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Voices from Iraq


BBC News Online speaks to six Iraqis about their lives, fears and hopes.

Gulzar Ahmad is one of more than 100,000 women whose husbands were rounded up by the Iraqi Government in the late 1980s in a campaign aimed at destroying Kurdish resistance to Baghdad, known as the Anfal. Thousands of civilians were killed in poison gas attacks. Others were rounded up and disappeared.

I am from the village of Jabari in the Kirkuk region. My husband had a shop in Kirkuk. One morning in 1988 the Iraqi army came. They surrounded us and put us all in trucks. They separated the women and the children on one side, and their men on another side.

During the night they took all the men. Nobody knew where they took them. We woke up one morning and we couldn't find them any more.
I had my six children with me. At first they took the children from me but I screamed, I cried, and I was going to kill myself. I was hysterical. Then the soldiers brought back my children.

During the night they took all the men. Nobody knew where they took them. We woke up one morning and we couldn't find them any more. There were so many soldiers.

Then they put us all in military trucks and took us to Topzawa in the governorate of Kirkuk. From Topzawa they took us to a place that we didn't know. The only thing we could see through the barbed wire around us was desert.

Thirst and starvation

I can't find words to describe the misery that we lived in at the time. Every day a few more people would die. We had a loaf of bread a day. It was dismal. Children died from thirst and starvation every day. It was very hot during the day - we were burning from the sun - and freezing at night.

Every woman I know in Shoresh had her husband taken away and they do not know anything about them
They raped a woman who was in our ward and killed her afterwards. They threw her body in the desert to be eaten by wild dogs. So many women died in this way.

We used to see dead bodies being eaten by the wild dogs every day. They treated us like animals. I can still see all this in my mind today.

And then they took us to Tikrit. They kept us there for five days and then released us. I lost contact with my husband after the first place they took us to when they separated all the men from the women.

Destitution

Following the disappearance of my husband and our release they confiscated all our property and land. We were completely destitute. They threw us on the street. Then they brought us to this place - Shoresh. Had it not been for some of my remaining relatives, we would have starved to death. I could not work because I was looking after my children who were very young at the time.

I want this war to take place. I'm waiting for Saddam to go. We are afraid that if Saddam is cornered he will attack us and we have no means of responding to him or protecting ourselves
In October I heard that the Iraqi Government had issued an amnesty for those who are in prison. When I heard this I was hoping I might see my husband. But when all the prisoners came back to Kurdistan and my husband and all the others who were taken during the Anfal did not return, I realised then that he was definitely dead.

To me this amnesty was a death certificate. I am still hoping that he will come back one day or at least I am hoping to know exactly what happened to him. I am not the only one who is in this position. Every woman I know in Shoresh had her husband taken away and they do not know anything about them.

When we heard about the amnesty my remaining relatives in Kirkuk went to Baghdad to ask whether their relatives, including my husband, were going to be released or not. They could not even use the word Anfal.

The worst is over

Our Kurdish Government gives me 200 dinars ($20) a month now. My economic situation is not as bad as it used to be. I lead a better life than many other Anfal widows simply because I have grown-up children who are working today.

My daughter works in the health centre nearby. She tells me that the minute a woman walks in she can tell whether she is an Anfal widow or not.

I think the worst part of my life is over.

But I want this war to take place. I'm waiting for Saddam to go. We are afraid that if Saddam is cornered he will attack us because he is very close and we have no means of responding to him or protecting ourselves.

If the war takes place we will leave this area because we don't know what the government is going to do. We know that he killed hundreds of thousands of people. No matter what he says we can never trust him.

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