Reflecting on the 1970s Ba'athist land reform and the 1980s forced displacement of Kurdish people by Saddam Hussein, the paper presents a historical reconstruction of the use of territorial design as a tool for ethnic and urban control in the context of Northern Iraq. In that decade, the Ba'athist regime in Iraq proceeded to a massive displacement of people from the villages on the mountainous areas in the Kurdistan Region down to the valleys. The government specifically designed Collective Towns (mujamma'at) where these people would be relocated. The planning and design of Collective Towns initially responded to a logic of rationalisation and cost-effectiveness, but was successively turned into one of the political tools that Saddam Hussein used to manage the tensions with the Kurdish population of Iraq.
The paper reconstructs the historical development of Collective Towns from their original socialist ideal in the 1970s to their use as a territorial device of social, political and ethnic control. After the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, Collective Towns were not dismantled, but were on the contrary fully appropriated by inhabitants and governments to make of them the fully functional urban centres at the core of contemporary urbanisation in Kurdistan.
As a way of conclusion, the paper reflects on how Collective Towns "subversively" evolved from spaces of exception and structures of oppression into potentially open nuclei of urban development.
The design of space is neither neutral nor innocent. State interventions on the ground are often instruments utilised to implement broader political plans. This article looks at the case of Collective Towns in Iraqi Kurdistan as an example of such phenomenon. Throughout the 1970s and the 1980s the Iraqi government made full use of spatial planning as a constitutive part of the strategy of “dealing with the Kurdish problem”.1 My argument is that the Ba’ath regime adopted urban planning and space design as social engineering devices in its larger scheme of shaping society into a more homogenous and simplified form.2 The Iraqi government used the combination of ethnopolitics and a centralised ideology of modernisation to heavily intervene in the management and design of territory, causing a systematic disruption of local knowledge and practices. The modular style of development that they applied in northern Iraq to control the population has, however, been partly subverted by use and time so that it is now playing an important role in contemporary urbanisation of the Kurdistan Region.
The past decade has seen an increased academic interest in the field of Kurdish Studies; within this theoretical context, this article intends to address the management of physical territory and its socio-political implications from a geopolitical and historical perspective. In this introduction I will frame the general terms of the debate, give a broad context to the subject and discuss the methodological limitations of the article.
In his book Iraqi Kurdistan. Political Development and Emergent Democracy (2003), Gareth Stansfield states that “The influencing of the environment has been perhaps the most effective way of impacting upon the future way of life of Iraqi Kurds, whether by accident or by design” (Stansfield, 2003, 27). By arguing that the political dimension of the physical intervention on the environment was not by accident but clearly by design, this article uses a combination of textual analysis and field observations to attempt an initial description of the conditions for the elaboration, development and implementation of Collective Towns in Iraqi Kurdistan. There is very little documentary evidence that allows a detailed reconstruction of the process of planning and elaboration of the infrastructural model that was developed in the Collective Towns. In both historical and critical accounts, Collective Towns seem to “appear” as a given consequence of a pre-existing political decision, but there is limited academic effort in trying to understand how they actually came into being. This article intends to be an initial step in this direction. However, to this day, I have not been able to find any document that directly explains this process, lists who were the architects and engineers involved in the planning, what was the budget allocated for such an endeavour or in what terms were the expenses justified. The scale of the development and implementation of Collective Towns, however, makes it sensible to assume that the process was the fruit of extensive deliberations and clear political choices. The lack of documents may be connected to the fact that they may still be classified or that they may have been lost since many of the palaces that hosted the high ranks, ministries and agencies of the Ba'ath regime were destroyed during the Second Gulf War. In 1992, fourteen tons of documents , mainly coming from the General Security Directorate and the General Military Intelligence Directorate,were entrusted to the USA and handed over to Human Rights Watch / Middle East with the intention of building a legal case against the Ba'ath regime. Only a small part of these documents has been translated and transcribed and it is not clear how much of the rest is classified and if so under which conditions.3 Evidence around the planning of Collective Towns may possibly be found there. Considering the objective limitations in terms of access to primary archival sources, this article aims at reconstructing the general historical and conceptual conditions that allowed the design of Collective Towns and it is meant as an initial exploration for a much broader research.
