Anfal Servivor-Interview with Nabata Fayaq Rahman

Interview with Nabata Fayaq Rahman

01/12/05 – Qara Hanjir. Germian Region, 3rd Anfal

By Dr.chomanhardi

 Interview with Nabata Fayaq Rahman 01/12/05 - Qara Hanjir. Germian Region, 3rd Anfal

Interview with Nabata Fayaq Rahman
01/12/05 – Qara Hanjir. Germian Region, 3rd Anfal

I first met Nabat in a conference about Kurdish women and the creation of civil society in Iraqi Kurdistan (Stockholm, 2004). She had come to speak as an Anfal survivor. I took her son’s contact details and hoped to interview her in Kurdistan when I would start my data collection the following year. Although Nabat has had limited education she is an eloquent and brilliant woman. In this interview she talks at length about her experiences during the Anfal campaign. Nabat lost her husband and three of her eight children to Anfal. Unlike the fate of most men who were executed within days of their capture Nabat’s husband and brothers in law seemed to have been alive for a few years after Anfal. It seems that some of the men were alive when the September General Amnesty was announced but they were never released and eventually they were killed. Nabat was detained in Dibs camp for more than five months and escaped transportation to the mass graves by pure luck. She was then released after the Amnesty and had to look after her surviving five children alone. Throughout the interview Nabat kept insisting that what happened to them during Anfal ‘cannot be put into words’. A number of times when recalling certain events she burst into tears. She kept stressing that death would have been better than experiencing certain things. But a person does not die, she kept reminding me, not when they want to. Despite a life shattered by Anfal Nabat is a strong and healthy survivor who managed to raise her five children well. She is just the opposite of what traditional Kurdish culture thinks of women: ‘hopeless and weak’.

The interview

– Can you please tell me your full name?
– My name is Nabat Fayaq Rahman.

– Which village do you come from?
– Bangol village, part of Qadir Karam district.

– When did Anfal come to your region? What month was it?
– In April 1988.

– Had you heard about Anfal before then?
– The news of Anfal (she thinks I am asking about the victims not the campaign itself)… before the uprising some people used to say they [the Anfal victims who disappeared] are in Mousel. Others said they were in Erbil. I heard from my children’s father. A person came disguised as a beggar. We were living in Shorsh [housing complex near the city of Suleimanya]. One day he came to our house and said that one of my brothers-in-law [who disappeared during Anfal] had had a toothache and he was brought to the hospital in Mousel. He [the disguised beggar] named three men, they were our men. Sometimes people used to say that they are still alive. But there was no result from all these news. Until Kirkuk was liberated [in March 1991] we were still hopeful. Before that they were still alive. We ourselves were imprisoned and for the first 6-7 days the men were still with us. Even after we were released people still had news of them. Until the uprising and the mass exodus to Iran [April 1991] we had news and then we were away and we lost touch for a while. After that there was no news of them anymore.

– So they were with you during Anfal?
– Yes, during Anfal their father [her children’s father] was with me.

– You were all together in your own village?
– Yes we were all in our village, until the army and jash surrounded us. Most of what was done to us was done by the mustashars [Kurdish jash leaders who worked for the Iraqi government]. The Kurds were guiding the Arabs to us. They are all alive now. They came to our village, surrounded us. They came to the houses in the evening, people slaughtered animals in their honour. They were served and welcomed. They told us to come to the Qochali road on the next day.

– So you were at home and the jash [Kurdish mercenaries] came to your village and had dinner with you?
– We were in our homes. There was no way out, nowhere to escape to. Some people went to the orchids and hills but just as there is a car at our door now [the car that took me to her house] helicopters were circling above our heads. There was no way out. It was impossible to escape. And people were naive. If it was like the uprising [in 1991] people would have found a way out but people were poor and naive. When they came and surrounded us they told us to come to Qochali road and surrender. They told us they would give us houses, there will be a housing complex for us. In this way they deceived people. We came because they were all Kurds, they were jash and mustashars. Even those who did not have a weapon they made them buy weapons [the villagers were advised that if they surrender with weapons they would be pardoned]. My own brother in law had no weapon, he was a shepherd. They made him buy one. They had sold us but we did not know that. They made everyone buy weapons… even those who had never carried weapons were given in as if they were peshmarga [Kurdish freedom fighters]. When the jash gave us in they [the Iraqi army] took us to Topzawa and Dibs. Some of them [the men] were taken to Laylan animal pen.

