnumbered and outgunned peshmerga put up a spirited defense from 8 a.m. until the early afternoon of April 9. But in a valley surrounded by low hills, they were at a huge disadvantage; meeting resistance, it was a simple matter for the army to withdraw temporarily and send troops around behind Tazashar to encircle it. The soldiers seized control of the surrounding hilltops and destroyed three other villages that lay in their path--Upper and Lower Kani Qader, and Sheikh Hamid.
Several witnesses from neighboring villages say that the army resorted to chemical weapons in Tazashar. One man in Kani Qader Khwaru, four miles away, told Middle East Watch that he intercepted radio communications from the officer in command, saying that gas was the only way to dislodge the resistance.14 This witness then sawBritish-supplied Hawker Hunter aircraft bombing Tazashar, sending up billowing clouds of white smoke. An hour later the army entered the village. All its defenders died.
Aisha, a pregnant 20-year old woman from Sheikh Hamid, watched the attack from her family's hilltop wheat field. She did not realize at first that chemicals were involved, since the Iraqi Air Force had bombed the area so often in the past. But when she came down from the hillside that evening, she saw the bodies of twenty-five peshmerga. "It was then that I found out they had used chemical weapons, because I also saw a lot of dead goats and cows and birds." On the night of April 10, Istikhbarat in Tuz Khurmatu cabled to Eastern Region headquarters that it had removed "the bodies of 15 subversives, who were buried in the vicinity of the Tuz Military Sector Command; before burial they were photographed, and the film will be sent in a further dispatch."15 Having dealt with Tazashar, the column proceeded south, eliminating another half-dozen villages before finally wiping out the last peshmerga resistance at Karim Bassam, and so reaching the north bank of the Awa Spi river.
Like everyone else from Sheikh Hamid, Aisha fled. As she was leaving the area, she encountered a mustashar, a man by the name of Sheikh Ahmad Barzinji, who had come in search of his own relatives. She asked him what had happened. "I don't know," the mustashar replied. "You should just surrender to the army. This is the best thing you can do. I cannot do anything; even my relatives have been killed."
Aisha took her children and made for the hills. She could not find her husband. With the mustashar's words in mind, she first struck out north in the direction of Qader Karam to surrender; the army had in any case closed off all other avenues of escape. But on the way, she changed her mind and decided instead to hide out in a cave with a group of fellow villagers. The mountainsides south of Qader Karam were covered with clusters of refugees. They hid in the cave for three days. On the second, Aisha gave birth to her baby. She was hungry and too weak to nurse, and had no covering to protect her child against the cold night air. On thethird day, she ventured out in search of food, leaving her day-old baby in the cave.
As soon as she left the safety of her cave, however, Aisha was spotted by a jahsh patrol tracking down survivors. She was surprised at how kind they seemed; they promised they would take her to the mustashar, who would arrange for her to be amnestied. They found their commander on the outskirts of Qader Karam. It turned out to be Sheikh Ahmad Barzinji, the same man she had encountered three days earlier in the rubble of her village.
"He took me and promised me that he would help me and he put
me in a nearby school. I felt safe in the school, and he
gave me some food. But after a few hours they brought a lot
of people into the school. A lot of villagers were coming
in to surrender; they were encouraged to do so by Sheikh
Ahmad's jahsh. The army separated the men from the women,
handcuffed all the men and put them in a separate room. When
the army took charge, they pushed the jahsh aside. Sheikh
Ahmad disappeared and I did not see him again. Then the
soldiers took all the men and put them into military buses.
Soon after that, they began to do the same thing to the women
Aisha's story remains one of the strangest of the Anfal campaign; in an apparently arbitrary act of clemency, an army officer eventually allowed her to leave the Qader Karam school and go to Suleimaniyeh. Aisha not only survived Anfal; she was even reunited in the end with the baby she had left behind in the cave. Most people from her area were less fortunate--if that is the word to use, since Aisha herself lost her husband, three brothers and twelve other members of her family. They were among a group of at least eighty men from Sheikh Hamid who surrendered to the mustashar and were never seen again. From nearby Karim Bassam, at least twenty-five people disappeared; from Aziz Beg, a village between Tazashar and Talau, the list ran to ninety-two, many of them women and children.
Meanwhile, other army units were pursuing a similar campaign of terror to the north of Qader Karam, under the direction of Special Forces Brigadier General ('Amid) Bareq Abdullah al-Haj Hunta, who appears to have been the overall commander of the Third Anfal operation in Germian.17 Columns moving in from the west reported an uneventful advance--hardly surprising, since they were following the main Kirkuk-Chamchamal highway through an area that had largely been destroyed and depopulated during the spring 1987 campaign. They reached Qader Karam rapidly, by the late afternoon of April 10. The following morning, a column of jahsh under Sayed Jabari set out from the nahya to take care of the single, isolated village of Ibrahim Ghulam, in the rocky hills south of Qader Karam.18 The population had already fled after hearing of the fighting nearby, but they straggled down from their hiding places after a few days to surrender. Middle East Watch was given a list of the names of fifty-one men from Ibrahim Ghulam who were never seen again.19
Ibrahim Ghulam was a village belonging to the Zangana tribe, and the Zangana and the neighboring Jabari were the victims of some ofthe worst ravages of the Third Anfal.20 In April 1988, the Zangana inhabited dozens of villages to the east of Qader Karam; the villages of the Jabari dotted the low mountains to the north. Columns of troops operating out of bases in Sengaw and Chamchamal wiped out all of them. Some of the Jabari villages did manage to escape northward, through a temporary breach that the peshmerga opened on the Kirkuk-Chamchamal road. Others tried, but failed, to outrun the oncoming army troops. At the time of the Third Anfal, the inhabitants of Taeberz, a tiny Jabari hamlet on the paved road a half-hour west of Qader Karam, were in the process of trying to rebuild the homes that the army had burned down the previous summer. Hearing that waves of troops were moving towards them in a huge pincer movement from Kirkuk and Chamchamal, they fled at dawn, but were only two hours from the village when the army and jahsh tracked them down. A convoy of army IFA trucks was waiting for them on the paved road. It took them to Leilan, a nahya a little to the south of Kirkuk.
Other Jabari hamlets were deserted by the time the troops arrived. Such was the case of Mahmoud Parizad, another small settlement close to the main road and only a half-hour drive from both Qader Karam and Kirkuk. In many ways Mahmoud Parizad was typical of the whole Jabari area: twenty-five houses of mud or cement blocks, each with its own bomb shelter; neither electricity nor running water; a small mosque, as well as a schoolhouse that had been closed down and its government teacher withdrawn when the area fell under peshmerga control in the mid-1980s.
When Anfal reached Mahmoud Parizad on April 11, the army met modest resistance from peshmerga in two neighboring villages, and the people of Mahmoud Parizad fled to the mountains to escape the incoming artillery fire. They were joined there by a steady stream of refugees from other Jabari villages, perhaps 1,000 in all. Word had spread rapidly of the previous day's chemical attack on Tazashar, and the women and children decided to surrender to the army; their menfolk, most of whom were active peshmerga, remained in hiding for another two days.
At noon the women and children returned to their village, as a helicopter hovered overhead and shellfire sounded all around. The army had already taken Mahmoud Parizad, and with them was a small contingent of jahsh. The first houses were already in flames. The soldiers stripped the villagers of whatever possessions they had taken with them to the hills. Before torching the houses, the troops also looted whatever they could lay their hands on, even down to small domestic animals like rabbits and pigeons. Then they bundled the villagers into a line of waiting IFAs, and drove off north in the direction of Chamchamal, away from the flames that were now engulfing Mahmoud Parizad.
A few Jabari villagers did manage to escape the advancing troops, sometimes with the help of advance warning from their fellow Kurds in the jahsh. This happened, for example, in Hanara, which lay further north toward Chamchamal, and was linked by a rough mountain path to the local PUK headquarters at Takiyeh Jabari. There had been fighting in the vicinity for years, and a number of villagers had died in bombing raids. Whenever the injured were taken to hospital, said one who survived, the doctors told them that, "You deserve to be treated like this because you are traitors and work with the Iranians." The people of Hanara had grown accustomed to a routine of spending their days in the hills with their flocks, hiding when necessary in their air-raid shelters, and returning to their homes only at night to bake bread.
