Kurdish Genocide

Information courtesy of the Kurdistan Regional Government Representation to the U.K.


Halabja 1988

Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children were executed during a systematic attempt to exterminate the Kurdish population in Iraq in the Anfal operations in the late 1980s. They were tied together and shot so they fell into mass graves. Their towns and villages were attacked by chemical weapons, and many women and children were sent to camps  where they lived in appalling conditions. Men and boys of ‘battle age’ were targeted and executed en masse. The campaign takes its name from Suratal-Anfal in the Qur’an. Al Anfal literally means the spoils (of war) and was used to describe the military campaign of extermination and looting commanded by Ali Hassan al-Majid. The Ba’athists misused what the Qur’an says. Anfal  in the Qur’an does not refer to genocide, but the word was used as a code name by the former Iraqi Ba’athist regime for the systematic attacks against the Kurdish population. The campaign also targeted the villages of minority communities including Christians. But the Kurdish genocide began decades before the Anfal and has claimed countless victims. The genocide perpetrated over decades began with the arabisation of villages around Kirkuk in 1963. It involved the deportation and disappearances of Faylee Kurds in the 1970s-80s, the murder of 8,000 male Barzanis in 1983, the use of chemical weapons in the late 1980s, most notably against Halabja, and finally the Anfal campaign of 1988. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people perished, families were torn apart, many still live with severe health problems. At the same time, 4,500 villages were razed to the ground between 1976 and 1988 undermining the potential of Iraqi Kurdistan’s agricultural resources and destroying Kurdistan’s rural way of life and heritage.


The term al-Anfal is the name given to a succession of attacks against the Kurdish population in Iraq during a specific period. These attacks were named  “al-Anfal” by Saddam Hussein and his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid (known as the ‘Chemical Ali’),  who used this term to describe the carefully planned and orchestrated eight-staged genocidal campaign between February 23rd and September 6th 1988. In Kurdish society, the word Anfal has come to represent the entire genocide over decades.



The following are some of the anniversaries of the chemical bombardment of towns and villages which took place across Kurdistan in hundreds of communites, in 1984, 1987 and 1988:

Anfal Campaign 1988

Anfal campaign in 1988 was performed in eight stages, in which 182,000 civilians lost their lives. Thousands of villages were destroyed, bringing the total destroyed since the 1970s to 4,500 The eight stages were orchestrated as follows:   [ 1 ] Human Rights Watch. (1993) ‘Genocide in Iraq – The Anfal Campaign Against the Kurds.’ Available at: http://www.hrw.org/legacy/english/docs/2006/08/14/iraq13979_txt.htm [ 2 ] ‘Iraq’s crime of genocide’ by Human Rights Watch 1994, p.266 – 268 [ 3 ]  ‘Iraq’s crime of genocide’ by Human Rights Watch 1994, p. 13, 96, 115, 171 [ 4 ]  Le Monde diplomatique, March 1998 by Kendal Nezan
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