– Who did you lose during Anfal?
– I have lost my husband and four brothers in law as well as many maternal and paternal cousins. In the Germian region of Jabari there are hardly any men left. The ones that survived like my children, they have grown up after Anfal. When they took us to the prison we were together for three nights.

– Which prison was this?
– In Topzawa we were with the men for three nights then they took the men. The elderly, for example I had my parents in law, they were taken separately. The children were separated and the young also separated. After that the men… we are still waiting. We don’t know what happened to them. We just want to know about what happened to them, dead or alive. Just as they always talk about Halabja, 5,000 people perished there. We have lost 182000 people including young men and girls. There are girls who were my daughter’s age who were engaged and they are still waiting. It is not good. [Her daughter who is sitting with us explains: She does not mean me]. I mean girls like her. It is terrible that they are still waiting. We just want to know what is happened to them. I personally think of myself as a man but what bout the younger women, what is their crime? They [the victims] have no grave, they [Kurdish authorities] don’t even treat them like martyrs. They should treat them like martyrs at least. If I talk about my own family, I lost some of my children and my children’s father. For the whole lot we have one salary which used to be paid every three months. They [Kurdish authorities] haven’t done anything for the Anfal survivors and people keep coming and interviewing us. I keep telling everyone that we are of course better than we were under the [Iraqi] government but not as good as we wish. I have lost a family and I get minimal support. I got a piece of land years ago and now I am not entitled to the land given to Anfal survivors. They say I am not entitled to the land because it is connected. But I have nothing left, I lost a family and all our property. Those children who died were mine. Why can’t they do some good things for us in return for all of our losses?

– What does it mean for the lands to be connected?
– Six years ago I personally got a piece of land now I am not entitled to the land given to Anfal survivors. But I have lost a family. They are very slow when it comes to doing things for Anfal people. I have a lot of respect for Kak Arif [Qurbani] who always sends people to interview me. We respect him very much, he really is a good man and is loyal to the Anfal survivors. But except from him no one does anything for the Anfals. What we have left… our children are not accepted in any of the offices and organisations. Some women have a son or two left. They [employers] say our children are uneducated. But if we were not Anfalised, if our husbands had not disappeared… we had nothing, I didn’t have enough money to buy them a pair of shoes so how could I afford educating them? Isn’t that right?

– Yes, of course.
– Now no place accepts them. They don’t give them a proper job because they say they are uneducated.

– So your children didn’t go to school?
– No, they didn’t. Because of poverty they did not.

– Were your children working?
– Yes they worked. When they were young there was inflation and poverty. Do you know what has happened in Iraq? No one cared about the other then. Now wherever my children go they are not entitled to anything. They keep telling them it is because they are uneducated, they don’t have qualifications. But if their father was not Anfalised this would not have happened to them.

– Of course.
– Personally, I was in prison for six months. When we were released from prison we had absolutely nothing so how could the children get an education? Nothing is being done for the Anfals. It wasn’t just one child or two. We have women who had six children and lost them all in prison, they came back alone. She now lives with brother and sister in law and she has no power to buy a dress for herself. Isn’t that a crime?

– Yes it is.
– The majority of the Anfal survivors fare very badly. My surviving children have now grown up, thank God but the pain of the others (she bursts into tears and cannot talk for a few minutes. She wipes her eyes)

– How many children did you have when Anfal started?
– (She carries on crying and cannot answer me for a while) Two of them died in prison and one was Anfalised with her father.

– So how many did you have?
– I had eight and five survived.

– How old were they?
– They were each a year or two apart. My eldest daughter was Anfalised she was older than this one (nodding in the direction of her daughter).

– Was she a teenager?
– She was a girl about 11 years old. And the other two died, their graves are in Dibs. I was with them when they died.

