By Nabaz Samad
Anfal, also known as the Al-Anfal campaign, is the most textbook and most harrowing illustration of an attempted Kurdish genocide. It endeavoured to annihilate and extirpate the Kurds from both being-in-the world and being-in-history. Having its grounds in the Quran, Anfal appropriated and propagated predefined methods and aims specified, and known, by the Ba’ath regime.
In Anfal, there are two kinds of simultaneous killing: individual murder, e.g. a criminal kills a civilian, and group murder, e.g. national, ethnic, religious, etc. These types of murder are interconnected because the group, embodied as an individual, is killed, whilst the individual, as a member of a specific group, is defined, identified and then also killed.
The first step of genocide starts out from theory, in other words, ideology. First, an involuntary identity is imposed upon a specific group that will be annihilated. Next, members of the specified group are dehumanised. Here both the annihilation of an individual belonging to the group and the eradication of the group as a whole are justified. The Ba’ath regime identified Kurds as enemies and gave them a specific identity prior to the Anfal campaign in 1988. Then the Ba’ath regime dehumanised and demonised Kurds in order to justify their annihilation and genocide.
In any case, for understanding Anfal, we should understand the reasons behind it: the ideology of Ba’athism, and its roots in Arabic, and Islamic, traditions. Furthermore, to understand the context upon which the ideology stands one should understand the history of Iraq and how Iraq was created as a postcolonial nation state, as well as understanding Arabism, pan-Arabism and Arab-nationalism. In addition, there is a demand for the crucial relationship between totalitarianism and genocide to be grasped, as well as the relationship between the nation-state and genocide, and between modernity and genocide. In so doing, we can see how the Ba’ath party was able to capitalise on the particulars within these relationships as a tool to Anfalise the Kurds.
The Ba’ath party’s formation and its ideological grounds take advantage from totalitarian ideologies such as Nazism, Fascism, and Stalinism. All appropriated into and adapted to be in accord with Islamic traditions, Arabic traditions such as patriarchy, and Arab tribalism. Therefore, Ba’ath shapes a chauvinist pan-Arabic nationalism on the basis of an eradication of the other, i.e. the non-Arab.
We as Kurds have yet to understand (through ignorance) the complexities of Anfal. Thus, Anfal continues and Kurds remain within the Anfal situation unaware of the fact that a social consciousness of this savagery has yet to break into our life and history. We are thus unable to transcend into a post-Anfal era. We may well be mourning the atrocities committed by Anfal but we are refusing to pose the salient questions concerning what Anfal is. What happened to us because of it? Why did it happen to us?
We as Kurds need to know that there are two main scenarios that will result from genocide: first, the nation, or group, that the attempted annihilation is directed towards, will be accordingly defeated and eradicated completely, or second, the group will come together as a unit and become stronger by rebuilding itself from scratch. The key thing to recognise from these two scenarios is we as Kurds haven’t been defeated. We’ve become stronger and more powerful.
However, we Kurds spend plenty of time deeming ourselves to comprise the first scenario. However, the Ba’ath regime in the Anfal could not annihilate us. The Kurds have continuously attempted to rebloom and rebuild ourselves, especially during the uprising that occurred in March 1991, as well as the collective displacement in late 1991, by fleeing to Iran and Turkey. However, these attempts were futile. That is owing to the fact Kurds fell into civil war and attenuated our collective bonds, and eventually annihilated ourselves. Nevertheless, even with this blight on our identity, the Ba’ath regime failed to effectuate its goals. Indeed, what Anfal carried out failed to recognise that this would make us stronger. They failed to see that it would reinforce our legitimate existence as a group of people which would lead to the establishment of an independent Kurdish state. However, a public consciousness of Anfal within the Kurdish community has, to this day, failed to emerge.
Anfal should become an epistemological and scientific affair with coinciding research, archives, and documentation of Anfal in its entirety. Unfortunately, there remains a pressing lack of scientific, academic, institutional and professional research and work on Anfal. Rather, the bulk of material in existence is chiefly anecdotal. Anfal has not engendered seismic epistemological shifts, masterpieces in the world of literature, movies, paintings and artworks (especially on the global scene). This has been detrimental to Kurds. It’s time we change this and it’s time we make the rest of the world aware of Anfal.
(Art work by Osman Ahmed)