Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page


Following the 1991 mass uprising in Iraq, the government forcibly expelled over 120,000 Kurds, Turkomans, and Assyrians from their homes in the oil-rich region of Kirkuk and neighboring towns and villages.3 Over the past twelve years, entire families belonging to these ethnic minorities have been obliged to relocate, leaving behind virtually all their possessions, properties, and means of livelihood. Most of the internally displaced people are in the provinces of Arbil and Sulaimaniya controlled by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) respectively. A smaller number were relocated to government-controlled areas in central and southern Iraq. The systematic forcible transfer of these ethnic minorities-a process commonly referred to as "Arabization"-has been accompanied by a government program of resettling Arab families brought from southern Iraq to replace those evicted. The properties and most other assets seized from the victims were distributed among these new arrivals as part of a package of economic incentives.

During a three-week mission to Iraqi Kurdistan in September 2002, Human Rights Watch researchers interviewed scores of internally displaced persons who had been expelled from Kirkuk and other areas. They included Kurds and Turkomans who were being housed in shelters in several camps or other makeshift housing, including Parda Qaraman camps and al-Salam garrison in Sulaimaniya province, and Benislawa and Daratu camps in Arbil province. In all of the camps, private interviews were conducted with families who had recently been expelled from or had fled Kirkuk, inquiring into the circumstances of their expulsion. Others were interviewed in homes in the cities of Arbil and Sulaimaniya and in villages or towns nearby, such as Bakrajo and Mala Omer.4 While some had been expelled in the early 1990s, others were recent arrivals. In a number of cases Human Rights Watch was able to speak to individuals or families within two or three days of their expulsion.

Human Rights Watch also met with a number of officials representing the KDP and PUK administrations, notably: ministers and staff at the KDP Ministry of Reconstruction and Development and the PUK Ministry of Human Rights, Internally Displaced Persons and the Anfal; local officials responsible for running the camps; representatives of the committees established by the Kurdish authorities concerned with the welfare of those expelled from government-controlled areas; and representatives of Turkoman political parties.

Precise data on the number of ethnic minority families or individuals expelled by the Iraqi government since the 1991 Gulf war is not available. What is available are credible estimates based on data compiled by the KDP and PUK and political parties representing the Turkomans and the Assyrians. Record-keeping has improved since the mid-1990s and systematic data collection is carried out by KDP and PUK officials who receive those expelled as they cross the no-man's-land between government and Kurdish checkpoints. However, there is no centralized database containing the data gathered, nor is it systematically shared between the two administrations, which compile information separately based on the number of expelled persons entering those areas under their respective controls.5 Additionally, the data does not apparently distinguish between those individuals or families who were formally expelled by the Iraqi government (the majority) and those who fled to the Kurdish region because they risked imminent expulsion or other punitive measures in implementation of the policy of "Arabization."

The best available estimates from these sources place the numbers of individuals who were expelled or fled "Arabized" areas between 1991 and up to May 2002 at some 120,000, although other estimates place the figure closer to 140,000.6 Of these, the vast majority was expelled to PUK-controlled areas, largely due to the proximity of the oil-rich areas to Sulaimaniya. Figures provided by the PUK to Human Rights Watch in March 2001 estimated the number of persons displaced to PUK-held areas between 1991-2000 at 93,888 (comprising 15,839 families).7 In September 2002, a more detailed breakdown was provided to Human Rights Watch for the years 1995 and up to May 2002, which gave a total of 15,304 persons expelled (comprising 2,550 families).8 The equivalent figures for those who were displaced to Arbil province between 1991 and mid-2002, according to the KDP Ministry of Reconstruction and Development, totaled 16,772 persons (comprising 3,516 families).9 No data was made available for those displaced to Duhok province. Some 5,000 Turkomans, comprising 1,000 families, were expelled to the Kurdish area by the government, but there is no indication as to whether this figure included those expelled before 1991.10

A preliminary survey carried out in Iraqi Kurdistan by the United Nations Center for Human Settlements (UNCHS or Habitat) estimated the number of internally displaced persons at 805,505 by the end of October 2000, comprising 23 percent of the population of that region.11 Of these, the number of those expelled as a result of "Arabization" (classified as "victims of ethnic cleansing") was estimated at 58,706 persons, significantly lower than the figures compiled by Kurdish and Turkoman political parties.