– How old were they?
– One of them was three and the other was 7. My children were all [born] one after the other.

– What was the cause of their death?
– They died from hunger. They [prison guards] hardly gave us any food. It was terrible conditions. They hurt us, they beat people. Children were weak they could not handle it. They gradually dried and died.

– Before the army reaches your region had you heard about the Anfal operations?
– Yes but no one left because no one believed they would do this to us. We thought it would be another period of attacks and then they would leave us alone again. They [the Ba’ath government] used to bomb and attack us every year so people assumed it was like the past. Ten times a year they would attack, our people were shot, died in the bombardments but it was never like that [like the Anfal operations]. This time [the Anfal attack] they left no one. Our own children they took from us, they beat the children. They would not allow me to have a bottle of water for the children. They would die screaming. My brother in law was in Topzawa, they were in halls over there and we were in halls over here (she points to two opposite sides). My son, Diar, was in my lap. May his mother die (a Kurdish expression to express regret). I personally was exchanged with my sister in law (exchange of brides is an old tribal tradition where each family gives a daughter as a bride to the other). We were cousins. My brother in law who was also my cousin was also arrested during Anfal. He was with his four brothers in there. I was not aware of this. We were in a crammed hall, on top of each other. Children found it really difficult. My son was shouting and he fainted. I kept knocking on the door till they opened it for me. There was a tap in the courtyard, I took the boy there and put some water in his mouth hoping he will regain consciousness. From the window of the opposite hall my brother in law called out to me. He said: ‘Sister-in-law! Can you give me some water in this cheese tin? I have not drunk for three days.’ The window was barred, it had no window but was covered with a net which had been cut in places. He threw the tine at me. I did not realise a guard was watching me from behind and he could understand us. When people come from a village they don’t know these things, nowadays we are a lot more aware of things.

– You didn’t know you were not supposed to give him water?
– I didn’t know anything. I was so terrified seeing him so pale. I filled the tin to give him some water but the guard started beating me and my son jumped from my arm and he [son] landed on the tap. He bled from his mouth and nose and died a couple of days later. He jumped from my arms. I still tried to give him [brother in law] the water but the guard did not let me, he kept hitting me on the back of my neck, you can still see the mark.

– Was he Kurdish?
– He was Arabic. He spoke in Arabic and I in Kurdish. I tried to tell him that the man is my brother in law but he did not accept any of that. I went back into the hall without giving him water. His sister came out, who was my brother’s wife, and however much the guard beat her she kept walking towards him and she gave him the water. He was my brother in law and I loved him but obviously she [his sister] loved him more. She gave him the tin and he drank the water but when we were back in the hall for longer than one hour they were still beating him for drinking that water. When they forced us back inside and did not allow us to come out of the halls again for three days. I still don’t know how we survived that. And now we are out [free] and no one gives us any credit. After the loss of all those beautiful children. There is a graveyard in Dibs which is dedicated to Anfal children. I used to go there and visit them. Sometimes NGOs accompanied me and took pictures. Now we cannot go there anymore because of terrorism (after the fall of the Baath regime in 2003 Dibs has become unsafe). All those children who died there, at least they [Kurdish authorities] could bring those back. Now when we go to an office [government bodies] no one even respects us or turns to us. And then they [Kurdish politicians and media] shout about Anfal. What is the point? If I cannot do anything for my children then I would not be shouting about them all the time. They don’t do anything for Anfal. We have many complaints because they don’t care about the Anfals. They say they have given me a piece of land and they won’t give me anything else, they are making problems for me. I have lost four people in Anfal, I lost my home and land and property.  We have no village left. We have a good land and farm back in the village but there is no one to tend to it.

– Is there no one who could work the land?
– Only my children are left. I personally cannot go back to that region, I will go mad. They [Kurdish authorities] look at everyone the same. Some people have been arrested but they have lost no one, some managed to keep their wealth and hide it, but in the Germian region [third Anfal] we have nothing left. Most people are worse than me. There are families that don’t have money to buy a carpet and put it under them. I am much better compared to them. I am not just complaining for my own sake. Unfortunately they don’t do much for the Anfal families.

