Coffins containing the remains of Anfal victims are lined up before burial. Photo: Rudaw
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – Searching for Kurdish victims of Saddam Hussein’s deadly Anfal campaign in areas controlled by Islamic extremists has become “almost impossible,” Kurdistan’s Anfal minister said.
Meanwhile, another official in charge of searches added that a mass grave had been found in Kirkuk, containing the bones of men, women and children, identified as Kurds from their clothes.
Anfal affairs minister Aram Ahmad said that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is looking for Western technology, including satellite images, to help search for the victims of the 1980s atrocities, many buried in mass graves.
The remains of 56 Anfal victims were returned to the Kurdistan Region for reburial last week, but the minister said tens of thousands are still unaccounted for.
Ahmad said that the KRG has assigned special search teams, but that the security situation in Iraq makes it a big challenge to find and dig up the graves.
He added that the current turmoil caused by fighting between Iraqi troops and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) make the task of searching much harder. “Even before the crisis, terrorist groups didn’t allow us to do our work,’’ Aram said.
‘’Conducting searches in the areas under the control of the extremist groups is almost impossible,’’ he explained.
Former KRG human rights minister Muhammad Ihsan said that the KRG had ramped up efforts several months ago to find the remains of missing Kurds in the deserts of southern Iraq, fearing the worsening security situation and shifting sands might hamper searches even more.
Some of the unmarked gravesites lie in areas of Diwanyia, Samawa and the desert borders with Saudi Arabia, which have become battlefields between ISIS militants and the Iraqi army.
Pari Nuri, who directs the search teams, said that several mass graves had been found in Kirkuk.
“As soon as we complete legal measures we will proceed to uncover these sites,’’ she explained, adding that one of the graves contained the bones of men, women and children, identified as Kurds from their clothes.
Ahmad, meanwhile, said that his ministry is seeking advanced technology from foreign organizations in order to conduct searches in deep ground. “We will also need the expertise of the Americans and Europeans.”
He added that some people are trying to disturb the mass gravesites in order to hide crimes, but he did not elaborate.