No data is available for the numbers of those forcibly expelled to government-controlled areas in central and southern Iraq, although they are believed to run into the thousands. The lack of access to such areas by human rights investigators has rendered the task of documenting their cases difficult. They reportedly include people who had signed an obligatory "nationality correction" form but were nevertheless forcibly expelled. 12 Many of the Assyrians expelled from their homes, for example, were reportedly transferred to locations in Baghdad.13 Kurds and Turkomans were largely transferred elsewhere. One of the favored destinations is the Arab town of al-Ramadi (located west of Baghdad, in al-Anbar province). In September 2002, Human Rights Watch interviewed several people in Iraqi Kurdistan who had either been initially expelled to al-Ramadi in the early 1990s, or had visited relatives expelled there.14 They spoke of dire living conditions and continued official surveillance of their every move. The sizeable Kurdish community expelled there apparently gave rise to a whole neighborhood in al-Ramadi that has come to be known as hay al-akrad (the Kurdish quarter).

The sheer number of people expelled from their homes solely on the basis of their ethnic identity, and the highly consistent testimonies they provided as to the nature of the measures employed in furtherance of "Arabization," leave no room for doubt as to the Iraqi government's motives. Moreover, the weight of this evidence is supported by the government's own documents, captured by Kurdish opposition forces during the 1991 uprising. Some of these documents refer to punishments for persons who changed their officially registered ethnicity from Arab to Kurd. Other documents list the means by which officials should entice Arabs to move to Kirkuk. These and other statements show the evolution of policy over time toward minorities, including the Turkoman population and the Yezidis whom the authorities designated as Arabs.15

During its September 2002 mission to Iraqi Kurdistan, Human Rights Watch obtained from Kurdish and Turkoman political parties, and from the expelled families themselves, documentation attesting to the continuation of forced expulsions in the decade following the 1991 Gulf war. This included scores of individual expulsion orders as well as papers that families were made to sign stating that they were leaving their homes of their own free will.16 In some instances, the government used legal pretexts in order to justify the expulsions. Some families were told that they were being expelled because they had infringed laws that regulate the transfer of residence from one province to another. In other instances, families earmarked for expulsion were forced to submit an official request to the governor stating that they were "displaced" Kurds wishing to return to the "Autonomous Region."

Kurdish officials told Human Rights Watch, that since the mid-1990s it has become increasingly difficult for ethnic minority families to retain these types of documents upon expulsion, and that Iraqi officials made a point of removing all such papers from them. The victims themselves concurred with this, saying that this policy was aimed at depriving them of the means with which to prove that they had been forcibly expelled. They added that occasionally it was possible, with several thousand dinars, to bribe the police accompanying them to the checkpoints to allow them to photocopy their expulsion papers or other documents.17 Copies of some of these were given to Human Rights Watch.

The Iraqi government's attempts to "Arabize" the oil-rich regions are not limited to the expulsion of ethnic Kurds, Turkoman, and Assyrians and their replacement with Arab families brought in from the south. The authorities are attempting to wipe out all evidence of a non-Arab presence by "Arabizing" all aspects of life. According to many of the families interviewed by Human Rights Watch, for example, administrative officials refuse to register newborn children with non-Arab names.18 When non-Arab couples attempt to get married, they are pressured to adopt Arab names.19 Non-Arabs find it almost impossible to register homes or other property unless they adopt Arab names.20 Around June 2002, it became forbidden to give businesses in Kirkuk non-Arab names.21 Even those who register their ethnicity as Arab are still considered second-class citizens, and face continued discrimination: "Property owned by Arabs can only be sold to other Arabs, and Arabs who are considered `second degree' [i.e., those who `corrected' their ethnicity] can only buy or sell from each other."22

