Kurdish Fears of New Iranian-Backed Genocide ‘Must Be Taken Seriously,’ Expert Urges
Kurdish warnings that they face a potential genocide at the hands of the Iranian-backed forces that have swept through Iraqi Kurdistan over the last ten days “need to be taken seriously,” a leading expert on Kurdish affairs said on Wednesday.
“There is a great fear among the Kurds that they could face another genocide at the hands of the Iraqi government and the Shia militia forces backed by Iran,” Julie Lenarz — the executive director of the Human Security Centre, a London-based think-tank with extensive contacts in Kurdistan — said on a conference call organized by The Israel Project, a US group that closely tracks Iran’s growing military power and support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East.
“It’s hard to overstate what the Iranians have pulled off over the last two weeks,” Lenarz remarked. “By denying the clear evidence of Shia militia activities on the ground, and by abandoning the Kurds, Washington effectively legitimized Solaimani’s scheme.”
Originally promised independence by Britain and France at the end of World War I, the Kurds were instead divided between Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria in 1923. Since that time, their history has been marked by continued attempts to gain independence with little outside assistance, and often resulting in persecution, ethnic cleansing and genocide.
In 1988, Saddam Hussein’s regime in Baghdad launched “Operation Anfal” in the same territories now occupied by Iranian-backed forces, using chemical weapons and high-explosive air attacks against the Kurdish population that left thousands dead, around 1.5 million destitute and more than 3,000 communities razed to the ground.
Commenting on the Operation Anfal atrocities, the British historian David McDowall wrote that at the time, “the West was generally inclined to dismiss Kurdish claims of genocide, either because they were politically inconvenient, or because it was suggested such reports were probably wild exaggerations.” McDowell went on to note that evidence collected by human rights groups after the First Gulf War “showed that previous Kurdish claims were not only incontrovertible, but also in many cases an understatement of the ordeal through which Iraq’s Kurds were then passing.”
The latest assault against the Kurds comes at the close of the military campaign against ISIS, in which Kurdish forces in both Iraq and Syria have played a critical role. On September 25, ninety-three percent of participants in an independence referendum in Kurdistan voted in favor of a sovereign Kurdish state. Kurdish leaders have now offered to “freeze” moves to implement the referendum in the hope of securing an end to the violence.
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