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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 April 2019

Iraqi president vows justice for relatives of Anfal massacre victims

Country finds mass grave of hundreds of Kurds killed by Saddam

An Iraqi member of the Civil Defense shows a human skull from an unearthed mass grave of Kurds in west of the city of Samawa, Iraq April 14, 2019. Reuters 
An Iraqi member of the Civil Defense shows a human skull from an unearthed mass grave of Kurds in west of the city of Samawa, Iraq April 14, 2019. Reuters 

Iraqi President Barham Salih vowed on Sunday that Saddam Hussein’s regime will never return to power after attending the exhuming of a mass grave of Kurds killed more than three decades ago.

During the 1980s, thousands of villages in northern Iraq were declared “prohibited areas” and were razed and bombed as part of the Anfal campaign. Thousands of villagers were deported and forced into camps while many were executed.

Mr Salih, a Kurd, called for justice for the victims’ families on Sunday during a press conference at the grave site that marked the 31st anniversary of the massacre.

“He [Saddam Hussein] killed them because they did not accept the continuation of this regime, because they wanted to live a free and dignified life,” Mr Salih said.

The mass grave, located in the desert about 170 kilometres west of the city of Samawa, contained the remains of dozens of Kurds that were ordered to be killed by Saddam’s associates during the Anfal campaign.

Up to 180,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the campaign that targeted Iraqi Kurds.

Mr Salih vowed that the new Iraq must never forget “these crimes that were committed against Iraqi people from all groups”.

“He brought them to Samawa to bury them but our people in Samawa embraced them,” Mr Salih added. Iraq’s southern provinces are predominantly inhabited by Shiite Arabs, who also suffered oppression and mass killings under Saddam, a Sunni Arab.

Iraq’s Kurds, who make up around 20 per cent of the country’s population, have long sought justice.

They make up the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East, but they have never obtained a permanent nation state.

Their mountainous northern region is still haunted by the seven-month military operation in which mustard gas and nerve agents were used to clear villages.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister of Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government, Nechirvan Barzani, called on Baghdad's central government to compensate victims of the campaign.

“We are once again after more than 30 years commemorating the victims and families of the brutal campaign of Anfal, a campaign which had no limits, what mattered was the elimination of women, men, children and the elderly,” Mr Barzani said on Saturday.

The Kurdish official said the commemoration of the victims was not enough and called for further action to be taken.

“This is a moral and historical responsibility” on the part of the Iraqi government to “heal the wounds of Anfal" and to compensate the victims families.

Updated: April 14, 2019 07:28 PM

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