The rate at which other aspects of the "Arabization" policy are being implemented also appears to have accelerated during the 1990s.23 This includes compelling the use of Arab names for historic sites, city or town districts, streets, public buildings such as schools and hospitals, and private property such as restaurants, shops, and other businesses. In addition to transferring to Arabs the title deeds to property owned by those expelled, the authorities also expanded the government's housing construction program: in late 2001, for example, new housing was built in villages around Altun Kopri and Tuz Khormatu to accommodate yet more Arab families. On September 6, 2001, Iraq's Revolutionary Command Council passed Decree 199, "allowing" non-Arab Iraqis aged eighteen or over to change their official ethnic identity by applying to register as Arabs.24 In October 2001, the teaching of Kurdish in schools in the town of Makhmour (Nineveh province, formerly Mosul) was officially banned, and scores of Kurdish teachers were reportedly transferred to other areas and replaced with Arabs.25 Official instructions for the "Arabization" of place names in Makhmour reportedly included the writing on tombstones: all non-Arabic engravings had to be deleted and re-engraved in Arabic. More recently, in April 2002, the authorities reportedly gave additional incentives (in the form of plots of land) to Arabs resettled in Kirkuk who brought the remains of their dead relatives and reburied them in the city's cemeteries.26

On December 4, 2001, the executive director of the U.N. Office of the Iraq Program (OIP) told the Security Council he was "greatly concerned with the increasing number of internally displaced persons," due in large part to the Iraqi government's continued expulsion of Kurds, Turkmen, and Assyrians from areas under its control as part of its continuing "Arabization" campaign. The living condition of some of those displaced was described by the OIP as "abominable." Although some of those forcibly displaced, notably the Turkomans, were able to find shelter with relatives living in Arbil, Sulaimaniya, and other urban centers, the majority has been accommodated-ironically-in the same collective towns that the Iraqi government had built in the 1970s and 1980s for the specific purpose of housing those Kurds it had forcibly relocated at the time as a prelude to the Anfal campaign.

Their future is uncertain. For a decade and more they have been living as forcibly displaced persons in their own country. In the event of armed intervention by the United States and its allies, the possibility of returning to the cities, towns, or villages from which they were forcibly expelled may become a viable option. Most of those interviewed by Human Rights Watch in September 2002 stated that in such an eventuality, they would seek immediate return. They expressed the hope that Arabs families occupying their homes would return to their original places of residence in central or southern Iraq of their own accord.27 Many stressed that they had no quarrel with these Arabs families, but that since the government had brought them, the government should take them back. A small number said they would be prepared to wait if a fair and speedy mechanism for the settlement of claims to property were to be set up. Given the complexity of the problems created by the Iraqi government's program of forced population transfer and its manipulation of census data over a long period of time, some of these claims may never be settled. The vast majority of those expelled have no documentation proving past ownership of property, which was systematically withdrawn or destroyed by officials. Some of the properties in question no longer exist, having been razed to the ground as part of the punitive measures adopted by the government. As for the Arab families resettled in these areas, many are by now in their second or third generation, with their children knowing no other home. Some also have extensive economic interests tied up in Kirkuk, and may prove unwilling to relinquish them. Others will have acquired property in good faith and in all likelihood will contest the claims made by the returnees. Compounding all these problems are the competing claims-which have already surfaced-for a stake in the oil riches of Kirkuk by Kurds, Turkomans, and Arabs alike, on the basis of a proven majority. The likelihood of inter-ethnic violence in such a context is very high.

Origins of "Arabization"
The forced mass displacement of populations on the basis of their ethnic identity, which defines the Iraqi government's "Arabization" policy, is only the latest chapter in the long history of government persecution of Kurdish and other minorities, a history that includes the genocidal Anfal campaign of 1988, when more than 100,000 Kurds were killed.28

Iraqi government attempts to "Arabize" Kirkuk date back to discovery of major oil reserves in Kirkuk in the 1920s, while Iraq was still under British mandate.29 Rapid growth of the city was then reflected in its multi-ethnic demographic makeup. Even then, according to Kurdish sources, the government-controlled oil industry brought in large numbers of Arab workers instead of employing the local Kurdish population.30 Kirkuk also became a rich agricultural region, as the Iraqi government embarked on massive irrigation projects, starting in the 1930s, on the Hawija, Qaraj, and Qari-Teppa plains around Kirkuk and settled several large nomadic Arab tribes from southern Iraq on the newly fertile lands.31

