SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – The first Kurdish casualty in the Sulaimani uprising 27 years ago was Ariwan Omer Dawlat, a young theatre actor who dreamed of a post-Saddam Hussein era when people could speak freely on the stage.
The uprising began in Sulaimani on March 7, 1991 when Peshmerga entered the city and were joined by civilians who took to the streets to oust government forces.
The city was brought under Peshmerga control by March 8, but it was short-lived. The Iraqi government soon began a counter-offensive, bringing the bulk of the army to the outskirts of Sulaimani.
Though the Iraqi government suffered huge losses of nearly 17,000 troops in and around Sulaimani, the Peshmerga were outgunned and ordered an evacuation of the city on April 2.
The Peshmerga regrouped and launched a new assault in July that ended with an October ceasefire, leaving the Kurds in control of a de facto autonomous region.
Ariwan’s family and friends recounted to Rudaw what happened on this day 27 years ago.
The people in Iraq’s northern Kurdish areas, like the Shiite Arabs from the south, staged a popular uprising against the Iraqi regime in March 1991 after the defeat of the Iraqi troops in Kuwait at the hands of the US-led alliance.
Iraqi Kurds and Arabs largely joined the uprising in response to a call for an uprising by then US President George H. W. Bush. The United States, however, did not come to help the rebellion until it was crushed by Saddam Hussein’s Baathist forces, resulting in about 2 million people fleeing Iraq to neighboring countries — Iran, Turkey and Syria.
The United States, the United Kingdom, and France later introduced two No-fly zones in the north and south of the country to protect the Kurds and the Shiites, respectively. The northern No-Fly Zone provided a safe haven for the Kurdish population and helped to pave the way for the establishment of the Kurdistan Regional Government.
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