The Crimes of Saddam Hussein

By Dave Johns

1980 The Fayli Kurds

Fayli woman on bus

The Fayli Kurds are an ethnic group of Shi’iah Muslim Kurds who live in the southern section of the Zagros Mountains near the Iraq–Iran border. Because they are a minority of a minority and live close to the Iranian border, they have long been dismissed as “Iranians” by the Ba’ath Party and treated with little dignity.

When Saddam came to power, his campaign of ethnic cleansing directed at the Kurds in general focused in particular on the Faylies. He considered them Iranian, and his regime wanted to “Arabize” their region. Beginning in 1980, the Faylies were targeted for killing and deportation. Security forces would arrive in Fayli villages, pull people from their beds and loot their houses. Faylies were then herded into trucks and taken to local offices where the men and boys were separated from the women, the young children and the elderly. The males were taken away and never seen again. The women were held for a time in prison or sent to holding camps.

One female Fayli victim described being brought for questioning into a metal room with a floor soaked in blood. Later, she was packed into a room with naked women of all ages and a few children. Some of them were bruised and bloodied, and many, she said, had been raped. She was then taken to a different holding facility and placed in a large hall filled with hundreds of people. There was no sanitation, people were dying and bodies were left to rot for days before being removed. She was eventually transported to near the Iranian border and ordered at gunpoint to walk into Iran without food or water. These Fayli women, children and elderly were made to walk for days through wild terrain. Some were killed by land mines, some by crossfire from the Iran–Iraq fighting. Many others died from exposure.

Charges and evidence

According to the U.S. State Department, thousands of Faylies were either expelled to Iran or were persecuted and killed in northern Iraq in 1980.

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