The city of Kirkuk, located some 200-250 miles north of Iraq's capital Baghdad at the foot of the Zagros mountains, is one of the major centers of Iraq's oil industry, with an estimated ten billion barrels of remaining proven oil reserves. During recent times, Kirkuk has accounted for more than a third of Iraqi oil exports.32 Kirkuk's current dominant place in Iraqi oil production reverses pre-1990 Gulf War production patterns, when the southern Rumaila fields were responsible for nearly two-thirds of Iraqi oil production. Production in southern Iraq was particularly affected by destruction caused by the Gulf war, and has not recovered from this blow. The quality of Kirkuk's oil is also significantly higher than that of the southern fields (lower density and lower sulfur content), and production is less plagued by problems such as water intrusion into the oil reserves, a major problem in the south.33

Negotiations between the Kurds and successive Iraqi governments over autonomy for the Kurdish region have invariably foundered over the question of Kirkuk and Kurdish demands that it be designated as an integral part of the autonomous region. Shortly after the Ba`th Party first seized power in February 1963, KDP leader Mulla Mustafa Barzani sought to have the oilfields of Kirkuk, Khaniqin, and north-west Mosul included within the proposed autonomous region, together with a proportionate share of their revenues. The government rejected these terms: "The key reason lay with the oilfields," wrote David McDowall in his history of the dispute, "but the government could also point to 1947 census which indicated that Kurds comprised only 25 percent of the population of Kirkuk town, and only 53 percent of the province."34 The stalemate eventually led to clashes between the two sides and the government stepped up its "Arabization" program. In that year, it reportedly destroyed thirteen villages surrounding Kirkuk, evicted Kurdish villagers from dozens of villages that were then populated with Arabs, and dismissed many Kurdish oil workers and civil servants.35

Barzani reiterated his demands after the second Ba`th takeover of the government in July 1968, but once again Kirkuk was the main obstacle to an agreement: the government, according to McDowall, "yielded to Mulla Mustafa on the principle of territoriality, but insisted that demarcation would depend on where there was a proven majority, and that this would be decided either by plebiscite or by census."36 The March 11, 1970 peace accord that the two sides eventually signed provided for the "unification of areas with a Kurdish majority as a self-governing unit" (article 14). The census for the contested areas of Kirkuk, Khaniqin, and Sinjar, scheduled for December 1970, was initially delayed and then indefinitely postponed. Barzani charged the government with resettling Arab tribes in the contested areas.37 McDowall writes that Barzani

told the government he would not accept the census results if they indicated an Arab majority. He also dismissed the offer of the 1965 census, which he said was forged. When the government proposed to apply the 1957 census to Kirkuk, Mulla Mustafa refused it, since this was bound to show that the Turkomans, although outnumbered in the governorate as a whole, were still predominant in Kirkuk town.38

The early 1970s were characterized by the worsening of relations between the Kurds and the government over Kurdish claims to the Kirkuk oilfields. Barzani also raised other grievances, not least the government's failure to carry out the planned census and to allow displaced Kurds to return to their original homes. The policy of forcing changes to the ethnic composition of entire villages around Kirkuk, `Aqra, Shaikhan, and Khaniqin was still being implemented.39 On March 11, 1974, the government unilaterally declared a new Autonomy Law and gave Barzani two weeks in which to accept it. The law met none of the Kurdish demands regarding Kirkuk and other key issues. Barzani rejected it, heralding a period of open revolt against the central authorities.

Early measures instituted by the government against the remaining Kurdish, Turkoman, and Assyrian populations in Kirkuk and other "Arabized" areas included placing restrictions on the acquisition or retention of title deeds to property; placing restrictions on employment and the transfer of government employees to posts outside the Kurdish region; the "Arabization" of place names; and the offer of financial rewards to Arabs who married Kurdish women in an effort to expedite the process of ethnic assimilation. Others fell victim to arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention without trial, torture, or execution.40