When Anfal came to Hanara--with helicopters and fighter planes in the morning, and ground troops in the evening--only a few peshmerga combatants were present. The other villagers took the risk of making contact with the jahsh units that they spotted nearby, and pleaded with them not to destroy Hanara. These jahsh did not take them into custody, but instead urged everyone to flee. That night, the villagers came down from the hills to find nothing but smoldering rubble. Everything had been bulldozed, including the mosque. Under cover of darkness, the villagers set out on foot and on tractors for the town of Leilan. "I turned off my tractor's lights," one man from Hanara remembered. "While I was driving to Leilan, it was all dark, but I could see my village burning. I cried; I knew it was the end of everything."21
In Leilan, the fleeing residents of Hanara met up with refugees from two other villages. Townspeople of Leilan, at great personal risk,sheltered all of them until morning. From there, relatives succeeded in spiriting away many of the villagers, taking them to Kirkuk, where they hoped to find anonymity among the crowds. Some also managed to vanish into the crowds of displaced Kurds in the large new resettlement camp of Shoresh, outside the town of Chamchamal, which at this point was little more than an open field. Here, they survived. As a result, Hanara suffered proportionately less than many Jabari villages as a result of Anfal. According to survivors, twenty-seven people from a single family disappeared from Golama; nearby Bangol lost forty-one.22 Hanara's disappeared numbered only seventeen--the Imam of the local mosque, and sixteen teenage boys who surrendered to an especially notorious mustashar named Tahsin Shaweis, whose empty promise of amnesty was repeated on a wide scale in the Qader Karam area. One survivor told us:
[The mustashar] told the villagers that there was a general amnesty, and he gave his word of honor that the youths would be protected. He would help them reach a safe place if one could be found. Otherwise, they should surrender and they would be protected by the amnesty. A man brought the sixteen young men, all relatives of his, to the jahsh leader. None were peshmerga. After two or three months, the father went back to Tahsin to ask what had happened to the boys. Tahsin told him that Ali Hassan al-Majid had talked to all the mustashars and told them that no one should ask about the fate of those who had disappeared.23
The Zangana tribal villages to the east fared even worse. A large army task force, including scores of tanks, set out from the nahya of Sengaw and moved west, with the goal of subduing an important PUK base in the Gulbagh valley, less than ten miles east of Qader Karam. It took the army a whole day to crush the resistance in this area, although it was clear that the peshmerga were fighting against impossible odds. Three of them died in Qeitoul; another seven fell in Garawi. The PUK's 59th teep, together with survivors from the 55th teep in Qara Dagh, entrenched themselves in Upper and Lower Gulbagh on April 10 and held off the troops until nightfall. Two more peshmerga were "martyred" here, and by 8:00 p.m. the survivors realized that their position was hopeless and withdrew to the south.24
The people of Qeitawan, a village of one hundred mud houses on the Baserra river, were alerted to the arrival of Anfal by the sound of government aircraft bombing the nearby village of Garawi. Hoisting the small children on to their shoulders, with only the clothes they stood up in, they took flight. But the army dragnet caught up with them before nightfall. "We were rich," said an old woman who survived. "We had fruit, gardens, all was looted. They took our tractors, water pipes, even the lantern we used to light the rooms when it was dark."25 Deciding that they had no alternative, her four sons, aged thirty-five to forty-one, made their way to Aliawa, an old destroyed village on the outskirts of Qader Karam, where they gave themselves up to a mustashar by the name of Sheikh Mu'tassem Ramadan, of the Barzinji tribe.26 "But Mu'tassem handed them all over to the government" and she never saw them again.
The people of nearby Qeitoul, by contrast, had taken to the hills a full two weeks before Anfal reached them, as soon as they heard newsof the fall of the Sergalou-Bergalou PUK headquarters on March 19. There were no peshmerga in the vicinity at the time, and they felt unprotected. From their hiding places above the village, they saw the soldiers entering Qeitoul, preceded by jahsh units and with helicopters providing air support. After a brief debate they decided to make for the town of Chamchamal, several hours walk to the north. But they were captured in the mountains by troops under the command of Brig. Gen. Bareq. The army registered their names and sent them off in two groups of trucks. One headed east toward Suleimaniyeh; the other west, in the direction of Kirkuk. Many never returned.
Other villagers nearby were caught unawares in their homes by the army's lightning attack. This happened, for instance, in Qirtsa, a remote village of one hundred houses on a dirt road beyond Qeitoul. Qirtsa was a peaceful place--"We were living naturally, no peshmerga, no government," remembered one resident--and the attack, early in the morning, found the villagers still in bed. Only a handful managed to reach the safety of the mountains. Gen. Bareq himself was in personal command of the troops that came in that morning, rounding up all the village men on the spot and handcuffing their hands behind their backs. The men were trucked away first. Then another army IFA departed, this one loaded up with the villagers' livestock. Finally the women, children and elderly were driven off, but only after the soldiers had looted their homes. As they waited for the IFAs and coasters that would take them away, the women watched the village set afire and then leveled with bulldozers. Sixty people disappeared from Qirtsa, including every male under the age of forty and many of the women. Another sixty vanished from neighboring Qeitoul. "I am not sorry for myself but for the young women," a female survivor of Qirtsa told Middle East Watch. "We do not know what happened to them. They were so beautiful. If they were guilty, of what? Why? What had they done wrong?"27
They had done nothing wrong, of course. They were simply Kurds living in the wrong place at the wrong time. But their fate may shed important light on one of the great enigmas of the Anfal campaign. Throughout Iraqi Kurdistan, adult males who were captured were disappeared en masse--as the standing orders of June 1987 demanded. In certain clearly defined areas, however, the women and childrenvanished as well.28 In some cases, such as the Gulbagh Valley, these mass disappearances occurred in areas where the troops had encountered significant peshmerga resistance.
Some peshmerga had managed to escape to the north, hiding out in the hills above the Kirkuk-Chamchamal road. Others were driven in the opposite direction, however, as army units swept methodically southward from the nahya of Sengaw to the village of Drozna, near the source of the Awa Spi river. According to witnesses, close to twenty villages were overrun and destroyed in this one small area: the PUK bases at Darawar and Banamurt (from which large numbers of people reportedly disappeared); a nearby cluster of villages including Upper and Lower Hassan Kanosh, Tapa Arab, Kareza, Dobirya and three adjacent hamlets, each called Penj Angusht29; and a little further to the east, Hanzira, Segumatan, Kelabarza, Darzila, Kalaga and Darbarou.30 The hundreds of villagers captured in this sector were taken to Chamchamal; the nahya of Sengaw would have been closer, but it had been destroyed during the campaigns of 1987. The surviving peshmerga were now driven hard up against the southern edge of the Qara Dagh mountains, where the Second Anfal had been fought to such devastating effect. Thisconfined area, where the peshmerga now also had to contend with other troop units coming from the south, was one of the bloodiest cockpits of the Anfal campaign.
At the southernmost extreme of Germian, where it borders on the Arabized area of Diyala, the first column of troops had set out from the town of Kifri at 6:30 a.m. on April 9. Later that same morning, other columns departed from their bases at Kalar, Peibaz and Pungalle. Their basic strategy was the same as in northern Germian: to launch a huge enveloping movement from several directions at once; to carry out mass arrests of all the civilians they encountered; to destroy their villages; to funnel escaping villagers toward the main road or to prearranged collection points; and to channel the surviving peshmerga into confined areas from which there was no escape. The first step, however, was to annihilate known PUK strongholds.
The initial target of the Kifri column, under the command of a Brigadier General Sami of the First Corps, was the large village of Omerbel, home to the tribe of the same name.31 There had been a PUK base on the outskirts of Omerbel ever since the founding of the organization in 1976, and a hundred fighters were on hand when the army attack began. This was a battle-hardened peshmerga force, one which had managed to repel a major army offensive the previous April. Although the assault force had included tanks and armored personnel carriers, it had been forced to retreat after taking heavy casualties, and its failure was emblematic of the regime's inability to achieve its goals during the spring 1987 campaign.