– Let’s go back to the beginning. Where did the jash ask you to go?
– Qochali road.

– Did you walk there?
– Some walked, some went by mule or tractor. No one dared to stay in the village. I walked.

– How long did it take?
– It took longer than an hour. We had many men with us so the men were carrying the children and we put some of them on the back of mules. Their [the children’s] grandfather was with us, their father, their uncles, each of them carried a child.

– How was the weather when you started walking?
– It was raining, a very thick rain. We were up to here in mud (the points to her knees) and there was bombardment too. It was a terrible situation, like the judgement day.

– Were there many people who were walking in the fields?
– Yes. The 24 villages of Jabari region were on that road.

– Can you tell me the names of some of these villages?
– Shekh Mahmud, Soran, Qochali, Takya also Zewj, Rwaban, Qarawei… all these villages are in our region, Goran, Jafan, all Jabari villages that headed to Qochali road. Some tried their luck with Chemchemal road but Bariq was awaiting people with the jash forces and he arrested them there.

– Who was Bariq?
– The Bariq who gassed the villages with Chemical Ali, I am not sure who exactly he was but people talked about him. In our region it was Hasib and Adnan Jabari. They came to our village and we followed them. It is true that we might have died anyway but the men would not have gone forward to easily (her daughter interferes: For example the Jaff region did not lose so many men, many of them escaped to Iran because the jah leaders did not lead the army to the people. In our region our own people did it).

– So the jash promised not to arrest you?
– Yes. They told us they will provide the jash ID to the men and give us land.

– Who were the men who were with you?
– My husband, four brothers in law, 3 cousins and 4 cousins of my mother. All together 18 men from our relatives.

– Did they all have families?
– Most of them were young, they were not married yet. Some of them were newly married. Some of their wives have remarried. Two of my cousins’ wives have remarried. One of them was really young, she had two daughters. Her only son died in prison. She was in prison with me for six months. She was really young.

– So it was raining, did you have any food?
– We had mules and they had the goods on top. They had hagba on their backs (bag put on mules to carry things). We loaded the children and some food in the hegba. When we arrived at the road they shot two mules right before our eyes. The two children on them were drenched in blood. Before we arrive they killed the two children inside the hagba, they were dripping blood. I saw that with my own eyes. That is when we realised we were going to for annihilation.

– The mules were ahead of you?
– Yes they were ahead of us. When they saw the men they came for them and fired. All the mules had children on top. Nursing babies, what is their crime? If they shoot a car right here wouldn’t everyone inside it die? We cannot tell you about it. What happened to us cannot be put into words.

– So you arrived and the men went to the jash forces?
– When we arrived on the main road and saw them shooting at the children those of us who were mature realised that we would be annihilated. We thought if this is how they treat animals and children what will they do to us? Right there they separated us into groups. They read out the names and separated us from each other. They would call out the men’s names and ask them to line up with their families.

– How did they have everyone’s names?
– The jash had come and recorded our names the day before. They had gone to the different villages and recorded all their names so right on the main road they put the extended families together and my family and others from the village were put into one truck. It was raining, storming, hail stone, helicopters on top, bombardment… How could the children survive? Now when I see Saddam on TV my blood pressure rises for days. Does he deserve to have a trial? He should be given to us, Anfal families. We would cut off a piece of him every day. It is not fair for him to have a trial, he should be cut to pieces. He should be given to those whom he Anfalised. Doesn’t he know what he has done? All those beautiful young children, all the young men, all the villages, what did he leave? Helicopters were circling the villages like cars, it was like the end of the world. What they did to us cannot be put into words. If we start talking about it and carry on till another week, we still will not finish. Even now during Anfal commemorations (she starts flushing and crying again) and sometimes when we have a problem in the family, I don’t sleep for three days. The children sleep and I sit like this through the nights (she cries and cannot talk for a few minutes)

– I hope that God will give you strength.
– Thank you (she wipes her eyes and we remain silent for a few minutes).

