April 14, 2011

Amnesty International condemns torture and Kurds commemorate Anfal genocide - By Shwan Zulal

Today the Anfal commemorations are taking place in many towns and cities across Kurdistan. The anti-Kurdish "Anfal" campaign carried out by the Iraqi Regime between February to September 1988. According to HRW-ME the operations were both genocidal and gendercidal in nature and the "Battle-age" men were the main targets of Anfal. Many people including women and children died in these vicious attacks by the Baath regime and many more suffered from rape and torture.

This event will stay in the memory of the Kurds forever and its wounds may heal but the scars will always be there. While the atrocities were ongoing for several months, the world kept silent, as one Kurdish activist tweeted "When Kurds faced the genocide campaign of Anfal, the silence of Arab nations and the Islamic world was deafening".

Nevertheless, I and many other did not expected that 23 years later we would see Amnesty International headlines reading "SECURITY FORCES ABOVE THE LAW IN IRAQI KURDISTAN". Furthermore;" Asayish (security) officials, including some who were tortured and others who were forcibly disappeared and whose fate and whereabouts remain unknown. "  Amnesty also talk about torture; "Torture methods include electric shocks to different parts of the body; beatings with fists, cables and metal or wooden batons; suspension by the wrists or ankles; beating on the soles of the feet (falaqa); sleep deprivation and kicking." While reading the latest report saying "Amnesty International also found disturbing evidence of targeted attacks on political activists, torture and other ill-treatment of people arrested in connection with the protests, and attacks or threats against journalists, media outlets, government critics, academics and students," it feels surreal, and one cannot believe they are talking about the same people who fought against similar practices by Baath regime.

The accusations of such inhumane treatment of their own citizens is unreal and marks a very sad day in the modern Kurdish history. Those who are part of this system and support the current people in power must take a moment and pause for thought. Away from party politics and tribal rivalries, think about what went wrong and why we are here. It is shameful to support anyone who is capable of such cruelty and lack of respect for human life.

I still remember the two old men "dumped" by the authorities at the end of our street in Slemani (Sulaimaniyah) during the Anfal genocide. They were fragile and looked as if they have just been to hell and back yet, they were dignified. Stranger looked after them and no one asked them who they were or where they were from. Baath regime did bring all frail men and women to towns and cities, leaving them in the streets, just to remind people if they dissent, this could be their fate. The only hope people had was a bunch of brave men and women in the mountains trying their hardest to defend them. However, none of the people including me who witnessed the brutality of Saddam thought that one day we would see today's headlines.

Many may argue there are big differences between Saddam and the Kurdish warlords. There is no doubt they cannot be compared but just being better than Saddam is not acceptable. They must be very different and never resort to hurting any Kurdish citizen because they disagree.  Everyone in government including the President have condemned attacks and torture but according to Amnesty International and many other reports this keep going on. Condemning it is a good thing but not doing anything about in position of power is deplorable.      

I usually write about factual events and try not to bring emotion to it but reading the report from Amnesty plus seeing and hearing about the violations in the last months makes me emotional. I hope those who are still supporting the militia responsible for human Right violations think again and ask themselves why they are supporting and propping up a system, which is responsible for hurting our own people. I end my emotional plea by saying nothing in the world is worth hurting and torturing another human being. If you are supporting this system, think again and do not be a passive collaborator, otherwise you will be on the wrong side of history. 


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