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 Curses greet Saddam as Kurds watch trial

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Curses greet Saddam as Kurds watch trial  21.8.2006


Former dictator Saddam Hussein

DUHOK, Kurdistan region 'Iraq' (Aug 21, 2006), "Son of a donkey". "Son of a whore". The men in this Kurdish cafe in Kurdistan (northern Iraq) hurled their curses at the television screen as it showed Saddam Hussein in court in live coverage of his trial for genocide on Monday.

Photo : AFP

As another spat in contempt, others shouted "bastard", "swine", at the appearance of Saddam's cousin, Ali Mahjid, or "Chemical Ali", also charged with genocide in the killing of around 100,000 of their people and destruction of 3,000 villages, notably using chemical weapons.

"We are happy to see our sworn enemy Saddam before a court," said Walid Khaled, 30, whose brother died in 1988 in Mangesh during the "Anfal Campaign" -- named after the Arabic word for "spoils" and launched according to the then-ruling regime to crush dissident Kurds siding with Iran.

Suddenly, a power cut plunged this cafe in Dohuk, the third main city of the Kurdish region, into gloom, and blacked out the television.


"Even God doesn't want to listen to Saddam," came the ironic comment from Ziad Faria Mohamed, aged 28, whose father was killed during Anfal.

In the countryside, in villages leveled and strafed, emptied of their occupants during Anfal, surviving inhabitants somberly watch the trial of their "executioner".

At Beshenki, some 50 kilometers (about 30 miles) northeast of Duhok, the head of the village has made sure that the community generator was working.

"I don't want to miss a moment of this trial. I've waited for it forever," said Mohammed Hussein Suleiman, at 72 years one of the elders of this village of around 100 inhabitants.

"This trial is too merciful for him. The coalition are going to leave him his life but he should be dead. He does not merit still to be living.

"If you brought him here, you would see the sort of trial that we would give him," said Suleiman.

Seventeen people in the tiny village were killed during Anfal, while 10 were slain before the official start of that campaign. Others told of their flight to escape as relatives in other villages were also slaughtered.

Some 30 men crowded around the television in the village, taking the day off from work in the fields so as not to miss the opening of the trial.

Mohamed Hussein Suleiman lost seven members of his family, in Beshinki and other villagers; Tahar Suleiman Ghazy, 60, lost 14 of his -- an uncle, cousin and 12 nephews.

The trial brought back the hour-by-hour calvary of his village which started in the morning of August 28, 1988.

"The planes arrived and bombed the village and nearby shelters. They used chemical weapons. We fled towards the Turkish frontier," he said.

After several days with little food and hunted by Iraqi troops, some of the inhabitants made it to Turkey where they remained for three years. "Some of the group preferred to surrender to the troops of Saddam Hussein. They have never been seen since," said Ghazy.

When it was safe to return, under a Western military umbrella some three years later, the residents discovered just traces of ruins. The village had been razed. A few stones, covered in fledgling vegetation, were still visible and were used for a start in rebuilding.

"When I saw this, I said 'may God bear witness'. May he (Saddam) be judged," said Suleiman, adding that they would have preferred the ousted dictator to be judged in Kurdistan. "There would be only one possible sentence: death." 


Lezguine Khazem, who was 19 at the time of Anfal, commented: "If there had not been foreign intervention after (Iraq's invasion of) Kuwait, I have no doubt that Kurdistan would have been wiped from the map."

Ghazy again cursed Saddam: "He killed babies still being breast-fed, infants, women. It was genocide that he would have committed. If I could speak to him I would demand 'why, why', what crimes had these people committed?"



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