– Where the villagers all together?
– There were all of us. The villagers were together. If some difficulty arises we will all herd together and that is what we did then. It was in no one’s hand anymore. I don’t think it was their [the jash’s] plan to do all of that… I think they [Iraqi authorities] deceived the jash too. When the army came they [jash] said they had not power anymore. Say Khatab is my son, if I know that you are going to destroy him how would I send you and the two men to get him [the two men were my guide to her house]? Some of them [jash leaders] their own brothers were Anfalised with us. They were told it was for deportation. The army was waiting on the road, Arab officers and generals.

– How many people were put in a truck?
– As many as it took, they loaded them, just as you would overload a mule. We never had the heart to overload animals like that. But one does not die. If the soul does not depart it is not by force, is it? They took us to Chemchemal liwa. My brother was there, he lived there. He was watching us like this (she stares into space to portray her brother) and did not dare to own up to us. I gave him a sign not to come forward. If we had talked he too would have been Anfalised. He did not dare to come forward. There was no space to get off in Chemchemal, there were too many people so they took us to Topzawa.

– Did you get off at all in Chemchemal?
– They unloaded us and did a sort of head count. I don’t know what else they were intending to do with us but there was no space so they told us to get on the trucks again and took us to Topzawa.  It was a dirty place. There is no place like it in filth and awfulness. The men were with us for the three nights and then [the guards] did another recording of our names. They separated the men and the elderly. That night they took the children from us as well. One of my brothers had been hanged 15 days before Anfal. He was a young student. He was 16, they had to add 5 years to his age and then hanged him. They arrested him at home in Chemchemal. This happened to us and then we were Anfalised, our whole family was ruined. May his [Saddam’s] house get ruined as he ruined everyone’s houses. My brother had been married for 6 months when he was hanged. His wife is still around, she never got remarried and she is not entitled to any support. What didn’t Saddam do to people?

– Were you together in Topzawa?
– The men were in separate halls. The children were taken from us on the third night. The women were together. That night they were forcing the children to sing peshmarga hymns. They were terrified (Her daughter says: There was no electricity that night, it was dark. The children were terrified. I was the eldest and I didn’t know how to quieten them, they [guards] beat us. They [the children] were all screaming. Many children died after that in fear. We could not sit down, it was wet under us we were cold and terrified… my brother Khatab fainted twice that night, he was very small.)

– How did you manage for the three nights?
– Some people were better but me I was mourning for my brother who was hanged so young, he was young and beautiful, a student. Bring his picture (she tells her daughter). He was a student but secretly he had a relation with the PUK. After the death of my brother and when they took the children from me I had no patience left. I tore my hair out those three nights. They [authorities] were planning to kill us separately: the women and the children but they changed their minds. They took the majority anyway. My eldest daughter, who was beautiful, was taken… I never saw her again after that night… and her father, uncles.

– Did you see when the people were taken?
– Yes, no one dared to say a word. They would come to this room, for example, they would choose the beautiful ones, no one dared to say anything.

– Do you believe they abused anyone?
– Of course they did otherwise why would they take the beautiful girls? They would not do it in front of us of course but why else would they take them out? (Her daughter brings her uncle’s picture, a young man who is not fully bearded yet is the man who was hanged)

– He is very young.
– We could not even have a wake for my brother. They had spies and they would not let people mourn. The security office was right opposite my father’s house.

– Where was he hanged?
– In Abu Ghreb [a famous prison in Baghdad].

– Did you get his body back?
– Yes, he is buried in Chemchemal. My brother was better than the Anfals because at least he had a grave and we can visit it. I don’t know what to tell you about, what happened to us cannot be retold.

– Did you see them personally take the beautiful girls?
– Yes, I saw them. they were choosing for themselves, the young and beautiful. Many people’s daughters were taken. I knew my daughter won’t make it, she was too beautiful and perfect.

– Did they bring them back?
– No they did not. They were choosing them especially. It was like men walking in and having a look and taking whoever they fancied. There was no returning them. They took many young girls, many beautiful women.

-Sorry I need to change the tape.

