Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fayli Kurds prepare genocide case

Hadi Ali's family is shown here in 1980. Ali and three of his brothers were lost after they were imprisoned near Baghdad in the early 1980s. GLOBE PHOTO
Two years passes since this report was published. the aim of republishing it is for raising a question, What Happened to the Fayli Case?

Fayli Kurds prepare genocide case

By Ako Muhammed
The Kurdish Globe

A report conducted in June 2008

KRG supports victims' families in their search for traces of lost youths and with legal compensation.
Crimes against Fayli Kurds from as far back as the '70s and '80s are now ready to be heard by the Iraqi High Crimes Tribunal.

Layla Salman, 55, remembers well the day the door to her family's home in Baghdad was knocked on by a stranger. It was January 31, 1982.

"The man asked which ethnicity we were. We replied that we were Kurds." It was at that moment that her life changed forever. The man kept questioning her: "What kind of Kurds? From Suleimaniya or Erbil? There are no Kurds in Baghdad!" As soon as she replied that they were Fayli Kurds, the man and five guards rushed into the house, captured all 11 members of her family, and imprisoned them.
Salman, a mother of two girls, told her story to the Globe in Erbil.

"We were put in a dark room painted red at the General Security Directorate. And then we were called for investigation separately," said Salman, explaining the moment her husband and three of his brothers were separated from the rest of the family.

"After [a few] days, we saw them were sat on school decks. Their eyes were blindfolded?their hands were tied from behind?a loaf of dry bread was put in front of each of them. The scene caused us to cry and scream as security forces robbed our bags," continued Salman, bursting into tears. This was the last time she saw her husband and his brothers.

The rest of Salman's family was placed in big halls with another 1,700-1,800 people who had been seized; the halls were somewhere near Baghdad's al-Sha'ab stadium. She said they had a terribly long month there before they were released at the Muzariya crossing border with Iran.

"They [Iraqi authorities] confiscated our property, citizenship identifications, and more importantly our young men-one or two youths from each family. The youths were imprisoned and we were deported to Iran."

"Just keep going ahead. Do not turn around or you will be shot." These were the last words Salman and hundreds like her were told by Iraqi authorities at the border.

"All these years, we waited one day to see again those lovely youths. When the regime fell, we found no trace of them," said Salman.

Faylis are a sect of Kurds. Their original homeland is now divided by the Iraq-Iran border. Iranian Faylis are based mostly in Ilam and Kirmanshah provinces, while in Iraq the Fayli areas are located north and east of Diyala province. Centuries ago, thousands moved to the capital city of Baghdad to do trade work. Their population in Baghdad alone reached one million before the mass deportation campaigns of the 1970s and 1980s, according to nonofficial sources.

Salman, along with seven other people who had been victimized by the former Iraqi system, are in the second group of witnesses brought home from Europe with the support of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to deliver their testimony and prepare their cases to be presented to the Iraqi High Crimes Tribunal.

The seven had similar sad stories in their briefcases.

Twenty-eight years ago, Muhammad Hameed Abdullah, then a 20-year-old Iraqi army soldier serving in Basra, returned home to Baghdad for a one-week vacation. When he got home, he found his house locked and discovered later that all of his family members had been forcefully deported to Iran.

The shocked soldier wanted to join his family, and decided he'd attempt to illegally cross the border with the help of a friend. But Abdullah's uncle stopped him from escaping and advised him not to risk his life. Instead, he returned to his military unit and asked for legal permission to leave the country and join his family. Instead, the army captured Abdullah and sent him to Abu Ghraib Prison, near Baghdad.

"My sisters were visiting him in jail. After two years, his hair and teeth started falling out and his face became very pale," Abdullah's brother, Issa Fayli, said. Issa, a refugee in Sweden, is now in Erbil to give this testimony to the Iraqi High Crimes Tribunal. He suspects that his brother was used for chemical tests while in prison, and after 1983 he never heard from Abdullah again.

Issa continued, "In late 1991, my mother and 18 other women who had sons in jail came back from Tehran to try to find out what happened to their sons." The group was arrested before they reached Kirkuk city after they entered Kurdistan Region illegally and were jailed for 40 days in Kirkuk. Not only were they not given any news about their sons, but they were deported once again to Iran.

"After their return to Iran, the women died; the first month, two of them died, then five died. My mother died after seven months," Issa explained. They later discovered that while in jail in Kirkuk, the women were given thallium, a poison that kills slowly, with their food.

During the two decades, nearly 10,000 Fayli youths were imprisoned and later lost; additionally, hundreds of families were deported to Iran under claims these people belong to Iran.

"The Faylis were living in Iraq for hundreds of years," said Mihabad Qaradaghi, a KRG representative responsible for the Fayli Kurd case. She rejects the accusations of dual citizenship of these people, explaining: "In the 1970s, the Kurdish [political] movement was active inside Baghdad due to the large Fayli population there. Authorities at that time planned to cleanse them to remove their influence and to benefit financially by confiscating their property."

A large number of Faylis who were deprived of citizenship rights now face difficulty in retrieving their Iraqi citizenship. Qaradaghi said this is an issue that the Iraqi central government must tackle. She pointed out that the KRG Interior Ministry initiated an offer of identity documents to Iraqi Faylis, but she still insists on a decree from Baghdad to settle the problem.

Concerning the trial, Qaradaghi explained that they want the Iraqi High Crimes Tribunal to decide this case as genocide against Kurds and to compensate the families of the victims. She said the case is now ready to be inserted within the work program of the Iraqi High Crimes Tribunal, which recently opened the case of the Al-Shabania Uprising of 1991, a massacre committed against Shiites in southern Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War.

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