Frontline World

IRAQ: The Road to Kirkuk, May 2003

Related Features THE STORY
Synopsis of "The Road to Kirkuk"

History without a homeland

The costs of war

Government, population, Iraqi Kurds

Kurds, nationalism, Iraq after Saddam




Links and Resources

• The Kurds
• Kurdish Nationalism
• Kurds in Iraq
• Iraq After Saddam
• Reconciliation or Revenge?
• Media

The Kurds

The Kurds' Story
In 2000, the PBS FRONTLINE program "The Survival of Saddam" looked at the role Kurds have played in the history of modern Iraq. Interviews with Kurdish leaders and American diplomats explore the Iraqi Kurds' violent past and their aspirations for a post-Saddam Iraq.

The U.S.-Kurdish Relationship
The United States has had a long and at times uneasy relationship with the Kurds. After World War I, it promised to support an independent Kurdish state and during the 1970s it supported -- then abandoned -- Kurdish rebels inside Iraq. FRONTLINE presents a timeline of the main events in 20th-century U.S.-Kurdish history.

AKA Kurdistan
In her book Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History, American photographer Susan Meiselas explores the modern history of the Kurds through photographs, pictures and writings. With no central archive for Kurdish historical documents, the book was the first time many of these materials had been made public. This companion Web site includes images from the book and a page where visitors may submit their own pictures and writings about Kurdistan.

"A Troubled History"
In this 1998 interview, Susan Meiselas speaks with Elizabeth Farnsworth of PBS's NewsHour With Jim Lehrer about her effort to document Kurdish life and the larger history of the Kurds. Her goal, Meiselas explains, was to create a work that would appeal to a wide audience. "It was a great challenge to make something that could speak to two very different communities: a community, I hope, of Westerners who know very little and hopefully want to know, and to a Kurdish community for whom this work was totally inaccessible."

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Kurdish Nationalism

American Kurdish Information Network
AKIN, a Washington-based Kurdish advocacy group, promotes awareness of the Kurds and their struggle for independence. Its Web site includes commentary on current Kurdish issues and graphic images of atrocities committed against Kurds in Iraq and Turkey.

Kurdistan Democratic Party
The KDP, founded by Mustafa Barzani in 1946, is one of Iraq's dominant Kurdish nationalist groups. Barzani's son Masoud currently heads the organization. Since 1992, the KDP has shared power and occasionally fought with other Kurdish parties, including thePatriotic Union of Kurdistan.

Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
The PUK is Iraq's other main Kurdish nationalist group. It is headed by Jalal Talabani, who founded it in 1975. As its official site explains, "The organization's aim is to revitalize resistance and to rebuild and redirect Kurdish society along modern and democratic lines."

Abdullah Oçalan
Oçalan, the controversial leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or the PKK, is currently serving a life sentence in Turkey. During the PKK's 15-year conflict with Turkey, nearly 30,000 people died and Oçalan became both "hate figure and hero." BBC News provides a summary of his arrest, trial and reaction to his sentence.

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Kurds in Iraq

The Anfal Campaign
Anfal, which is Arabic for "spoils," was the name of Saddam Hussein's genocidal campaign against Iraqi Kurds in the late 1980s. This report by Human Rights Watch gives a detailed account of the campaign's atrocities throughout Iraqi Kurdistan.

Chemical Ali
The most infamous aspect of Anfal was the Iraqi military's use of chemical weapons against Kurdish civilians. The mastermind of this strategy was Ali Hassan al-Majid, a Ba'ath Party leader now known as "Chemical Ali." In these transcripts of taped conversations with Ali, he openly describes the brutal tactics used against the Kurds.

Kurdistan Regional Government
From its capital in Irbil, the Kurdistan Regional Government controls the "liberated area of Iraqi Kurdistan." Its official Web site features news stories about the reconstruction of Iraq and information on the KRG's decade-long efforts to set up an alternative government in northern Iraq.

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Iraq After Saddam

"Iraq Liberated"
This U.S. State Department site tracks recent developments in U.S.-occupied Iraq and the efforts to restore order to the country. It includes recent policy statements, assessments of the current situation and documents that follow the buildup to the war that toppled Saddam Hussein.

"What the Kurds Want"
In this commentary, Barham Salih, a PUK member and prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, outlines some ideas for a post-Saddam government. A free Iraq, he writes, must decentralize power and respect its ethnic minorities without favoring one group over another. However, the abuses of Saddam's Arabization program must be addressed. "Justice demands that we reverse ethnic cleansing."

"Between Iraq and a Hard Place"
In an interview with the Santa Barbara Independent, Kani Xulam, founder and head of the American Kurdish Information Network, offers his assessment of post-Saddam Iraq. Asked whether the time has come to redraw the maps of Kurdistan, Xulam answers, "[T]he Kurdish reality must be respected and accepted. ... But we will have our day in the sun. It will come. I have no doubts about it."

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Reconciliation or Revenge?

The sudden end of Saddam Hussein's regime brought an end to a 24-year reign of terror. But for the millions of Iraqis who were the victims of torture, disappearances and ethnic cleansing, forgetting the past will not be easy. The choice facing Iraqis is the same as that confronted by citizens of other countries emerging from decades of oppression: Should they forgive and move on or seek justice, even revenge? The following sites look at some of the issues surrounding this difficult question.

Justice versus Reconciliation
Can Iraqis forgive their fellow citizens who arrested, beat and tortured them in the name of Saddam? Christopher Hitchens addresses this question in this piece for Saddam's cronies should face justice, but they also have the practical skills to keep postwar Iraq functioning, Hitchens writes. "This dilemma will persist in Iraq even longer, I predict, than it has in South Africa and El Salvador and Eastern Europe."

Kurdish Human Rights Project
The Kurdish Human Rights Project tracks the human rights situation in Kurdistan and reports abuses against both Kurds and non-Kurds. It has recently written about the "breakdown in law and order" in cities such as Kirkuk, where looting and ethnic violence followed the arrival of U.S. and Kurdish forces. "The ethnic groups within Iraq must be given the opportunity to decide for themselves how best to implement justice and democracy in the region."

Forgiveness Without Forgetting
In 1990, anti-apartheid activist and Anglican priest Michael Lapsley lost both hands and an eye when he opened a letter bomb. After the fall of apartheid, he emerged as an eloquent advocate of reconciliation over revenge. In this recent interview, he explains how the victims of human rights abuses can heal with time and possibly forgive their abusers.

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Kurdish Media
Kurdish Media, a Britain-based Web site, presents an extensive array of stories on Kurdish news and culture.

The Guardian
The British newspaper The Guardian maintains a Web site with comprehensive links to recent stories about Kurds in Iraq and Turkey.

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