The Kurdish Genocide Throughout history, there have been multiple attempts to exterminate entire groups of people due to racial, religious, and ethnic differences, known as genocide. With all these different acts of genocide that occurred throughout previous centuries, the United Nations came up with an agreement to define what is genocide, what is considered to be acts of genocide, and how perpetrators of genocide should be punished known as The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Although the purpose of the convention was to stop genocides from occurring, acts of genocide still have transpired years after the agreement was made. One of the infamous genocides that happened in human history is the mass killings of the Kurdish population in Iraq from 1986- 1989, also known as The Anfal Genocide. This paper will examine what transpired throughout the course of the mass killings and the legal reasons why it should be considered a genocide based on the convention and international laws.
Then, this will go over the legal reasons why it should not be considered a genocide based on the convention and other international law. After, extra-legal reasons on whether or not this event was either consider a genocide by important actors in the international community. Lastly, this will address the outcome of the event such as what actions happen after this event and why these actions might have occurred. The Kurds are a non-Arab ethnic group in the Middle East with no state of their own, so they happen to reside in Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria (Black and Watch Organization 24). In the mid-1900s, there has been some hatred towards the Kurd and other non-Arab population in Iraq. The Kurds like some groups desire territory of their own which has led them to fight wars against the rest of Iraq. Which led to the creation of an Arabisation policy from the 1960s -1991. Arabisation is to occupy and seize non-Arab territory to spread Arabic culture and language to non-Arabs. Nevertheless, Arabisation wasn’t really enforced until Saddam Hussein gained power (European Parliament 2). Most of the Kurds in Iraq happened to live in Northern Iraq where beneficial resources such as oil happened to be located. As stated in an article, One of the key factors in the creation of this policy was the presence of strategically valuable oil fields in the Kurdish region of Iraq and Kurdish Peshmerga rebel activity that was considered a threat to Iraq’s control over the region(European Parliament 2). Therefore, the location of the Kurds in Iraq was a major reason the Iraqi government wanted to exterminate them. To gain access to the resources they wanted, the Iraqi government started to remove the Iraqi Kurds to camps to southern Iraq, so the Iraqi army could pay close attention to the Kurds’ movement. In replacement of the Kurds, they moved poor Arabs to Northern Iraq for strategic purposes (European Parliament 2).Moreover, this event didn’t start until the last phase of Iraq-Iran war 1980-1988, when Kurdish parties decided to work with Iran against Saddam Hussein. Things eventually got dangerous for the Kurdish population when Ali Hassan al-Majid, a relative to the former president of Iraq Saddam Hussein, gained power similar to the president in Northern Iraq from March 1987- April 1989 (Ahmed 20). During this time period, al-Majid felt the only way to get the Kurdish out of Iraq was to kill them with eight different stages (Ahmed 18). Kurdish men were separated from their families, eventually being killed while their families were held in camps. Mass deportation, disappearances, and killings of Iraqi Kurds also occurred (European Parliament 3). As time passed things got worse when chemical weapons were being used from February to September 1988 ultimately destroying Kurdish villages and towns (Trahan 310″11). This tragedy eventually got international attention and discussions have occurred on why it should be labeled a genocide due to violations of international law and treaties. There have been discussions on whether or not the mass-killing of the Kurdish population should be considered genocide. Due to the facts of what transpired, there are multiple reasons on why this event is determined to be genocide according to the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. One thing that occurred this event for it to be classified as genocide was the use of chemical weapons against the Kurdish population. As stated in a book, the widespread use of chemical weapons, including mustard gas and the nerve agent GB, or Sarin, against the town of Halabja as well as dozens of Kurdish villages, killing many thousands of people, mainly women and children (Black and Watch Organization 4). The use of chemical weapons against the Kurdish population is a clear violation of the genocide convention because it violates article 2 (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group(UN General Assembly 280). Chemical weapons are known to cause physical harm and deformities to a person’s body, so most countries have avoided using them. However, chemical weapons is not the only reason this event should be labeled genocide, the murdering hundreds of thousands of the Kurdish population violates article 2 of the convention because (a) Killing members of the group (UN General Assembly 280), is part of the definition of genocide and that is what exactly Hussein and the Ba’ath party official did by targeting the Kurds and with the use of chemical weapons. The third reason why this event is legally considered genocide because separation of the Kurdish men from Kurdish women stops the possibility of full Kurdish children to be created which is also a violation of article 2 (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group (Un General Assembly 280). Consequently, Hussein knew what he was doing when he and his party decided to separate the Kurdish men away from the women because it would ultimately stop the procreation of Kurds and making the Kurdish population eventually become extinct. Therefore the reasons mentioned above explain why this event is indeed and should legally be considered genocide by all the actions that transpired. However, some have argued that there are legal reasons why this mass-killing isn’t considered to be a genocide. There are also legal reasons why the mass-killing of the Kurdish population in Iraq isn’t considered to be genocide. As mentioned above for a mass-killing to be labeled as genocide the intent to kill has to be present. Thus, this has led some to argue that this event against the Kurdish population wasn’t intentional. The Iraqi Sunni population during Hussein reign were known to oppressed non-Sunni groups, which some considered this to be surprising since the majority in Iraq are the Shia population (Cockburn). Therefore, the Iraqi Shiites who lived in southern Iraq along with Kurds oppressed groups during the 1900s. The Iraqi Shia faced similar problems that Kurds faced such as discrimination due to territorial disputes and political problems (Workman 7). An example of the problems that Iraqi Shiites had to deal with were the,forcing hundreds of thousands of southern Iraqi Shias to leave Iraq for Iran because of their belief, torturing and killing their religious leadership in the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala in Iraq (Ifimes). This event and other events that affected the Shiites and the Kurds have led some to label these events as crimes against humanity. Hussein and the Ba’ath didn’t specifically target or have the intentions of specifically