The fayli kurds: a double tragedy

The Fayli Kurds: A double tragedy The Fayli Kurds, most of whom are Shi'ites, are an integral part of the Kurdish people. Historians say that "Fayli" was the name of a dynasty in the region with 12 ruling kings starting with King Ilami in 220 BCE. The word "fayli", according to some historians, was used to refer to rebellious, or revolutionary, people. It may also have been used to indicate courage and the fight for freedom.

The Fayli Kurds' homeland extends between Iraq and Iran. In Iran, they live in the area south of Kermanshah and north of Dezful along the Zagros Mountains. In Iraq, they live in the middle and in the south of the country in the districts of Mandali, Zurbatia, Badrah, Jassan, Balad Rose, Al-Sadiyeq, Jalula', Khanaqin, Diala, Kirkuk, Baghdad and other cities and towns. Their numbers are estimated to be around 1.5-2 million people.

Fayli Kurds have a long, tragic history. They suffered from the long conflict between the Ottoman and the Persian empires. Many of them, just as many of their Arab neighbors, opted to be counted as belonging to Persia in order to escape the compulsory Ottoman military service. This was mirrored in recent history, when during the Iran-Iraq War when many Fayli Kurds escaped to Iran to avoid compulsory military service in the Iraqi army. In turn, this has led to a high price being paid by the Faylis in Iraq.

The Faylis have always paid the price of their geographic location between Iraq and Iran. Families and tribes were divided as a result of political problems between these two countries. They suffered identity suppression on both sides of the border and they are still suffering in Iraq as well as in Iran. In Iran, until today, they are considered Bedouins and in Iraq they are considered Persians! This complex condition deprived the Faylis from their simplest rights such as holding official positions and many Faylis were deprived of their Iraqi nationality.

The darkest era in the history of Fayli Kurds was during the time of 1970-1988. The former Iraqi regime practiced all kinds of suppression and international crimes, such as forcible deportation and the disappearance of thousand of people whose only guilt was that they were Kurds and Shi'ites. The Fayli researcher Kamal Qaytouli said about the suffering of the Fayli Kurds that, "the forcible deportation of these citizens started on 4 April 1980, when families were forcibly deported after confiscation of their processions and their personal documents: their Iraqi nationality, their civil status identity cards, their military service cards, their driving licenses, the Chamber of Commerce cards of the merchants, Iraqi Industrial Union cards of the owners of industrial projects, property documents, school and university certificates, etc." He continued saying that, "the Iraqi High Command, under the directives of Saddam Hussein, had taken this unofficial decision to consider certain communities of the Iraqi society as Iranians or of Iranian origins despite the fact that they were born in Iraq and their fathers as well as their grandfathers were born in Iraq, too. The total number of Iraqi people forcibly deported to Iran during the period from 4 April 1980 until 19 May 1990 was around one million people, according to the estimates of the International Red Cross."

I would also like to add that during this very tense period the Fayli Kurds did not take a passive stand but reacted by joining the Kurdish revolution led by Mustafa Barazani. They played an important role in resisting the Ba'th regime in order to achieve their legitimate national rights. Among them there were prominent freedom fighters, in return urging the Ba'th regime to physically attack the Fayli youth through murder, imprisonment, etc. The Faylis talk about strange practices committed against them and tell stories of how imprisoned people were used in special laboratories for chemical experiments.

With the fall of Saddam's regime in April 2003, the Fayli Kurds, like other components of the Iraqi people, were able to breathe again. We can say that they were the happiest people ever because they were first Kurds and second Shi'ites. Theirs had been a double tragedy and now their happiness too was double as well. However, they were faced with a bitterer situation and their tragedy this time was more grievious than the one they have already suffered. It came from the Hawza (Shi'ite center of learning) in Najaf and the unwelcoming and unfriendly stance taken by Muqtada al-Sadr. Because of their Kurdish origin they were treated like second-degree Shi'ites. This stance contradicted those taken by the two major political parties in the Kurdistan Region (the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) who embraced them and allowed their representation in the Kurdistan Alliance list as a major component of the Kurds.

In the last parliamentary elections some Fayli Kurds ran on two lists independent of the Kurdistan Alliance. These are the Islamic Union of Iraqi Fayli Kurds and the Justice and Future list. The number of votes the two lists achieved did not exceed ten thousand, one third of the votes needed for one member to become represented in the parliament. Most of the votes went to the Kurdistan Alliance list.

The Faylis had asked the government to re-examine the Iraqi nationality law so as to regain their citizenships, and today demand compensation for the land and property confiscated from them and for the martyrs and the disappeared. They want to know the destiny of those Fayli Kurds who disappeared and they seek to participate in the political process in the country and to take part in the higher official positions. Saddam's trial was another disappointment for the Fayli Kurds since they felt that their rights were again violated because the ugly crimes committed against them went unnoticed, even although they are considered to be crimes against humanity par excellence. But humanity sometimes turns deaf and dumb when it comes to the Fayli Kurds.

Khairy Bouzani
31 jul 2007