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The Spoils



NUGRA SALMAN PRISON –– After several preparatory meetings, a group of independent Kurdish persons set off from Sulemaniyeh to visit this notorious prison in Salman district, about 180 kilometers to the southwest of Samawa city where the group had received a very warm welcome from the Sarnawa governor and tribal leaders. Meanwhile a group of Faili Kurds, journalists and representatives of Alliance for International Justice came to Nugra Salman prison from Baghdad.
The three day journey may have had various objectives for each person but had one commonality for all the 36 visitors: These Kurds do not want to forget about Anfal.

Anfal (“the spoils”') is the name of eighth Sura “chapter” of the Koran and is the name of the military campaign, essentially an exercise in genocide, that the Saddam Hussein government carried out against the Iraqi Kurds from February 23 to September 6th 1988. Estimates dispute the number of people killed and villages and towns destroyed in the campaign. The Kurdish parties say that 182,000 people, mostly civilian, died and 4500 villages and towns were razed during the operations. Middle East Watch in its book “Genocide in Iraq” –– The Anfal Campaign Against the Kurds estimated Kurdish deaths as up to 100,000.

Both executioners and victims of the Anfal campaign dubbed the events of the period “A Visit to Hell.”

“Kurds are traitors, and we know where to send you. We will send you to a hell that is built especially for the Kurds,” an Iraqi army officer told one old man during the Anfal operations. A surviving inmate of the prison, Muhammed Hussein, then 80, told Middle East Watch in 1992: “If you know about hell, this is hell. We have seen it.”

“The departing point for us was Dubiz, a town about 20 kilometers from Kirkuk,” recalled Haji Amin, a man in his 60s and a survivor of the prison who accompanied younger visitors. “We were taken through the cities and deserts. Men and women were looking at us. Some were shocked while others jeered.”

Amin comes from Chiman Bawa village. He was among the first batch of people sent to Nugra Salman in mid April 1988 and was released five months later after the Sept. 6 general amnesty.

Those who jeered the Kurds, like most of the Iraqis at the time, did not realize the depth of what was happening to their fellow countrymen and women. Later on, even the Kurds themselves, who have enjoyed semi-independence from the Iraqi regime since 1991, avoided mentioning Anfal and neglected to undertake any in-depth research and data collection into this unique tragedy.

On July 25, after two-hour drive from Samawa, Nugra Salman prison came in to view. It sits on a hill surrounded by barren deserts on four sides. The prison is in the shape of a well-built fortress of two stories. Silent, unpeopled halls which served as communal prison chambers surround a central yard area. According to Middle East Watch's book, the now-deserted prison housed between 5,000 and 10,000 Kurds during February and September 1988.

The events of Summer 1988 and the fate of the Kurds turned on one critical date, the festival of Eid al-Adha, which ended on July 26 and marked the operation's resumption with renewed vigour and brutality. Chemical weapons were again used by the Iraqi air force, which went quite unnoticed by the international world unlike at Halabja in March of the same year where the chemical bombardment was brought to the world's attention after being recorded on film.

Once inside the castle, the visitors scattered through the fortress. Some of the Kurdish artists in the group had brought art equipment and painted a collective picture, while a lute player sat in a corner of the prison playing a slow and sad music.

The visitors also studied the walls to trace the memories of the prisoners who once were imprisoned there. The writings on the walls are both in Arabic and Kurdish. The Kurdish writings were mostly nonpolitical, which confirms widespread suspicions that the prisoners were not political activists or opposition members. Conversely, the top of the walls were otherwise dense with Baathist slogans in Arabic, such as, “it is your order, my sir: We will damn all their ancestors.”

Searching for some message while gazing out of the windows of the prison, one could easily realize what a torture is for a Kurdish person grown up amid mountains, hills and greeneries to be caged in such a merciless, barren prison in the middle of a desert. Yet the place seemed to invite the young visitors to listen and look, as if they wanted to tell the stories of those who suffer a mysterious life and death.

“I heard a young girl seeking help from me,” said Ako Kareem Maaroof, a short story writer.

“When I entered the castle I felt the deadly silence in the air of the prison,” said artist Rebeen Ahmed, 24. “I also thought of the silence surrounding the matter in the Kurdish world. Both types of silence are linked and one is the extension of the other. I think we should break both silences.”

On returning,, the group issued a statement asking for some urgent demands to be acted upon, including putting on trial the decision-makers and implementers of Anfal campaign, to preserve Nugra Salman prison as a museum and include historical information on Anfal in the new Iraqi curriculum.
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ناوه‌ندی هه‌ڵه‌بجه‌ دژ به‌ ئه‌نفالکردن و ژینۆسایدکردنی گه‌لی کورد (چاك) 
The Center of Halabja against Anfalization and Genocide of the Kurds - CHAK