Brig. Gen. Sami's force reached Omerbel by mid-morning and immediately encountered fierce resistance from peshmerga using the heavy weapons that they had captured a year earlier. According to the PUK commander who directed the battle, the siege lasted for two whole days, and this is borne out by the terse battlefield reports from Istikhbarat.32 The army responded, however, as it had in Tazashar, by sending advance units on a flanking mission to destroy the villages that lay immediately beyond the target. "1015 hrs: village of Chwar Sheikh stormed and demolished," an April 10 cable reported. (The village of Chwar Sheikh lay three miles to the north.) Omerbel was now under siege from all sides, and by nightfall the peshmerga, realizing that further resistance was useless, had withdrawn. The civilian population had already fled, but they were quickly surrounded by troops in the mountains, arrested and trucked away.
The main column continued northward, mopping up a smaller PUK base at Tukin and then recording a monotonous sequence of another twenty villages "destroyed and burned" over the course of the next week, as far north as the Awa Spi river. One of these was Aliyani Taza ("New Aliyan"), a small village of twenty homes, where a retreating band of PUK fighters had taken up defensive positions.33 "Muhammad," a 32-year old member of the peshmerga backing force, was at home when the troops arrived on the morning of April 13.
The government was advancing from all directions, so it was impossible for us to stay. We headed for Mil Qasem village. We took our wives and children and put them in tractor carts, and we took the animals, and we put all our belongings on the carts. We thought that the army was going to put us in tents at the division base (firqa) on the other side of the [Diyala] river. That is what we heard as we were leaving. The peshmerga didn't stay; they dispersed and went to the mountains.34
It took Muhammad and his family three days to reach Mil Qasem, normally a journey of less than two hours. From there the soldiers led them to the main road, and ordered them to drive under armed guard to the fort at Qoratu, headquarters of the army's 21st Infantry Division. The fort would be the first stop in Muhammad's journey through the bureaucracy of Anfal.
Meanwhile, on April 11, a secondary task force under the command of Captain Abed Awad of the 417th Infantry Regiment had split off temporarily to take care of Daraji, an outlying village a few miles to the west of Omerbel. "The inhabitants who surrendered to the column were evacuated to a specially prepared camp close to the 21st Infantry Division," that evening's intelligence report noted--a rare official comment on the removal and mass detention of civilians, and an explicit reference to the fort at Qoratu.35
After pitching camp at Daraji that night, Capt. Awad's task force retraced its steps the next morning to rejoin the main column. On the way, it paused to burn Belaga al-Kubra and Belaga al-Sughra, which like Daraji were villages of the Daoudi tribe. Affection for the peshmerga ran deep here, according to Rashad, a farmer in his early 60s: "They were all our sons and daughters, all our brothers, all our people. We loved them." Rashad was at home when the bombing and shelling began at lunchtime. With the rest of the village, he and his wife Fekri fled to the hills, but the aircraft pursued them; Fekri was hit by gunfire and killed. Those who survived the air attack were soon hunted down by a contingent of jahsh headed by two mustashars from Kifri, Sheikh Karim and Sa'id Jaff, and trucked away--presumably also to the "specially prepared camp" at Qoratu, the first step in a journey that would end in their deaths. Among the villagers who disappeared from Belaga al-Kubra that day were Rashad's son Akbar, three nephews, two nieces and their six young children, all aged from one to seven.36 Such a heavy proportion of women and children among the disappeared was characteristic of Anfal in the Daoudi tribal area.
The first targets of the army units that left Kalar on the morning of April 9, commanded by Major Munther Ibrahim Yasin, were the twin villages of Upper and Lower Tilako, where part of the shattered firstmalband of the PUK had installed itself after the rout in Qara Dagh.37 The troops' advance seems to have been relatively painless, and by the early morning of April 11 both Tilakos had been destroyed after a short firefight that left just four soldiers wounded. This area, inhabited by the Roghzayi branch of the Jaff tribe, was poorly mapped, and helicopters were needed to airlift troops into zones that were inaccessible by road. Major Yasin's forces passed through several villages whose existence was not even officially recorded. But they destroyed them all regardless.
Few, if any, Kurdish tribal groups were worse hit by Anfal than the Jaff-Roghzayi. The Roghzayi, one of a half-dozen subdivisions of the Jaff, used to inhabit more than one hundred villages in this area; all of them were wiped out during Anfal. The head of the Roghzayi, an elderly man named Mahmoud Tawfiq Muhammad (b.1927), lived in Barawa, a village tucked away in a narrow plain at the southeastern tip of Germian, close to the Qara Dagh mountains and ringed by important PUK bases. Although Barawa fell within the Third Anfal theater, its inhabitants had been terrified into flight by the chemical attacks that took place at the end of March during the Second Anfal.
Mahmoud was a prosperous man, and twenty-four members of his immediate family lived in a large, sprawling house surrounded by vineyards and the rich gardens where they grew apples, figs and pomegranates. Artillery fire and aerial bombing had become part of daily life, and it took chemical weapons to destroy their morale. After the attacks on Sayw Senan and other targets in Qara Dagh at the end of March, the people of Barawa held an urgent meeting. Even though the PUK was present in the village, Mahmoud remembered, "We decided to surrender to the government, the father of the people, since we were only poor farmers with no relations to any political party. Instead, they did what they did." His son added, "When we went to them, the government captured us, looted everything and Anfalized us. Nothing remained."38
The people of Barawa abandoned their homes and their property and headed for another Roghzayi settlement called Kulajo, a place of forty or fifty households that lay several days' walk away over themountains, to the southwest. Although the Third Anfal had not yet officially begun, the hills were already full of soldiers. At each checkpoint, the villagers explained that they were making for the government lines in order to surrender. The troops allowed them to pass unhindered and eventually they reached Kulajo, where they spent two nights safely. But on the third day they saw that the village where they had sought refuge was surrounded.
According to army intelligence reports, the Kalar task force arrived at Kulajo at 11:15 on the morning of April 13. Just before the troops got there, they encountered a brief flurry of resistance on their right flank, from a place called Tapa Sawz, "so this village was crushed and destroyed, and four rifles were confiscated."39 Taymour Abdullah Ahmad, a boy of twelve at the time of Anfal, had lived in Kulajo since he was three.40 His father, a wheat farmer, owned a little land there, and like all the men was a member of the village's "backing force." Taymour was the eldest of four siblings. Since the family's move from nearby Hawara Berza, three daughters had been born. Unlike their kinfolk fleeing from other villages in the area, Taymour told Middle East Watch, the people of Kulajo had stayed in their homes until the last moment. But now, seeing the tanks and heavy artillery advancing toward them from Tilako, an hour's walk away across the plain, each family ran up a white flag from its roof and took flight. The men, including Taymour's father, concealed their weapons in the village wells and other hiding places. Taymour helped his parents to cram a few hastily collected household possessions on to their rickety tractor-drawn cart. Assuming that they would return to their homes before too long, they planned to take temporary refuge in the large new complex of Sumoud, outside Kalar, where some relatives had been relocated as a result of the village clearance campaign of the previous spring. But the people of Kulajo, and the fugitives from Barawa, found that the army had left only a single exit route open for them, a "funnel" as it were, that directed them southtoward the village of Melistura, close to the main Kifri-Kalar highway.41 The journey to Melistura took two hours by tractor; they moved slowly because the vehicle was so heavily laden.
Having destroyed Kulajo, the troops pressed on to the north, followed by a line of bulldozers and empty IFA trucks. They soon reached Hawara Berza, Taymour's birthplace, and it, too, is recorded on the daily intelligence report as "burned and demolished."42 The next tiny hamlet, Kona Kotr, was abandoned by the time the army arrived. All six of its families had already fled. But they ran into an army patrol in the mountains, and were also ordered to proceed to Melistura. An officer promised that no one would be harmed, and that they would all be rehoused in a new complex that would be built soon. As it turned out, however, thirty-four people were to disappear from Kona Kotr's six households--a pattern that was repeated across the Jaff-Roghzayi area. Mahmoud Tawfiq Muhammad of Barawa, the elderly tribal head, lost thirty-seven members of his extended family from Barawa village--including his two wives and ten children, aged two to fifteen, as well as his son and daughter-in-law and their six small children. Another twenty-five relatives disappeared from neighboring Tapa Garus village, a peshmerga base--more than half of them children.43
On April 15, in heavy rain, the troops of the Kalar column reached the northernmost limit of their operations, storming and burning Qulijan, a village close to the Awa Spi river. One family fleeing Qulijan ran into a contingent of jahsh in the hills, headed by a local mustashar named Fatah Karim Beg. "Your time is over," he told them. "This is thetime of the government."44 They, too, were left with no option but to head south toward the main highway.
