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Did the Kurds bring Saddam’s genocide upon themselves?

By Arif Qurbany 15/4/2019
We often hear people laying part of the blame for the mass murder of the Kurdish nation on the Kurds themselves. They argue some of these crimes were a direct response to Kurdish revolutions and armed struggle. 

By bringing Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) into the heart of Kurdistan’s territory during the Iran-Iraq war, some suggest the Kurds gave the Baathist regime an excuse to target the Kurds.

They accuse some Kurdish leaders of that era of deliberately provoking Saddam Hussein and his regime to attack civilians in order to draw attention to the Kurdish question among the international community, which at that time supported Saddam in his war against Iran.

Following Saddam’s arbitrary mass arrest of Barzanis in 1983, rivals of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) propagated the claim that the KDP had invited the IRGC to capture Haji Omaran, causing Saddam to retaliate by slaughtering the Barzanis. 

This kind of accusation was not leveled against the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in regard to Anfal or the Halabja chemical attack until 2010, when the late PUK leader Jalal Talabani, during the party’s third congress, blamed the late Change Movement (Gorran) leader Nawshirwan Mustafa for the disaster of Halabja. Mustafa responded by blaming Talabani for the crime of Anfal.

When the PUK and the Islamic Republic of Iran were considering a deal on bringing the IRGC into Kirkuk, the PUK’s current acting leader Kosrat Rasul warned against giving Saddam an excuse to attack the Kurdish nation, warning the international community would not come to their aid, according to some historical accounts.

If we look into the mentality of Arab authorities in Iraq, both past and present, and the litany of crimes committed against the Kurdish nation, it appears the ethnic cleansing of Kurds was a state strategy.

Although the crimes committed against the Kurds during the war with Iran were massive, those committed before this period were no less serious. True, civilian deaths could have been prevented had Kurdish leaders allowed people to escape Baathist attacks, but this does not mean Saddam would not have committed genocide at some point against the Kurds even if the war had not happened.

The Arabization process dates back to the foundation of the Iraqi state. The Arabs planned to eliminate Kurdish identity and Arabize Kurdistan when southern Kurdistan was first bound to Iraq. Consecutive governments bolstered this strategy, which reached its peak under Saddam.

There is probably a grain of truth, at least in terms of timing, to support the argument that the Kurds provided the regime with an excuse or an opportunity to attack, but these crimes would likely have been committed sooner or later, perhaps under a different name. 

How might events have unfolded had the crimes occurred following Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait or during the Kurdish uprising of 1991? 

Would there have been an uprising at all had it not been for the Anfal campaign? Would the autonomous Kurdistan Region have ever emerged? 

The Baathist regime was overthrown in 2003 and Saddam executed three years later. But instead of drawing lessons from his death, Iraqi Arab politicians are pursuing the same mechanisms of Arabization. A repeat of Anfal-like crimes will always be an open possibility.

The Kurds should put an end to this mentality in order to remain a nation. But bitter experience and history suggest the Kurds cannot halt such crimes alone. They need the international community to recognize these crimes for what they are – genocide. 

The Iraqi High Tribunal has recognized the ethnic cleansing of Kurds, including Faili minorities, the mass murder of Barzanis, the chemical attack on Halabja, and the atrocities of Anfal, as genocide. This will help move the international courts to also recognize these crimes for what they are. 

But this requires careful planning, and the Kurds should take this task seriously to win international protection as a nation. This is the only way Kurds can achieve their national objectives and be certain they will never again face the horrors of Anfal. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rudaw.


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kurd | 16/4/2019
Finally, mask is falling . Iran and PUK should also be blamed for the disaster in halbche. Even chemical attacsk on several villages around serdasht and sarpolzahab wwere the work of islkamic regime itself.
Kurdo | 16/4/2019
listen stupid kurds, we suffer because of islam and christianity, we could live with greek, armenians, persians, semites, romans, mongols, jews. Islam and christianty is fake and destroyed our region, with this the turkic tribes came, dont mix them with mongols. My family lived with mongols and armenians and we had no issues, you the ones that blame mongols think you are muslims or arabs. Wake up! Pre islam and pre jesus, we have the real kurds!!!
Betrayals | 16/4/2019
Nothing justifies massacres. However, one shall also keep in mind that 'revenge' is a strong motive. The idea that Kurds betray their neighbors at the slightest opportunity is something that will hurt this nation in the long term.
Mathea | 17/4/2019
The same mofo's that argues for the bloody Baath regime was justified in burning down 4000 Kurdish villages, use chemical weapons several times (Halabja was not the only case!) and massacre 180 000 Kurdish civilians, in the name of fighting some Kurdish resistance groups, cry for palestinians and other poor "oppressed" muslims. But by their own logic Israel is justified to use any means possible including chemical weapons on the palestinians if any palestinian group attacks Israel, period. Sorry, there cannot be one standard for Kurds and another for all other's
Enigma | 17/4/2019
Only and ONLY Kurdish leaders can be blamed for every single thing that happens to Kurds. Nothing can be blamed on anyone. All of them are extremely corrupted, and they don't give a shit about their people. Enemies see every opportunity to attack Kurds, and they know they can get away with that. Just take a look at the current ones, take a look at Barzani clan. How in the hell can both president and PM be from same family?! Look at Talabani family, nothing but pure shit, a bunch of tritors. PKK (Öcalan), cannot even find words for how useless they are. Kurds must stop feeding those leaders, they have to make sure their votes goes to leaders that really do something for the people and for the country, leaders with some kind of vision for Kurdish people. Stop feeding those parasites, they don't deserve being called leaders. Kurds are brave, but not really smart to be honest. Kurds must stop voting on people because they fathers were a good leaders, the corruption must end. Most PDK supporters see Barzani as some kind of God, PUK see Talabani as their God and PKK supporters see Öcalan as their God. Nobody is questionning thos leaders even thought they have not delivered any results for Kurds.
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