Collective Towns are a topical example of the ways in which the intervention on the physical and built environment was used by the Ba’ath regime as a device for political action. The article builds on the notions of simplification and legibility developed by James C. Scott to understand the ways in which totalitarian states enforce political control over their populations. through space design. These analytical tools help us understand the Ba’ath’s plans in northern Iraq. Simplification, though, never happens in a vacuum and people respond and react to enforced measures in different ways. In the conclusions, the examples of Daratoo and Kasnazan hint at the possibility of unexpected forms of spacial negotiations and the creation of “subversive” spaces of urban transformation.
Management of Land in the 1970S
After the 1968 Ba’ath coup, Iraqi president Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr started a socialist-inspired reorganisation of the country. Great emphasis and attention was dedicated to the May 1970 land reform. Intended to lead to a five year plan, the 1970 117 Law was shaped on Soviet projects of collectivisation and agrarian transformation while drawing elements from regional interpretations of socialist ideology in Egypt and Syria.4 In his comparative study of the relations between agriculture and politics in the Ba’ath regimes of Iraq and Syria, Robert Springborg (1981) argues that the 1970 Land Reform had a significant impact on Iraqi society – despite the fact that it was never fully implemented. Through a massive relocation of resources from industrial development to agriculture, the government set up a process of confiscation that affected 64% of the privately owned land throughout the country (Springborg 1981, 199). This process was followed by a complex system of collectivisation, which had its peak between 1972 and 1976, but was then completely abandoned by Saddam Hussein in 1983.5 The confiscated land was to be organised around four different possibilities of tenure. Part of it would be managed by cooperatives, where peasants would retain usufruct right. This was meant to be a transitional stage towards the second form of tenure, namely the creation of collective farms, which were conceived following the Soviet model of the Kolkhoz. The third form of tenure was organised around state farms and the fourth pertained to the land that was given on rent to the Minister of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform. In spite of its apparent complexity, the immediate outcome of the 1970 Land Reform was that the state became the largest land owner in the country. The centralisation of land ownership, followed in 1972 by the nationalisation of natural resources, gave enormous power to the central government, allowing it to develop tools and policies that would increase people’s reliance on the state. The government began to distribute subsidised seeds for cooperatives and state farms and progressively introduced the allocation of subsidised food rations to all its citizens. This system deepened the level of dependency on the state and became an instrument to buy people’s loyalty and guarantee a tightly knit system of control. The Ba’ath regime ensured that the management of the operation was centralised so that the social and economic change could be efficently put into practice while limiting the risk of interferences and subversion.
The national Land Reform was implemented in the Kurdistan Region five years later, in 1975, in the context of a wide range of heavy state interventions meant to tighten the control over Kurdish population and land. Stansfield (2003) defines this as a crucial moment that deeply informed the social and economic geography of Iraqi Kurdistan. Agriculture was at the core of Kurdish economy and played a fundamental role in shaping the social relations in the region (Stansfield, 2003, 40).6 The reorganisation of land tenure with the 1975 Land Reform had therefore a devastating effect on Kurdish society and economy forcing many people to leave the countryside and migrate towards the urban areas. Stansfield highlights that the combination of Land Reform and nationalisation of natural resources functioned as a tool that the government of Iraq used to generate a culture of economic dependency, which holds to this day its detrimental effects. The campaign of confiscation in the Kurdistan Region had a further intention: it meant to reduce the strength of tribal leaders thus weakening the local networks of social solidarity. Several authors (Springborg, 1981 and 1987; Van Bruinessen, 1992; Sansfield, 2003) point out that the Reform had dramatic consequences on the people in the region, who were mostly relying on agriculture for subsistence. Moreover, by following a Soviet approach, the process of collectivisation generated a model of space organisation that could be reproduced on a large scale. The imposition of a spatial arrangement that was alien from local habits, cultures and lifestyles was rhetorically justified on the grounds of efficiency and modernisation. The uprooting that people underwent was to be counterbalanced by the provision of services and infrastructures. Cooperatives and state farms would gather peasants from the villages and concentrate them in large settlements where fresh water, sanitation, electricity and schooling could be easily provided.