The displaced villagers spent two days in Melistura, unable to go any further, sleeping in the open fields. The crowds swelled until it was impossible to count them. "It was like the Day of Judgment," recalled one man from Kona Kotr who reached Melistura safely with his family and his farm animals. On the third day the soldiers instructed everyone to move on. Army trucks were brought in from the military base at Kalar, and those who had their own means of transport were ordered to follow. This rough caravan crossed the Diyala river into a stony, arid area that had been forcibly Arabized in 1975 and then laid waste in the border clearances of the late 1970s and the first years of the Iran-Iraq War. Their destination was the fort at Qoratu, headquarters of the Iraqi Army's 21st Infantry Division--the "specially prepared camp," in other words, that had been set up under Istikhbarat control in accordance with the March 15 order of the Ba'ath Party's Northern Bureau Command.45
By about April 18 or 19, ten days into the Third Anfal, the Kifri and Kalar columns had completed their missions. All resistance between the Kalar-Kifri highway and the Awa Spi river had been crushed; not a stone of any village remained standing. A little way to the east, the Peibaz and Pungalle forces were able to report similar success. The Peibaz task force, commanded by Lt. Col. Muhammad Nazem Hassan, took a couple of days to subdue PUK forces in the villages of Sofi Rahim and Ali Wasman, and there were complaints that an unnamed mustashar in charge of the 75th National Defense Battalion had fled the field. But once these problems had been surmounted, the rest of the expedition proved uneventful, and after razing another fourteen villages the task force returned to base.
More serious obstacles lay in the path of the troops operating out of Pungalle, a village some eight miles south of the important Darbandikhan dam. On its first day out, the task force ran into stiff resistance from a peshmerga unit defending the village of Sheikh Tawil, already the scene of a fierce battle a few days earlier. The army commander, Lt. Col. Salman Abd-al-Hassan of the 1st Commando Regiment of the 17th Division, was wounded in an early exchange of fire, and without him the chain of command fell apart. One of the supporting jahsh battalions, the 131st, retreated in disarray; part of the army force, including another officer, was cut off and pinned down by peshmerga fire. The remainder pulled back two miles and called in reinforcements from the 21st Division at Qoratu.
Even with the help of airstrikes, tanks, missile-firing helicopters and heavy artillery, it took the army five full days to subdue the fifty peshmerga in Sheikh Tawil. But on the night of April 13 the village's defenders received the order to withdraw.46 At 14:30 hours the next day, the new commanding officer of the army task force, one Major Salem, reported to headquarters that Sheikh Tawil and the neighboring village of Bustana had both been "occupied and destroyed." Fifty-three families were duly reported to have "returned to the national ranks."47
With this, the troops were free to drive deeper into an area that had been partly abandoned two weeks earlier by the large group of villagers headed by Mahmoud Tawfiq Muhammad, tribal chief of the Jaff-Roghzayi. The PUK, along with smaller contingents of peshmerga from the Iraqi Communist Party and the Islamic Movement, had now been pinned back into their last redoubts in Germian--the string of bases along the western flank of the 5,900-foot Zerda mountain. This area had already been pounded from the east during the Second Anfal. Now it was under siege by troops advancing from the west, and by helicopter-borne Special Forces (Quwat Khaseh). It was impossible for the peshmerga toresist any longer. The last PUK defensive base at Zerda Likaw fell quickly; thousands of villagers flocked to the village of Faqeh Mustafa, where they were rounded up by troops and jahsh and trucked away; others made the arduous trek north along the spine of the Qara Dagh mountains, accompanied by the last of the peshmerga survivors. On the morning of April 20 the Pungalle task force returned to base, reporting that all its objectives had been accomplished.48
"These people are heading toward death; they cannot take money or gold with them."
-- Iraqi Army officer during the looting of a village.
Villages and small towns like Melistura, Faqeh Mustafa and Maidan in the south of Germian, and Aliawa and Leilan in the north, were the first collection centers through which the fleeing civilians were funneled. In some cases, their places of origin were noted down at this stage and their identity documents given some cursory examination. After their initial capture, the vast bureaucratic machinery of a number of specialized party, police and intelligence agencies would be brought to bear on the problem of the Kurdish "saboteurs." But at this early stage of the operation, almost all those in evidence on the government side were either regular Army troops or members of the jahsh militia. It would be inaccurate to describe the initial collection points as "improvised," since the Kurds were clearly directed toward them in a coherent fashion. Yet at the same time places like Aliawa and Melistura showed real signs of porousness--the only point at which the efficiency of the Anfal campaign seemed to break down. In part this was no doubt because even the Iraqi Army's considerable resources were stretched in dealing with such huge numbers of prisoners; but in part it also reflectedthe deeply ambiguous role that would be played in the roundups by the jahsh. (For a description of the jahsh, see above pp.43-46.)
For the villagers swept up in the northern Germian campaign, there were at least four principal collection centers: Leilan, Aliawa, Qader Karam and Chamchamal. Many captives were processed through two or even three of these centers in succession.
Leilan, a small nahya to the southeast of Kirkuk, appears to have lacked any sophisticated infrastructure for handling the large numbers of Kurdish prisoners who passed through. People fleeing the Jabari tribal villages arrived in Leilan in a number of different ways. Some made their way there on their own initiative, perhaps hoping that a town--even one of this modest size--would offer more protection than the exposed countryside, as well as food and water. But they were given a hostile reception; as they approached Leilan on foot, said one woman from the village of Qara Hassan, soldiers fired into the air above their heads. Others, men, were taken to Leilan from Qader Karam, where they had gone to surrender, in the custody of the jahsh. They were blindfolded and handcuffed.
On arrival at Leilan, the army took down basic details on each newcomer. The women wept and begged for mercy, but they were repeatedly told that they had nothing to fear, that they would be granted land by the government in a new complex and allowed to lead a normal life. But the women grew fearful when they were forcibly separated from their husbands, sons and fathers, who were crammed into an animal pen in the open air behind barbed wire. There were "a huge number of people" there, said one witness; "more than 2,000 men, women and children," according to another. There were army and jahsh guards everywhere, although security was less vigilant for the women and children, and a number managed to slip away in the initial confusion before their names could be registered. At least one woman was allowed to leave by army officers after being interrogated. Those who remained slept in the open air for eight or nine days, in the rain and hailstorms of early April, before the men were driven away in army IFA trucks to an unknown destination.
While Qader Karam itself served as the main processing point for all the villages in its jurisdiction, Aliawa, a destroyed village a little to the west, was the primary collection center for many people. During the Third Anfal it was the headquarters of the notorious mustashar Sheikh Mu'tassem Ramadan Barzinji, brother of the governor of Suleimaniyeh.Mu'tassem's name came up repeatedly in interviews with Anfal survivors, along with those of five other local jahsh commanders--Adnan and Sayed Jabari, Raf'at Gilli, Qasem Agha and Tahsin Shaweis--as one of the principal agents of the roundup and mass surrender of villagers from central Germian.
Many factors drove the fleeing villagers--naive expectations that this campaign was no different from its predecessors, slender hopes of escape, fear of being captured in a prohibited area, terror of the troops who were burning their villages en masse. But a further inducement was now added: the promise of amnesty for those who gave themselves up. Using loudspeakers attached to the mosques of Qader Karam, the authorities repeatedly broadcast the message that all villagers had three days to turn themselves in--from Sunday April 10 through Tuesday April 12. During that time, they would even be permitted to return to their hiding places in the hills and recover the possessions with which they had fled. All the males who gave themselves up would be obliged only to serve a tour of duty in the jahsh. News of the offer spread quickly among the refugees, as townspeople spread word to their relatives that they had nothing to fear. Jahsh units under Sheikh Mu'tassem and the other commanders also dispersed into the hills. "They said that the government would not harm the men who surrendered, and that they would be given jahsh papers. They told them to bring their families and surrender," reported one survivor.49
Mu'tassem's jahsh units detained a large group of male prisoners for two days in Aliawa, where army personnel registered their names. "There were thousands of men there," according to one who passed through this transit facility, "peshmerga, deserters, draft dodgers and ordinary civilians from peshmerga-controlled villages." Here, the mustashars' message was repeated: the men would be taken to jahsh headquarters in Chamchamal, an hour's drive to the north. There they would be issued with jahsh identity papers before being returned to Qader Karam. At that point they were to go and find their families and their livestock, prior to relocation in a government-controlled mujamma'a.
