The Deportations of the Fayli Kurds

When one considers the extent of the horrendous crimes committed by the Iraqi regime, it is rather difficult to single out a particular crime, how painful it may be for the victims. The deportation of the Fayli Kurds to Iran represents one of the most serious violations of the Human Rights attributable to Saddam Hussein’s regime.

It may be useful to recall that the large Southern Kurdish area between Iran and Iraq has a population of approximately 4,000,000 Shiite Muslims who speak a specific Kurdish dialect called southern Kurdish. Fayli Kurds account for approximately half of the population and half the territories of the greater southern Kurdish areas.

In Iraq, the denomination Fayli Kurd has progressively been used to identify all of the Shiite Kurds of Iraq living in a region that ranges from the territories north of the city of Khanaqin, including towns and areas populated almost exclusively by Fayli Kurds, such as Sa’diyya, Jalawla, Mandeli, Zurbatiya, Badra, Chaykh Sa’ad, Ali Al Garbi; and towns such as Al-Hayy, Al No’maniyya and Ali Chardji, all the way south to the outskirts of Bassorah and the Iranian border, where they account for half of the population.

There were hundreds of thousands of Fayli Kurds in the cities of Baghdad, Bassorah and Amara until the deportation that started in 1980. Between 15 and 20% of Iraqi Kurds were Fayli Kurds.

The first massive wave of deportations took place in 1969, the second in 1971. An estimated 200,000 people were deported. The third and most horrendous campaign started in 1980 and involved more than 200,000 people, mostly Fayli Kurds and some Shiite Arabs and Persians, who settled centuries ago in Iraq.

The deported Fayli Kurds came from the areas already mentioned, as well as from bordering areas in Iran. Part of this population established in Iraq one or several centuries ago, in other words, before the foundation of the modern Iraqi state in 1920.

The deportation of Fayli Kurds is one of the major crimes of Saddam’s regime in peacetime. Hundreds of thousands of victims, often of Iraqi nationality, have been plundered, chased away towards landmine fields or thrown hopeless out of Iraq. This people, which has been deported to Iran for over 20 years, has experienced every level in the scale of suffering. Probably half of this population has left Iran in despair because of economic or social hardship. Let me remind you that the hundreds of victims in the shipwreck off Australia’s coast a few months ago were mostly victims of Saddam’s deportation campaigns.

Another aspect of the deportation of Fayli Kurds, which is a crime against humanity, is the detention and disappearances of 6000 to 8000 sons of deportees, as innocent as their parents who don’t know what the regime has done to their children. As this crime was perpetrated, the great international organisations, and above all the UN, remained silent. We still request a UN commission of inquiry to investigate the disappearances of Fayli Kurds.

The tragedy of the Fayli Kurds of Iraq must be analysed in relation to the confessionalist practices of the Iraqi state that imposed the de facto domination of the Sunni Arab minority over all key positions in the state administration. This situation has practically not changed and to some extent often worsened. In addition to this great injustice, Arab nationalism developed in the 50’s and especially in the 60’s with the fascist ideology of the Baath Party. The first massive deportation campaign of Fayli Kurds took place in 1969, immediately after the rise to power of the current Iraqi leaders. It was followed by an even more massive campaign in 1971, as mentioned earlier.

It is sad to notice that the Iraqi regime has achieved to mislead large categories of the Iraqi people, including Kurds, by confusing Fayli Kurds and Iranians or people of Iranian origin, thus making them subject to deportation at any time according to the confessionalist and racialist policies of the Iraqi state.

However, you would have to be totally naïve to consider this problem separately from the massive ethnic cleansing perpetrated by the regime immediately after it stepped up to power, when it “arabised” vast areas in the Mossoul and Kirkuk provinces, thus causing the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Kurds and Turkmens, who were replaced by Arabs. This strategy of ethnic cleansing was carried out more discreetly in the Southern Fayli Kurdish-majority areas, such as Khanaqin, Mandeli, Ali Al Garbi, etc., even after the conclusion of the March 11, 1970 Agreement between the Kurdish movement and the regime, which never stopped its effort to chase the non-Arab population away from the oil-rich areas, and to outnumber the Shiite majority in Iraq by bringing in millions of Arab workers (from Egypt, Morocco, etc.), who are all Sunni Muslims.

In this context, the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Fayli Kurds was the perfect solution for the double goal pursued by the Iraqi regime in terms of ethnic and confessional composition of the population of Iraq. This very high number of deported Faylis must be completed by the hundreds of thousands of Kurds who were victims of the arabisation campaigns and who were displaced within the borders of Iraq.

Fayli Kurds have paid a high toll for their double specificity, which gives them a responsibility that they will keep on facing no matter how high the price may be.

One of the latest victims of ethnic cleansing is the great Iraqi Kurd historian Mohammad Jamil Rojbayani, who was assassinated by the regime last year at the age of 90, after his courageous statements condemning the arabisation of the Kurdish areas of Khanaqin and Mandeli. As a conclusion, I would like to pay homage to him, to the hundreds of thousands of victims of Saddam and to those who fight against his regime.

In my speeches, I have always asked for the creation of an ad hoc International Criminal Tribunal to prosecute Saddam and his government for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Once again, in memory of the hundreds of thousands of Fayli Kurds who were deported or who disappeared, for the victims of Al Anfal, and for all the other victims of the Iraqi regime, I repeat my request here today.

Dr. Ismail Kamandar Fattah
6 September 2003