(Tape changed)

– Apologies you were talking about your daughter.
– Yes my daughter, she has an uncle left, the one you spoke to the other day. He had come to my brother’s family so he was not Anfalised… we lost 18 in the family and my in law’s family only had two sons left. One of them was later killed in the war too so there is only one of them left, the one in Chemchemal. He used to send us money and clothes and shoes. He didn’t know some of them [the children] had died he sent [things] to all of them.

– Did he send it to Dibs?
– Yes, there was an Arab guard in Dibs, his name was Hadi, he was very good to the women. All Arabs are not the same, are they?

– Of course not.
– He had his own car, he used to bring things for us. My brother in law had told him my name and one day with the excuse of fixing the electricity he came in. He was in the popular army, a guard in Dibs. [He was] blind in one eye. He came into our hall and said to me, you look like Samad (her brother in law who is also her cousin). In my heart I got scared, I knew he worked for the government, I thought he was istikhbarat (intelligence) and he wants to take my remaining male relatives from Chemchemal and Kirkuk. I said, I don’t know anyone called Samad. He said your son looks like him. He told me Samad had sent me stuff and I said I didn’t know him (We all laugh). It was twilight, it was getting dark. He too was scared of his superiors. He used to bring food and money for the women. They [the relatives outside prison] gave him money too. They used to invite him for dinner and give him goods and money. He was also doing things for himself. So he came and he left the stuff. When I opened the package it had food and clothes inside it and shoes. There was a letter also. In the letter he talked about having sent me 700 dinars, which was a lot of money then, but we never received it. We were illiterate. Other people had taken it. We are really a self-eating (an expression which means self destructive) people.

– How did they take it?
– It [the money] would arrive with a letter and given to some prisoner who would then take the money and not give it to me. I was scared when people asked me if I knew so and so, I said I did not. So the money was taken by others.

– How did they get the money?
– For example the guard would ask someone if they knew me and the person who was literate would say, yes I know her. And then take the money. I kept denying to know anyone. I was so unlucky even in the prison (we all laughed)… they brought the goods and the food. My daughter who died was deranged. I brought out the green shoes to put it on her. I knew she would die because for as long as you have come she would faint and get up repeatedly.

– How old was she?
– Five or six years. I took the shoes out and she had another fit then she was biting the shoes, may her mother die (a Kurdish expression for grief). I told her don’t bite the shoes, but she said, ‘It is cucumber.’ She said, ‘Uncle has sent me cucumber.’ She was deranged. Every day from morning till night she kept crying for cucumber: Mummy, I want cucumber. (Nabat breaks down again and starts crying). She sucked the cucumber [the green shoes] and slowly she lost her life. For as long as I have been free I have not bought cucumber, I don’t eat it. It has been years. Our situation cannot be described in words (she says while wiping her eyes).

– Where did this happen? Was it in Topzawa?
– She started having fits in Topzawa but she lost her life in Dibs.

– You were in Topzawa for three nights?
– Three nights or maybe four. The night they brought back the children we left for Dibs on the next day. There, when someone died they would send a couple of popular army soldiers with us to the graveyard. That evening around 9 or ten when she died she stayed in my lap till the next day. When a child dies like that in your lap you cannot sleep, you cannot put her down. I didn’t even have something to put her on it (referring to a blanket). She was in my lap till the next day. On the next day the two soldiers came and measured her. I didn’t realise that her legs were bent so they had the wrong measurements and the grave was too small for her. By then we were so desperate that we did not even think of each other anymore. Some women lost three children in one night, no one cared about each other. Because of our own pain we could not think about the others. My legs were swollen, it was not easy. I had this six year old who for a while would not die and would not get better. I kept carrying her. That day they came when it was hot and they took us in a vehicle. There were other people in the car, my husband’s uncle’s wife who was a really good woman. I didn’t know the soldiers understood Kurdish. I held the car bars as I got on and I said: Ya Allah. The soldier pushed me and I fell on my back. He said, Don’t say ya Allah, say ya Jalal Talabani. He sold you. I did not say a word. I fell with my daughter in my arms. The woman grabbed me and helped me get into the vehicle with my dead daughter. The grave was too small for my daughter. She could not fit in and they bent her legs. I begged the soldier to make the grave a little bigger for her, it was shallow and I was worried that the dogs might take her out. He did not do it and started swearing at me. He said, why didn’t you say when we were taking the measurement? But if a child dies in your lap from the day before, would you be aware of such things? That is how they treated us and now we are free and our own government… We are proud to welcome them, to vote for them, to commemorate Anfal. My children and myself are tremendously happy about this government. But unfortunately they don’t do enough for Anfal, not enough to make a difference. We are glad to come to this stage but we are also sorry. And thank you for coming to talk to me.