By 1975 the government had embarked on a concerted campaign to alter the demographic composition of the predominantly Kurdish northern provinces of Sulaimaniya, Arbil, Duhok, and Kirkuk in advance of any new official census. This came in the wake of the collapse of the Kurdish revolt, when Iran and Iraq signed the March 1975 Algiers Agreement and Iran withdrew its support to Kurdish opposition forces.41 In the three provinces of Sulaimaniya, Arbil, and Duhok (designated as the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan under the 1974 Autonomy Law), the government's campaign was marked by the widespread destruction of villages and smaller towns and the forced resettlement of "at least 600,000" of their inhabitants in purpose-build collective towns close to the main urban centers.42 Elsewhere, in the oil-rich regions, the government had already resorted to re-drawing Iraq's administrative map in an effort to alter the demographic makeup of disputed areas once and for all. The boundaries of Kirkuk province were redrawn such that an Arab majority was ensured in key areas. Several major towns with a clear Kurdish majority were reallocated to existing neighboring provinces or to the newly created Salahuddin province.43 Kirkuk province (part of which was now subsumed under Salahuddin) was renamed al-Ta'mim (literally, `nationalization,' marking the nationalization of the western-owned Iraq Petroleum Company in 1972).

The authorities then embarked on a massive campaign of forced relocation: tens of thousands of residents were evicted from their homes in areas with significant oil deposits as well as in disputed areas. These included Kirkuk, Khaniqin, Mandali, Shaikhan and, further afield, Sinjar and Zakho. The majority of deportees were removed to desert locations in southern Iraq: many were abandoned without any shelter. Others were housed in rudimentary camps along major routes under military control. In their place came Arab families from various southern tribes encouraged by the government with financial remuneration and other benefits. A comparison of the 1957 and the 1977 populations censuses with regard to the ethnic composition of Kirkuk province showed that the proportion of Kurds had declined from 48.3 percent to 37.53 percent, and that of the Turkomans from 21.4 percent to 16.31 percent, while the proportion of Arabs had risen from 28.2 percent to 44.41 percent.44

An estimated 4,500 villages were systematically razed over a ten-year period between 1976 and 1986, with several hundred thousand people becoming internally displaced. Although initial village clearances were aimed at creating a buffer zone between government-controlled areas and those controlled by Kurdish opposition forces, by early 1987 they had spread to areas firmly under government control. The inhabitants of the cleared areas were forbidden from returning to their homes. Prior to the 1987 population census, these inhabitants of the now prohibited areas were offered an ultimatum: they could either accept to live in purpose-built settlement camps or lose their Iraqi citizenship and be considered as military deserters. This second option amounted to a death sentence, since the census legislation made those who refused to be counted subject to an August 1987 decree of the ruling Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) making desertion a capital offense.45 The census also offered only two options for the registration of nationality: Arab or Kurdish.46 This was particularly problematic for those minorities who were largely based in the Kurdish regions, such as the Assyrians, the Chaldean Christians, and the Yezidis. Those who refused to register as Arabs were automatically designated as Kurds, for which they were to suffer several months later when the Anfal campaign directed at the Kurds was launched.

The 1991 Uprising and its Aftermath
Following the 1991 Gulf war, mass uprisings against the Iraqi regime occurred in the Kurdish north and the Shi`a south, at least in part incited by then-President George H. Bush's call to the Iraqi people to "take matters into their own hands to force Saddam Hussein, the dictator, to step aside."47 Saddam Hussein responded to the uprisings by sending his dreaded minister of the interior, `Ali Hassan al-Majid, to Kirkuk with heavy reinforcements (al-Majid had been in charge of the genocidal Anfal campaign against the Kurds in 1987, where he earned the nickname "Chemical `Ali"). Al-Majid ordered the arrests of thousands of Kurdish males in Kirkuk in an attempt to prevent the uprising from reaching the strategically important city.48 Al-Majid's troops also began demolishing Kurdish homes in pro-Kurdish areas.

Those acts of repression did not prevent the uprising from reaching Kirkuk on March 18, and Kurdish rebels briefly seized control of the city around March 19 or 20. The Kurdish rebels killed some security and Ba`th Party officials, but spared the majority of Iraqi soldiers who surrendered. Kurdish control of Kirkuk was challenged almost immediately, and by March 21 the city was under heavy bombardment from Iraqi tanks, helicopters, and artillery. Hundreds of civilians were killed in the bombardment. The worst killings took place after Iraqi troops recaptured Kirkuk on March 28 and began exacting revenge on the local population.

