English عربی کوردی
Various waves of Kurdish genocide


From the beginning of its rule the Ba’ath regime in Iraq adopted an ideology based on chauvinism, sectarianism and dictatorship, views which eventually led it to commit a number of notorious crimes, including genocide against the Kurds, based on nationality, against the Shia, based on sectarianism, and other sorts of crimes against the other components of society.

The Ba’ath regime regarded the Kurds a threat and therefore had the intention of eliminating the Kurdish population from Iraq. This intention was translated into carefully planned actions and crimes from the early 1960s.

For example, in the city of Kirkuk and its surroundings, there were military attacks against civilian areas. Inside the city thousands of families were rounded up, the men were separated and taken to Mussaib and other prisons near Baghdad, while their families were displaced, and their houses delivered to Arab militia-members. Many Kurdish villages were also attacked and many civilians killed.

The war continued, and in August 1969 in Dakan village, close to the city of Duhok, the Iraqi military set fire to a cave in which 67 women and children were hiding. All of them were burned to death. In another incident, on the 16th of September of 1969, the military gathered people of Sorya village in one place and started to shoot them, killing 39 civilians, among them 25 Christians and 14 Muslims.

Kirkuk genocide, 1960s

Kirkuk became one of the areas targeted in the campaign to forcibly drive Kurds away from their homes in which Iraqi Arabs from the south were resettled. This became known as the arabasiation policy from 1962 until the 1990s. The number of villages in the Kirkuk region affected by arabisation reached more than 779. 

Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath regime: 1970s and 1980s

The policy of eliminating the Kurds and destroying Kurdistan reached its highest intensity in the years when Saddam Hussein came to power to head the regime. In these years and under his direction the Bagdad government planned and implemented mass crimes of genocide including mass displacements, mass deportations, mass killings, as well as the total destruction of thousands of villages and several towns.

25km No-Go zone, from 1976

From 1976, the regime started to build a 25km no-go-zone along the borders starting from the eastern borders with Iran, passing through the northern borders with Turkey and ending on the western borders with Syria. The original inhabitants of these areas, thousands of Kurdish villagers, were forcibly removed to closed and heavily guarded settlements around the main cities, specially built to closely monitor them and restrict their movement. The no-go-zones were burnt to the ground; erasing every form of human, animal or forest life, as well as filling the water wells and covering them with concrete. 

Barzani disappearances, July and August 1983

In 1983, the regime forcibly removed thousands of families of the Barzani tribe from their villages to compulsory camps in Kurdistan and south of Iraq. About 8,000 men and boys, some as young as 13, were separated from their families and taken to unknown destinations. Only after the collapse of the regime clues to their fate emerged, when a few hundred were found in mass graves in desert areas in the south of Iraq. it became apparent from this discovery that after they were arrested, the Barzani men were first brought to Abu Graib prison before being taken to their mass grave in Bsaya, not far from the border with Saudi Arabia. The remains of the vast majority of the missing Barzanis have yet to be found.

Deportation of Faylee Kurds, 1980s

Large segments of the Faylee population were forcibly deported to the Iranian border by Iraqi police and intelligence units on the order of the authorities. They were stripped of their legal documents and citizenship and properties were taken away. In April 1980 the first of many deportations and killings of the Faylee Kurds took place. Many people’s homes and belongings were taken over by regime officials after their disappearance. The deportations started by forcefully relocating many Faylee Kurds to Iran. This process lasted until May 1990. Furthermore, around 10,000 Faylee Kurds fell victim of biological and chemical weapons attacks.  The Faylee Kurds were effectively rendered into non-citizens. Adult males aged 18-55 were detained and sent to various prison complexes in the country, with no legal procedures such as trails being taken before incarceration. Young people within the age range of 17-32 and in significant numbers were reportedly thrown into mass graves alive.  It is estimated that between 13,000 and 30,000 Faylee Kurds died in captivity and systematic murder by the Ba’athist intelligence apparatus.