– Thank you very much. I have a few more questions if that is okay. When did they measure your daughter?
– The night when she died, they came and measured the dead in the night. Some nights ten children died, other nights twenty. They would take the measurements and before we go to burry them they would dig the grave and then take us in a car. Most of them were also taken to the Mukhtar (Iraqi government representative in the region). He was a Kurdish man who was part of the government but he was a good man. He recorded the name of the child and her parents.

– Have the records remained?
– He himself has died and his son and wife told us that the man burnt that list in fear of the government after Anfal. That British TV station which you had sent came with me and we visited the family. We went to the graveyard and they took some pictures.

– In Topzawa and when they took the men…
– Yes we were together for 3 nights with the men. Not in the same hall but in the same building. In the day they used to bring them out to the courtyard, I don’t know why.

– Did you see them?
– Yes the halls were very large. They had large glassless windows which were barred and netted. The Qara Hanjeer people were in two halls. We looked through the windows so we watched and recognised the men. With their jamana and pshten they tied up their hands behind them and blindfolded them and made them run round the courtyard. They were nearly naked, in their vests. It was raining. Some fell under people’s feet. They would grab them and make them get up again. We were much better off than the men.

– Do you know when they took your husband?
– On the fourth day. We saw it before us. Their rosary, clothes, combs and mirrors and napkins, they all had their own. There were piles, as big as half of this Qarahanjeer, consisting of their napkins, mishky and rosaries. They took them [the belongings] away by shovels and threw them away. They took the men nearly naked. Their father came towards us three times. In the room when they separated us and he said: We are finished and you look after the children. He knew. I told them I was also a prisoner what looking after? But he said that we would hopefully be released but they are finished. He knew.

– Did they take them in trucks or closed vehicles?
– In closed vehicles. They were high cars. It only had one small window at the back. You could not see inside it.  It was dark inside and they were shoving them in while beating them.

– How many people went into each vehicle?
– As many as they could shove in. They stuffed them full of people. Caravans were taken. From Topzawa they were taken to the south.

– Was it hot inside the cars? Did you get thirsty? How long did it take?
– We weren’t taken in the closed vehicles like the men. We were brought to Dibs in coaster buses. It was not a long journey, about an hour or so. They took us at 10 in the night. And from our prison every so often they took another caravan to the mass graves. First they came to our hall, the Jabaris and the Germian region. The other side was the Erbili hall. But the senior guard responsible for our hall was a cousin of an old peshmarga of KDP, they used to say. He had decided to prevent our transportation to the mass graves. He was a Kurd but he didn’t want to show it. That day he hid himself so they could not take us. He did not want to give us in. They decided to start from the other hall and by the time it got close to us, one Jabari hall was transported and then the Mousel hall. That night the amnesty was announced and they too were brought back to us.

– So they took them to kill them and then brought them back?
– Yes, they took them. And those who were taken before that were never to be seen again. That man saved our lives.

– Did one caravan go?
– Three caravans of 60 large busses each were taken by the time the Amnesty was announced. We were supposed to be taken but it was fate, that person saved us. He hid himself and they said the responsible officer was not present. They had to get his signature and then take us so he disappeared and they had to start from elsewhere. One of his cousins, a woman, was amongst us.