Mujamma’at in the Kurdistan Region
In addition to the economic disruption, the Kurdistan Region underwent a profound spatial reorganisation. Populations of whole villages were moved from the mountains and resettled in the lowlands, which were easier to reach in terms of both services and control. These gathering points had specific characteristics in terms of location and design. The new settlements were known by the Arabic word mujamma (pl. mujamma’at), which comes from a root that indicates the bringing together or gathering in one place of things that are scattered around. Mujamma’at or Collective Towns (or simply collectives, as they are also referred to today) represent the structural territorial units around which the 1975 Land Reform was organised and have become an important feature of contemporary Kurdish urban landscape.7 The mujamma’atare mostly positioned on the main road that cuts through the Kurdistan Region from north to south, linking the main commercial gate on the Turkish border to Baghdad and to the rest of Iraq in the south. The Collective Towns were — but are no longer — gated and located at a short distance from the military outposts that the Ba’ath regime placed on the main axes of communication. They differ in size, but are all designed around modular patterns and typologies, which produce a uniform landscape.8 Leezemberg in his article “Urbanization,Privatization, and Patronage: The Political Economy of Iraqi Kurdistan” (in Jabbar and Dawood, 2006) defines mujamma’at as semi-urban centres, which were completely dependent on the economic support from the State. In terms of urban planning, the Collective Towns are organised on a grid of wide perpendicular roads, which divide the neighbourhoods in orderly blocks allowing easy mobility, access and visibility. This model provided a format that was completely alien to the Kurdish population, whose mud and stone villages are mainly built along the sides of the mountains in terraces connected to one another by a maze of narrow alleys.
In his book Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (1999), James C. Scott discusses the relation between authoritarian regimes, high modernist ideology and social engineering. His main argument is constructed around the idea that modernism provided the theoretical and ideological frame of reference for authoritarian regimes to implement on the ground forms of social control disguised by a pseudo-scientific approach. Working around the concepts of legibility and simplification, the state can impose, in the name of progress, centralised models of control that would systematise the complexity of local customs and practices into a readable, modern and homogeneous whole. In countries that undergo a phase of transition, the process of state formation is characterised by the disconnection between the central ideology of the Nation and the actual existence of that very idea in the myriad localities that constitute its territory. Such a disconnection forces the government to reduce the local idioms into a common, single and simplified language, which spans from actual languages and dialects to different forms of material cultural production – including agriculture, land holding, vernacular architecture and practices of inhabitation. Using examples as diverse as forestry, cadastral maps, Soviet Kolkhoz and Tanzanian ujamma (collective farming villages), Scott asserts that the rationalisation and consequent administration of space and territory in terms of legibility is one of the main grounds for the State to implement widespread projects of social engineering.
Following Scott’s argument, Collective Towns can be read as an example of a similar state attitude. The imposition through design of a new “rational” way of living inspired by geometry and technology allows transcending locality and creating the conditions for a homogenous and readable society. Through the 1970s and early 1980s, in Iraq the myths of rationalisation of farming and industrialisation of agriculture implemented through agrarian reforms served as an experimental ground for such an approach. The campaigns of expropriation and collectivisation that took place in Kurdistan in these years can thus be read in terms of ideology of modernisation, legibility and simplification. Through the provision of services and the imposition of a “modern” centralised way of living, the planned settlements would contribute to the destruction of existing communities. This disruption was masked by the fact that “[m]odernization required, above all, physical concentration into standardized units that the state might service and administer.” (Scott, 1999, 231)
This ideology and “scientific” approach is what allowed the Ba’th regime to use spatial planning as an ehtnopolitical tool and turn the physical model of confiscation, development and collectivisation into one of the main devices of control later utilised in the genocide campaign against the Kurds.