According to Kurdish residents interviewed by Human Rights Watch at the time, Iraqi security troops ordered the Kurdish populations of Kirkuk to leave, often going from home to home in Kurdish neighborhoods. Tens of thousands of Kurds fled for the mountains above the city. In the immediate aftermath of the uprising's defeat, abandoned Kurdish homes and neighborhoods were reportedly either demolished or repopulated with Arabs brought in from other cities. When Kurdish residents of Kirkuk attempted to return home, they were turned back at Iraqi government checkpoints, or found their homes occupied or destroyed. International journalists who visited Kirkuk months after the end of the uprising reported that almost none of the Kurds who fled had managed to return.49 The Kurdish exodus from Kirkuk following the 1991 uprising turned into permanent displacement for many who today remain in displaced persons' camps inside the Kurdish areas.

There was no let-up in the forced expulsions after the 1991 Gulf war. A last-ditch attempt on the part of the Kurds to come to an agreement with the government took place in April 1991. The talks were abandoned four months later and Kirkuk was once again one of the key issues on which the two sides remained far apart.

Responding to the Iraqi repression and internally displaced persons crisis that followed the failed uprisings, the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 688 calling on Iraq to end "the repression of the Iraqi civilian population."50 The resolution was soon followed by a massive humanitarian operation, "Operation Provide Comfort," mounted by the allied forces inside Kurdistan, and the establishment of a "safe haven" in Iraqi Kurdistan. On April 19, 1991, the allied forces announced the creation of an "air exclusion zone" north of the 36th parallel, forbidding Iraqi fixed wing planes from entering this area. (Later a similar air exclusion zone was established in southern Iraq.)51 In October 1991, Iraq withdrew its troops and administration from the three major Kurdish districts (Dohuk, Arbil, and Sulaimaniya), effectively ceding control of the area to the KDP and the PUK.

The areas of Kirkuk and Mosul, however, fell outside the air exclusion zone and remained under Iraqi government control. The Iraqi government continues to forcibly expel Kurds, Turkomans, and Assyrians from Kirkuk, and replace them with Arabs brought in from elsewhere in a blatant attempt to change the demographic make-up of the region.

3 As outlined below, the figures from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) for the years 1991 and up to May 2002 total 94,950 expelled Kurds, and those from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) (Arbil province only) is 16,772. Taking into account an estimated 5,000 Turkomans as well as several thousand Kurds from Duhok province, as well as Assyrians, brings the estimated total to some 120,000.

4 Located in Sulaimaniya and Arbil provinces respectively.

5 As of September 2002, the PUK's data was not computerized and consisted of paper archives.

6 According to figures provided to Human Rights Watch in September 2002 by the KDP Ministry of Reconstruction and Development, the total number of Kurds, Turkomans, and others expelled to Sulaimaniya, Duhok and Arbil provinces from Kirkuk and environs since 1991 stands at 138,662 persons (comprising 21,316 families). According to figures provided to Human Rights Watch, it is unclear what this figure is based on, and no breakdown was provided.

7 The data was given to Human Rights Watch during a field visit to Iraqi Kurdistan in March 2001. The figures include those displaced to Sulaimaniya province and to those areas of Kirkuk province under PUK control.

8 The data was compiled by the PUK Ministry for Human Rights and given to Human Rights Watch during a meeting with the minister, Salah Rashid, on September 8, 2002. The breakdown given for the years in question were as follows: 977 persons (1995); 1,262 persons (1996); 5,229 persons (1997); 2,548 persons (1998); 2,687 persons (1999); 1,539 persons (2000); 796 persons (2001); and 266 persons (January to May 2002).

9 The data was provided to Human Rights Watch in September 2002 by Nasreen Sideek Berwari, KDP minister of reconstruction and development. The breakdown for the years in question was given as follows: 12,750 persons (1991-1996); 1,227 (1997); 929 persons (1998); 770 persons (1999); 446 persons (2000); 426 persons (2001); and 224 persons (up to mid-2002). These figures, totaling of 16,772, are slightly lower than those compiled earlier in the year by the KDP's Higher Committee For Displaced People, which gave a total of 18,003 persons displaced to Arbil province between 1991 and May 2001, and which do not include those displaced to Duhok province.

