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Saturday, 3 November, 2001, 08:50 GMT
Iraqi Kurds' story of expulsion
Shorish refugee camp in the Kurdish region
Thousands of women and children are left without husbands or fathers
Iraq's Kurdish region is dotted with refugee camps and collective towns created over years of expulsion and mass deportation. In the last of four features, BBC journalist Hiwa Osman reports on the situation in the camps.

Binaslawa is a collective town outside the city of Irbil in the Kurdish region. It is a hot, dusty pile of grey cement houses and tents for more than 50,000 displaced people.

The Iraqi Government created many "modern villages" like Binaslawa in the 1980s to remove the Kurdish rural population from the countryside into camps near the major cities.

In this era of globalisation, justice should also be global

Bakhtiar Amin, Coalition for Justice in Iraq
Hamid, a Kurd from the city of Kirkuk, has been living with his family in Binaslawa since 1997, when they were expelled from their home by the Iraqi Government.

He had received a visit from a security official who told him that he had to leave and go to the Kurdish-controlled area. His house, appliance shop and farm were confiscated.

He was not given a reason for his expulsion by the security official, but didn't have to ask.

As a Kurd, he knew it was his turn to join perhaps 100,000 others who had been forced out of the oil-rich areas in and around Kirkuk.

Arabisation

Hamid's scenario is a typical one for Kurds, Turkmens and Assyrian Christians who have lived under the control of the Iraqi Government. But recently, a new deportation method has been put in place.

Expelled family in Binaslawa
"They did not let us take anything with us"

Any non-Arab who needs to have any official dealings with the Iraqi Government - whether property conveyance, vehicle registration, or enrolling children in schools - has to fill in a form that says: "I wish to correct my ethnic origin into Arabic."

Those who refuse to sign the form are automatically expelled to the Kurdish-controlled area. Those who "correct" their ethnic identity are told that "since they are Arabs," they should move to the south of Iraq.

Al-Ta'mim (nationalisation in Arabic) is the new name of the traditionally Kurdish governorate of Kirkuk. It is also the name of a government newspaper published in Kirkuk, which carries regular reports about "the leader president's gifts to the people".

President Saddam Hussain's "gift" for new Arab settlers is a plot of land in Kirkuk, a lump sum of money, and arms for "protection". Hamid's shop, farm and house are amongst these gifts.

Scorched earth

The Anfals
A campaign of mass displacement and disappearance
Conducted by the Iraqi Government in the late 1980s
An estimated 182,000 Kurds were buried alive in the southern deserts

Shorish is another former "modern village" not far from Kirkuk inside the Kurdish region. The people who live there tell a different story of forced expulsion. The majority of Shorish's inhabitants are what Kurds call "Anfal widows".

Anfal, (spoils in Arabic), was a campaign of mass displacement and disappearance conducted by the Iraqi Government in the waning days of the Iran-Iraq war in the late 1980s.

Using a scorched-earth policy that included chemical bombing, thousands of villages were depopulated and razed to the ground. Anfal's goal was to prevent Kurdish opposition parties from relying on the Kurdish villages.

Eyewitness accounts, documents seized from Iraqi security during the Gulf War uprising and international organisations estimate that 182,000 people, mostly men, were forced from the Kurdish areas and buried alive in mass graves in the southern deserts.

Hamid and his three-year old son
Hamid's son, Azad, was born in the camp

The Iraqi Government refuses to confirm the fate of those who were taken, despite repeated requests from Kurdish officials.

The social, economic and psychological impact of this issue is enormous.

Without a death certificate, women with missing husbands cannot remarry and their children cannot inherit family property.

Without a working head of household, women are sometimes forced into the smuggling trade or worse.

House after impoverished house in Shorish is filled with women and children.

International Tribunal

The Anfal and Arabisation campaigns are "acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing", says Bakhtiar Amin, head of the Washington-based Coalition for Justice in Iraq (CJI), which includes more than 260 non-governmental organisations from 120 countries.

Kani Shaytan tent city near Sulaymaniyah
Tent cities are the first stop for expelled families

The 14 tonnes of security documents seized in the uprising, make "Iraqi genocide, in which one million Iraqis were killed, the most documented case since WW II," Amin said in an interview with BBC News Online.

The CJI is calling for an expert commission under a UN mandate to study the available evidence and decide whether there is a case for crimes against humanity in Iraq.

"Unaccountability means a continuation of violence and encouraging other dictators to commit similar crimes," Amin said.

"In this era of globalisation, justice should also be global."

Photographs copyright of Hiwa Osman

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Bakhtiar Amin, of Coalition for Justice in Iraq
"They practise apartheid in the city"
See also:

31 Aug 01 | Middle East
05 Sep 01 | Middle East
02 Oct 01 | Middle East
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