The Second Generation of Collective Towns
In an interview I conducted in 2010 with Kurdish urban planner Azad Shekhani, he defined the evolution of Collective Towns in terms of “generations”; while the first generation was created by the Iraqi central government as the product of the 1975 Land Reform, the second was a markedly political tool in the struggle against the Kurds.
The 1980s saw the development of the ‘second generation’ Collective Towns. The reason was no longer to modernize rural life, the aim then was to gather all the inhabitants of the villages into one big town so that the Kurdish population could be controlled, and the logistical support to the Peshmergas (the Kurdish guerrillas) whom, at that time, were fighting in the mountains would end. […] The second generation of Collective Towns during the 1980s counts the establishment of more than thirty-five new centres in the three governorates of Kurdistan [Dohuk, Erbil and Sulemaniyah]. This determined a peculiar pattern of urbanisation concentrated not towards the cities but towards the Collective Towns.9
Following Shekhani’s suggestion about the temporal development of Collective Towns, my interest is to identify the elements that determined the generational continuity of models that were conceived to serve very different functions. In order to understand the conditions that allowed such a conceptual shift, it is necessary to reconstruct the political climate that characterised the relations between the Ba'ath regime and the Kurds in the 1970s and 1980s.
The Kurds represent between 15% and 20% of the Iraqi population and have struggled for self-determination since the establishment of Iraq in 1932. The Ba’ath rise to power increased tension between them and Iraqi central government and the 1970s were marked by several diplomatic attempts to reach political agreement followed by bloody armed conflicts. Mullah Mustafa Barzani, the leader of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and of the independence movement, tried through the 1970s to negotiate a political space for the recognition of Kurdish autonomy. Baghdad responded with the Autonomy Law of 1974, an offer that Mullah Mustafa decided to reject.10 The Kurds, with an army of 90,000 peshmergasand the military backing of Iran, he waged a disastrous war against Baghdad. Mullah Mustafa’s rebellion definitively collapsed when, following the Algiers agreements in March 1975, Iran withdrew its support.11 The Iraqi government retaliated by intensifying its “Arabisation” campaign and systematically destroying Kurdish villages along the mountainous borders with Turkey and Iran.12
The systematic forcible transfer of these ethnic minorities [the Kurds] – a process commonly referred to as “Arabization” – has been accompanied by a government program of resettling Arab families brought from southern Iraq to replace the evicted. The properties and most other assets seized from the victims were distributed among these new arrivals as part of a package of economic incentives.13
The combination of forced evictions, demographic management and destruction of villages provoked a massive displacement of people and had a significant and lasting impact in shaping the territory of the Kurdistan Region.14
Right after the 1974-1975 war, the Ba’ath regime created a buffer zone to protect its borders from neighbouring countries and isolate the Kurds from international support. After the war, the peshmergas retreated to the mountains and were actively assisted by the civilian population in terms of logistics, supplies and informal intelligence. The buffer zone was designed to uproot the civilian support of the guerrillas thus preventing Mullah Mustafa from reorganising his army. This security campaign required the evacuation of the mountainous areas and implied the systematic destruction of villages that housed a large percentage of the Kurdish population. Over the course of thirteen years and through different operations, the protected areas gradually extended from five to thirty kilometres inside the Kurdish territory. The buffer zone was declared off limits: people were evicted from their villages and forbidden to go back; the Iraqi army was entitled to shoot on sight.
In the mid- and late 1970s the regime again moved against the Kurds, forcibly evacuating at least a quarter of million of people from Iraq’s borders with Iran and Turkey, destroying their villages to create a cordon sanitaire along these sensitive frontiers. Most of the displaced Kurds were relocated into mujamma’at (plural), crude new settlements located on the main highways in controlled areas of Iraqi Kurdistan [...] In their propaganda Iraqis commonly referred to that as modern villages. (Human Rights Watch, 1995, 3).