On the second or third day of the roundup, Aliawa received a personal visit from Brig. Gen. Bareq, commander of military operationsin the Third Anfal theater. In his presence, the prisoners were filmed. According to another witness, a similar scene unfolded, probably on the same day, at the police station in the center of Qader Karam, where several hundred prisoners were also being held.50 This time a helicopter touched down on the adjoining landing pad, and three men stepped out--Brig. Gen. Bareq, First Army Corps Lt. Gen. Sultan Hashem, and Ali Hassan al-Majid himself. Again, there was a videotaping session, and this footage was later broadcast on national television as film of "captured Iranian saboteurs." The news clip was broadcast repeatedly over the following weeks, to the point where the National Security Council began to complain that its use was becoming counterproductive: people were beginning to see that these were ordinary villagers, not peshmerga fighters.51
Hundreds of other prisoners--as many as 2,000 according to one estimate--were briefly detained in the deserted complex of Qalkhanlou, just outside Qader Karam, which had been built originally to house relocated villagers from the spring 1987 campaign. Hundreds more were held in an elementary school in Qader Karam, where the sexes were separated. "I was put in a room with many other older women," one woman remembered. "I was the only young woman there. I was very scared so that I covered my face with my scarf. I did not want to see anybody. We were held there for two days. Through the window I couldsee the soldiers blindfolding and beating the men."52 After two days, a military bus came and took the older women to Chamchamal, where they were abandoned in the streets, far from their homes and with no means of sustenance. But this was an exceptional case, and the reasons for it remain obscure.53 According to one of the very few young male survivors from the Qader Karam area, "The people who surrendered to the government all disappeared. Saved were those who managed to stay in the hills, or went into hiding with relatives in the towns, or were saved by relatives in the jahsh, or paid a bribe to the local mustashar."54
Qader Karam itself did not survive Anfal. Once the town had served its purpose as a holding center, soldiers and Ba'ath Party members came from house to house to register the names of the inhabitants. At the same time, Amn warned the population over loudspeakers that no one should shelter Anfal fugitives, as happened in a number of towns. The people of Qader Karam were given fifteen days to evacuate their homes and move to new housing in the Shoresh complex, outside Chamchamal, and in early May the town was bulldozed. However, in a telling illustration of the logic of Anfal, these people were not otherwise harmed. They were even paid compensation of 1,500 dinars ($4,500) each for the destruction of their homes. The population of Qader Karam, after all, had been recorded in the October 1987 census. Despite its location in the middle of the war zone, the town was still, in bureaucratic terms, within "the national ranks."55
Chamchamal was the last of the smaller-scale detention places for the captured villagers of northern Germian. A large town and qadha, itis one of the few population centers that remains intact in this part of Iraqi Kurdistan. For those who were trucked to Chamchamal from some other preliminary assembly point such as Leilan or Qader Karam, the destination was either the headquarters of the local army brigade (liwa') or the headquarters of the jahsh.
Some male detainees were brought here by bus, and soldiers came aboard to take additional statements from them. Again, the prisoners were reassured that an amnesty had been declared and they had nothing to fear. But the mood was ominous, and through the bus windows the detainees could see thousands of hungry, ragged men, women and children on the army base.
Other men were roughly transported to Chamchamal in open-backed army IFA trucks. "We suffered much at the hands of the guards," said one. "We were blindfolded and had our hands tied, and we were made to get on and off the trucks several times. The trucks had a door and one step, but because we could not see or use our hands, many fell. It was chaotic."56 "At the brigade headquarters," another man added, "we were literally thrown out of the trucks, and they took our names and addresses."57 After the stop at the army brigade headquarters, it became apparent that other government authorities were becoming involved for the first time. Winding through the streets of Chamchamal, the prisoners soon found themselves outside the offices of Amn, the feared secret police agency.
At this point, an almost unprecedented act of mercy and solidarity occurred. Anfal witnessed many quiet acts of individual courage, both by members of the jahsh and by Kurdish townspeople, and these saved many lives. But nothing quite compares to the response of the townspeople of Chamchamal as they saw their fellow Kurds being trucked through their streets. At enormous risk to their own lives--and in some cases at the cost of their lives--the townspeople staged a spontaneous unarmed revolt to liberate the detainees.58
The jahsh undoubtedly had a hand in the Chamchamal protest, and chance also played its part. The trucks that were being used to ferry the prisoners from the Chamchamal brigade headquarters were not military IFAs but commandeered civilian vehicles, with civilian drivers. Surreptitiously, the jahsh guards persuaded a number of these drivers to free their women prisoners. The drivers seized their opportunity to do so in the uproar that ensued when townspeople stoned the trucks and smashed their windows. "Even young children put stones in their dresses, threatening to break the windows," said Perjin, a 20-year old woman from Qirtsa village, who was able to break free.59 The soldiers opened fire on the demonstrators, and even called in MIG fighter planes and helicopter gunships to rocket the crowd. "My dress was full of bullets from the Bareq soldiers," Perjin said. According to one account, five people died and twelve were injured.
The uprising seemed at first to have been a partial success. Several dozen people escaped, and the residents of Chamchamal offered them refuge--"for the sake of humanity." But this was not the end of the story. Those fugitives who were later hunted down by Amn agents were publicly executed, and in a macabre detail that recurs in many testimonies from Iraq, the surviving family members were even required to pay the cost of the bullets.60
On her second day in hiding in Chamchamal, Perjin watched a report about Anfal on the Iraqi TV news program. This was almost certainly the film shot while Ali Hassan al-Majid and his military commanders were visiting the police station at Qader Karam on April 10. It showed a group of "captured Iranian agents who belonged to [Jalal] Talabani." Despite his blindfold, Perjin thought she recognized her husband, Fareq, and a number of other men from her village. It was the last time she ever saw him alive.
* * *
In the southern part of Germian, there were two principal counterparts to these holding centers. Kurds who were captured from the Daoudi tribal area, as well as other villagers who fled into this sector in the wake of the chemical attack on the PUK base at Tazashar, were taken first to an empty youth center in Tuz Khurmatu. Some had already been separated by sex at their point of capture; those who had been trucked in together were now placed in two separate buildings at the youth center and held there for periods that ranged from three days to about a week. The building that housed women and children contained about 4,000 people, according to one survivor who was able to recognize people from at least a dozen Daoudi villages.
