Iraq

The necessary protection of the population of the Kurdish autonomous region of northern Iraq

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Saddam Hussein's regime is known for being one of the world's worst dictatorships, with an unmatched record of human rights violations. Since the Baath party's rise to power in 1968, repression has struck all levels of society, all political and religious groups. The entire population of Iraq lives in a permanent state of terror.

In Kurdistan, the Iraqi regime planned and organised an extermination campaign, which was qualified as genocide by the United Nations Special Rapporteur. Five thousand people died in a few hours in Halabja after the use of chemical weapons, and hundreds of thousands of other people were executed or went missing during the Anfal operations. Today, the forced displacement of population and ethnic cleansing continues in the regions under the regime's control1

In 1991, an uprising broke out in 14 out of the 18 Iraqi provinces. The crushing of the uprising by the armed forces and the Republican guard and the repression that followed forced millions of persons into exile in Iran and Turkey. The United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 688, proposed by France, on the issue of human rights. This resolution calls upon Iraq to end the repression of its civilian population, and to allow refugees to return relatively safely to the three governorates located in the north of Iraq. A no-flight zone was enforced to prevent the bombing of the governorates by planes or helicopters of the Iraqi armed forces. Since then, three and a half million people live in Iraqi Kurdistan, with an autonomous administration, at a distance from the repression enforced by the Iraqi regime, which still uses all possible means of pressure to harass the autonomous region, in an effort to stifle the region's economy (internal embargo enforced in addition to the United Nations sanctions, slowing down of the projects scheduled in the framework of the Oil-for-Food Programme, attacks...).

Despite this interference and the neighbouring states who fear that the experience of the Kurdish autonomous region could spread, the Kurds have faced up with the incredible challenge of reconstructing the majority of the 4,500 villages and towns destroyed by Saddam Hussein. A civil society has started to emerge and fundamental rights are granted to the minorities. Several Iraqi political parties and media coexist and benefit from this necessary opening of Iraq to democracy.

Today, the Kurdish population fears that what they have achieved may be jeopardised by the Iraqi army and the neighbouring states' armed forces that surround the region. In case of conflict, they know that Saddam Hussein's regime would not hesitate to use chemical weapons. In the meantime, very little aid has been provided by international organisations for prevention or to prepare the local health system to face up to an attack with non conventional weapons. Everybody knows that the take-over of the autonomous region by the regime would result in exactions and a new exile, while Iraq's neighbours are taking measures to prevent a massive arrival of refugees within their borders.

The difficult situation of Turkish and Iranian Kurdish refugees, who live in different regions of Iraq, must also be stressed, as they could be threatened by the armies of their own country. The experience of the Kurdish autonomous region which has been going on for over ten years in the three northern governorates is also under threat.

The signatory organisations call upon the international community, in particular Europe, to protect the population of the Kurdish autonomous region from any kind of military action by the Iraqi army and to help the Kurdish authorities, especially health services, to organise for the event of an attack with non conventional weapons.

They call upon the increased watchfulness of international organisations in charge of the protection of Iranian and Turkish refugees, in order to protect them in particular against incursions of Iran and Turkey in the entire Iraqi territory. They urge Iraq's neighbours to open their borders to refugees and they urge countries of the Western world to host Iraqi refugees.

They call upon the Security Council to reactivate resolution 688, in order to protect the Iraqi population from any form of repression and to send international human rights observers throughout the country.

Finally, they urge the neighbouring states of Iraq not to intervene inside Iraq.

Footnote:

1 See AIJ/FIDH report: "Iraq: continuous and silent ethnic cleansing" available at www.a-i-j.org and www.fidh.org ..

International Alliance for Justice (AIJ)
Fondation France Libertés
Ligue des Droits de l'Homme (LDH France)
Aide Médicale Internationale (AMI France)
WADI (Germany)
Medico (Germany)

Contact: Françoise Brié
aij@noos.fr
Phone: 33 1 48 00 03 20