The Kurds, however, perceived the situation in different terms, as noted by Michael Gunter (1992), who quotes from the United States Congress 1988 Country Report (p. 1360):
The [Iraqi] government argued that these new homes had running water, electricity and Kurdish-language schools and would improve Kurdish standards of living and help preserve their culture. The Kurds replied that in most cases they already had such facilities and preferred to live in their old homes (Gunter, 1992, 47)
Collective Towns became open air prisons: while during the development of the first generation the relocation was encouraged in the name of progress and modernisation; the second generation of mujamma’at was characterised by forcible displacement and a tighter network of control.
Space Design and Social Control
A pseudo-scientific approach to modernity and progress granted the ideological conditions for the rationalisation of space that followed the 1975 Land Reform. The elements of legibility and simplification that were at the core of the mujamma’at during the process of collectivisation are what, allowed the conceptual shift that characterised the passage to the second generation of Collective Towns. The government already had a model of spatial design that proved to be functional and efficient, easy to administer and unproblematic to reproduce. Moreover, it had indirectly proven useful in serving ethnopolitical purposes. However different the original formulation might have been, the change in function did not affect the rationale behind the design. The emphasis shifted from administration to control: in terms of physical space the straight roads were already in place and now they would allow the military tanks to patrol the areas, the modular structures of inhabitation were already planned and now could further serve the aim of cutting people’s cultural ties to their ancestral way of living. The location of the Collective Towns on the main axes of communication was such that people displaced from the mountains could not continue practicing agriculture and animal husbandry as farmland was either too far or not accessible for security reasons. The system of food rations and the disruption of economic activities created the conditions for a total dependence from the state thus reducing the strength of political dissent and opposition. Resettlement completely uprooted vernacular ways of living hence cutting people means of self-sufficient sustenance. The new context made people's skills redundant thus deepening the condition of dependence from the State.
The state intervention on the territory went way beyond a simple reshaping of the landscape: the spatial reorganisation of communities made them easier targets and more malleable objects of administration through the disruption of traditional sources of livelihood, networks of social solidarity and ancestral practices of inhabitation.15 As mentioned earlier, political decisions about the built environment are hardly innocent; design is often used as a device for social engineering and the Kurdish Collective Towns demonstrate how deep the consequences for a community could be. They also show the extent to which the Ba'ath regime intentionally, and not by accident, utilised the tools of space management and annihilation to implement the plan of ethnic cleansing against the Kurds.
During the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) the Kurdish areas at the border between the two countries were subjected to further controls. The destruction of villages and the expansion of Collective Towns continued throughout the 1980s and reached its apex in 1987 and 1988 during the Al-Anfal campaign.16 To oversee the rural areas the military intelligence set up a special unit, which was required to enforce the order that all the villages in this part of the country were to be destroyed and farming forbidden. Human Rights Watch provides extensive evidence of the systematic intention with which the Ba’ath regime targeted the built environment in its attempt to totally erase the Kurdish population.
Only a few villages remained intact in the three governorates that make up the Kurdistan Autonomous Region. According to a survey prepared by the Ministry of Reconstruction and Development of the new Kurdistan government, 673 in the three governorates of Erbil, Sulemaniyeh and Dohuk: 4049 had been destroyed. (Human Rights Watch, 1995, 216)
By destroying thousands of villages, the Iraqi army displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians. The troops entered Kurdish areas and gave villagers five days to pack and leave, and then they would bulldoze houses, mosques, schools, roads and pour concrete in water wells.17 In many cases, the villagers were taken to barren fenced-off areas along main roads where they were given a few construction materials to set up new homes. The size and number of Collective Towns thus multiplied under the pressure of this massive movement of people. Their presence is still visible today, making them an important feature of contemporary urbanisation in Kurdistan.