As in Leilan, a few managed to escape with the help of the jahsh, who were placed on guard duty. A sympathetic mustashar even reportedly smashed one of the school's windows, allowing many women and children to escape at night. His action almost certainly saved their lives. The regular soldiers, most of whom were Arabs, behaved much more harshly, stripping the women of any money and valuables they were carrying and telling them that "they deserved all they got because they had supported the peshmerga." Those who disappeared forever from Tuz Khurmatu after the trucks came to collect them included hundreds of women and children. One elderly woman from a Daoudi village never again saw her brother, husband, father and cousin--or her two daughters-in-law and the elder one's six small children. Her younger daughter-in-law, "a very pretty girl called Leila, newly married," was dragged away by soldiers. She clung to her mother-in-law's dress, while the older women pleaded with the soldiers not to take her. But they shoved the old woman aside, and Leila was never seen again.61
For the rest of southern Germian, including the villages of the Jaff-Roghzayi, the main processing center was the 21st Infantry Division base at Qoratu, a large, ugly Soviet-designed fort typical of those erected throughout Iraqi Kurdistan during the 1980s. After the Kurdish uprising in Suleimaniyeh in September 1991, Qoratu was dynamited by Iraqi troops as they retreated to a new frontline further south. Two months later, the Iraqi writer Kanan Makiya visited the fort. On the side facingthe Iranian border, he saw "forty, maybe fifty wagons of the sort Kurdish farmers hook up to the back of their tractors when carting feed or livestock." It was in just such a high-sided, wooden cart that Taymour, the 12-year old from the village of Kulajo, had arrived with his parents and three small sisters. Makiya went on, "Piles of faded dresses and sharwal, the traditional Kurdish trousers, were tumbling now from these wagons, or lay rotting amid the dirt and clumped yellow grass. Everywhere were plastic soles, all that remained of so many pairs of shoes."62
"There were at least ten thousand people in the fort," one villager recalled to Middle East Watch. "They were all tired, hungry and frightened. Nobody knew what was going on but I knew something horrible was in the making. No one could talk to each other. We were all silent and waiting to see what would happen."63
Some of the prisoners stayed in Qoratu for just a single night, during which they received neither food nor water; others said they were held there on a starvation diet for longer periods: "We stayed in tents at the division headquarters for three days. We received one piece of bread per person per day, and water. There were countless people there. The army registered all their names and asked them questions: the name of their tribe, whether they were with the peshmerga or the government. Everybody was afraid to say that they belonged to the peshmerga. They all said that they were farmers or shepherds."64
Taymour himself, recalled the scene at Qoratu clearly four years later. "All the people from the Kalar area villages were there," he said. "All the halls were filled. There were perhaps fifty halls, and each hall held from 100 to 150 people. We had very little food: soup, bread and water. Families were allowed to stay together. The guards all seemed to be army, all dressed in khaki. They didn't speak to the detainees. We were afraid that we were going to be killed, and everyone was talking toeach other about this, because we knew this government campaign was different from the previous ones. The jahsh had lied to us."65
The mustashars had indeed lied--or at least made promises that they were in no position to keep. A final word must be said here about the contradictory role of the jahsh forces during Anfal. As accomplices of the army, they undoubtedly helped send thousands of Kurds to their deaths. Jahsh units performed a wide range of appointed tasks. They protected army convoys and went into the villages ahead of the troops as advance scouting parties--or as cannon fodder. They combed the hillsides for those who had fled the army's advance and brought them down into custody, often flagrantly breaking their promises of safe conduct. They lied to the refugees, promising them the benefits of an amnesty that never existed--promising them, in effect, that this was to be just another in the government's unending series of resettlement campaigns, as a result of which they would enjoy the blessings of "modern life" in a government-controlled mujamma'a. On occasion, the jahsh also reportedly made false claims to army officers that villagers in their custody had been "captured in combat"--either to curry favor or, perhaps, in the hope of some monetary or material reward.
And material reward there was: It was the jahsh who benefited most directly from the application of Anfal in the literal, Koranic sense of the word--as the "spoils of the infidel." As the standing orders for the Anfal campaign had stipulated, "Every item captured by advisers (mustashars) of the National Defense Regiments or their fighters shall be given to them free with the exception of heavy, supportive and medium weapons."66 "Give the men to us and you can have the property," washow a Ba'ath Party "comrade" translated this to one jahsh leader.67 "The peshmerga are infidels and they shall be treated as such," a former mustashar was told in a seminar run by army intelligence officers. "You shall take any peshmerga's property that you may seize while fighting them. Their wives are lawfully yours (hallal), as are their sheep and cattle."68 And indeed the jahsh looted the abandoned villages mercilessly before they were burned and bulldozed to the ground. The account given by one villager was typical of many:
My husband and I were captured in a cave where we were hiding by jahsh, who did not say anything, tell us anything or give us any reason. They just asked for my husband's ID, took it and did not return it. The jahsh took everything from my house while I was standing there, everything, including all the furnishings. I did not have any money, but they took my jewelry and the animals and the tractor and loaded everything into a truck. They cleaned out all the houses in the village in the same way. Then I saw them burning the items that they found inside the house that were not useful to the soldiers and jahsh, like people's clothes. They used kerosene to set fire to the houses; I saw them.69
But while many jahsh assiduously performed the duties assigned to them, it is also true that the Iraqi regime's old doubts about the political reliability of the Kurdish militia were well-founded, and that individual jahsh members were responsible for spiriting many peopleaway to safety in the towns and complexes during the initial sweeps. It was only because of the jahsh, in fact, that this villager, having seen her home looted and burned, was able to survive at all. "Other jahsh guarded the Zils," she went on.70 "They told the army at checkpoints that what was in the covered Zils was sheep. The jahsh saved most of the women and children from this village in that way."
It seems likely that some of the jahsh's acts of clemency were inspired by bribery, a simple appeal to the same venal motives that also led to their looting sprees. One young man from the Zangana village of Qeitawan, in the nahya of Qader Karam, recalled how, at great personal risk, he persuaded the jahsh to help: "I was able to save many family members, women and children, taking them in groups to Kirkuk, Qader Karam and so forth. At the checkpoints I bribed the jahsh with yogurt and food and everything else I had."71
But other testimonies suggest that the most plausible reason for the jahsh's occasional flashes of generosity was that they sincerely believed the lies that they told the villagers, having been told the same lies themselves. Middle East Watch did locate one former mustashar whose unit, or fawj, had been informed by the army that "they were going to arrest and kill or bring in men from the villages." But this was an isolated testimony, and it came from a village in the northern governorate of Dohuk, scene of the eighth and final stage of Anfal, during which the army's standing orders appear to have been modified in several important respects. A much more widespread sentiment, certainly representative of the Third Anfal in Germian, was that the mustashars and the men under their command remained ignorant of the regime's intentions until the roundups had reached an advanced stage.
"I was never told by the army where the captured villagers were being sent," said a mustashar from the Jaff-Roghzayi tribe, whose unit served in a number of villages in southern Germian, including Kulajo, the home of Taymour Abdullah Ahmad. "I always thought they were beingtaken to the south.72 I never thought that they might be slaughtered. All the jahsh did was to assist the army in finding the best ways to get to the villagers, and to capture the escaping villagers and deliver them to the army." One day, he asked an officer what was to happen to the captives. "We are taking them to modern villages," the man replied. But this mustashar became suspicious later, when he had occasion to visit an army camp (presumably Qoratu) and saw large crowds of detainees there. Again he asked an officer what was going on. This man answered, "It is none of your business." When the mustashar's suspicions turned to conviction, he says he was filled with remorse: "We spit on ourselves for taking part in this operation; it was a crime."73
For some members of the jahsh, the moment of realization appears to have come at the processing center in Tuz Khurmatu. Their change of heart was quite visible to the prisoners. "When the mustashars saw that the men and women were separated from each other," said one former detainee, "they knew what was going to happen, and they were upset. The mustashars tried to take the women away secretly."74
Another of the Warani villagers had been captured by jahsh who took her to Tuz Khurmatu and handed her over to the army. Soon, however, "the men were separated from the women and packed into trucks that took them to Tikrit. When we asked what was happening, the officers said that Tikrit would be more comfortable for them." At this the jahsh became suspicious. "Some of them came to rescue the same people they had previously captured and handed over to the army. One jahsh freed ten women in this way. Then they took us to their homes and hid us."75
But the real question about the role of the jahsh is what power they actually enjoyed. In the operational hierarchy of Anfal, the Kurdishmilitia was at the bottom of the pyramid, lower than the most ordinary foot soldier of the regular army. Until the appointment of Ali Hassan al-Majid, membership in the jahsh had conferred some measure of protection. Amn documents on village destructions carried out during 1986 explicitly spare those whose menfolk were jahsh.76 Now, however, the rules had changed, and a number of pro-regime villages were burned and bulldozed along with those of the other Kurds.
The promises that the jahsh made to the captured villagers, even if sincerely meant, were empty. A prosperous farmer from the Jaff-Roghzayi village of Qulijan in southern Germian, fleeing his burning village, sought out the forces of Fatah Karim Beg, the most powerful mustashar in the district, for help. He was told to have no fear. "He issued me with a paper saying that I was with him, the mustashar, and that I had seven families with me. He told me that if I carried this letter the army would leave me alone."77 Comforted by this encounter, the farmer made his way down to the main road to Sarqala, where a group of soldiers ordered him to halt. With confidence, he handed them the mustashar's letter of safe conduct. "Who is this Fatah Beg?" a soldier asked. And using an expression that is grossly insulting in Arabic, he sneered, "He is my shoe." The letter was worthless, and the farmer was taken with all the other detainees to the 21st Division fort at Qoratu.