10 According to data provided by the Iraqi Turkoman Front to Human Rights Watch, as of September 2002 there were 2,867 expelled Turkomans (comprising 608 families) in Sulaimaniya province, including Dukan and Derbendikhan, and Chamchamal in Kirkuk province, but the dates of their expulsions were not indicated. The KDP's estimates for the number of Kurds expelled from Kirkuk and environs before the 1991 uprising and displaced to both KDP and PUK areas is given as 116,890 persons (comprising 16,800 families). It is equally unclear to Human Rights Watch what this figure is based on. There was neither a breakdown nor an indication of the timeframe within which these expulsions took place.

11 UNCHS-Habitat, IDP Site and Family Survey, January 2001.

12 The Iraqi government introduced the "nationality correction" forms in 1997, ahead of a population census, requiring members of minority ethnic groups to register themselves officially as Arabs.

13 Human Rights Watch is not aware of any credible estimates of the number of Assyrians displaced from Kirkuk. According to the Assyrian Democratic Movement, one of the principal opposition groups representing the Assyrians in Iraq, there were an estimated 30,000 Assyrians living in Kirkuk prior to 1991 (cited in "Iraq Forcing Assyrians out of Kirkuk," Iraq Report, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, February 15, 2002). Since the Iraqi government has expelled many of them to Baghdad and possibly other areas under its control, the task of assessing the extent of the expulsions is a difficult one.

14 Human Rights Watch interview with Haja Mahmoud Rashid, Arbil province, September 16, 2002; Human Rights Watch interview with Halima Sa'dun Majid al-Wandawi, Sulaimaniya province, September 20, 2002.

15 Human Rights Watch/Middle East, Iraq's Crime of Genocide: The Anfal Campaign Against the Kurds (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1995), p. 243. In a highly illustrative example, "a Ba`th Party file on a Chaldean soldier in the Iraqi army includes documents from 1982 in which the man is said to be an ethnic Chaldean; from 1985, in which he is said to be Arab-Chaldean; and from 1990, by which time he was referred to as Arab" (p. 243).

16 Typically, an expulsion order contains the names of all family members being expelled, and a list of the items that they are permitted to take with them. Papers stating that expelled families are leaving of their own free will often state that they wish to relocate to the [Kurdish-controlled] "Autonomous Region" in search of employment and better living conditions.

17 In 2002, the Iraqi Dinar in circulation in government-controlled areas was worth approximately 1,850 to the U.S. dollar. At the time of this writing its was worth approximately 2,500 to the dollar..

18 Human Rights Watch interview with `Abdullah Ramadan Ma'ruf, Sulaimaniya province, September 20, 2002. The Iraqi government has acknowledged their refusal to register children with "foreign names." See
Section III below.

19 Human Rights Watch interview with `Abdullah Ramadan Ma'ruf, Sulaimaniya province, September 20, 2002.

20 Ibid; Human Rights Watch interview with Jalal Sharif Karim, Sulaimaniya province, September 9, 2002.

21 Human Rights Watch interview with `Abdullah Ramadan Ma'ruf, Sulaimaniya province, September 20, 2002.

22 Ibid.

23 For a comprehensive account of the policy of "Arabization," see Nouri Talabany, Arabization of the Kirkuk Region (Uppsala: Kurdistan Studies Press, 2001).

24 See Section III below. State "encouragement" to members of ethnic minorities to register as Arabs had existed in practice over a decade earlier. Official government documents from 1988 and 1989 revealed orders issued by the president of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, and `Ali Hassan al-Majid to the effect that any citizen could become an Arab by means of a simple written application. Human Rights Watch, Iraq's Crime of Genocide, p. 58.

25 The teaching of Kurdish in the Kirkuk region had been officially prohibited since the mid-1970s.

26 According to a number of expelled families interviewed by Human Rights Watch, this was aimed at encouraging resettled Arab families to form "attachments" to their new place of residence, and to regard it as their "real" home.

27 This expectation was apparently based on events during the 1991 uprising, when the government lost control of the city of Kirkuk for several days, during which time a number of resettled Arab families did return south to their original homes.

