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Former political prisoner under Saddam urges people to raise voices against war in Iraqi Kurdistan

KURDISH farmworker Zakia Hama-Amin urged people to raise their voices against war in Iraqi Kurdistan today, saying that the region’s population want a peaceful life and their right to exist to be recognised.

Ms Hama-Amin spent three years in jail under former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime. She was detained in 1980 along with eight other members of her family in the city of Slemani.

There was no trial, she explained to the Morning Star. A court hearing was cobbled together very quickly and she was sent to the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, the scene of later war crimes committed by US forces following the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

“You are being held as a hostage,” Ba’aathist authorities told her, ”We will use you [and your family members] as a bargaining chip until your brother surrenders.”

Raouf Hama-Amin was a member of the Kurdish peshmerga forces that were fighting Hussein’s Iraqi soldiers during an uprising led by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) that began in 1978.

Many thousands were killed in that conflict which continued until 1991 when Hussein’s forces were forced to retreat following UN intervention after the end of the first Gulf War.

He was martyred during the fighting, Ms Hama-Amin explained, while she and her sister were kept in squalid conditions in prison. 

She was transferred from Abu Ghraib to Baghdad’s Fazila prison where many other Kurdish women were being held in similar circumstances.

Her plight was part of a cruel and bitter war waged by Hussein against Iraq’s Kurdish population. 

During the al-Anfal campaign, which sought the forced Arabisation of the whole country, as many as 182,000 Kurds were killed and many more displaced during the final stages of the Iran-Iraq war.

Whole towns and cities were emptied as their Kurdish populations fled Hussein’s forces ,with Ali Hassan al-Majid issuing instructions in 1987 that “no house was to be left standing” in Erbil province. Only Arab populated villages were to be spared.

In one of the most notorious incidents that brought the plight of the Kurds under Hussein to the world’s attention, chemical weapons were used in an attack the town of Halabja close to the Iranian border, killing around 5,000 people.

The region is no stranger to war. At least 30,000 were killed in a bitter conflict in the mid-1990s between Iraqi Kurdistan’s two main parties: the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) led by the Barzani clan and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) led by the Talibanis.

During that intra-Kurdish war, the KDP allied with Hussein’s forces to drive the PUK out of the regional capital Erbil and consolidate its power.

Now, as the KDP is accused of doing the “dirty work” of Turkey and imperialist forces, the Kurdish people are appealing for international solidarity to prevent another bloodbath.

Recent inflammatory statements by KDP leader Masoud Barzani have accused the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) of being invaders, with demands for them to leave the mountainous border areas.

Thousands of peshmerga forces have been mobilised to confront the PKK in a provocative move.

This is despite calls for peace and Kurdish unity from all opposition forces including the PUK, Gorran Movement and the Communist Party of Kurdistan — Iraq.

Protests have taken place across the country in a desperate bid to avert war.

“We want to live a peaceful life like others. People and the government should respect our existence and we want the people of Britain to support the people of Kurdistan. People to people,” Ms Hama-Amin said.

She was released from prison in 1983 after being granted an amnesty by Saddam after which she married and settled in the agricultural village of Bashbulaqi-sarw, just over 10 miles west of the city of Chamchamal.

It sits surrounded by hills, an area of outstanding beauty where she works on land producing dates, figs and other produce while also attending to cattle and other livestock.

Ms Hama-Amin said that despite the fall of Hussein not much had changed: “Things are sometimes even worse under Barzani,” she said. “The people lack food and electricity and other basics.”

She poured scorn on the KDP, the dominant party in Iraqi Kurdistan.

“Barzani is a dictator,” she snapped angrily. “There is no justice in the support he receives from the US and Britain which is just to do with oil.”

“He must be held accountable for his actions in Shengal when he abandoned the people to Daesh [Isis],” she said. 

At least 5,000 men and boys were massacred and thousands of women and girls sold into sexual slavery when the peshmerga forces fled in 2014, under orders from the then regional president.

“We sacrificed a lot and nobody knows about it,” she said. “We want the world to hear our story. Every effort must be made to stop this war.”

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