targeting the Kurd population, but rather they discriminated anyone that didn’t share the same values as they did. Even though this is not an excuse for killing people who appear different, the Kurds were not the only who suffered and who were killed by the Hussein and the Ba’ath party. Therefore some have labeled the mass-killing of the Kurdish population as a crime against humanity rather than genocide due the intentions of killing one specific group being absent. With there being various reasons why this event shouldn’t be considered genocide, there are actions taken by the international community that occurred afterwards that show why this event is considered genocide. When it comes to this particular event there has been some type of recognition in the international community that the actions in this event were illegal. Therefore, we have to discuss the role the international community played when realizing this event as genocide. One example of recognition of the Anfal Genocide was when the United States House of Representatives created a resolution acknowledging what had transpired. It was recognized that the acts Saddam Hussein and the Ba’ath party regime committed were inhuman towards the Iraqi Kurdish population. As stated in the resolution (1) recognizes and deplores the campaign of genocide against the Kurdish people in Iraq; (2) calls on the United States Government to recognize the campaign of genocide committed against the Kurdish people in Iraq; (3) urges international organizations to do the same: and (4) reaffirms its commitment to the friendship between the United States and the Kurdish people In Iraq (Van Hollen). This shows the United States noticed what went on in Iraq was immoral and doesn’t want anything like it to occur again especially with the Kurds since they are humans and have divine rights. The U.K. Parliament also recognized the event as genocide and also motivated the EU and the UN to recognize it formally to give the Kurdish justice for what transpired (Minority Rights Group International). Alongside the U.K. and U.S., other states in Europe have recognized this event as genocide which demonstrates that the international community didn’t realize what transpired until afterward. It is important that states acknowledge the mass-killings as genocide to prevent anything like this from occurring and to try to hold the offenders accountable for their crimes.There were certain actions in acknowledgment to the killings on both the international and state levels. A few years after the event Hussein continued to get himself in trouble on the international level. Starting with the invasion of Kuwait, promptly causing the U.N. security council to place sanctions, creating resolutions, and giving Iraq a deadline to get of Kuwait. Hussein failed to comply with the U.N. security council and U.N. resolutions which later led to the First Gulf War in from 1990-1991(Aburish 314). Eventually driving Iraqi forces out Kuwait and the signing of a ceasefire agreement. Although Iraq made agreements with the U.N., they kept violating those agreements causing Iraq to be scrutinized internationally. Now entering the 2000s, after September 11, 2001, attacks the Bush administration felt that Hussein helped supply al- Qaeda with weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and terrorism. Also, the Bush administration felt that Hussein was storing and hiding chemical weapons, and WMDs. Resulting in the U.N. to conduct investigations for WMDs, which the outcome was that nothing was found (Wedgwood). Even after the results of the U.N. investigations came out negative, the U.S. still felt threatened and invaded Iraq eventually starting the Second Gulf War from 2003-2011 also known as Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). While that was going in 2003 the American military orchestrated and a well-executed plan to capture Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein which is known as Operation Red Dawn. These events eventually led to Hussein getting captured and to the downfall of his regime on December 13, 2003, and finally being able to be tried for these crimes against humanity including the mass-killings of the Kurdish population (Lawton 2″3).For this specific genocide, there was a tribunal that set up to prosecute all those that were involved including Saddam Hussein, Ali Hassan al-Majid, and other Iraqi high officials of the Ba’ath party regime that take part in the killings. Nonetheless, this trial was unlike previous trials because there was a lot of a large number of archives and proof from witnesses that verified the genocide actually occurred and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Kurds died as a result from the event (Trahan 306). The first Tribunal’s trial started in late 2005 and the case decisions were announced a year later, Trial Chamber One 7 rendered its judgment on November 5, 2006, finding former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and six other defendants guilty of “crimes against humanity based on torture, forced deportation, imprisonment, willful killing, and other inhumane acts committed (Trahan 309). Most of the higher officials of the Ba’ath party regime were found responsible for all the violations they have committed under article two of the genocide convention. In that same year and the years following the former officials were executed starting with Saddam Hussein. Even though the execution of the former Ba’ath regime doesn’t make up for the Kurdish lives that were killed in the 1980s, this is some type of justice for the Kurdish.To sum up everything, the mass-killings of the Kurdish population that transpired in Iraq during 1986-1989 is genocide. The facts during and leading up to this event demonstrates acts of eliminating an entire ethnic group. Not only does this event violate international laws and treaty, but this event is also the true definition of genocide according to the UN Convention of Punishment and Prevention of Genocide. The Ba’ath party regime officials did everything that article 2 of the convention stated what should be considered genocide. What the Ba’ath party regime did was extreme acts of inhumanity and unlawfulness to the Kurdish population, especially innocent civilians. However, an argument was presented for the legal reasons why this event shouldn’t be considered a genocide, that it should rather be considered counterinsurgency. For the fact that Saddam Hussein wanted to protect northern Iraq from being annexed by the Kurds. Despite the need for protection that is not an excuse to implement killings of the entire Kurdish population. Nevertheless, the extra-legal reasons also justify why this event is indeed considered genocide because if other states have acknowledged this event as genocide and try to make sure this event doesn’t happen again. The events that transpired afterward show the effort of states trying to justify what happened to the Kurdish. The following events also demonstrated the actions that were used to capture Saddam Hussein and other Ba’ath party officials during his time of reign by having them face the repercussion. After the captures and trials led to the end of era and reign which would leave some if not most people feel relieved that Hussein can’t perform actions similar to this event ever again. With everything that was stated in the paper about this particular event all the actions that took place point to reasons why it should be labeled as genocide and nothing less because no human should have to fear for their life because of someone’s hatred towards them.