The propaganda that accompanied the promotion of the first generation of Collective Towns and the enforcement of a quasi-urban form of dwelling in the second generation of mujamma’at was shaped by the assumption that the process of uprooting and defamiliarisation would be so profound that people would passively accept the new living conditions. Space design was considered capable of generating such change; the environment would determine practices and behaviours, and people would meekly inhabit those models: the obliteration of the old world would be possible through the design of the new. The dimension of human intentionality was conceptually marginalised and subjected to the power of design, but Scott reminds us that
We must keep in mind not only the capacity of the state simplifications to transform the world, but also the capacity of the society to modify, subvert, block and even overturn the categories imposed upon it. (Scott, 1999, 49)
Authoritarian systems of power fear variability and thus try to enforce order and control through design. However much models are imposed from the top to allegedly powerless people, the very interaction between abstract patterns and real practices breeds the possibility of subversion. The Ba’ath regime thought of the mujamma’at as an instrument to annihilate the customs and practices that constituted Kurdish culture through the imposition of a “modern”, standardised and controllable way of living. However, if we look at the landscape of the Kurdistan Region we see that in recent years Collective Towns have become among the main triggers of contemporary urbanisation. What was conceived as a device of social control has been turned by political will, economic investment, use and time into a source of urban development. The expansion of the mujamma’at – which are now either absorbed by larger urban centres or turning into independent administrative and urban cores – is one of the factors that drive urbanisation in Kurdistan, attracting real estate investments and economic activities. Interesting examples in this respect are the mujamma’at of Daratoo and Kaznazan, in the outskirts of Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government. Due to the investment of the Kurdish Democratic Party, they have acquired administrative independence and are administratively recognised as local sub-districts. They are easily accessible from the city centre and, following the rapid sprawling of Erbil, will potentially become residential neighbourhoods of the city. In terms of the physical architectural design, in Kaznazan the two-storey modular concrete housing is still the main feature. “Houses were built with the same design: two rooms, one kitchen, one bathroom. It was very geometrical and totally different from what people were used to in the villages.” (Shekhani in Recchia and Wachtmeister, 2010). While the standardised houses and land plotting are still in place, a close observation shows a myriad of minute variations that challenge the monotonous model. The transformations are small in scale, but still witness the personal interpretations and manipulations of a model that was expected to be accepted as such. People’s lives and desires crept into the monotony through the addition of extra floors and rooms, different colours and decorations, rearrangement of gates and doors or the cultivation of kitchen gardens in the cracks of the sidewalks. In similar terms, if the main axes are still the perpendicular roads of the grid, the more recent expansion of the towns took place in a organic and spontaneous way around a labyrinth of narrow alleys. Scott suggests that customs, desires and habits are a “living, negotiated tissue of practices” (Scott, 1999, 34), which slip into the regularity of the grid, are constantly adapted to the surrounding environment and are one of the main weapons in the struggle between people and top-down impositions of power.
Through the reconstruction of the contingencies that allowed the conception and implementation of Collective Towns, the article intended to demonstrate the pervasive social nature of urban planning while at the same time arguing for the great capacity of human resilience. In the discussion on the ways in which the Ba’ath regime adopted urban planning and space design as social engineering devices what emerged was its broader intention of giving a physical shape to its ethnically homogeneous idea of society. However – as the cases of Daratoo and Kasnazan hope to demonstrate – when abstract modernist planning meets vernacular practices of inhabitation, there is the possibility of unexpected forms of spacial negotiations and the creation of productive spaces of urban transformation.
- 1. These were the words used by Ali Hassan Al-Majid – also known as Chemical Ali – in 1988 to describe his task as Secretary General of the Northern Bureau of the Ba’ath Party during the Anfal campaign. In a statement recorded on an audio tape in the late 1980s and reported in Middle East Watch and Physicians for Human Rights (1993), Chemical Ali declared to know how to solve the Kurdish problem: “I’ll do it by burying them with bulldozers. That’s how I’ll do it.” (Middle East Watch and Physicians for Human Rights, 1993, 7).