Several former mustashars have given Middle East Watch accounts of a number of meetings in Erbil and Kirkuk with Ali Hassan al-Majid and the commanders of the Army's First and Fifth Corps. At one of these meetings, in August 1988, al-Majid told the mustashars that the Anfal campaign was now to be taken into Badinan, the mountainous northern stronghold of Mas'oud Barzani's KDP. But on the personal orders of Saddam Hussein, the Badinan Kurds were to be given one final chance to "return to the national ranks." Clemency would be shown to anysaboteurs who surrendered from that area--presumably until military operations began in the north.78
Al-Majid asked for questions, and several men rose to speak. Among them was Sheikh Mu'tassem Ramadan Barzinji, the powerful and widely feared mustashar from Qader Karam who had handed over thousands of civilians to the army. According to another mustashar who was present that day in Erbil's Hall of the Cultural Masses, Sheikh Mu'tassem appeared skeptical. Would the promise be honored, he asked, given what had happened in the earlier stages of Anfal?79 But the qualms of even such an influential Kurdish collaborator, a man who had done all that the regime had demanded of him, were contemptuously flicked aside. Al-Majid told Mu'tassem that he was "a black spot on a white mirror"; if he did not sit down, al-Majid would have him taken away and executed, "even if Allah intercedes." Before the Secretary General of the Ba'ath Party's Northern Bureau, even God Himself had limited powers.
1 The town of Peibaz, on the main road from Kalar to Darbandikhan, is also known as Bawanur--"Father of Light"--in honor of a holy man who is buried there and whose shrine is said to emit light each Friday evening.
2 Middle East Watch interview with former PUK commander in Germian, Suleimaniyeh, March 28, 1993.
3 Middle East Watch interview, Bayinjan complex, May 19, 1992. By this time, of course, there was absolutely no incentive for draft dodgers to turn themselves in, given the recent decrees establishing the death penalty for desertion. Public and even televised executions of deserters were commonplace. See above p.66.
4 Middle East Watch interview, Suleimaniyeh, July 25, 1992.
5 A "secret and urgent" field report from Eastern Region military intelligence to the Northern Bureau, for example, describes a dawn raid on April 26 on the abandoned village of Kilar. Three armored companies of the 444th Infantry Regiment encircled the village to search for "families that had infiltrated the village as a result of the Third Anfal Operation." All the fighting in this sector had ended at least a week earlier.
6 There are reliable reports of a chemical attack on the village of Tazashar (nahya Qader Karam). For details, see below pp.134-135. Middle East Watch has also received unconfirmed reports of a gas attack during Anfal on Khalo Baziani (Qara Hassan).
7 These cables, generally headed "Umala Iran synopsis," are dated April 9-27, 1988. They were found bound together with a lace in a folder whose cover bears the handwritten title, "The File on the Third Anfal Operation (Qader Karam Sector), April 9, 1988. For all its detail, it is apparent that this is far from a comprehensive file on the Germian theater. Most of the documents originate with Kalar Military Intelligence or the Second Army Corps and describe operations in the southern part of Germian. A handful from Tuz Khurmatu and Chamchamal Istikhbarat report on actions further to the north. Some of these documents are reproduced in the February 19, 1993 report on Iraq by the Special Rapporteur of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, loc. cit., pp.102-117.
8 Second Corps cable no.10724 of April 14, 1988, describing the actions of the Kifri column. "After occupying the village of Aziz Qader, the force inside the village found nothing but furniture inside homes and documents and pictures of saboteurs and the charlatan Khomeini. It was burned."
9 Kalar Istikhbarat cable no. 10687 to Eastern Region Istikhbarat, April 13, 1988; Second Corps cable no. 11386 to Northern Bureau Command, April 21, 1988.
10 Amn Kalar, "secret and urgent" cable no. 19442, August 20, 1988. The order to "isolate prohibited areas from tilling and burn them" was given by Northern Bureau communique no. 3821 of July 3, 1988.
11 The task force was made up of the 65th Brigade of the Special Forces, supported by the 58th and 200th National Defense Battalions (jahsh). Tuz Khurmatu Istikhbarat cable no.10340 of April 10, 1988. The cable complains that another jahsh unit, the 25th, "has withdrawn from the task, having failed to carry out its mission." Such complaints of the shortcomings of the Kurdish militia occur frequently in these cables.
12 Paragraph 4 of Northern Bureau Command directive SF/4008 of June 20, 1987, cited above at p.82.
13 Middle East Watch interviews with former residents of Warani, Benaslawa complex and Suleimaniyeh, April 19 and May 12, 1992.
14 According to numerous witnesses interviewed by Middle East Watch, it was a common practice for peshmerga and ordinary villagers to tune in to frequencies used by the armed forces. One PUK commander in Germian was unsure whether chemicals were used in Tazashar, but eyewitness accounts, together with frequent references in other interviews, offer persuasive evidence that such an attack did occur. Middle East Watch interviews with former residents of Sheikh Hamid and Kani Qader Khwaru, Bayinjan complex and Suleimaniyeh, May 19 and July 25, 1992, and March 19, 1993. It is also possible that there was a second chemical attack on April 10. A sheep farmer in the nearby village of Talau reported that peshmerga survivors fled in that direction and were bombed by aircraft at about midnight. According to this man, thechemicals killed ten people in Talau. Middle East Watch interview, Daratou complex, April 18, 1992.
15 Tuz Khurmatu Istikhbarat cable no. 10334, April 10, 1988.
16 Middle East Watch interview, Bayinjan complex, May 19, 1992.
17 General Bareq, a "hero of al-Qadissiyah," (the Iran-Iraq War), was now in charge of a Special Forces detachment guarding the Kirkuk oilfields. Other witnesses also reported sighting him at Glazerda Mountain, during the Second Anfal. According to a former Iraqi police chief, Bareq was also the commander of military campaigns against Shi'a dissidents in the south in the mid-1980s. (Middle East Watch interview with Hamdi Abd-al-Majid Gilli, Suleimaniyeh, July 24, 1992.) Bareq was reportedly executed in 1991 on suspicion of being involved in a plot to overthrow President Saddam Hussein.
18 Cable no. 10488 from Chamchamal Istikhbarat to Eastern Region Istikhbarat headquarters, April 11, 1988. There are unconfirmed reports of one chemical attack in this sector against the village of Khalo Baziani.
19 Middle East Watch interview with a former inhabitant of Ibrahim Ghulam, Suleimaniyeh, June 28, 1992.
20 The Zangana are one of the largest non-confederated tribes in Kurdistan, with settlements on either side of the Iran-Iraq border. The Jabari were not protected during Anfal by the pro-regime stance of their two mustashars, Sayed and Adnan Jabari. For general information on Kurdish tribes and tribal confederacies, see Izady, The Kurds, pp.74-86.
21 Both quotations are from Middle East Watch interviews with a former inhabitant of Hanara, Suleimaniyeh, May 21 and June 28, 1992.
22 Middle East Watch interviews, Jedideh Zab complex, Erbil, May 2 and July 16, 1992.
23 Middle East Watch interview, Suleimaniyeh, May 21, 1992. Many of the most hated mustashars, including Tahsin Shaweis himself, later changed sides and joined the peshmerga during the March 1991 uprising--creating a further twist in the complicated landscape of Kurdish politics.
24 Middle East Watch interview with a former PUK commander who took part in the Gulbagh Valley fighting, Kalar, March 30, 1993. The fall of Upper and Lower Gulbagh was reported in Chamchamal Istikhbarat cable no. 10488 of April 11, 1988.
25 Middle East Watch interview, Suleimaniyeh, May 21, 1992.
26 One of the most feared of the mustashars, Sheikh Mu'tassem was the brother of Sheikh Ja'far Barzinji, a Saddam Hussein loyalist who was governor of Suleimaniyeh and later became chairman of the official Executive Council of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region.
27 Middle East Watch interview, Suleimaniyeh, May 12, 1992.
For a sense of these regional patterns, see Appendix D, p.365.
29 A U.S. Defense Mapping Agency map of this sector, sheet no. 5060 III, shows the villages of Penj Angusht-i Haji Muhammad, Penj Angusht-i Haji Muhammad Agha and Penj Angusht-i Sheikh Mustafa. Such multiple naming is very common in rural Iraqi Kurdistan.
30 Middle East Watch interviews with former residents of Hassan Kanosh and Drozna, Shoresh complex and Suleimaniyeh, May 9 and June 28, 1992. Resool lists all of these villages among a total of sixty-seven destroyed in the nahya of Sengaw during Anfal.
