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Kurdish Filmmaker Documents Anfal Atrocities

Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is on trial for genocide. He is accused of ordering the Anfal campaign -- a military operation against Iraqi Kurds two decades ago. Prosecutors say 180,000 Kurds were killed and thousands of villages wiped out. Kurdish-American filmmaker Jano Rosebiani has tried to convey the magnitude of the devastation in a series of documentary films, with victims and survivors telling their own stories. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the northern city of Irbil, in the heart of the Kurdish region.

A Kurdish mother shows her anguish as she recalls how her husband and eight children were killed during the Iraqi Anfal campaign. It is one of many emotional interviews in Jano Rosebiani's documentary, called "Mass Graves."

Rosebiani is a Kurdish-American filmmaker. He says he made "Mass Graves" to bring to light the atrocities that occurred during the rule of Saddam Hussein.

"I felt like no one was actually doing any films or documentaries in detail,” he says, “nothing deep enough to really get the viewer outside of the region to really understand the tragedy that took place here, or the extent of it, the fact that we can actually call it genocide."

Rosebiani produced three documentaries, "Mass Graves," "Chemical Ali" and "Weapon Of Mass Destruction" with financial support from the U.S. government.

All three films use eyewitness accounts to detail atrocities allegedly committed by Saddam Hussein's regime. People tell of seeing their loved ones tortured and killed in front of them, of being forced to flee their homes, of surviving chemical attacks and of the sense of isolation.

One man said he was able to escape to a Turkish refugee camp, but officials there refused to acknowledge that he was a victim of a chemical attack.

"We would tell the Turks about the chemicals,” said the former refugee. “They would tell us to shut our mouths. They would say, 'You have been burned by fire.' "

Rosebiani was also given access to video shot by the Iraqi military, documenting torture and killings. Rosebiani says the films are hard to watch.

"It was really a nightmare to go through it. I would look at my (the) babies, and start thinking of the stories they were telling me about, what was happening to their babies. You know, sometimes I feel like I would go mad."

Now that Saddam Hussein and six of his former military commanders are on trial for genocide against the Kurds, there is a sense of satisfaction for Rosebiani. He says his films set the stage for the current trial by making the case against Saddam in the court of world opinion.