Balisan and Sheikh Wasan, April 16, 1987

The Ba’athist regime began using new methods and weapons against Kurdistan’s rural populations, dropping chemical bombs on Balisan and Sheikh Wasan in the district of Shaqlawa in the Erbil governorate of Kurdistan, gassing to death thousands of civilian villagers1.  The use of chemicals against civilians, however, goes back to at least 1984.

The Anfal campaign, February 23 to September 6, 1988

From February to September of 1988, the regime implemented the Anfal campaign, which was a comprehensive plan for destroying all life in the rural areas of Kurdistan in eight stages of military operations. Each stage started with a military attack on a limited area. This area was subjected to bombing including chemical gas attacks, by warplanes, helicopters, and heavy artillery. The army and irregular forces rounded up the population and took them to designated military bases, separating men from women and children. Many were later transported to desert areas in the south of Iraq, executed and buried in mass graves. Some were also taken to infamous prisons such as Nugra Salman, where they were kept in harsh conditions and majority died.

During the Anfal operations around 182,000 Kurds were killed and thousands of villages and several towns were totally erased from the earth, according to the KRG. This brought the total number of villages destroyed since the 1970s to 4,500. The Anfal campaign also targeted Shabaks and Yazidis, Assyrians, Turkoman people and Mandeans. Many villages belonging to these groups were also destroyed. Independent sources estimate 100,000 to more than 150,000 deaths and as many as 100,000 widows and an even greater number of orphans2

The Halabja poison gas attack, March 16, 1988

On March 16th 1988 the town of Halabja was attacked by gas from warplanes resulting in 5,000 dead and 10,000 injured, making it the largest chemical weapons attack directed against a civilian-populated area in history. This is a separate event from the Anfal campaign. The repercussions of the Halabja poison gas attack have led to even more indirect consequences including disease, birth defects, and other health complications3

Mass poisoning of Kurdish refugees, June 1989

About 2,000 Kurdish refugees had fled to Southeast Turkey to escape the chemical attacks on their homes in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1988, only to become victims of another poisoning attempt. The bread supply at the Diyarbakir camp had been contaminated using a highly toxic nerve agent, possibly sarin4

The destruction of Qaladiza, 1974 and 1988

On 24 April 1974, the aircrafts of the Ba’ath regime bombarded the city of Qaladize by rockets and Napalm, killing and injuring hundreds of civilians, most of them children and students. The bombardment targeted the University of Slemani, schools, hospitals and public places.

From 1976 the Ba’ath regime started to take reprisal against the civilians of the region as fighting between the regime and the Kurds resumed. Most of the rural areas were destroyed and their inhabitants were forced into camps. Many people were arrested, execute or shot dead in their villages. The Ba’ath regime took every opportunity to attack the city of Qaladize.

In 1988, the camp of Bastasten was evicted and in 1989 the city was attacked. This was the last major act of the Anfal campaign. The city of 120,000 inhabitants was evacuated and razed to the ground. The town was dynamited and bulldozed with the remaining civilians who hadn’t fled to Turkey or Iran brought into ‘collective towns’ or they simply ‘disappeared’.

Chemical weapons used by the regime during the Iran-Iraq war, 1980 to 1988

  • 1982, use of riot control agents to repel Iranian attacks
  • Mid 1983, first well documented use of chemical weapon agents with mustard gas
  • March, 1984, the first use ever of a nerve agent called tabun in war5.

Chemical weapons were used until the end of the hostilities in August 1988. In addition they introduced the nerve agent sarin later in the war. 

  1. Kurd Net (2005) ‘The Other Halabjas, Balisan’

  2. Human Rights Watch. (1991) ‘Whatever Happened To The Iraqi Kurds?’

  3. Human Rights Watch (1993) ‘Genocide in Iraq – the Anfal Campaign Against the Kurds.’

  4. Human Rights Watch (1992) ‘Whatever Happened to the Iraqi Kurds?’

  5. Human Rights Watch. (1991) ‘Whatever Happened To The Iraqi Kurds?’