The Barzani tribe had long been a thorn in the flesh of the Iraqi central government. Hostilities reached boiling point during the Iraq-Iran War when Saddam Hussein accused them of collaborating with the Iranians. Soon afterwards between 5,000 and 8,000 Barzani tribesmen were abducted and never seen again.
‘If a bird flies its nest, doesn’t it always want to return?’
For decades Kurds living near Kirkuk strongly resisted attempts by the Iraqi regime to drive them off their lands. MOHAMMED AMIN RAHMAN ALI returned to Chalistan repeatedly, only to be forced to leave his home again and again.
‘The Iraqi National Guard stole everything of value in our houses’
In the early 1960s the Iraqi authorities confiscated Kurdish lands north of Kirkuk. To this day, legal title has yet to be formally restored to its original owners. MAJID MOHAMMED ISMAEL describes how Arab militia looted his family home in Qara Dara and killed one of his neighbours.
‘The Arab militia were firing at us from our village graveyard’
Arab militia groups supporting the ruling Ba’ath Party drove Kurdish villagers from their homes near Kirkuk and replaced them with Arab settlers from the south. ARRAS ABDULLAH MOHAMMED remembers how his neighbours resisted for two days before they were forced to flee.
‘The Iraqi National Guard burned down whatever they could: houses, belongings and crops’
In the early 1960s Iraqi soldiers and tanks supported Arab militia as they moved into Kurdish villages northwest of Kirkuk. SAMAD KARIM AZIZ witnessed local people being overpowered as they tried to prevent the invaders from seizing their livestock and land.