The Faily Kurds: a horrific past, an unstable present, and an unseen future

During the 1970s it is estimated that 130,000 Faily Kurds were deported to Iran based on the pretext that they were not Iraqi citizens.

"We were in a minivan when we reached a checkpoint area; the man in military clothes asked my older brother to step out for a few queries. After a few minutes my brother returned and kissed my mother and said he would follow us. Since that night I have not seen him, and after two decades we were told he was killed." With tearful eyes, this is how Hamdiya Abbdula begins her story.

"I remember I had a school test the next morning. I spent the night studying and finally wanted to sleep. As I went to get a blanket there was a knock on the door, and before I knew it the men who had come on behalf of the Baath authorities spoke to my father and insisted all our family go with them for some 'basic' questions and answers." This was past midnight, in the spring of April 1984. Abbdula and her 10 brothers and sisters as well as her parents took a few documents and left their house; little did they know with sunrise they would be thrown on the Iran border with one of their sons having been taken hostage.

The Faily Kurds, like other Kurds during the ghastly Baath Regime, suffered tremendously. "Families faced death due to poor conditions, sons were taken hostage with physical and mental wounds, many young men were murdered, and those who managed to survive found settlement in Iran," Abddula says, remembering her early teenage years. Three decades later their problem remains unsolved and their identity remains a conundrum in Iraq.

Faily Kurds are Shiite Muslims who speak the Luri Kurdish dialect. Originating in either side of the Zagros Mountains, they belong to the areas of Khanaqin, Mandali, Badra, and Jassan-mostly in the Diala province. After their homes in these areas were destroyed, many moved to Baghdad. In the 1970s, the first phase of ethnic cleansing began and the Faily Kurds were deported and dropped off on the Iran-Iraq border, claiming they were Iranians. As Abddula explains, "Iraq saw us as Iranian and Iran saw us as Iraqis. We only saw ourselves as Kurds.

"When we were deported we left behind our house, all of our furniture, even our clothing" says Abdulla. "In Iran some people remained in refugee camps for more than 20 years?some are still in camps; we did not go into the refugee camps. Instead we lived in Ilam and Kermansha, although our rights and privileges were always limited. In fact we would only study up to high school-- even if we got top grades we had no right to study in universities."

During the 1970s it is estimated that 130,000 Faily Kurds were deported to Iran based on the pretext that they were not Iraqi citizens. Nevertheless, after the continuous aggression of the previous regime toward the Kurds in general, it became evident it was the fear of disloyalty of the Faily Kurds to the regime that caused this massive deportation and consequent killing. The ethnic cleansing of the Faily Kurds in Baghdad continued well into the 1980s. Some estimates suggest up to 300,000 Faily Kurds were extradited to Iran.

The young men were taken hostage and no one knows how their lives ended. Hanged, killed, put on the warfront, or died because of poor conditions in prison cells, the list of missing Faily Kurds is infinite, and the deaths of thousands of others remains a mystery. As Khalda Salman affirms, "After one year, my brother was one of the few who was set free from prison, although we could see iron marks on his body. He was whipped and electrocuted with electrical wires--two months after he left prison he died because of the wounds and scars he had."

Despite a horrific past and accusations of not being Iraqi, many of the Faily Kurds deported to Iran are now in the process of returning to Kurdistan and restoring their Iraqi nationality. Mohammad Jomaa, a Faily Kurd, returned with his family from Iran in his small but very organized and well-decorated house; he sits with his two daughters and wife. Beginning his story, he says, "I was an Ayloor Peshmerga." After a small pause, he adds, "Against the central government of course!" Deported in 1975 after 25 years, he has returned to a place he calls "home!"

"This is where I belong; it is the land of my father and grandfather. For 25 years I felt like a foreigner in Iran, it is time I spent what I have left of my life here [in Kurdistan]." Mohammad lives with his two daughters and son in one house in Beneslawa on Erbil's outskirts. "This area has 422 houses--350 of them are Kurds who have returned from Iran" explains Mohammad, "at the time we were given this land by the government." He is thankful for the house, although he explains the difficulty of living with grown-up children without a job. He laughs. "My wife has found a job and she works, but I am a house man at the moment."

Taking note of the very light-colored tea I am served, and observing Mrs. Jomaa's scarf tied with a loop at the front-just like the Iranians--it is noticeable many of these Kurds who were in exile for 20 or more years have picked up some of the Iranian traditions and culture, although as Jomaa explains, "We may change a little here and there, but we are Kurds."

Talking of their daily lives, Jomaa's wife says she has taken every possible course available, including computer courses. "I am studying in the evenings so I can finish my schooling-that way they will increase my pay at work." Her daughter brings out neat handcrafts she has made. "I took courses too!" she smiles.

A relative of the Jomaa family, Khalda Salman, explains that the Faily Kurds continue to suffer, living in a brick house that has not been cemented; two rooms, a kitchen and a toilet are outside. Salman says the return has not been smooth, "but I have not regretted coming back to my homeland?.We have had financial support from the government a few times, but it is still difficult to fund the everyday expenses."

The new 2005 Iraqi Constitution declared Iraqis stripped of their nationality could apply to restore it, although with property destroyed, unstable security in the middle and south, Kurdistan is the only option for the Faily Kurds who continue to say that their rights, privileges, and compensation is not enough to bring their life back on track.

The past has been of anguish due to the deportation process and the loss of loved ones; the present is unstable due to the lack of support to obtain legal documents and a place to reside in. It is arguable whether Kurdistan has welcomed these returnees with open arms. As the Jomaa family pledged, little is done and more is necessary in order to encourage many other families in Iran to return with their families to a secure region where they will gain their lost rights and be able to call it home.

Although the future remains to be seen for the Faily Kurds who on many occasions are forgotten, their endurance of hardship and decades of torment remains overlooked by Iraqi and Kurdish officials up to this day.

The Kurdish Globe

PNA - Peyamner News Agency