– So they took you from Dibs to Arbat after the amnesty?
– Yes they recorded our names there. They announced that the Anfal people have been released, but we were a minority. Some disappeared as they did and others died in prison, the few that remained were released and he [Saddam Hussein] published the news that the Anfals have been let free. They took so many women from our prison, so many. It is the bodies of those that are being found in the mass graves now. Why can’t they just bring those back?

– Do you mean the mass grave which was discovered in May at Samawa?
– Many others. They took many from our camp.

(- I face the daughter now: What about your sister whom they took away. Do you remember when they took her?
– It was during the three nights in prison, when we were separated from the women.

– Do you remember which night it was?
– I think the second night.

– Did they just call her and take her?
– Yes.)

(Nabat starts talking:)
-They came and looked through the crowd. Just as we are sitting in this room, they come in. They may not like her (she points towards her daughter), they may not like me but they may like you and they will take you. It was just up to them. Just like a flock of sheep, you choose the big and good ones and take it for yourself. That is how it was. They didn’t take them to return them or to keep them alive.

(I face the daughter: – Did you think she had been taken to your mother?
– Yes.)

– How were the toilets there, both in Topzawa and in Dibs?
– We had women who gave birth, they are still alive. I was with one of them when she gave birth, she was from our region. They gave birth in front of everyone. In the military truck a woman had a child and threw it out. She threw it out herself. I saw that with my own eyes.

– Where was the truck taking you?
– In the truck to Topzawa. [daughter speaks: a woman who could not have their baby in Dibs died and the baby died inside her.] There were women who could not give birth to the baby and the two of them died together.

– Was this in Topzawa?
– No, in Dibs, during the six months we stayed there. The rooms were divided up and each family, for example, had this much space (she makes a square space on the floor). Whether you had ten children or five you had access to the same small space. In the past we were naïve in the villages, people are a lot wiser nowadays. I don’t know why we had so many children? In the small space they gave me all my children caught the measles because of the cold and lack of hygiene. In the corner given to me, God is my witness, the roof on top of us had cracked. All the rain came down on my children. We had cement under us and water above us. Those who are unlucky will always remain unlucky.

– Fortunately the children are now grown up.
– Yes thank God but the pain does not go away. The children come and go, they sleep, walk, sit. Some nights I start thinking about things and I do not sleep a second till the day breaks. What could take that away? Our lives were ruined, it is finished. God have mercy on my children.

[Daughter says: Tell her about the toilets]

(Nabat starts talking again:)
-There were not toilets or bathrooms. They had cleaned up one room and used it as a toilet. Every evening about 10 of us, women, would clean it and the morning you could not go in because of the filth. If you lock up so many people in halls, how else could it be? Food and shit would mix together. I wish no one would see such a life, may it never be again. Women gave birth and there was no place to take them to and nothing to put on the baby. What can you do with such a baby? In the rain and dirt and you have nothing? When they had babies they just threw them away, just as you would throw out rubbish. What happened to Kurdish women cannot be described in words. Death would have been easier but if the soul does not leave the body, can you force it?

– Where were the toilets, how many did you have access to?
– There was no toilet. It was just a room like this one. On daily basis 10 women cleaned it, we washed it. There was nothing there.

– There was no sewage for the waste to go?
– There was nothing. We brushed the waste off and shoved it out of the door. We scraped and brushed, whatever. On the next day it was full again. There was no shame anymore, no dignity. It was a terrible situation.

(Daughter interrupts: The only good thing was the soldiers did not come amongst us.)

(Nabat starts speaking again:)
-They did not come amongst the families. They only came, for example, to take the dead children or if people started shouting and arguing. In Dibs they did not have the authority to come amongst us but that was not true in Topzawa. They beat and harassed people as they wished. In Dibs the guards were older, they were not young and stupid.

– Where they good to the people?
– What does good mean? Right before their eyes children would die and beg for a cucumber. If you know that I am dying and all I am asking for is a glass of water… right before our eyes they would spill it on the floor and not give it to the children.  They were not good, they mentally abused us but they did not rape anyone, they stayed within the law. That was good for us. In Topzawa they took the girls, the men, they beat people, they abused people

35 comments on “Anfal Servivor-Interview with Nabata Fayaq Rahman

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