28 Human Rights Watch, Iraq's Crime of Genocide.

29 Oil from the Kirkuk fields was not successfully extracted until 1927, but oil rights were first conceded to the Iraq Petroleum Company consortium on March 14, 1925 (Hanna Batatu, The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1978), p. 189.) For a synopsis of the development of Iraq's oil industry, see Fadhil J. Chalabi, "Iraq and the Future of World Oil," Middle East Policy, vol. VII, no. 4, October 2000.

30 Nouri Talabany, Arabization of the Kirkuk Region, pp. 20-21.

31 These tribes included the al-`Ubaid, al-Jubur, al-Qurwi, and al-Leheb tribes.

32 For example, during the month of October 2002, the Iraqi State Oil Marketing Board projected exports of around 1.6 million barrels per day, of which 600,000 barrels per day were produced in Kirkuk. "Iraq Plans Around 1.6 million in October Exports," Dow Jones International News, October 20, 2002.

33 Iraq: Country Analysis. Kirkuk produces oil of a density of thirty-seven API and 2 percent sulfur, while the Rumaila production (known as "Basra") comes in at between twenty-two to thirty-four API and between 3.4 percent and 2.1 percent sulfur. High API counts and low sulfur counts are considered desirable.

34 David McDowall, A Modern History of the Kurds (London & New York, I.B. Tauris, 1996), p. 314.

35 N. Talabany, Arabization of the Kurdish Region, p. 31.

36 D. McDowall, A Modern History of the Kurds, p. 327.

37 Ibid., p. 329: the tribes included the Tay, Shammar, and Ubaid (p. 341).

38 Ibid., p. 329. The 1957 census, widely regarded as the last reliable census carried out in Iraq, showed the following distribution of Kirkuk's population according to mother tongue: 1) Arabic-speaking: 27,127 in the city and 82,493 in the province; 2) Kurdish-speaking: 40,047 in the city and 147,540 in the province; 3) Turkic-speaking: 45,306 in the city and 38,065 in the province; and 4) Chaldean and Syriac-speaking: 1,509 in the city and 96 in the province. Cited in Noury Talabany, Arabization of the Kurdish Region, p. 68.

39 Ibid., p. 332.

40 D. McDowall, A Modern History of the Kurds, p. 340.

41 In return, Iran was granted shared access to the disputed Shatt al-Arab waterway. Earlier undertakings of military assistance to the Kurds by the United States, and to a lesser degree by Israel, failed to materialize. As Henry Kissinger famously remarked at the time: "Covert action should not be confused with missionary work."

42 Others, namely Kurds suspected of supporting Barzani, were removed to destinations in southern Iraq, including al-Diwaniyya and al-Nasiriyya. According to McDowall, "at least 500 villages were destroyed in the first phase and may have reached 1,400 villages by 1978." D. McDowall, A Modern History of the Kurds, p. 339. Tens of thousands of villagers from the Barzani clan were relocated to barren sites in southern Iraq, deprived of all assistance or means of livelihood. Human Rights Watch, Iraq's Crime of Genocide, p. 24.

43 The towns of Chamchamal and Kalar became attached to Sulaimaniya province, Kifri was attached to Diyala province, and Tuz Khormatu was attached to Salahuddin province. N. Talabany, Arabization of the Kurdish Region, p. 70.

44 Ibid., pp. 68-69.

45 Human Rights Watch, Iraq's Crime of Genocide, p. 6.

46 The results of the 1987 census were never publicly divulged.

47 See Human Rights Watch, Endless Torment: The 1991 Uprising in Iraq and its Aftermath (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1992).

48 Ibid, p. 60. About 5,000 Kurdish men were arrested during this arrest campaign; most were released in April 1991, but ordered not to return to Kirkuk.

49 Alan Cowell, "Iraq Won't Concede Kirkuk to Kurds," International Herald Tribune, June 6, 1991; Christophe Boltanski, "Kirkouk, Une Carte Vitale pour Baghdad," Libération, August 6, 1991.

50 U.N. Security Council Resolution 688 of April 5, 1991 (S/RES/0688).

51 The southern air exclusion zone, below the 32nd parallel, was imposed on August 27, 1992, and extended northwards up to the 33rd parallel in 1996. Both the northern and southern zones were imposed by allied forces acting under U.N. Security Council Resolution 688.

Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page