- 2. I am aware that the theoretical debate around nation building and strategies of homogenisation of nation states is rich and multifaceted and very relevant to the subject; of this article. For reasons of space constrain I will omit references to it in this paper. For a discussion that is specifically focussed on Iraqi Kurdistan see: Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou (1965) for a historical perspective; Gareth Stansfield (2003) and Mahir Aziz (2011) for an understanding of contemporary political history.
- 3. See Human Rights Watch (1995).
- 4. A radical attempt of agrarian reform in Iraq was previously developed in 1958 by Abd al-Karim Qasim who modelled his plan on Nasser’s 1952 reform in Egypt.
- 5. According to Springborg “In 1972 there were only six collectives, but by 1976 collectives numbered 79. […] The number of collective farms plummeted from 77 in 1979 to 33 a year later, continuing a gradual decline to 10 by 1983.” (Springborg 1987, 16)
- 6. See also Van Bruinessen, 1992.
- 7. The same name was used for the collective farms that Nasser developed with his agrarian reform in Egypt.
- 8. The Durham University Policy Planning Unit conducted a Collective Settlement Survey in the Summer of 1998 where it emerged that mujamma’at significanly vary in size. There are some as big as New Halabja and Daratoo with a population of 31,200 and 30,000 respectively, while others like Bazian – 2 in the Sulemaniyah district have a population of only 13. These data are taken from Stansfield, 2003, Appendix 1.
- 9. An excerpt of the interview was published in ArteEast Special Issue: Regimes of Extraterritorialit http://www.arteeast.org/pages/artenews/extra-territoriality/255/
- 10. The Autonomy Law proposed by Baghdad did not meet the main conditions required by the KDP in relation to the jurisdiction over Kirkuk – which is still one of the main causes of tension between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Iraqi central government - and the imposition of a regime of supervision over the decision making process, the financial administration and the management of the army. These are the same reasons that determined the collapse of the 11 March 1970 Peace Accord that juggled between a surface agreement on autonomy and the strong centralising attitude that characterised the Ba’ath regime. The refusal of the 1975 Autonomy Law by Mullah Mustafa determined a split within the Kurdish faction and marked the foundation of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
- 11. With the Algiers Accord, the Iraqi government granted to Iran the cession of the area of the Shatt El Arab in exchange for the withdrawal of any support to the Kurdish rebels. For a detailed account of the 1974-1975 events (see McDowall, 2005, 335-340). The occupation in 1980 of the same strip of land by the Iraqi troops was the spark that ignited the eight year long Iraq-Iran war.
- 12. The Iraqi Central Government started implementing in 1963 a series of Arabisation campaigns that were meant to resettle the demographic balance between Arab and Kurdish populations. The main target was the disputed areas of Kirkuk, where the management of demography could be used by the Iraqi government to undermine the Kurdish claims over the city. As a result of these campaigns a large percentage of the Kurdish population living in the area was forced to flee to find protection in the cities of the north. Other experiments of demographic engineering took place in the Region: Turkey deployed a similar strategy of Turkification against the Kurds. I won't be able to get into the details of the phenomenon in Turkey; for a thorough discussion see: Mesut Yegen, 2009.
- 13. Human Rights Watch, Iraq, 2003, 3.
- 14. Mahir Aziz (2011) claims that enforced migration policies implemented by Iraqi governments between 1970 and 2001 resulted in more than 600,000 internally displaced people.
- 15. See Leezenberg, 2006.
- 16. Conducted between February and September 1988, Al-Anfal is the bloodiest campaign that Saddam Hussein lead against the Kurds. The military operation takes its name from the eighth Sura of the Quran; Al-Anfal literally means ‘the spoil of war’ and it refers to the successful 642 CE battle of Badr against the infidels. The religious reference was to justify (or reinforce) the motivations of this large scale genocide campaign. In the course of seven months, the Kurdistan Region was hit by several strikes with chemical weapons followed by heavy air bombardments on those who tried to escape. It is estimated that about 100,000 people died during Anfal.
- 17. See Human Rights Watch, 1995.