31 The general's full name is not given. The Kifri column was made up of troops from the 417th and 444th Infantry regiments, supported by the 100th, 131st and 197th National Defense Battalions. Kalar Istikhbarat cables to Eastern Region Istikhbarat, nos. 10212 and 10238, April 9, 1988.
32 Middle East Watch interview with PUK regional commander, Suleimaniyeh, August 1, 1992; supporting details provided by an interview with a former inhabitant of Omerbel, Banaslawa complex, July 7, 1992.
33 Aliyani Taza is reported as having been "burned and destroyed" at 08:30 a.m. on April 13, in a "secret and urgent" cable from Kalar Istikhbarat to Eastern Region headquarters, no.10687 of April 13, 1993.
34 Middle East Watch interview, Aliyani Taza village, March 30, 1993. Identity concealed, at subject's request.
35 Cable from Kalar Istikhbarat to Eastern Region Istikhbarat headquarters, no. 10468, April 11, 1988.
36 Middle East Watch interview, Sumoud complex, May 20, 1992.
37 The officer is identified in Kalar Istikhbarat to Eastern Region Istikhbarat headquarters, cable no. 10212, April 9, 1988.
38 Middle East Watch interview, Sumoud complex, May 20, 1992.
39 Cable from Kalar Istikhbarat to Eastern Region Istikhbarat headquarters, no. 10687, April 13, 1988.
40 The story of Taymour--for a long time the only known survivor of an Anfal execution squad--has been widely reported. The account given here is from a Middle East Watch interview, Sumoud complex, July 29, 1992.
41 Villagers from other parts of southern Germian were reportedly funneled toward the town of Maidan, on the far side of the highway.
42 The army recorded the exact time of the burning of Hawara Berza as 17:27 hours on April 17. Cable from Kalar Istikhbarat to Eastern Region Istikhbarat headquarters, no. 11180, April 19, 1988.
43 Middle East Watch interviews, Sumoud complex, May 20, 1992.
44 Middle East Watch interview, Sumoud complex, May 20, 1992. Several other witnesses name Fatah Beg as the commander of jahsh forces in this area; according to one, he was from the Bagzada branch of the Jaff tribe.
45 Northern Bureau Command letter no. 297 of March 15, 1988.
46 Middle East Watch interview with a peshmerga who fought at Sheikh Tawil, Kalar, March 31, 1993.
47 This euphemistic terminology continued to crop up in official communications during the Anfal period, even though many of those captured were now to be killed rather than resettled. Cables from Second Corps Istikhbarat to Northern Bureau Command and other agencies, nos. 10780 and 10915, April 15, 1988. Bustana, it should be recalled, was the site of the surrender in late March of people fleeing from the village of Omer Qala as a result of the Second Anfal operation in Qara Dagh.
48 Cable from Second Corps Istikhbarat to Northern Bureau Command and other agencies, no. 11386, April 21, 1992.
49 Several survivors told similar stories about Sheikh Mu'tassem, including this witness from the village of Kani Qader Khwaru. Middle East Watch interview, Suleimaniyeh, July 25, 1992.
50 Middle East Watch interview with a former resident of Khidr Reihan, Shoresh complex, July 1, 1992.
51 May 2, 1988 letter, reference no. L. Sh. D/397, classified "personal and secret," from the Secretary of the National Security Council (Majlis al-Amn al-Qawmi) to the Interior Ministry, Office of the Minister, with copies to the Northern Affairs Committee of the Revolutionary Command Council and to the General Security Directorate. The National Security Council is a high-level advisory group headed by President Saddam Hussein. The letter also warns that "underground cells of the PUK" may organize an anti-government demonstration in Kalar to protest the fact that "saboteurs who returned to the national ranks along with their families" are being detained. "Returning to the national ranks" continues to appear in army documents reporting the capture of civilians during Anfal operations. The National Security Council's May 2 warning clearly implied that Kurdish villagers had begun to suspect that the term had now become a euphemism concealing a more sinister intent.
52 Middle East Watch interview with a former resident of Sheikh Hamid village, Bayinjan complex, May 18, 1992.
53 Middle East Watch is aware of other groups being spared either because of a bribe being paid or as the result of some other private arrangement with a local official, but neither appears to have happened in this case.
54 Middle East Watch interview, Erbil, September 12, 1992.
55 The destruction of Qader Karam was described to Middle East Watch by a former resident; interview in Shoresh complex, June 29, 1992. In April 1988, according to this witness, Shoresh was merely an open field, and those relocated there built their own homes under the supervision of a government engineer.
56 Middle East Watch interview, Erbil, September 12, 1992.
57 Middle East Watch interview, Shoresh complex, July 1, 1992.
58 A similar partial escape in fact occurred the following month in the town of Koysinjaq, during the Fourth Anfal, but on a much smaller scale.
59 Middle East Watch interview, Suleimaniyeh, May 12, 1992. After the Chamchamal revolt, the authorities carried out house-to-house searches for those who had eluded the Anfal dragnet. It did not take a revolt to provoke this treatment: Similar searches were conducted in Kirkuk, Suleimaniyeh, Tuz Khurmatu and the large Sumoud complex, outside Kalar in southern Germian. All witnesses concur in identifying those who performed the searches as agents of Amn.
60 Middle East Watch interview, Suleimaniyeh, April 1, 1993.
61 Middle East Watch interview with a family from the nahya of Naujul, Benaslawa complex, Erbil, April 19, 1992.
62 Makiya, "The Anfal: Uncovering an Iraqi Campaign to Exterminate the Kurds," Harper's Magazine, May 1992, p.55.
63 Middle East Watch interview with a villager from Karim Bassam, Sumoud complex, May 20, 1992.
64 Middle East Watch interview, Zammaki complex, July 24, 1992.
65 Middle East Watch interview, Sumoud complex, July 29, 1992.
66 Northern Bureau Command directive no. SF/4008 of June 20, 1987. See above p.82.
67 The remark was overheard by a villager during a conversation between a military officer and a mustashar named Sa'id Agha in the village of Garawan (nahya Rawanduz). Middle East Watch interview, Garawan, April 29, 1992.
68 Middle East Watch interview with former mustashar Muhammad Ali Jaff, Suleimaniyeh, May 11, 1992.
69 Middle East Watch interview, Bayinjan complex, May 18, 1992. This witness was from Galnaghaj, a village destroyed in early May during the Fourth Anfal, but the essential details in her account were repeated in many other testimonies from different stages of the Anfal campaign.
70 Zils were an earlier Soviet model of the East German-manufactured IFA army truck, and the term is commonly used by Kurds to refer to either--even though by the time of Anfal IFAs were more widely used. We have generally referred to these vehicles as IFAs.
71 Middle East Watch interview, Suleimaniyeh, May 21, 1992.
72 As had happened, initially, in other words, during the well-known deportations of the Barzanis and others in the 1970s.
73 Middle East Watch interview with Muhammad Ali Jaff, Suleimaniyeh, May 11, 1992.
74 Middle East Watch interview with a former resident of the Daoudi village of Warani, Suleimaniyeh, May 12, 1992.
75 Middle East Watch interview, Suleimaniyeh, May 12, 1992.
76 A handwritten December 1986 letter from the Northern Affairs Committee of the Revolutionary Command Council reports on the destruction of three villages, but approves a First Army Corps recommendation to spare others because their inhabitants are members of the jahsh.
77 Middle East Watch interview, Sumoud complex, May 20, 1992.
78 A memorandum from Amn Suleimaniyeh, dated July 11, 1988, appears to confirm this new policy. This document reads in part:
"Comrade Ali Hassan al-Majid, Member of the Regional Command and Secretary General of the Northern Bureau, has announced the following:
1. The saboteur who turns himself in and hands over his weapon and who is returning from areas that have not been included in Anfal operations up until now, will be granted amnesty for all crimes, including those of delinquency and flight [from military service].
2. The saboteur returning without a weapon from those areas not included in Anfal operations will be pardoned for the crimes of affiliation with a saboteur group and of delinquency and flight. [emphasis in original]
3. There is nothing barring the enlistment of the aforementioned in the National Defense Battalions [the jahsh]."
79 Middle East Watch interview with former mustashar, Suleimaniyeh, June 30, 1992.