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Kurds Watch as Saddam Hussein Genocide Trial Begins


Saddam Hussein's second trial on charges of genocide is being watched closely in the northern Kurdish region, where Saddam's forces accused of killing more than 180,000 Kurds nearly two decades ago. What was known as Operation Anfal has left deep scars and a deeper desire for justice among Kurds.

The first day of Saddam Hussein's trial on charges of genocide against the Kurds, did not bring life to a halt in the Kurdish city of Irbil. But those who were able to watch the proceedings at cafes, say there is a strong desire to see justice done.

"I feel Saddam destroyed our villages. He killed our women and children. He made this Anfal against us. I hope this will be the end of Saddam," one man said.

Prosecutors in the case say the Anfal campaign killed more than 180,000 Kurds between 1987 and 1988, and that tens of thousands more were displaced. Anfal survivors say prohibited chemical agents were used.

Mohammad Ishan, the Kurdish minister for extra regional affairs, says the government has gone to great lengths to prove that atrocities occurred, to document that they were part of an official government policy of genocide, and to force those responsible to answer for their crimes.

"I call this trial an omitted chapter in the book of Iraq's history," he said. "This is why we have to concentrate a lot in the trial, and listen to Saddam Hussein. Why he committed such crimes against Kurds? Genocide, it is the crime of crimes."

Beyond seeking justice for the Kurds, Khaled Salih, the Kurdish regional government spokesperson says, the trial of Saddam and six co-defendants is important to the establishment of the rule of law in Iraq.

"This is the only process we have in the Middle East to bring atrocities in front of a judicial process. We have not seen this in the entire region," said Salih. "It has a wider regional symbolic repercussions."

Kurdish leaders say they hope the trial will send a cautionary message to neighboring countries, that they too would be held accountable for any acts of oppression against their Kurdish minorities.